Wednesday, December 23, 2020
  Around Campus, Awards and Recognitions

By Victoria Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – This month, 27 lifelong members were initiated to UTRGV’s chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha, an honor society for public affairs graduate students.

The initiation took place during a virtual event on Dec. 4. Initiations usually take place after the spring semester, but due to larger number of inductees, an additional ceremony was needed for fall graduates.

Dr. Aziza Zemrani, professor and coordinator of the UTRGV Public Affairs and Security Studies graduate program, said there are now more than 140 members in the UTRGV chapter.

“Being a part of Pi Alpha Alpha is an academic accomplishment for those invited,” Zemrani said. “It helps advance the MPA program’s goal of preparing students for jobs in the public and private sectors.”

Pi Alpha Alpha, part of the Network Association of Schools of Public Affairs (NASPA), is open to students, alumni, faculty and honorary members. The UTRGV Chapter formed in 2009 at legacy institution UT Pan American. To be invited, students must have a minimum 3.75 GPA, at least 50 percent of their 36-credit hour program completed and submit a one-time $50 fee.

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, UTRGV executive vice president for Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development, served as keynote speaker for the virtual event. Also attending were Dr. Walter Diaz, UTRGV dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Dr. Pamela Anderson-Mejias, interim chair of the Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies; and friends and family of the inductees.


Anna Valdez, of Austin, began the MPA accelerated online program in Fall 2019 and graduated this semester with the largest graduating class of the program.

Her favorite part of the MPA program is the opportunity to meet and work with talented colleagues in the MPA field. Her Pi Alpha Alpha invitation was an honor, she said, after a year of dedication to the program.

“Serving the public is what we do,” Valdez said. “To be recognized as a leader in that area is moving. I look forward to expanding my knowledge base via interaction with the other members. Being open to new experiences and processes is vital to growth because we are lifelong learners.”  

Valdez currently works in higher education and plans to use skills acquired in the MPA program to continue to serve the student population.

Texas Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez was also one of the initiated. After he started the program in October 2019, Martinez graduated during the UTRGV Fall 2020 Commencement.

“It is quite an honor and privilege to have been asked to be a part of such a fine and recognized organization,” Martinez said.

Since his completion of the program this past summer, Martinez was re-elected as District 39’s state representative. He said he plans to use his new degree to continue his public service and broaden his abilities to improve his service to communities and constituents.


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.