Tuesday, June 22, 2021
  Around Campus, Community

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The Enactus chapter at UTRGV finished in the top 16 of the 2021 Enactus U.S. National Expo for its community projects and initiatives to improve and enhance the lives of their fellow Vaqueros and Rio Grande Valley citizens.

From April 12-16, students were able to engage with hundreds of corporate leaders from companies including BIC, the Boston Consulting Group, Ford Motor Company, Google, Walgreens and many more at the Enactus U.S. Expo held online.

The vision for the international nonprofit organization Enactus is to create a better and more sustainable world while developing future entrepreneurial leaders and innovators.

The expo is usually held in person in Kansas City, Missouri, however, the format changed to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

More than 100 higher education institutions were represented and participated in the annual competition. The business leaders served as judges, evaluating Enactus teams’ presentations about the positive impact they created in their communities and beyond.

The group submitted a video presentation showcasing all the community projects and initiatives they worked on throughout the previous year, which included the following:

  • The annual Thanksgiving Drive – “Cansgiving.” This year they helped more than 400 families.
  • The Sustainable Opportunities for Advancement and Recruiting (SOAR) project. The group worked in partnership with Team Mario, UTRGV Office of Sustainability and Texas Workforce Solutions to offer professional work-related training aimed at helping autistic young adults.
  • A financial literacy program for college students, partnering with State Farm and the Association for Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). The curriculum offered videos about tools relating to financial practices. 

All the projects were guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Enactus faculty advisor Maria Leonard, a UTRGV Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship lecturer II of management and internship coordinator, said there are currently about 14 active members that make up the multidisciplinary organization. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were close to 30 members, but the organization had to make adjustments and change schedules.

“Every year, we work on projects that help our community, either through education or entrepreneurial actions,” Leonard said. “We have used those projects to move the needle, somehow, within our community social-economic status. At the same time, we’re helping students develop professional skills they can transfer to their future careers.”

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was crowned the Enactus U.S. National Champions and will be competing with teams from 34 countries for the Enactus World Cup on October 12-18.


Leonard said being part of Enactus can be an impactful and meaningful experience for members. She helped establish the organization at UTRGV in 2015 after her personal experience with it as a member when she was a student at the legacy institution UT-Pan American. 

“I can say it changed my life, it changed many people’s lives because we were working very closely with community and business leaders. Our advisor pushed us to embrace opportunities,” she said.

Leonard mentioned she has seen how the skills students learn while in the organization are being applied to their careers now.

As a faculty member, she often encourages students to seek out student organizations to help develop their soft skills and résumés. She said Enactus brings something unique for every student.

“I think this is an impactful organization that provides a link between the skills that we’re teaching in the classroom and real-life situations that will help the community grow,” she said.

Diego Salas, a junior finance major and current president of the UTRGV Enactus chapter, said he joined the organization during his freshman year after learning about it at an Enactus summer camps project. Salas said he is inspired by the organization’s community projects and has gained many skills that he has applied at school and work.

“It’s the personal and professional growth you experience when you’re a part of this team. You meet with community leaders, you meet with other students, and with different organizations,” he said. “I drew so much experience from being part of this team, it’s shaped who I am today, both professionally and personally.”

Showcasing the students’ dedication to helping their communities and seeing what they have accomplished makes Leonard very proud.

“Watching them grow into young, ethical professionals gives me a tremendous feeling of pride. Having that recognition is very nice, and for the students, for them to be able to see their hard work has paid off. It’s wonderful,” she said. 

And the recognitions continued for Enactus recently. In April, the organization received the UTRGV 2020-2021 Student Organization of the Year Award from the Center of Student Involvement. 

Students interested in learning about the organization can contact Maria Leonard at maria.leonard@utrgv.edu or visit Enactus RGV on Instagram.


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.