Saturday, December 15, 2018

By Melissa Vasquez

 PHOTO GALLERY by Paul Chouy & Silver Salas:
Password: utrgvgrad

MCALLEN, TEXAS – Mission accomplished for close to 2,000 graduates who participated in The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s three Fall 2018 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 15.

In front of excited and emotional family, friends and loved ones, the UTRGV graduates received their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees completing their transition from students to alumni.

Held at the McAllen Convention Center, the ceremonies were held at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and included more than 170 graduates from UTRGV’s first entering class of students who started with UTRGV in Fall 2015 and graduated in three and a half years.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey presided over the ceremonies and told graduates to celebrate this major milestone in their lives.

“This is your day …,” Bailey said. “But, there are a couple of caveats to that, first of all, you’ll be far more defined by what happens to you over the next 50 years than what has happened to you the last four years. But, the truth is to remember that what happens in the future will be what defines you. The good news is that you are well prepared for it.”

For graduates Kim Finn and Miranda Lopez, who were two of six candidates to earn their doctorates in Rehabilitation Services and Counseling Saturday morning, the day to celebrate their major accomplishment had finally arrived.

Lopez, 40, who has more than 10 years of experience in case management, intake evaluations, and individual and group counseling, as well as five years of career counseling, grant writing, and grant management skills, said a career in rehabilitation counseling chose her.

While earning her doctorate, Lopez taught full time and co-wrote two $1 million grants, both with the School of Rehabilitative Services and Counseling.

“I know not everyone gets that experience, but I did, and it was the whole comprehensive package for me. A lot of props go to my mentor, Dr. Bruce Reed, because he took me under his wing probably since that first semester that I got there.”

Finn, 45, from San Antonio, worked as a supervising clinical therapist for UTPA’s, legacy institution, Counseling Services Center for 16 years, mentoring graduate and doctoral-level students and administering psychotherapy. While earning her doctorate, Finn taught full time and contributed to multicultural counseling and studies on animal shelter workers who engage in euthanizing unfortunate animals. Though she is happy to graduate, she will miss the camaraderie of her fellow colleagues, she said.

“I made quite a lot of really good friends, who are like a family for me,” she said. “Several of them are graduating with me this semester, and I think that’s what makes it special. It’s really a wonderful thing and feels amazing.”

Graduating students - Alexandra Corpus and Cruz Rivera – earned their bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with bilingual education specialization and teacher certification (EC-6) during the 1 p.m. ceremony. They both enrolled in the Intensive Mentorship and Preparation in Acceleration for a Career in Teaching program under the College of Education and P-16 Integration.

Corpus, of Alamo, said having family members who are teachers helped and encouraged her to stick with the path that would lead to her dream job.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I’m excited about starting to work as a teacher. In the program, we were able to learn different techniques for how to teach, how to have good classroom management. It was just great.”

Rivera, of San Juan, said he’s also eager to get his foot in the door and start teaching as a bilingual teacher. He mentioned he does hope this path paves the way for him to becoming a principal one day.

Rivera sends thanks to his father for being his support through his fast-paced college stay.

“He always told me to try my best at school and to not give up, even when I’m tired. I need to finish strong. It’ll pay off,” the future teacher said.

Corpus and Rivera both send encouragement to future Vaqueros to take advantage of the opportunities presented in front of them and don’t be scared.


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.