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Landmark vote by UTRGV students, praised by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, to bring a major college football program, more women’s sports, marching band, and economic and educational benefits to the Valley - college football program - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Thuy Dan “Mimi” Nguyen, Student Regent, The University of Texas System, and Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, at the Luminary Scholars program announcement on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at the Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

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Landmark vote by UTRGV students, praised by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, to bring a major college football program, more women’s sports, marching band, and economic and educational benefits to the Valley

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

A landmark vote by students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to bring a major college football program, more women’s sports, marching band, and economic and educational benefits to the Valley is being praised by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

On Thursday, November 11, 2021, university officials announced that UTRGV students, by almost 61 percent of those who voted, approved a proposal to support such programs aided by a future increase in the intercollegiate athletics fee.

The next step in the process is approval of the fee increase by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2022, likely sometime in early 2022.

Canales said he supports the creation of a college football team, and looked forward to favorable action by the UT System Board of Regents.

“College football has a positive economic impact on a region in many ways, such as through the millions of dollars that would be generated from thousands of visitors coming to the Valley for the games and related activities,” said Canales. “It also is a tremendous marketing tool for UTRGV, which is one of the best universities in Texas in terms of its proud reputation in academics and sports. Football generates excitement on and off the field.”

A football program would allow Valley athletes more opportunities to earn a college degree from a prestigious university while continuing with their dreams of playing big-league ball, the state lawmaker added.

“College football at UTRGV would also result in the formation of a marching band and many related student activities, and would help in the creation of more sports programs for women in the name of equal opportunities for all of our athletes,” Canales said.

A total of 5,784 students, or about 18 percent of the student body, voted during the three-day referendum Nov. 8-10. Voter turnout was the largest to date for any UTRGV student vote.

The $11.25 per credit hour increase, capped at 12 hours, starts in Fall 2022 and will help support spirit, football, marching band and women’s swimming and diving programs.

A total of 3,497students voted in support of the proposal, or 60.5 percent. About 39.5 percent, or 2,287, voted to not support the increase.

The increase in the intercollegiate athletics fee will be for new incoming students and graduating students who return for another degree.

Current students who remain within the UTRGV established Guaranteed Tuition and Fees program will not have to paythe fee increase.

FORWARD MOMENTUM

Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said the vote is a major step forward for the university, as it helps support UTRGV’s larger goal of transforming campus life.

“This is an exciting time for our students, who have made the choice to enhance the UTRGV experience for our campus community and for the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Bailey said. “Their support to expand and create new programs will amplify the campus spirit and leave a lasting legacy for future Vaqueros and alumni.”

He expressed his gratitude to everyone who participated in the referendum, in any way.

“I want to thank all students who exercised their right to vote; the Student Government Association for conducting a respectful and professional referendum process; Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa and Chasse Conque for sponsoring the referendum on behalf of the university; and all our students, faculty and staff who helped to provide information regarding the referendum to our campus community,” Bailey said.

‘OUR STUDENTS HAVE SPOKEN’

José Pablo Rojas, President, Student Government Association, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said he is thrilled to be part of university history and to have helped lead an election that will have such an impact to the UTRGV community and the South Texas region.

“Our students have spoken,” Rojas said. “They are ready to welcome these new athletics programs that will enhance campus life and school spirit. We are excited to be part of this historic change and I’m happy we have been instrumental in starting a new Vaquero legacy.”

UTRGV competes at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics — NCAA Division I — as members of the Western Athletic Conference. UTRGV currently sponsors 16 sports programs, including baseball, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track & field.

Chasse Conque, Vice President and Director of Athletics, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said passing the referendum serves a purpose that is broader than creating and expanding new programs.

“We are deeply appreciative of the student body for supporting this referendum,” he said. “This is a significant step forward in our journey to transform UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley. We look forward to bringing this initiative before The UT System Board of Regents for their approval.

“The addition of these programs will give us the opportunity to enhance the university experience both for our campus community and for the Valley communities we serve. I want to extend my appreciation to the Student Government Association and Dr. Maggie Hinojosa for their efforts in bringing this referendum before the student body,” Conque said.

UTRGV leaders say the new programs, among other things, will create numerous new opportunities for students and the people of the Valley by:

• Expanding access to athletics throughout the Valley, as the football team plans to play in Brownsville and Edinburg with marching bands performing, and the swimming and diving team will compete in new natatorium being built in Pharr.

• Free transportation will be provided for students to home football games on the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses. Students will receive free admission to all home football games and swimming and diving competitions.

• Creating nearly 500 new opportunities for student involvement, with more spirit program members; marching band participants; football and swimming and diving student-athletes; additional student athletic trainers and student managers; and student employment opportunities.

• Enhancing school spirit and pride on our Brownsville and Edinburg campuses and throughout the Valley with performances by our marching band and expanded spirit program.

• Increasing UTRGV’s enrollment and providing more funding to the University, not only through tuition but also through formula funding which determines state allocations.

• Boosting the local economy and creating more job opportunities for UTRGV students, alumni and community members.

Dr. Maggie Hinojosa, Senior Vice President for Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs, said UTRGV is committed to continue working with the student body on this initiative and to keep tuition and fees affordable for students.

“We are excited about the opportunities the fee increase will provide for our students and the campus community, including a transformation of the campus life experience,” she said. “We pride ourselves on programs that allow us to keep debt low, and we want our Vaqueros to know that the increase will not affect our ability to remain one of the most affordable universities in Texas.”

ABOUT UTRGV

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, which has an enrollment of more than 32,000 students, 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, Weslaco 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.

HUY DAN “MIMI” NGUYEN APPOINTED BY GOV. ABBOTT FOR A ONE-YEAR TERM AS A STUDENT REGENT FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM

Huy Dan “Mimi” Nguyen, who on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 visited the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg for the announcement of the Luminary Scholars program, is a recent appointee by Gov. Greg Abbott, as Student Regent for The University of Texas System Board of Regents?.

Her one-year term began on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

Nguyen is a student at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

She grew up in Seguin, Texas where she attended elementary through high school. After graduation, she attended The University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Government, graduating with high honors, and earning her Business Foundations Certificate with highest distinction.

During her time as an undergraduate, Nguyen was selected for the UT System Bill Archer Fellowship which allowed her to work full-time in Washington, D.C. while earning a semester’s worth of class credit.

While in Washington, Nguyen interned for the United States Supreme Court.

She also worked two legislative sessions during undergrad for Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, who serves as Chair, House Committee on International Relations.

ONE-OF-A-KIND PROGRAM TO OFFER FULL TUITION AND FEES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 announced a one-of-a-kind, merit-based scholarship program – the Luminary Scholarship – for undergraduate students.

The new scholarship program is made possible thanks to the historic $40 million gift to UTRGV this summer from philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett which is meant to enhance the university’s mission of improving student success and expanding educational opportunities.

Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said the highly competitive scholarship will allow UTRGV to retain and attract the best and brightest students in the Valley and beyond.

“We are so grateful to MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett for their landmark gift to UTRGV that helped us create this unique scholarship program,” Bailey said. “This scholarship will go a long way in helping many students, their families and the Rio Grande Valley community.”

The scholarship program will cover the following:

• Full tuition and fees for all four undergraduate years.
• University housing for the first two academic years of college.
• Full tuition and fees for up to four years for the professional or undergraduate program to which the student was provisionally admitted, including the UTRGV School of Medicine and the School of Podiatry.

In addition, the scholarship recipients, or Luminary Scholars, as they have been dubbed, will sign a pledge to work in the Valley for each year beyond their undergraduate education that is funded.

That means a three-year graduate or professional program would require a three-year commitment to work in the Valley post-graduation.

Dr. Janna Arney, Executive Vice President and Provost, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said the Luminary Scholars program is another example of the university’s commitment to student success.

“Our ultimate goal is for students to graduate debt-free or with minimal debt from college, as well as from graduate school,” Arney said. “The only thing we ask in return of our Luminary Scholars is, just as we have made an investment in you, we ask you to make that same investment and commitment to the Rio Grande Valley.”

To learn more about the Luminary Scholarship Program, visit utrgv.edu/luminary.

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(Patrick González, Jonah Golberg, and Marcia Caltabiano contributed to this article. For more on this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)

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