Friday, December 4, 2020
  Around Campus, Awards and Recognitions

By Victoria Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – ‘Tis the season for keeping traditions alive the best and safest way possible, so UTRGV will honor the artistic expressions of a unique holiday season by continuing the university’s annual President’s Holiday Card Contest. 

Happy Holidays Welcome to UTRGV
The winning 2020 UTRGV holiday card, designed by UTRGV sophomore Aldo Ramirez, features a digital painting of a vintage red pickup loaded with gifts, headed toward a UTRGV campus.

The contest, in its fifth year, turned out a record number of 120 entries. The winning artwork, selected by a screening committee and UTRGV President Guy Bailey, earned scholarships for three students.  

Aldo Ramirez, a mechanical engineering major sophomore from Nederland, Texas, is the first-place winner of this year’s annual Christmas contest. 

His digital painting is of a vintage red pickup loaded with gifts, headed toward a UTRGV campus flanked by palm trees decked out in Christmas lights, all capturing the simple essence of Christmas in the Rio Grande Valley.  

“It feels amazing to have been hand selected, by Dr. Bailey especially, as first place among all the entries,” Ramirez said. “For an engineering student like me, design is important, so to win the contest doing something I love – it’s great.” 

Ramirez hopes to one day design vehicles, an aspiration that inspired him to design the retro truck in his holiday card. 

He crafted his creation with an application called Procreate, which his girlfriend, Adriana Ulloa, a senior accounting major at UTRGV, purchased for him. She encouraged him to enter the holiday card contest. 

“She is the one who inspired me the most and encouraged me the most,” he said. “She is actually the one who told me about the contest, and we spent days at a coffee shop bouncing around ideas for the card.” 

Video chat gathering
Pictured is the runner-up card by Emily Ann Guerra, a sophomore art major. Guerra said the card design was intended to capture the uniqueness of the 2020 holiday season, and the need to unite people in a safe manner.

Ramirez said the concept of the retro truck, which is the focal point of his design, was intended to symbolize Christmas in the region. 

“I really wanted to capture the spirit of the Valley,” Ramirez said. “The retro truck with gifts reminded me of Christmas, and the Valley has nice sunsets and palm trees. I wanted to combine that into one art piece.” 

Ramirez will receive a $1,000 scholarship for his work.  



Each of the two runners up – Emily Ann Guerra and Gage Benham – will receive a $500 scholarship. 

Guerra, a sophomore art major, entered a digital design of a holiday gathering via video call. The central individual is waving to friends, holding a gift, and sporting an orange UTRGV face mask.  

The artist said the design was intended to capture the uniqueness of the 2020 holiday season, and the need to unite people in a safe manner. 

UTRGV Mascot
Gage Benham, a senior computer engineering major, designed this runner-up card that brings the UTRGV mascot front and center. He said the design was inspired by television Christmas specials.

“This year is very different from other years,” Guerra said. “We’re going to have to celebrate the holidays very differently. I thought it would be nice to show that, even though we can’t spend the holidays together in person, we can still celebrate.” 

Benham, a senior computer engineering major, submitted a digital design that brings the UTRGV mascot front and center, clasping Santa’s bag of gifts beside a snow-laced Christmas tree. Inspired by television Christmas specials, Benham’s graphic design brings a modern twist to the classic ideals of Christmas. 

“A lot of time was spent capturing the handmade feel, from the cotton fabric of the Vaquero’s shirt to the felt material of the Christmas tree. There are half a million simulated particles in this design,” Benham said. 



Typically, the university’s holiday card contest winners are showcased at the President’s Holiday Reception. However, due to the safety restrictions brought about by COVID-19, that event was cancelled.  

Instead, winners will get framed copies of their cards in the mail, along with a personalized note from President Bailey. 

“I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the contest this year,” Bailey said. “This is one of my favorite traditions at UTRGV, and I’m always impressed with the quality and creativity of the entries. This year was no different.” 


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.