Tuesday, June 1, 2021
  Around Campus

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Beginning in fall 2021, UTRGV’s College of Fine Arts will offer a new undergraduate graphic design degree to keep up with expanding industry needs. 

Previously, the degree was offered as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a concentration in graphic design. However, the curriculum has been revamped to reflect and keep pace with changes in graphic design. UTRGV will now offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

Dr. Elizabeth Berger, associate professor of art and chair of the newly expanded program, said members of UTRGV’s graphic design faculty were instrumental in the extensive curriculum rewrite. 

“The basic goal is to make students more industry-ready with multiple media in their visual communications skillsets,” she said.  

The curriculum rewrite includes two tracks: visual communication and emerging media. 

  • Visual communication prescribes to a more typical graphic design track that includes print media and advertising.  
  • Emerging media involves more cutting-edge design like motion design. The track also has the potential to expand to gaming, augmented reality and more animation courses in the future. 


Berger said the visual communication field has evolved, and as technology expands, so do the needs of a designer. So, the curriculum includes new courses that will prepare students for today’s graphic design needs and trends.  

The program will now require entry portfolio reviews and midterm reviews to ensure students are on track to succeed.  

“With these new standards, as our program expands, it will get more competitive,” Berger said.  

Also included in the curriculum rewrite are new major core courses that will provide a stronger base in design skills like typography, Adobe software, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and base courses in design communication I and II to round out the visual communications design core.  

The new program structure gives students a wider range of options for future job placement, and job possibilities include in-house marketing for nonprofit organizations or large corporations, advertising agencies, design studios, textile design and web design, to name a few. 

The program will be financial aid-eligible for authorized students.  

Also in development is a master’s program that will prepare students to teach graphic design at the higher education level.  

“We are growing so much, we’ve hired five new adjuncts and are in the process of hiring two more to teach animation, to help teach new courses in the program,” Berger said. “Our growth rate shows that industry demands are strong for this degree locally and across the nation.” 



In November 2020, three UTRGV graphic design students at the annual Adobe Jam Texas Design Competition took first and second place out of 161 participants for mobile app development.  

“The BFA in graphic design is long overdue,” said Dr. Steven Block, dean of the UTRGV College of Fine Arts. “Last fall’s showing in the Adobe Jam Texas design competition is proof of the value this program already possesses.” 

Block said this degree now aligns with the overall transformation that has been underway since the beginning at UTRGV to become an emerging research institution.  

“The School of Art was formerly a school driven by a degree in studio art and hands-on practical approaches to craft and vocation,” Block said. “Even though half of the 600 majors were graphic design students, all students were receiving degrees in studio art.”  

“Graphic design is a marketable skill, and the new degree program certifies the specialization in graphic design that is now happening in the UTRGV School of Art,” he said.  

To learn more about the degree program, visit www.utrgv.edu/school-of-art.


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.