Thursday, December 21, 2023
  Around Campus, Community

By Regina Perez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – A two-day conference, hosted by the UTRGV Community Resilience Research Innovation and Advocacy Center (CCRIA), gathered academia, the public sector and local community organizations to discuss the topic of community resilience.

The conference called, ‘Exploring Local Community Resilience Imaginaries,’ was organized by Marla Pérez-Lugo, UTRGV professor of Environmental Sociology, and Dr. Cecilio Ortiz-Garcia, UTRGV department chair of Public Affairs and Security Studies.

"The idea with the conference is to look at how different sectors imagine what resilience is," said Perez-Lugo "And, what does it mean to be resilient within a social, cultural or ecological context."

Workshops and presentations were held Nov 27-28 at the UTRGV Ballroom on the Edinburg campus to engage attendants in thinking about resiliency from different perspectives.

"Imagination is key," said Ortiz-Garcia. "To some, being resilient is to make something harder, to resist. To others, resilience means having skills, like wisdom.”

Universities have the capacity to provide space for different imaginaries, a space for different sectors to share their vision generating dialogue and trust between them."

CCRIA conference
(Courtesy Photo)


Dr. Kim Diana Conolly, vice dean for Advocacy and Experiential Learning for the University at Buffalo School of Law and director of the Clinical Legal Education Program, led one workshop where she divided attendants into groups to discuss what was important to them when they thought about resiliency.

Pérez-Lugo said the organizers drew from experience during Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria in 2017 when it came to selecting the topic of community resilience.

“We saw how the university was completely divorced from the reality of the island, before, during and after the event,” she said. “Ultimately this conference asked, how can universities play a role in decreasing vulnerabilities and enhancing resilience not only after but before, engaging in planning and policy processes in general.”

Other conference speakers included:

  • Victor Ruiz Avilés, Ph.D. student in Environmental Social Science at Arizona State University (ASU), who drew from his research on sustainable community aqueducts and their adaptations after the hurricane.
  • Irasema Coronado, ASU comparative political scientist, served as the keynote speaker and spoke on the ‘Resilience Beyond Borders: Nurturing Sustainable Futures in Transboundary Contexts,’ which raised awareness of border region resilience strategies and futures.
  • A panel discussion with Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, Texas State Senator Juan Jesus “Chuy” Hinojosa and Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr., who explored ‘Government Visions of Community Resilience.’

Ortiz-Garcia and Pérez-Lugo said they hope the conference serves as a starting point for many more conversations and action.

“The implementation of any possible alternative to deal with a particular problem is dependent on the collaboration of different sectors,” said Perez Lugo. “Starting this conversation is an attempt to start creating this new architecture of relationships.”

To learn more about Local Community Resilience and the 2023 CCRIA conference connect with Dr. Marla Perez-Lugo and Dr. Cecilio Ortiz-Garcia at: and


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.