Friday, February 14, 2020
  Community, Around Campus

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV’s Office of Professional Education and Workforce Development has launched the first Sustainability Student Leadership Program, aimed at training students to be future leaders in sustainable initiatives.

“My idea for developing the leadership program for the graduate students is to really help them become the leaders that they’re expected to be when they graduate with their master’s degrees,” said Jayshree Bhat, assistant vice president of Professional Education and Workforce Development.

The launch was held at the BSM Global Blends in Edinburg to showcase the possibilities of connecting available resources to create a sustainable future for the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.

Leadership development and sustainability are integral parts of a student’s education and research, Bhat said, and this new program amplifies the efforts of the work being carried out by Sustainability Fellows.

Sustainability Fellows is a scholarship program for graduate students, established in spring 2019 by Dr. Parwinder Grewal, executive vice president for Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development, to spur research activities that address local and regional gaps in sustainability.

“Since I started here in 2015, we have been talking about this kind of initiative,” Grewal said. “Today, it’s coming together in full circle.”

Marianella Franklin, UTRGV’s Chief Sustainability Officer, encouraged students to ensure that their leadership roles will further sustainable development in the communities served.

“The marriage of the two programs will elevate students’ status of being champions from campus to the world,” Franklin said.

The nine graduate students who make up the first cohort of the Sustainability Leadership Program (SLP) are focusing on addressing the gap in sustainability in various fields. Their project work spans across multiple disciplines, from sustainable practices in music education in high school, to Renewable Energy. 

  • Armando Garces – Developing an Effective Detection Model for Alzheimer’s Disease: A Sustainable Solution for Therapeutic Intervention.
  • Diego Alonso and Jaafar Mouhamad – A Renewable Energy Project at UTRGV.
  • Jacqueline Lopez – Frontera Project: A Vehicle for Sustainable Parent Engagement and Student Success.
  • Karla Salazar – The Physical Study of Perfluoro-Compounds and their Interactions with Water.
  • Mauricio Castellano – From Seed to Harvest: The Pedagogical and Cognitive Development of Percussion Students from Beginner through University Graduate.
  • Omar Vazquez Perez and Zachery Johnson – Zero Waste Project: A Food Composting Project at UTRGV.
  • Raul Espinosa Perez – Biosensor Capable of Detecting Suspicious Levels of Creatinine in Saliva in Order to Detect and Prevent Kidney Diseases.

For additional information on Sustainability Leadership Program, please contact the Office of Professional Education & Workforce Development at (956) 665-6513, or 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.