Fall 2023 Commencement

  Wednesday, December 13, 2023
  Academics, Student Life

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – DEC. 13, 2023 – Claire Lee, a graduating UTRGV communications major from Peñitas, can definitely hold a conversation about equestrian sports.

Mainly, the award-winning rider can talk about equestrian competition – especially if it’s about barrel racing.

“It’s like you see on TV or at the Livestock Show in Mercedes. You race around the barrels and the fastest time wins,” she said. “I want to continue being involved with horses, it’s something I grew up with. And lot of the general skills I have now are because of horses.”

utrgv student claire lee participating in barrel racing
UTRGV communications major Claire Lee kicks up some dust during a barrel racing competition during a Willacy County Riders and Ropers event in July 2023. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Her commitment to the sport has brought a sense of discipline and responsibility she has carried with her throughout her education and beyond, she said.

“It all goes to what you need to serve you well in life,” Lee said.  

Now she’s crossing another finish line, as she walks the stage at the Bert Ogden Arena on Saturday to accept her bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Broadcast from UTRGV. 

Lee, along with more than 2,800 graduates, will be part of a significant milestone for the university, as this round of Fall 2023 Commencement ceremonies mark the graduation of more than 50,000 UTRGV students who have gone on to be scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors, nurses, business owners and more.

Ceremonies begin in Brownsville on Friday, Dec. 15, and continue through Saturday, Dec. 16 in Edinburg. Visit https://www.utrgv.edu/commencement/ for more details.

utrgv claire lee graduating during fall commencement
Champion barrel racer Claire Lee graduates from UTRGV on Dec. 16 with a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Broadcast. Her commencement regalia includes some additional bling – a competition buckle showing her champion status. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

The communications field was a natural fit for Lee, who started out as a biology major but, after taking her first organic chemistry class, realized it just wasn’t for her.

“I’ve always enjoyed public speaking, as well as talking to people, engaging with them. Sharing stories, telling stories,” she said. “Communications really fit into that for me. And then I fit into that – it was a perfect match.” 

Lee already has her plan for after graduation, which includes graduate school at UTRGV to continue her education in the communications field, and working her way into the broadcast field as a reporter or anchor.

“I am both nervous and excited to graduate. I am ready to take the next step,” she said. “I am already in the UTRGV graduate program for communications,” she said. “And I would like to continue with my hobby of horses. But at the end of the day, I would like to become an anchor or reporter.”

Her advice for future Vaqueros is to step outside the comfort zone and make friends. UTRGV offers so many opportunities, she said, and it’s been a great place for her higher education. That’s why she chose to go to graduate school.

“My experience at UTRGV has been very positive. Everyone is very friendly, very welcoming. The professors are amazing, very easy to talk to. They have their own advice and stories to tell,” she said.

“To the next set of incoming students, I would advise them to not be shy, to make friends. Meet other students, teacher’s assistants, the professors themselves … someone will always be there to listen.”


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.