Friday, December 15, 2023
  Student Life, Around Campus, Student Spotlight

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV celebrated a significant milestone on Wednesday, Dec. 13, with its inaugural Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, held at the Performing Arts Center on the Edinburg Campus.

The ceremony honored 19 doctoral candidates who participated in this first-of-its-kind event at UTRGV.

Hooding serves as a recognition of the accomplishments of the doctoral students and provides a moment for the scholarly community to celebrate and reflect on their academic journey. Faculty mentors were pivotal in the event, highlighting the students’ academic achievements by hooding them in a symbolic and official welcome into the scholarly community.

Doctoral candidate Ntiense Otu is hooded by Co-Chair Dr. Ming-Tsan Lu, during the inaugural Doctoral Hooding Ceremony
Doctoral candidate Ntiense Otu is hooded by Co-Chair Dr. Ming-Tsan Lu, during the inaugural Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. From left to right are Dr. Alma Rodriguez, Dean, Education and P-16 Integration, newly hooded Ntiense Otu, and Co-Chair Dr. Ming-Tsan Lu. (UTRGV Photo by Jesús Alférez)

Dr. Can (John) Saygin, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College, stressed the importance of graduate education and commended the perseverance of the graduate students.

“As we inaugurate this new UTRGV tradition, symbolizing the transition from student to scholar, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to each candidate,” he said. “Your journey, marked by resilience and dedication, has not only earned you well-deserved doctoral degrees, but also has contributed to groundbreaking research that will shape the future of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.”  

Saygin underscored the transformative power of education.

“This ceremony stands as testament to the transformative power of education and to this university’s steadfast commitment to research and academic excellence, as these newly hooded scholars embark on their promising futures,” he said.

Michael Herold, one of the newly hooded scholars, expressed gratitude for the experience and shared its personal and community significance.

Provost Dr. Luis H. Zayas
Provost Dr. Luis H. Zayas delivers an inspiring keynote address celebrating the dedication and collective achievements of the doctoral candidates during the inaugural Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at UTRGV. (UTRGV Photo by Jesús Alférez)

“What this means the most to me is showing my boys what they can do in the future,” he said. “My wife and I are both mental health professionals, and plan to open an agency for people with mental health issues and addictions. This is a big step toward achieving that.”

The keynote address by UTRGV Provost Dr. Luis H. Zayas emphasized the broader role of the graduates as pathfinders of knowledge.

“As you don your academic regalia and receive your hoods, remember that you are not just scholars, but torchbearers of knowledge, lighting the way for future generations,” he said.

“Tonight's inaugural Doctoral Hooding Ceremony marks a historic moment for UTRGV, celebrating the dedication and collective achievements of our doctoral candidates. Congratulations to each of you, and may the spirit of academic excellence continue to thrive at UTRGV.”

The candidates represented three academic programs – Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, and Rehabilitation Counseling – and spanned two academic colleges: the College of Education and P-16 Integration and the College of Health Professions.

The ceremony concluded with a reception in the Performance Arts Center lobby, providing the candidates with the opportunity to take photos with their peers, receive congratulations from faculty members, and celebrate with their family and friends.


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.