Friday, December 2, 2022
  Around Campus

By News and Internal Communications

By Tawny Turner

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV is keeping it merry and bright with its eighth annual Holiday Card Contest, designed to showcase the Vaqueros’ artistic talents.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey and Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV executive vice president and provost, selected the work of six students whose designs showcased a deep sense of Vaquero Pride and the holiday spirit. More than 200 students submitted entries this year.

Bailey started the holiday card competition in 2015, UTRGV’s inaugural year. 

“I can’t tell you how great it is to continue the tradition of selecting the official UTRGV holiday cards that are sent across the country to friends of the university,” Bailey said. “I’m always impressed with the creativity of the entries that capture the pride our students have in UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley.”

This is Arney’s second year to make holiday card selections since the provost’s card was introduced in 2021. 

“This year’s cards embody the Vaquero spirit,” Arney said. “We had so many creative submissions and it was such a pleasure to see everyone’s creativity shine through.”

First place winning card
Influenced by the Rio Grande Valley’s Hispanic culture, Sandrine Agbeko created a sweet card with a pan dulce and holiday treat design. Agbeko took first place in the President’s category.

The winners will be recognized at the President’s Holiday Receptions for employees on Dec. 7 in Edinburg and Dec. 8 in Brownsville. 


Bailey selected three students as top entries in the contest.

SANDRINE AGBEKO, a sophomore graphic design major from McAllen, was awarded first place and a $1,000 scholarship.

Her digital drawing of a bundle of holiday desserts – like cookies shaped as cowboy boots, traditional pan dulce and Vaquero logo-shaped cookies – encompassed favorite regional and university themes.

“The inspiration behind my card design was the simple but symbolic meaning of togetherness, shown through a holiday cookie box,” Agbeko said. “I wanted to illustrate this by incorporating holiday treats that would typically bring families together. Additionally, I wanted to amplify Vaquero pride and school spirit.”

MELANIE IZAZI, a senior art education major from San Juan, was a runner up.

MELANIE IZAZI and her winning card
Melanie Izazi, a senior art education major from San Juan, included the UTRGV Student Union as the focal point of her winning design. She said that is where she spends most of her time when on campus and is the place that represents school spirit for her. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

Her design depicts the Student Union building on the Edinburg Campus as a gingerbread structure.

“My inspiration was based on the holiday spirit at school,” Izazi said. “I decided to recreate the Edinburg Student Union as a gingerbread house because I feel that it is the place that encourages the most school spirit. It is the place in the school where we get to eat, so I thought it would be a good idea to recreate it as food.”

CARLO ZOROLA, an engineering management graduate student from Edinburg, was also a runner up.

CARLO ZOROLA and his winning card
Carlo Zorola, an engineering management graduate student from Edinburg, said school spirit inspired his winning entry. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

His piece displays a festive, Christmas-themed UTRGV logo.

“The growth of UTRGV´s school spirit in the past few years inspired me,” Zorola said. “That is why I decided to combine the holidays with one of our primary spirit logos.”



Bryan Garza
Bryan Garza, a freshman studio art major from Edinburg, was the first-place winner in the Provost’s category and won a $1,000 scholarship. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

BRYAN GARZA, a freshman studio art major from Edinburg, was the first-place winner here. He also won a $1,000 scholarship.

Garza’s colorful work showcased Christmas in Texas at UTRGV by showcasing the big U-T-R-G-V letters that mark the entrances to the campuses surrounded by strings of multicolored Christmas lights, presents, palm trees and nopales, and fireworks. 

Provost first place card
Palm trees, poinsettias and Nochebuena in the Rio Grande Valley were the inspiration for Bryan Garza’s first place design in the Provost’s category.

"My holiday card was inspired by how the holidays appeared to me growing up in the Valley, where las palmas are lit up with lights, fireworks are lit to commemorate Nochebuena and poinsettias adorn our neighborhood to represent good cheer and community spirit,” Garza said. “I tried to convey the warmth and joy that the holiday season brings with an RGV twist, and I hope that anyone who looks at the card will feel the same way."  

JULIETA CONTRERAS, a sophomore integrated health sciences major from Brownsville, was a runner up.

JULIETA CONTRERAS and her winning card
Julieta Contreras, a sophomore from Brownsville, said a snow globe and the UTRGV Brownsville Campus were the stars of her card design. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Contreras’ card displays a snow globe of the entrance to the Brownsville Courtyard at Main with Santa Claus and his reindeer flying overhead. 

“My inspiration for this piece was imagining a snowy Christmas filled with holiday spirit at the Brownsville UTRGV campus,” Contreras said.

MARITZA FLORES, a junior cybersecurity major from Edinburg, was also a runner up.

MARITZA FLORES and her winning card
Maritza Flores, a junior from Edinburg, showcased her love of embroidery that was taught to her by her late grandmother. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

She submitted a digital piece depicting the Vaquero head logo on a needlepoint in the center of festive holiday decor.

“My grandma inspired this entry,” Flores said. “She passed away at the beginning of this year. She taught me so much – how to sew and embroider – which inspired the embroidery materials in the drawing. I was also inspired by the traditional foods my family eats during the holidays.” 

Each runner-up was awarded a $500 scholarship. The Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost awarded the scholarships.



The holiday cards will be sold for $12 a set and include 12 cards (two cards each for each winning artwork). Proceeds made from the sale of the cards will go toward the UTRGV Food Pantry.

The cards can be purchased at the holiday receptions or at the UTRGV Campus Stores in Brownsville and Edinburg, as well as online.

To see past and present winners, visit


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.