Friday, May 10, 2024
  Student Life, Community, Happenings, Around Campus

By Victoria Brito Morales

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 10, 2024 – UTRGV graduated nearly 800 of its more than 4,000 Spring 2024 graduates, with the first ceremony on the Brownsville Campus. There will be three more ceremonies this weekend in Edinburg.

Families and friends gathered in the early morning on the Brownsville Campus to watch their graduates walk the stage in full regalia to accept their degrees.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey addressed the graduates with words of wisdom as they carry on to the next chapters of their lives, focusing on three important things: Family values, hard work and gratitude.

“Class of 2024, you’ve accomplished something that will sustain you the rest of your life. This will transform not only you, but your family, your children and generations to come. I know that from my own personal experience, so congratulations,” he said. “We look forward to following you and what you do over the years as you become successful.”

UTRGV 2024 Spring Commencement Brownsville Campus
Families and loved ones celebrate at the UTRGV Spring Commencement in Brownsville at 9 a.m. Friday, May 10, 2024. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)
He also had a special Mother’s Day message, telling graduates to thank their mothers first and foremost for their success. 

“As you’re having a wonderful time, most of all, thank your mother,” he said. “I want you to give your mother a hug and say thank you for all the values you gave me that will sustain me through this degree.”

Dr. Luis Zayas, UTRGV provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, also addressed the graduates, which included 32 high school graduates from the UTRGV Math and Science Academy.

UTRGV 2024 Spring Commencement Brownsville Campus
Graduating Vaqueros were excited to receive their diplomas at the UTRGV Spring Commencement in Brownsville at 9 a.m. Friday, May 10, 2024. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)
“Today is a day to celebrate your hard work, your dedication, and your persistence. Graduates, we celebrate you with the participation of those who have loved and supported you throughout your academic journey,” Zayas said. “For all of you who supported our graduates in their journey, remember that you, too, own a piece of the degree being conferred today. The support that you provided made this day possible.”

UTRGV graduated more than 600 undergraduates, 102 master’s students and six doctoral candidates in Brownsville.


Dr. John Austin, chief medical officer of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, was among the 102 master’s students to walk the stage on Friday. Austin, a physician and otolaryngological surgeon, is father of John Michael Austin, the 2023-2024 student regent for the UT System Board of Regents. John Michael was part of the stage party on Friday to help commemorate the milestone, as his father received his Master of Science in Health Science with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from the UTRGV College of Health Professions.

“This degree is the first time in a long time that I've done something that was kind of outside my comfort zone,” Austin said. “This is something I'm really proud of and I'm glad I did it.”

Also, in attendance to see Austin graduate were daughters Claire and Emily, who traveled from Dallas and South Carolina, respectively, stepdaughter Chelsea and friends of Austin’s from church.


For Tawny Brianna Turner, attending UTRGV was a leap of faith. Turner, 21 from Brownsville, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations. 

Turner grew up in Brownsville, then moved to Belton, Texas, for middle school and high school. She returned to Brownsville and transferred to UTRGV in 2022. That was a decision guided by faith, and a nod to her mother, Rosanne Alcala, who passed a decade ago.

UTRGV 2024 Spring Commencement Brownsville Campus
The first ceremony of the UTRGV Spring Commencement was held in Brownsville at 9 a.m. Friday, May 10, 2024. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)
“I think that my mom would be so proud of me for coming to UTRGV,” Turner said. “The fact that I decided to take that leap of faith, which was really hard, and follow God, I think that that's what my mom would be most proud of. I know she'd be proud of the education that I've gained and the degree that I worked for.”

Turner hopes to remain in the Valley and start her career here.

“I would love to stay here and give back to my community, because this is where I was born and lived for a good while,” she said. “So being able to go, come back, and go to college here – it just means that I'm giving back to my community rather than giving to a community that didn't necessarily raise me.”

Turner said her father, Thomas Turner, and her extended family in Brownsville supported her academic pursuits, and she gives thanks to God for the grace to finish.


Julio Jasso, 37, of Brownsville, received his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a Concentration in Archaeology. After receiving two associate degrees in drafting and mathematics from TSTC in Harlingen, Jasso decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree to expand his job opportunities.

UTRGV 2024 Spring Commencement Brownsville Campus
Ceremonies for the UTRGV Spring Commencement will continue on Saturday, May 11, 2024 in Edinburg at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)
Jasso said he is thrilled to reach the finish line of his undergraduate career, and he eagerly anticipates entering a job market he is passionate about and prepared to conquer.

“If I get a job out of state, which is a very high possibility, I'm going to have to pack up and be ready to go quickly,” he said. “I've already been applying, and I applied for some paid internships, as well, to get my feet wet.”

He advises anyone still on the hunt for a higher education degree to dive in and make an investment in themselves.

“Sometimes, we don't know whether we want to be in school, but while you're being indecisive, you could be making progress. Starting is the biggest hurdle.”

Commencement continues tomorrow in Edinburg at the Bert Ogden Arena, with ceremonies at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

For more information about UTRGV Spring 2024 Commencement, visit utrgv.edu/commencement.


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.