UTRGV Fall 2022 Commencement

  Thursday, December 15, 2022
  Around Campus

By Marisol Villarreal

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – “Taking a leap of faith is better than taking a leap of doubt.” (Matshona Dhliwayo, author, philosopher and entrepreneur)

For UTRGV civil engineering graduate student Franher Cantu, it was a leap of faith that landed him on a path to personal and educational success.

Set to walk the stage Friday, Dec. 16, at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg to accept his master's degree, Cantu recalls the moment he decided civil engineering was for him.

“I’ve always liked problem-solving and finding creative solutions,” he said. “When I first came to UTRGV, I was a biology major. But I switched because I was unhappy; I enjoyed the engineering classes so much more.”

During his undergraduate studies, Cantu participated in clubs and projects that helped him understand leadership and research – like The Rocket Launchers at UTRGV, where he served as a co-lead and co-captain for two years, and with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Texas Clean Rivers Program, collecting water samples from various spots along the Rio Grande to later be analyzed.

Cantu said he also owes part of his success to Dr. Philip Park, an assistant professor and course assessment coordinator with the UTRGV Civil Engineering department.

Dr. Philip Park was a very good mentor for me,” Cantu said. “He let me know of different opportunities like The Texas Clean Rivers Program, and I've done research projects with him since my undergrad and through my master’s degree.”

Before the end of his graduate classes, Cantu was working with Park and other student volunteers to research how fiber-reinforced asphalt improves the quality of roads and their longevity, potentially reducing the costs of road maintenance.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get this far if I didn’t start asking questions and seeing what I could do,” Cantu said. “I asked about opportunities and talked to Dr. Park.”

Cantu, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, went to pre-K in Mission and now lives in Edinburg with his parents. He admits to being shy when he first got to college and said one of the main things that helped him break out of his shell was joining Rocket Launchers at UTRGV. Surrounding himself with students who were inspired to become engineers gave him the extra push he needed to figure himself out and motivated him to finish his degree.

Cantu’s mother, Zoraya Cantu, is proud of her youngest son and his resiliency.

“Time just went by so fast,” she said. “Because I still remember during his pre-K times, he was afraid of speaking because he didn’t know English. But after just a couple of weeks, he knew how to speak English right away.

“What I want him to remember as he prepares for his career is to not forget about the people who’ve helped him along the way, how there’s always a solution to every problem, and to always do his best, no matter what,” she said.

Cantu already has taken part of his mother's advice and is grateful for everyone who has believed in him.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am without everyone’s support,” he said.

Cantu has a civil engineering job offer lined up in North Texas after graduation.

The UTRGV Fall 2022 Commencement will be a two-day event beginning in Edinburg on Friday, Dec. 16, and ending in Brownsville on Saturday, Dec. 17.

To watch the ceremonies live online, visit https://www.utrgv.edu/commencement/.


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.