Friday, September 15, 2023

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 15, 2023 – The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), has named UTRGV its inaugural Academic Institution of the Year for 2023.

SHPE is the largest association in the United States representing Hispanics in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. 

According to SHPE, this first Academic Institution of the Year award was granted to UTRGV as an institution that demonstrates exceptional dedication to empowering Hispanics through increased STEM awareness, enhanced access, robust support and comprehensive development initiatives.  

The award comes as part of SHPE’s Technical Achievement Recognition (STAR) award, which recognizes individuals and institutions in the STEM community actively changing lives through community engagement, professional contributions and impactful research.  

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said he is proud of the strength of the engineering program and the dedication of its students, faculty and staff.

“We sincerely thank the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for this inaugural award and recognize the weight it carries as we continue to develop programs, conduct research and train tomorrow’s educators and engineers,” Bailey said.

Dr. Ala Qubbaj, dean of the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science, said the SHPE recognition puts a spotlight on UTRGV's growing role as a leading academic institution in developing the next generation of Hispanic leaders in STEM.

“We currently have over 4,400 students in engineering and computer science, preparing them not only to be engineers but leaders in engineering to ensure they are successful during and after college,” Qubbaj said.  

Qubbaj also mentioned the percentage of Latina representation among UTRGV engineering students is nearly 20%, in comparison to the less than 2% nationwide.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented surge in Latinas pursuing engineering and we are changing the narrative that engineering is also for women/Latinas,” Qubbaj said.

SHPE has been a steadfast source of support for UTRGV, supporting students’ professional and educational development within STEM fields by providing valuable networking, mentorship, career development resources, internships and job placement opportunities.

“Our students are highly engaged in the SHPE, both at the college level, where our student chapter is one of the largest in the nation, and at the state and national levels. Many of them are first-generation students on their path to becoming engineers, and for them, the SHPE has been a life-changing opportunity,” Qubbaj said.

Dr. Can (John) Saygin, UTRGV senior vice president for Research, highlighted the transformative impact of this recognition on the university's research reputation. 

“This award reaffirms UTRGV’s commitment to our strategic plan priorities, to enhancing our impact on our students and the Rio Grande Valley community, and to becoming the leading Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in the country,” Saygin said. “Our journey toward excellence continues through a steadfast commitment in both research and education at UTRGV.”

The 27 recipients of the 2023 STAR awards were chosen from a diverse field of nominees that includes individuals and institutions in industry, academia and government, including NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Recipients will accept their awards Nov. 3 during the 2023 Virtual SHPE National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

To view the complete list of awardees, click here: https://shpe.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/23STARAwardsNominationBrochure-041923.pdf


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.