At The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), our mission is to create the conditions for individual, social, and cultural transformation in the Rio Grande Valley. As a young but maturing University, we seek to expand access to high-value educational programs, critical healthcare services, and cutting-edge research – and by virtue of this broadened access, to foster growth, health, and well-being in communities throughout the Valley.
To accomplish this, we have been building an institution based on two guiding principles:
- Prioritize student access and success, and
- Cultivate deep ties with the communities that surround our distributed campuses.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of all our employees, we are creating an environment – on and off campus – that attracts individuals possessing a desire to imagine a better future and the ambition to work with others to create it.
- Our students come to UTRGV wanting to pursue an education that cultivates their enormous potential, that equips them with relevant knowledge and skills, and that propels them to lives of success, prosperity, and meaning.
- Our faculty come to UTRGV seeking to develop close bonds with our students, invest in their success, ensure their well-being, and conduct research and scholarship that enhances the quality of life and cultural vitality of the Rio Grande Valley.
- Our physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals come to UTRGV with a desire to provide critical healthcare services to our most vulnerable community members and to encourage a holistic approach to promoting general health and well-being in the Rio Grande Valley.
- Our staff and administration come to UTRGV wanting to support student success, to make a meaningful contribution to the development of their community, and to foster and preserve UTRGV’s legacy.
Founded in 2013 as part of a transformative initiative to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, UTRGV was one of the first universities to be established in the 21st century. What had once been two distinct institutions in The University of Texas System became one of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the nation. UTRGV’s mission and its priorities reflect the demographics of our student body and the location of our institution on the Texas-Mexico border. UTRGV has campuses and teaching sites across three counties in the Rio Grande Valley – Cameron, Hidalgo, and Starr – and a student services center in Matamoros, Mexico. In the three counties of the RGV we serve, over 90% of the population is Hispanic/Latino, less than 20% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, over 25% live in poverty, and over 30% of those under the age of 65 lack health insurance.
In 2015, UTRGV enrolled its first class of students and published its first strategic plan, Transforming Our World. Today, we are embracing the historical and cultural heritage of the region we serve; we are delivering affordable, high-quality education; we are providing accessible healthcare to residents of the surrounding community; we are pursuing and disseminating research that improves quality of life; and we are engaging community partners in novel and impactful ways. Over the last seven years, we have demonstrated our impact across these categories in several ways:
- UTRGV attracts students from both sides of the Texas-Mexico border who are seeking an education that will help them broaden their horizons, prepare for their futures, and care for their families and communities. We are committed to maximizing value for our students, and that means providing an education that is both affordable and high in quality. There are few institutions in the country doing this better than we are: when U.S. News and World Report released its “Least Student Debt” rankings, UTRGV ranked first in Texas and second nationally among public universities; and when Forbes.com released its “Top Colleges for Your Money” rankings, UTRGV ranked first in Texas and eighth nationally, joining institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgia Tech in the Top 10. Moreover, in the last seven years, we have observed increases in total enrollment, graduation rates, and Pell-grant recipient rates.
- UTRGV promotes community health and well-being, increases health literacy, and enhances healthcare providers’ talent strategies through excellent clinical care and health education. In the last seven years, we have established Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work, and added several new health-related degree programs to better meet regional healthcare needs. Our healthcare faculty, staff, and learners played key roles on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing testing and vaccine sites, and providing critical care to the community. At UTRGV, we also value and promote interprofessional education. For example, last year, a team consisting of UTRGV School of Medicine students, Master of Social Work students, and resident physicians received a grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges to support a program aimed at improving healthcare messaging to underserved communities.
- UTRGV produces research that directly and profoundly impacts our local communities and the entire state of Texas. Our research, even when community-based, holds implications for other regions across the country and the world. Take, for example, our research on health disparities in aging, obesity, and diabetes for Hispanic/Latino and border populations. While this research applies to the Rio Grande Valley to improve health outcomes, it can also inform interventions in other communities with similar challenges and demographics. Over the last five years, our faculty have significantly increased UTRGV’s volume of incoming research funding from $28.7M in 2016 to $54.3M in 2021. Most recently, we have taken initial steps to hire additional research-focused faculty and build capacity through preliminary investments in infrastructure and support staff for our research enterprise.
- UTRGV advances community engagement by inviting area residents to gather, discuss challenges and opportunities, and develop solutions. For instance, in 2021, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center at UTRGV announced a new partnership focused on providing small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses with coaching, training, and project-implementation support to encourage these businesses to expand or relocate to Brownsville. We have also seen large companies like SpaceX and Google make recent investments in our region. For example, Google’s “Grow with Google Career Readiness Program” seeks to strengthen our regional economy by equipping our students with critical digital skills. SpaceX’s investment in a Brownsville-based launch facility prompted us to establish STARGATE, a research unit pursuing collaborations between industry, government, and scientific partners to develop new technologies for space exploration. As a result of our broad activities in this area, we received the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement.
We have undoubtedly made a tremendous amount of progress since our founding in 2013. Nevertheless, our institution has tremendous potential that we must continue to unlock. Seven years after publishing our first strategic plan – a plan that helped set the foundation for our new institution, defining a unified identity across our distributed campuses, and addressing our most pressing priorities – we find ourselves in a new phase of our evolution and in a different operating context. Rather than rest on our accomplishments, our recent progress inspires us to imagine what UTRGV’s future could look like and fuels our ambition to make this vision a reality.
In the fall of 2021, we embarked on a strategic planning process to reflect on our recent progress, to analyze our operating context, the broader landscape of higher education, and to define our vision and direction for the next five years and beyond. Our planning process engaged a broad set of diverse stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, employers, community partners, alumni, and donors. Through our process, we identified several opportunities to strengthen our role as one of the leading HSIs in the nation, to better integrate with and serve our surrounding community, and to promote our unique bilingual and bicultural environment.
Building on our prior plan, we are continuing to invest in foundational areas, such as student success, research and scholarship, health education, patient care, and community engagement. As part of our next phase of strategic planning, we have also identified new areas of focus including academic excellence, campus life, and developing our people. With this new plan, we will build upon our unique strengths to better serve our students and to expand our impact in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.
We are eager to initiate this next phase of our evolution, and we need your help to actualize our greatest aspirations.