Spring 2019 commencement kicks off in Brownsville

  Friday, May 10, 2019
  Around Campus, Community

By Victoria Brito

 PHOTO GALLERY by David Pike

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – The first of seven 2019 Spring Commencement ceremonies for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley began Friday in Brownsville, as friends and family assembled to watch their loved ones cap off their academic careers.

Dr. Patricia Alvarez McHatton, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, Student Success and P-16 Integration, gave a special shout out to those who are part of the UTRGV First Class –students who were part of the university’s inaugural freshman class when UTRGV first opened its doors Aug. 31, 2015.

“Earlier today, those students were presented with medallions with the inscription ‘Forever First Class,’ to commemorate this momentous occasion,” McHatton said.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey congratulated all the graduates on their accomplishments, then asked the First Class students to stand and be recognized.

“You started on an adventure in 2015, and none of us knew exactly how all of this would work out,” Bailey said. “Remember, this was a brand new endeavor, and we are so proud of you and what you achieved. And for those who started with our legacy institutions, we are equally proud of you, you are all our children.”

Bailey told the graduates their lives are not defined by what happened during their time at UTRGV or by what happens at commencement, but rather by what happens in the next 40 years of their lives.

“It is what you do when you leave here that really matters,” he said.


Chemistry major Carolyn Martinez, 21, said finally graduating is the end of a long journey.

“It feels like a big relief, like a big breath of fresh air,” she said. “It feels like a new adventure is coming along and I don’t know what it is going to be like.”

Martinez is a 2016 graduate of UTRGV’s Math and Science Academy, and the UTRGV campus has been a fixture in her life for the past five years. She decided to stay at UTRGV to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. 

She hopes to begin work in her field either in the oil, cosmetic or pharmaceutical fields, and says she eventually will pursue a master’s degree in chemical engineering.

“Chemistry is such a big field and there are so many opportunities I can explore, and that is one of the things I love about the subject,” she said.

Of all her experiences at UTRGV, Martinez said, the time spent with MSA as both a student then as a student worker was memorable and rewarding.

“Without the guidance of Dr. Wilma Smetter, MSA principal, and the whole MSA program, I wouldn’t be anywhere,” she said. “MSA gave me a job when I needed one, took me in as a tutor, and it has been an amazing experience to be able to interact with the students, see their journeys and the amazing universities they get into. I will never forget that.”

UTRGV Graduate
Nearly 800 UTRGV students graduated in four ceremonies on Friday, May 10, in Brownsville. And more than 3,400 students will graduate over the weekend during UTRGV Spring 2019 commencement ceremonies. Commencement continues tomorrow at the McAllen Convention Center with three more ceremonies. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)


Guillermo Vazquez – a member of UTRGV’s two-time national champion chess team – is excited to move forward. The international master started at UTRGV in Spring 2015 when he was just 17 years old, just one month after graduating from high school in his hometown of Asunción, Paraguay.

“It feels good to graduate and see the results of the effort of all these years,” Vazquez said.

Now 22, he has earned dual bachelor’s degrees in computer science and physics. He started his college career solely focused on computer science, but after meeting Dr. Malik Rakhmanov, UTRGV associate professor of physics, Vazquez began working on research and decided to also pursue physics, as well.

As a member of the UTRGV Chess team, Vazquez was able to travel and compete, and forged lifelong friendships with his teammates.

“We are not just a team, we are all friends and we support each other at every tournament,” he said.

Vazquez will return home to Paraguay for the summer and in August, he will relocate to Seattle to begin his new job as a software engineer for Microsoft.

He said he will miss the sense of belonging that he felt with the UTRGV campus community.

“I like how the people of UTRGV seem to care about everybody here,” Vazquez said. “The professors really care about the students.”

The Brownsville Campus graduated nearly 800 students in four ceremonies on Friday, May 10. More than 3,400 students will graduate today and tomorrow at UTRGV Spring 2019 commencement ceremonies. 

Commencement continues tomorrow at the McAllen Convention Center with three ceremonies:

  • 9 a.m. College of Fine Arts and College of Liberal Arts.
  • 1 p.m. Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, College of Health Professions, School of Nursing and School of Social Work.
  • 5 p.m. College of Education and P-16 Integration, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences and Math and Science Academy.


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.