Thursday, August 23, 2018

By Amanda Taylor

Rio Grande Valley, Texas The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley celebrated another successful academic year, during two convocation ceremonies that focused on past accomplishments and future goals for the university.

Hosted by the Division of Academic Affairs, the convocations were held Wednesday, Aug. 22, in the Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus and again on Thursday, Aug. 23, at the TSC Arts Center in Brownsville.

President Guy Bailey said the first UTRGV class – which started in 2015 – is due to graduate this year.

“Our first goal is student success,” he said, highlighting the central core priority of the university’s Strategic Plan. “Two-thirds of the students who entered the university in 2015 are still with us. We have very good retention rates and we expect our graduation rates to be higher than our legacy institutions because of staff and faculty success.”

Academic Affairs, Student Success and P-16 Integration

Dr. Patricia McHatton, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, Student Success and P-16 Integration, talked about UTRGV’s Strategic Plan, saying funding for 10 sustainability projects in science, community engagement, medical education, ecology and history are in the works to guide the university into becoming a bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural institution. McHatton invited attendees to a symposium in the spring to go over these projects.

“I’m calling this next year the year of strategic action,” McHatton said, after a short video about collaborative research between UTRGV and Sea Turtle Inc. on fibropapilloma tumors in sea turtles. “We are centering on the idea of how action changes things, and how we are all part of the solution.”

Health Affairs and the School of Medicine

Dr. John Krouse, executive vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, spoke about changes under the new Division of Health Affairs, which will umbrella the School of MedicineCollege of Health AffairsUT Health RGVthe School of Nursing and the School of Social Work.

As of Sept. 1, 2018:

  • The College of Health Affairs will change its name to the College of Health Professions.
  • The School of Nursing will become a standalone school.
  • And the Department of Social Work will become a standalone school renamed the School of Social Work.

“This is going to be an exciting change for us, because we have great plans to increase the breadth and the depth of our health programs here at UTRGV,” Krouse said. “We are focusing on new degrees and new initiatives.”

Research and Graduate Studies

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, executive vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, said 3,414 students currently are enrolled in the Graduate College, with 1,904 enrolled in the Continuing Education division, including 211 UTRGV staff and faculty members. The Continuing Education program had garnered $585,500 in revenue, and more courses are being implemented.

Grewal said a new college – the College of Professional, Academic, and Global Engagement (PAGE) – is in the works to fully integrate the Office of Continuing Education, the Center for Online Learning and Teaching Technology, and the Office of Global Engagement.

In addition, the Office of Sustainability is working to move UTRGV from Gold to Platinum status in accordance with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (AASHE STARS).

“UTRGV is the first in the UT System and third in the state to achieve a gold rating,” Grewal said. “This is based on the work by the division, the faculty and students working together and getting support to gain this kind of recognition. We are on our way to achieving platinum status.”

Denisce Palacios, president of the UTRGV Student Government Association (SGA), shared her passion and drive to celebrate the birth of UTRGV, which is changing history, she said. Her comments earned a standing ovation.

“We, as students, see the mourning of the legacy institutions,” she said. “But instead, we should be celebrating the birth of UTRGV and how it has completely changed the history of the Valley.

“You should be proud to work here,” she told the faculty and staff assembled for the convocation. “I’m proud to study here. You have the power to change someone’s life and the trajectory of a student’s life.”


College of Education & P-16 Integration

  • CACREP accreditation of Counseling programs.
  • Seven UTRGV teacher candidates among first recipients of the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers.
  • Funding of Teacher Preparation Data Model (TPDM) by Michael and SusanDell Foundation.
  • Expansion of STEP UP program to third year in Harlingen CISD, and addition of McAllen ISD and Los Fresnos CISD.

College of Fine Arts

  • Ballet Folklórico and Mariachi performed at the Kennedy Center and Jacob’s Pillow, the premier dance festival in the world.
  • Double bassist Andrés Vela earned first place in the Texas Concerto Competition.
  • The Latino Theatre Initiative’s “Crawling with Monsters” will be perform at the New Orleans Fringe Festival and New York City Fringe Festival.

College of Liberal Arts

  • Advancements in graduate education with BOR and THECB approval of Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and MA in Political Science.
  • Developing new Ph.D. programs in Linguistics and Public Affairs & Security Studies.
  • Revitalization of the minor in Gender and Women’s Studies through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

College of Business and Entrepreneurship

  • The Center for Innovation and Commercialization assisted 60 potential entrepreneurs by creating 15 new business, 30 jobs and three patent applications.
  • Will open new Center for Innovation and Commercialization facility in Weslaco to help with new venture start-ups.
  • New undergraduate programs in hospitality management are in the works.

College of Sciences

  • Have two new BS degrees in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and Statistics.
  • Four MS degrees including Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Actuarial Science.
  • Three Ph.D. degrees including Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences and Math & Statistical Sciences with Interdisciplinary Applications.
  • Received an NSF grant for $1.5 million.

School of Medicine

  • Inception of UT Health RGV, which will provide primary and specialty care to communities throughout the Valley, including UTRGV employees and retirees.
  • Opened a Pediatrics Specialty in Edinburg and Primary Care in Laguna Vista.
  • Received STDOI grants for $3.6 million from NIH for fatty liver research; $2.36 million from NIH for human lipid variation and cardiovascular disease research; and $2 million from Knapp Community Care Foundation for genomic research center in the Mid Valley.
  • Biomedical Sciences received $435K from NIH for diabetes-related research.
  • New dual degree programs in MD/Master of Science in Bioinformatics, MD/Master of Public Health.

School of Nursing

  • Welcomed new Dean, Sharon Radzyminski, PhD, JD, CNS, RN.
  • Expand programs and integrate into UT Health RGV.

College of Health Affairs

  • Received $1.4 million STEP grant from U.S. Department of HHS to research childhood obesity.
  • Received $1 million HHMI Inclusive Excellence Award.
  • Received $432K from NIH for “Nanodiamond Based Anti-HIV Drug Delivery Targeted Toward the Brain.”
  • National board exams garnered 94 percent pass rate by students in Physician Assistant program.
  • Integrate into UT Health RGV


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.