Wednesday, March 29, 2023
  Around Campus

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Last year, 24 UTRGV students made campus history when they became the first members of a unique breed of Vaqueros known as the Luminary Scholars.  

The Luminary Scholars belong to a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that offers incoming undergraduate students room and board for the first two years and full tuition and mandatory fees for all four years.  In addition, full tuition and mandatory fees are also covered for a graduate or professional program, including the UTRGV School of Medicine or the School of Podiatric Medicine.  

As UTRGV gears up to welcome the newest Vaqueros to be a part of this esteemed group, the first cohort has been preparing for their roles as future mentors. 

“The first cohort’s role is to be the mentors for the incoming group, and then the second cohort will be mentors for the third group that we bring in next fall,” said Dr. Griselda Castilla, UTRGV associate vice president for Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs. 

Christopher Razo and Alyssa Guerra, members of the first cohort, are looking forward to meeting and mentoring their new classmates, who will be part of this exclusive group.  

Razo, a biology major from Edinburg said the number one piece of advice he has for the incoming group is to be bold and enjoy the ride.

“With college comes a lot of big changes like a new mode of learning, living independently, and the new connections you will form. All of this can honestly feel intimidating,” Razo said. “To be a Luminary Scholar means you are meant to be here. You have the power to conquer all that is thrown at you.”

For Razo, being part of the Luminary Scholars, and being able to represent the Rio Grande Valley, is an honor he holds close to his heart.

“The scholarship’s foundations lie within serving the RGV community – something that was really the plan for me all along,” Razo said. “I have lived in the Valley my entire life and possess so many unique experiences that have shaped who I am. To be granted the opportunity to work in, and for, the RGV through the Luminary Scholarship gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose that is invaluable.”

Guerra, a biomedical science major from Palmhurst, said she is excited to mentor and share her personal experience in the program with the new Luminary Scholars as well as hear their stories and discover their educational aspirations. 

“Everyone has imposter syndrome, and everyone is trying to find what they’re passionate about if they haven’t already” Guerra said. “College is all about exploration and finding who you are, and I really encourage Cohort 2 to explore their interests and make new friends along the way.”

For the first cohort, more than 550 students submitted applications for the program with 24 of those making up the first cohort of the Luminary Scholars. The current group consists of 5 valedictorians and 4 salutatorians. In the first semester of the cohort, the group earned an average GPA of 3.83 earning an average of 15 credit hours per student. Additionally, 21 of those in the first cohort are from the Valley. 

Nearly 700 high-achieving students applied for the second cohort, and offers have been made to a select group, with 96% of those coming from the top 10% of their graduating class. 

This Friday, March 31, the elite few who were interviewed and were made an offer will formally and officially accept their spots to be part of the second class of the Luminary Scholars. 

“Being part of the Luminary Scholars to me means being a part of the future of the Rio Grande Valley,” Guerra said. “I grew up here and have lived here my entire life. To be able to give back to the same community I was raised in, as well as serve a community filled with many bright futures, would mean the absolute world to me.”

The Luminary Scholarship program was made possible by the generous contributions from MacKenzie Scott, HEB and the Serafy Foundation. This scholarship program is meant to enhance the university’s mission of improving student success and expanding educational opportunities.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey and Executive Vice President and Provost Janna Arney congratulate a Luminary Scholars recipient during a celebratory banquet on August 22, 2022 welcoming the first cohort of the unique program.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey and Executive Vice President and Provost Janna Arney congratulate a Luminary Scholars recipient during a celebratory banquet on August 22, 2022 welcoming the first cohort of the unique program. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)


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.