About Office for Sustainability

The mission of the Office for Sustainability aligns with that of UTRGV: 

To transform the Rio Grande Valley, the Americas, and the world through an innovative and accessible educational environment that promotes student success, research, creative works, health and well-being, community engagement, and sustainable development.

As an Area of Focus in UTRGV's Strategic plan,  the Office for Sustainability’s mission is to advance the principles of sustainability through the continuing existence of a healthy, safe and environmentally sustainable campus that enhances individual health, community well-being, and positive teaching/learning experiences, while maximizing efficiencies, accessibility and affordability by educating and empowering faculty, students, staff, and community to enact change on our campus and the region.

Office for Sustainability Vision:

We strive to support individuals as we move together in pursuit of sustainable innovation, opportunity, purpose and careers.  We seek to engage and unite every corner of the university to create an environment in which all members of the campus community are generating knowledge, acquiring skills, developing values, and initiating sustainable practices in their personal and professional lives.  

  • OFS is charged with institutionalizing sustainable development across all and recognizes the necessity of infusing sustainability into its curriculum, community engagement efforts, and its day-to-day operations.  As such, we assist students, faculty, staff, and the community in connecting them with the resources to make inclusion of sustainable development.
  • UTRGV continuously engages students and the community, providing educational resources and partnering with several departments, both within and outside of the university, to offer student organizations opportunities to participate at sustainability programs, projects, and events both on and off campus.

What is Sustainability and Sustainable Development?

  • Sustainability — The most commonly accepted definition comes from the Brundtland Commission (1987),“Sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  The three main pillars of sustainable development include economic growth, environmental protection, and social equality.
  • Sustainable Development — Here at UTRGV, we are using the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals to educate our community—both campus and public—about where their work falls in the realm of sustainable development.  The UN sustainable development goals outline 17 areas that fall within economic growth, environment protection, and social equality.  For more information on these goals, go to the UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform website.
OFS History

  • In the fall of 2008, President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas ushered in the start of a new semester. At UTPA’s (legacy institution) convocation, President Cárdenas outlined how the university was moving forward to create a culture of achievement and success.  One of these initiatives included the campus going 100 percent green in the near future. Cárdenas said reducing the University’s “carbon footprint” is a work in progress and the responsibility of the entire campus community.  “The issue of making UTPA an environmentally responsible member of the community is going to be something that will be taking up more and more of our attention, and something we hope that you will join,” she said.”

    • To reduce its carbon footprint, UTPA is planning significant changes in the landscaping and irrigation systems as well as with building construction. Cárdenas said UTPA plans to build a storm water management feature, part of the UTPA West Campus Master Plan, which will capture rainwater in the reserve to reduce flooding and irrigate the campus lawns. Green standards will be implemented this year in the construction of the Starr County Higher Education Facility and the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center that will be located in McAllen.
    • Cárdenas said the Student Government Association (SGA) encouraged the UTPA administration to implement the green standards. Among the recommendations already put into action is the Energy Management Program in which air conditioning equipment throughout the campus was inspected, cleaned, or replaced. Also, the light fixtures in five buildings were switched to the new energy efficient light ballast and fluorescent light bulbs, which resulted in the UTPA saving more than $85,000 on its energy bills. Also, the University’s dining services, Sodexho, has jumped on the bandwagon and has done away with the use of trays. The University also has plans to expand the campus-recycling program while the Environmental Advisory Committee is working to bring awareness to the University community.
  • In 2009, interim president Dr. Charles Sorber established the Office for Sustainability (OFS) assigning Marianella Q. Franklin as the full-time director of sustainability programs.
  • In 2010, president Dr. Robert S. Nelsen is committed to implementing sustainability across campus by charging the Council and Office for Sustainability with the responsibility of developing an integrated Sustainability Campus Action Plan (SCAP) which would guide the university in an effort to become a leader in responsible environmental stewardship, education, outreach and research.
  • 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.

  • In the fall of 2015, interim president Dr. Havidán Rodríguez appointed Marianella Q. Franklin as Chief Sustainability Officer for the new  UTRGV Office for Sustainability.
  • In 2015, UTRGV, under the leadership of the president Dr. Guy Bailey, received the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) a Silver STAR rating (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System).
  • The USC will be convened during the 2016-17 academic year. The University Sustainability Council (USC) is a permanent standing committee established to develop a framework for the university’s Sustainability Campus Action Plan. This committee reports to the EVP of Finance and Administration, who submits recommendations to the President. See University Sustainability Council.

A Sustainable RGV

  • Our Region

    • UTRGV is situated in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America located at the most southern tip of Texas, where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf of Mexico. Four climates (temperate, desert, coastal and sub-tropical) converge to create a 365-day growing season, and rich soils of the Rio Grande delta support a documented 1,200 plant species within the Valley.  This plant diversity attracts wildlife, birds and butterflies that can only be found in the U.S. – and often only in this region.
    • The Valley is also one of the fastest growing areas of the country, largely due to its proximity to the international border between the U.S. and Mexico.  The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area is expected to jump to 1.9 million people by 2030, which is a 397% growth rate from the 1990 population. Though the growth is a boon to the economy, since the 1930s, 95 percent of the native habitat found within the Valley has been cleared for agricultural or urban development.  This development has relegated native plants and animals to remnant tracts, possibly compromising the genetic integrity of many species.

  • Producing socially conscious citizens and leaders

    • The Valley’s explosive growth, coupled with its unique ecological situation, presents challenges as well as opportunities with regard to sustainability.  The university is dedicated to being a transformative force for the Rio Grande Valley through education and service, while contributing to the economic growth, environmental stewardship, health, and cultural richness of the region. The Valley has much to gain in the area of sustainability, and UTRGV provides the tools necessary to enact such change through career paths for our students that will directly serve the community, improving health and longevity, while multidisciplinary research provides new business models, data for habitat preservation, and opportunities for entrepreneurship.
    • As an institution, UTRGV is in a position to inspire, engage and prepare countless students to be socially conscious citizens and transformative leaders who will discover and apply sustainable solutions to preserve and maintain the planet. UTRGV serves as a model for the region by integrating sustainability goals of preserving a healthy and renewable ecological system, developing economic viability, and pursuing social justice across all areas of the university. By addressing university goals through the wide scope of sustainability, and in accordance with our local tradition and global movements, UTRGV works to maintain a high standard of environmental responsibility. To that end, in 2009, the university created the University Sustainability Council (and the Office for Sustainability to bridge the gap between old traditions and new goals.