Wednesday, May 8, 2019
  Community, Around Campus

By Amanda Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAY 8, 2019 – UTRGV is one of 100 universities selected for inclusion in the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advance Studies in Culture Field Guide for Urban University-Community Partnerships.

UTRGV, considered a major player in the field of community engagement, also was mentioned as one of just 10 universities to be highlighted as a frontier of practice university for its advances in community engagement.

“We are proud of this achievement, which is a result of working in partnership with the B3 Institute, Dr. Francisco Guajardo, key community groups, and notably, with the help, support and vision of our leadership,” said Cristina Trejo-Vasquez, associate vice president of Community Engagement and Economic Development in the Division of Governmental and Community Relations.

“Dr. Patricia McHatton and Dr. Parwinder Grewal were instrumental, as deans of their former colleges, in the development of a stakeholder engagement model for higher education that is now recognized as a best practice,” she said.

The Field Guide is a product of a year-long survey of 100 universities focusing on major trends in university-community partnerships across the country. The guide is meant for practicing institutions to locate themselves within the field of their peers and connect with resources to continue to be successful.

Josh Yates, research director within the Thriving Cities Lab at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, said the guide is meant to be a valuable resource for community relationships and university-based partnerships.

“What I wanted to do was take a look at this emerging field of practice within these institutions because there hasn’t been a lot done with them as a whole field,” Yates said. “There’s been good case study work, usually specific to an institution or program or faculty member and their relationships to the community, but what we hadn’t done was step back and do a field scan to see what the main trends are and where this field is headed.”

UTRGV was mentioned as one of the top 10 frontier universities due to community learning exchanges through partnerships with low-income serving organizations such as Unidos por RGV and community-based partnerships with organizations like La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB).

“There’s some historical context here since this university has been inching in this direction for a while,” said Dr. Francisco Guajardo, executive director of UTRGV’s B3 Institute. “This institution began to feel that it needed to be more responsive to the community by building relationships and being much more consequential in terms of sharing communities and shaping the economy. This is a change that really happened, I think, within the last generation.”

As the field of community engagement grows, Yates foresees more interest and initiatives in modeling the field. He said the formation of UTRGV and the creation of UTRGV’s School of Medicine enabled the university to become Texas’s first major public university of the 21st century. 

“This is an emerging, evolving field, so it wasn’t that long ago that there wasn’t such a thing as offices for community engagement,” Yates said. “A reason a university gets chosen as a frontier is not because they are the only institution doing something innovative, but they are among the few that are emblematic of that innovation and worthy of being highlighted, so we can see what’s working and what’s not.”


The B3 Institute is a university-wide initiative that facilitates UTRGV’s movement to become a bicultural, bilingual and biliterate Hispanic Serving Institution. Guided by the Regents of The University of Texas System’s founding principles for UTRGV, this new university explores and integrates significant elements of biculturalism, bilingualism and biliteracy across the university as a macro approach to greater student success. The B3 Institute pursues its work through curricular approaches, community engagement, relevant research initiatives, and an emerging health and medical education vision that pertain to the communities of the Rio Grande Valley.


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.