Friday, September 3, 2021

By Karen Villarreal

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The UTRGV School of Nursing on Sept. 2 celebrated its expansion during a signing ceremony with the City of Pharr, at the site of the school’s future facility at 2800 N. Cage Boulevard. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce in May awarded the School of Nursing a $2 million grant under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act fund, known as the CARES Act, passed by Congress in March 2020 to provide fast economic relief to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The federal funding will be matched with $24 million in local investment, with the project expected to create 750 jobs and generate $30 million in private investment, according to a Department of Commerce press release. 

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said this collaboration with the City of Pharr is an important step in growing the School of Nursing and providing education opportunities for the Valley. 

“We are grateful to the City of Pharr for its generosity and thank Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez for his support of the UTRGV School of Nursing,” Bailey said. “Together, we can help attract and retain the best and the brightest students as we further expand the Valley’s healthcare services.” 

The planned, two-story facility will be about 50,000 gross square feet, with the first floor housing classrooms and labs, a simulation center, nursing lab, skills center, graduate program lab and student study rooms. The second floor will have conference rooms and administrative, faculty and staff offices.  

Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D., said the signing event marks a moment of great celebration.  

“The City of Pharr is proud to partner with The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for a new nursing school that will address the shortage of these vital professionals in our area," he said. "This facility will serve as a catalyst to grow our nursing profession in the region.

“We are especially proud to have this facility anchored here in Pharr, the hub of the Valley, and an ideal location as we are situated only minutes from area hospitals and UTRGV.”  

UT System Regent Dr. Nolan Perez attended the ceremony, along with other UTRGV leaders and local representatives. He said the expansion of the UTRGV School of Nursing is an important project, not only for the UT System but also for the state.  

“UTRGV is critical to the success of Texas,” he said. “Young kids who grow up here are the faces of the future of Texas and this nation. With the state growing as fast as it is, we need UTRGV to keep up its rapid growth. We’re proud of what’s going to come from this School of Nursing.”  

Dr. MaryJane Lewitt, interim dean of the UTRGV School of Nursing, said the signing ceremony marks an important step for nursing in the Valley. 

“We know there’s a huge need for nurses in the community,” Lewitt said. “In this new building, we’ll give students the skills and capacity they need to make a difference from day one.”  

She said the facility will help the university’s nursing programs to increase enrollment at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, and help expand the K-12 pipeline already in place with local high schools.    

The project is in the design phase through November. Construction is projected to start in December 2021 or January 2022. Completion is slated for May 2023, with the facility fully operating for the Fall 2023 semester. 

Rendering of UTRGV School of Nursing building
Rendering of the UTRGV School of Nursing facility in Pharr, Texas. The project is in the design phase through November. Construction is projected to start in December 2021 or January 2022. Completion is slated for May 2023, with the facility fully operating for the Fall 2023 semester. (Courtesy of City of Pharr)


CARES Act Funds 

UTRGV continues to implement programs directly benefitting students who have been impacted by disruption to campus operations due to the coronavirus.  These programs are funded with both CARES Act funds from the U.S. Department of Education and UTRGV institutional funds, and of the programs’ total costs, no less than $17,169,129 of CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) will be expended on eligible students through direct grants. The opinion and content of this communication is that of UTRGV and does not necessarily represent the policy of the U. S. Department of Education or the Federal Government. 


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.