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In the boots of a Vaquero UT System student regent visits Brownsville, Edinburg campuses

Jaciel Castro, the University of Texas System student regent, and Kristin Croyle, UTRGV vice president for Student Success, board the 3:15 p.m. Vaquero Express Connector shuttle from the Brownsville campus to Edinburg. Castro took a tour of the Brownsville campus earlier today during his visit. ALBERT MONRROY/THE RIDER

At 3:15 p.m. today, Jaciel Castro, the University of Texas System student regent, boarded the Vaquero Express Connector shuttle, traveling from Brownsville to Edinburg to gain the full UTRGV student experience.

“I’m thrilled to be able to spend more time with students and talk to them,” Castro said before boarding the shuttle in front of Main Building. “Definitely very happy to have the opportunity to be in their shoes and see what they go through on a day-to-day basis. I’m excited to learn about the struggles that they have, again, being on both campuses and how we can, at the [UT] System level, support [them].”

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Castro as the student regent for the UT System for a one-year term that began on June 1, 2017. Castro is a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is pursuing a master’s of finance in real estate development and investments, according to the UT System website.

The student regent visited the UTRGV main campuses and met with university officials and student leaders from Brownsville and Edinburg to discuss the opportunities and challenges at the university.

“I think there is a lot of potential in ensuring that every student gets the resources and the support that they need,” Castro said after his visit to the Brownsville campus. “I also [had] the opportunity to be able to engage with students you probably wouldn’t see on a day-to-day [basis] that maybe live a different context here in Brownsville than Edinburg. … I’m beginning to realize how different the institutions are. So, I’m really excited about this new identity that’s coming forth as a result of the merger.”

During today’s visit in Brownsville, he met with student leaders from various organizations, including the Student Government Association.

Castro said he asked SGA members to make a list of things they were thankful for at UTRGV.

“They were ready to identify things like student success, the advising areas that have been getting better over time,” he said. “They were able to identify the leadership models that they have from the mentorship programs. … They were also very transparent about the challenges, the transportation challenges between both campuses and the expectations [students have to meet, such as] being in every class, doing their homework. They were very honest.”

Jaciel Castro, the University of Texas System student regent listens to Ernesto Farias, SGA senator-at-large for the Brownsville campus, speak about concerns and opportunities on the UTRGV campuses. Castro met with UTRGV student leaders from the Brownsville campus earlier today and from the Edinburg campus Monday. Shown on the left is Ivan Morado, Student Government Association senator for the College of Liberal Arts. VICTOR G. RAMIREZ/THE RIDER

The student regent also spoke with leaders from the Student Success office.

Student Success Vice President Kristin Croyle was among the administrators who met with Castro.

“He’s a very accomplished man and has a lot of good questions,” Croyle said. “[He] was very insightful about [students’] education in general. My biggest takeaway was how interested he was across the board and he was interested in talking about things we are struggling with and [what] we are really doing well with. He’s a great advocate for students in general.”

During his visit, Castro went to the Border Fence, part of which runs along the UTRGV Main Building parking lot on the Brownsville campus.

“I was an undocumented student myself,” he said. “I’ve never been near the wall and coming in terms with that reality, it was very important to me.”

Castro also met with administrators and student leaders during his visit to the Edinburg campus Monday. The student regent spoke with UTRGV President Guy Bailey, administrators from Strategic Enrollment and International Programs and Partnerships.

Croyle said she encourages UTRGV students to apply to become the UT System student regent in the future.

“[Castro] said it’s been a great experience for him,” she said. “He owns his own business and has a wide range of interests, but he said serving on the board has been a great experience for him and he’s learned a lot from it.”

Right before leaving to the Edinburg campus on the shuttle, Castro told The Rider he advises students to keep working hard and reach their goals.

Asked what message he had for the UTRGV student body, Castro replied: “Make sure that you own your future and that you create opportunities and that you make the best of everything.”

–Albert Monrroy contributed to this report.

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