Thursday, September 20, 2018

By Maria Elena Hernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has made the Sierra's Top 100 Cool Schools list.

Sierra magazine is produced by the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental group in the United States. UTRGV was ranked 95th out of 269 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

Other UT schools on the list include UT Austin in the 147th slot, UT Arlington at 238th, and UT Dallas at 266th.

Cool Schools ranks four-year colleges and universities on their sustainability initiatives. The organization’s website says the rankings raise environmental standards on campus and serve as a guide to the colleges’ commitments to environmentalism.

The detailed methodology is available on the website.

UTRGV also was recognized recently as a top performer in the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, ranking third in diversity and affordability and fifth in public engagement, as well as tying fourth for water operations.

“We are intentionally infusing sustainability across all areas of our campus operations as we continue to strategically plan for our future,” said UTRGV President Guy Bailey. “UTRGV is committed to engaging students and the public through formally established programs and initiatives, to connect them with sustainable concepts that improve our region and our world.”

While sustainability includes responsible consumption and production, it has a much broader range than most people realize.

“Sustainability is about the choices that we make as we try to improve quality of life,” said Marianella Franklin, chief sustainability officer at the UTRGV Office for Sustainability. “Making sure that whatever we’re designing or creating … actually benefits the economy and society and the environment – all at the same time.”

This includes quality education, good health and well-being, and decent work and economic growth. Those unfamiliar with sustainability goals may not recognize UTRGV community programs contributing to them, such as HESTEC and FESTIBA.

These programs and others helped UTRGV earn its Top Five Public Engagement ranking in the Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. In the United States, the average institute score was 62.9 percent as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. UTRGV had a score of 94.5 percent.

In water operations, the university had a score of 100 percent.

In the category of diversity and affordability, UTRGV had a score of 96.2 percent; the average score is 72.3 percent.

“We are pleased to recognize UTRGV for its sustainability leadership,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “UTRGV is helping forge a path to a more sustainable future.”

This is the latest achievement for the UTRGV Office for Sustainability. Earlier this year, the AASHE STARS awarded the university Gold status for sustainability initiatives. UTRGV is one of only three universities in the state to earn the status.

·         To learn more about the university’s sustainability initiatives, visit
·         Related link: UTRGV Sustainability Report
·         Related link: UTRGV's STARS report

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS was developed by AASHE with broad participation from the higher education community. The credits included in STARS span the breadth of higher education sustainability and are organized into four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration. All reports are publicly accessible on the STARS website. For more information,

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education empowers higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders. We work with and for higher education to ensure that our world's future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges. For more information, visit Follow AASHE on Facebook and Twitter.


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.