Monday, February 19, 2024
  Around Campus

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – FEB. 19, 2024 – UT System Student Regent John Michael Austin made a visit to UTRGV on Monday, aiming to familiarize himself with the diverse campus and engage in conversations with students and administrators about campus achievements and aspirations.

As student regent, he is responsible for attending UT System Board of Regents (BOR) meetings and for being the student voice on the board. During his tenure, he will visit all campuses in the UT System and will meet with student bodies to gather the student perspective and relay back to the board.

“I talk to the students about what's happening on their campus and identify what the campus excels at and what are the areas to work on,” he said. “As the board sets goals for the future, we can take that into account what the student bodies communicate.”

The goal of his visit, Austin said, was to learn about the student experience at UTRGV.

“I want to know what it's like to be a student here, and how they are finding affordability to attend college and how they are finding getting a job after graduating,” Austin said.  “I want to make sure that we are taking care of our students and giving them the tools they need to succeed.”

Hailing from Austin, he considers Texas a prime hub of opportunity, making it the primary motivation behind his educational endeavors in the Lone Star State.

“One of the things that really sticks out in our state is the ability to get a really affordable education,” Austin said. “That is something that not every state benefits from, especially in the healthcare space. To be able to go to school as affordably as we do is a huge advantage and that is something that we are all really lucky to have.”

Austin is a third-year medical student at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine. He graduated from Rice University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Sciences with a minor in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. In 2023, he was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to a one-year term on the UT System Board of Regents.

UTRGV Dean of Students Rebecca Gadson said visits like these are important for the representation of the student bodies in the UT System.

“Each year, the student regents are very committed to their role in understanding the student experience because they are the student voice in the Board of Regents meetings,” Gadson said.  “I hope that our student regent is impressed with our students and our campuses and the pride we feel for our institution.”


A group of UTRGV student leaders met with Austin on the Brownsville campus to discuss topics such as transportation and equal opportunities across the campuses.

Joshua Sauceda, a senior Political Science major from Harlingen, serves as a senator for the College of Liberal Arts in the UTRGV Student Government Association. From his participation in discussions with Austin, he hopes the student regent was able to gain a sense of what the student experience is like in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I really hope he sees just how strong a university we have here, especially in a region like this compared to the rest of Texas and the United States,” Sauceda said.

During his visit, Austin also met with UTRGV executive leadership, administration and student leaders in Brownsville, Harlingen and Edinburg. He also toured the Brownsville campus, School of Medicine and School of Podiatric Medicine facilities.


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.