BY Monika Garza and Brenda Garza | THE RIDER
With a mariachi birthday serenade, cupcakes and giveaways, UTRGV celebrated its first anniversary last Wednesday on both campuses.
In 2013, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was created after the Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 24, which consolidated UT Brownsville and UT Pan American. Two years later, UTRGV opened its doors for the first time.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey, his administration team and members of the Student Government Association spoke at the event in Brownsville and gave a brief explanation on what the university has accomplished in one year and its future goals.
“Our next goal is to increase the graduation rate of our students,” Bailey said. “We are focusing on student success, having some new programs and improving our processes.”
Xochitl Estrada, a biomedical sciences major, was among the attendees at the celebration in Brownsville.
“It’s kind of amazing what UTRGV has accomplished,” Estrada said.
Members of the SGA noted the numerous achievements the university has accomplished in its first year, including a freshman retention rate of about 82 percent, an increase in new student applications, and being ranked the third highest UT System institution in Forbes magazine’s 2016 “America’s Top Colleges.”
However, UTRGV is still in the process of improving many departments, organizations and finding more ways for students to engage in college life.
“We need to improve our business processes; it needs to be easy for you to be advised, to enroll, to pay,” Bailey said.
He said in the years to come, everything needs to be easy for students in every way possible.
“Even though it’s been, like, a difficult transition, I feel like they really pulled through and they had a successful first year,” said Elisabeth Roberts, a nursing sophomore on the Brownsville campus.
In Edinburg, hundreds of orange-and-white-frosted cupcakes filled the tables at the University Ballroom.
UTRGV’s Pep Band performed as more than 200 people filled the ballroom in honor of the university’s first year.
The campus community gathered to hear Bailey and Student Success Vice President Kristin Croyle speak about the university’s accomplishments throughout the year.
Also speaking were SGA President Denisse Molina-Castro and Vice Presidents Peter Averack of the Edinburg campus and Alondra Galvan of the Brownsville campus.
Bailey spoke about UTRGV’s achievements, including the chess team placing second in the nation and how the freshman class would be the envy of most universities in Texas.
“One in five of our freshmen were in the top 10 of their high school graduating class,” he said.
Bailey said it has been a dream of the Rio Grande Valley to acquire a medical school since 1947.
“Starting the medical school was a big deal,” he said. “Medical schools don’t start up every day.”
The UTRGV School of Medicine opened this summer with 55 students.
“The dreams of the Valley are coming true in UTRGV [and] we want your dreams to come true,” Bailey said. “We are going to do great things together. Thank you for making this the best first year.”
Attendees on both campuses received a soft gray 2016 Anniversary T-shirt and helped themselves to punch and cupcakes as the UTRGV mariachi performed.