Wednesday, May 22, 2019

By Letty Fernandez

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Patricia Alvarez McHatton, UTRGV executive vice president for Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration, testified Wednesday, May 22, in Washington, D.C., before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment.

The subcommittee was hearing testimony on the role of community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions in preparing students for success.

McHatton shared with committee members the work being undertaken at UTRGV – which is the largest Hispanic-Serving Institution in Texas and the second-largest in the United States.

An HSI is defined on the U.S. Department of Education website as an institution of higher education that “has an enrollment of undergraduate, full-time-equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application.”

“We graduate over 5,000 students each year – 87 percent of our students are Hispanic, 59 percent are first-generation, 76 percent of all undergraduate students receive some sort of financial aid,” she told the legislators assembled. “Most importantly, our students are committed to their education and to giving back to their communities.”

McHatton spoke of the five core priorities that guide the work at UTRGV, with student success at the core, and cited examples of programs to ensure students’ success. One example is the recently implemented PROMISE programs, which are discipline-specific and represent a promise to the students that if they progress as stipulated in their PROMISE Program, they will graduate in four years.

“But getting them graduated isn’t sufficient,” McHatton said. “We need to make sure that once they graduate, they enter viable careers that address community needs. We must work with employers, educators, workforce systems and communities in tandem, if our current and future workforce needs are to be met.”


One member of the House Subcommittee – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) spoke to one of UTRGV’s special student successes – the Vaquero Chess Team’s back-to-back national championships.

“I want to start by congratulating Dr. McHatton for your university’s national chess championship, which I understand is twice in a row,” Bonamici said. “I have long been supportive of chess education, especially in the K-12 system. Tremendous academic benefits. But, I want to say congratulations. That is a big accomplishment.”

The chess team on the same day was in Austin at the state Capitol, accepting congratulations and a proclamation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on its national championships.


Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), also a member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Labor Investment, said his wife is a Rio Grande Valley native and graduate of UTRGV legacy institution The University of Texas Pan American. He said he understands well the struggles to bring credible education resources to the area.

“As a Texan here at the panel, I was in the Legislature and we spent a lot of time trying to get a medical school at what was then UT Pan Am, where my wife graduated from. She is from Alton, Texas, in the Valley.”

Along with the university, The UTRGV School of Medicine was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 and opened to its first class of medical students in 2015.

“UTRGV is really the anchor university for an area with millions of people,” Castro said, “but in many ways had been ignored in terms of its educational resources for decades.”

He said the Legislature also pushed hard for more doctoral programs.

“I think it is so meaningful to an area that is overwhelmingly Latino there, the progress on all these fronts in the number of doctoral programs, graduate programs, and so forth,” he said.

This month, UTRGV was elevated to the second-highest classification of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, in the classification of Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity (R2) – the highest level ever attained by a university in the Rio Grande Valley. In addition, the university is now just one level away from the highest classification of Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity (R1), referred to as Carnegie Tier One.

McHatton was one of four representatives from higher education institutions invited to speak before the committee.

To listen to McHatton’s full testimony before the House Subcommittee, visit


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.