Editor’s Note: During these unprecedented times, as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are UTRGV faculty, staff, students and alumni who are making history. Without hesitation, they are stepping up to the front lines of the outbreak to help mitigate the spread of the virus throughout their communities. The Newsroom at UTRGV is recognizing the efforts and bravery of these individuals through an ongoing series of stories and videos.

  Thursday, January 28, 2021

By Amanda Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JAN. 28, 2021 – It takes a certain kind of person to remain calm when disaster strikes, to stave off panic in themselves and in others. Those who work in emergency management surge forward with carefully laid out plans and procedures, ready to serve amidst spiraling chaos.

Brianna Bautista, a UTRGV alum who got her master’s degree in Disaster Studies in fall 2019, knew she wanted to help people by helping mitigate disaster. So, after graduating from UTRGV, she put her skills to immediate use by going to work as an aide in the Office of Emergency Management in the Corpus Christi Fire Department.

Alum Brianna Bautista
Brianna Bautista earned her master’s degree at UTRGV in Disaster Studies in fall 2019. (Courtesy Photo)

She started that job in March – right when the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up.

“That was an interesting way to start,” she said, looking back at 10 months of pandemic.

“COVID had hit hard here in Corpus Christi and we were just trying to keep in touch with the police department, members of the fire department, trying to see how everyone was doing and what their plans were,” she recalled.

Bautista, whose position was upgraded to emergency management specialist in August, should have been prepping to give presentations to her community on hurricane preparedness, especially since hurricane season was just around the corner. Instead, her department was taking call after call from concerned residents or fellow community service departments, all asking for information on the strengthening pandemic.

“That first day when I came in, it was just phone call after phone call that Billy Delgado, my coordinator, was receiving. My main role was just to make note of all the calls coming in and what people were saying,” she said. “This is my first job, so it reminded me of being in school, when you have to take notes superfast and you’re under pressure.”



Today, Bautista works closely with her department to make sure her office is prepared for anything surrounding community agencies may need. Her responsibilities include reviewing emergency preparedness plans for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, and processing re-entry requests, which are the documents needed from organizations to safely re-enter a hazardous area in the event a hurricane or other disaster.

In her new role of emergency management specialist, Bautista also is responsible for writing annual reports for her office, drafting incident action plans (IAPs) and making sure her office submits all Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) documents.

She said she went into her first job in emergency management prepared, knowing she had the tools she had learned in her UTRGV disaster studies classes.

“The program was awesome. All the professors were super kind and always there for you,” she said. “All the students formed a bond and became a family. Everything I’m doing here, I learned at UTRGV. I get to see it in action.”

Whether it’s a concerned citizen calling to get information on the latest COVID-19 testing site, or a nursing home wanting to update its emergency plans, Bautista said, communication is the number one priority.

“I like the communication that we all have,” she said. “We all work together and come in as one. The goal that everyone has is there, and it’s always the safety of others. We’ve really seen how everyone is working together through this COVID-19 situation.”

Within the field of emergency management, she said, a broad spectrum of jobs is available at the local, state and federal levels. What drew her to the field was that, potentially, she could help stop a disaster before it happens.

“I’m thankful for UTRGV and what it instilled in me, and I’m thankful for all my professors and my mentors,” she said. “I’m glad that I got into the program that I did and met the people that I did.

“Even in our class settings, we were all about communicating with one another, having a goal in mind and all working toward it. That’s something that is very critical in emergency management,” she said.

UTRGV School of Medicine residents at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance
As a Disaster Studies student at UTRGV, Brianna Bautista, now an alumna, visited the National Weather Service Center in Brownsville along with her fellow classmates. (Courtesy Photo)


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.