February 6th, 2014
Quick and quiet breaths come one after another as the phlebotomist says to stay calm and relax. She takes a light blue tourniquet and places it up above the crook of an elbow. “Breath,” she says, taking note of the blue vein as it begins to swell. Then there is a slight pinch, and a quick prick of pain as the needle hits home. Eight minutes later a bag of blood and plasma sit separated on a sterile white table.
This is the process of a simple blood donation. A process each of the Bronc baseball players went through in honor of Nolan Naranjo and Jiada Grace Ortiz, Jan. 30 at the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.
The drive was held by United Blood Services and is not solely for Ortiz and Naranjo, but the two have been sponsored by the team in the past with not only two previous blood drives but a bone marrow drive as well.
Both children are from the Rio Grande Valley were diagnosed with a type of rare bone marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. The illness affects the bone marrow the patient; this causes them to stop producing enough red blood cells and white blood platelets.
UTPA Assistant Coach Norberto Lopez explained that the blood drive was in honor of the children and marked another chance for the team, as a whole, to give back.
“We have been able to help a couple of kids in the past,” Lopez said. “They had some real rare blood disease…(Head Coach Manny Mantrana) wants to teach the guys, he wants to make sure that we teach them that it isn’t just about us and our lives. (It’s about) going every day and making sure that we are giving back and helping out.”
This event is by no means the first or last of its kind. This is the third year in a row that the Broncs have hosted the drive.
Recently, the baseball players paired with members of the women’s basketball team to host a bone marrow drive in November. The bone drive held Nov. 13 was to sponsor Naranjo, who was diagnosed with Pre-leukemia and was in need of a transplant.
Andy Fortuna, a Bronc outfielder, was present and donated at the January drive. He feels that he and the team should hold themselves to a standard where the community is also a priority.
“This is to set an example to the rest of the community,” the senior physical therapy major said. “If they see a group of guys in jerseys donating blood they will come around. Being a part of the University everyone looks at us in a certain way, we always try to set an example to everybody else.”
According to Fortuna this is a belief that the coaching staff has instilled in these players and has made the team what it is.
His coaches agree.
”We have been doing this for four years,” Lopez said. “And we might have a special group, cause they never complain. I’ve seen guys that are scared of needles and they are freaking out, they are almost turning white, but they still want to do it. And I think that is a testament to Coach Mantrana; he really preaches to them and tells them about giving back.”
Whether it is the ideals instilled in them by their coaching staff or peer pressure that keep them donating, the end, even first-timers see the value.
Jesus Garcia, a shortstop for the team, said sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and taking time out of their days to donate is a small price to pay.
”This was my first time,” Garcia said. “And you really don’t feel much. It did not bother me at all, it was for a good cause. We are doing a small part for something big and this is what we are doing, each of us, It will contribute little by little to something big.”
January 21st, 2014
UTPA women’s basketball team gave the Chicago State University Cougars a fast paced game Jan. 18. Midway through the game the broncs went on a 16 point run to pull off a win at the UTPA Field House 66-44.
Currently the Bronc season record now stands even 9-9, 3-2 season record in the Western Athletic conference.
The game was at a standstill as the Broncs fought off the Cougars. But Kaelynn Boyd, a sophomore, scored a three pointer, starting the 16 point run. Then junior Tonashia Walker hit seven straight points using two free throws, a three pointer and one layup.
The Broncs kept up the momentum as Charrell Price scored another three pointer and Brittany Bush went for a free throw. Scoring Shawnte Goff ended the run 42-27.
All in all Goff scored a total of 18 points, junior Jasmine Thompson scored 10 and Bush came close to a double double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
With this win in hand the Broncs will now face off at home against New Mexico State, Jan. 25, at the UTPA Field House.
January 17th, 2014
One month ago, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and City Commissioner Mike Perez started discussing the possibility of purchasing the 35.14-acre lot, with a price tag of $4.7 million, on the corner of Dove Street and Jackson Road. The land may be given to the new University, University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley, and used as a possible location for the new medical school, according to The Monitor.
This vision became more of a reality after the McAllen City Commission voted Jan. 14 to continue with the purchase of the land.
According to The Monitor, the close proximity to Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance makes the land more attractive as the University of Texas medical school has plans to partner with the hospital for their medical residency program, the on-site training earned by medical school graduates.
Across the street from Pharr’s strip club, Tex Mex, the location also sits on the border of McAllen, Pharr and Edinburg, making it a centralized locale. In addition, its close proximity to Expressway 281 makes it accessible to students.
While this decision is not set in stone, the University of Texas System will make the final decision as to where the location of the new medical school will be. When the UT system will make this decision is still unknown.
“I think ultimately, at the end of the day, UT will decide where everything will go,” businessman Alonzo Cantu told The Monitor. “Not McAllen or anyone else.”
December 20th, 2013
The University women’s basketball swept in a win against the University of Texas at Arlington with a score of 75-63 at the Field House Dec. 18. After the win the team is now tied for the best season start in program history at 6-4.
The win was much needed after two back- to-back losses against Texas A&M and Texas Christian University, stated Shawnte’, Goff a guard for the Broncs.
“We came out and did what we needed to do,” Goff said. “We didn’t play good at TCU, we didn’t do good at Corpus, so we knew we had to come out and get this win.”
On top of the win the team put forward a season high of 11 three pointers, fourth highest in program history. Goff scored seven of those totaling her career-game high of 25 points. Trailing behind her was Jasmine Thompson who scored a game high of 22 points with five rebounds and three steals.
Goff and Thompson lead the team in scoring but at first the team struggled as they were down 28 to 15 with 10:30 seconds left in the first half. But the Bronc’s held tough and eventually caught up and pilled within one point with only 7 minutes left in the first half. UTA however, still held on to the lead until Goff scored a three pointer tying the game in the second half at 41, and the rest is history.
As Tonisha Walker, a guard explains they struggled at first due to one of their top scorers being out due to a broken toe.
“We all had to step up and contribute,” Walker said. “We have depth as a team and we will pull out in the end.”
Despite the setback of an injury and rocky start to their game the Bronc’s prevailed and will face off against the University of Nebraska at Omaha in Wichita, Ks. Dec. 21.
December 9th, 2013
The University men’s and women’s track and field teams hosted the the Green and White Alumni Meet Dec. 6. The teams got their first taste of friendly competition at the UTPA Track and Field Complex.
The athletes were split into two teams, Green and White, and competed against each other in various track and field events, such as the discus throw, hammer throw and track events, such as the long jump, mile run and the 300 meter hurdles.
Despite Team White’s efforts, Team Green took the win for the second year in a row with 136.5 points and white lost with a total of 109.5.
Admission was free for all and the meet went from 2-6:30 p.m. The whole point of the meet was to engage the track and field teams and some friendly competition. That is what kept the day going as the winter weather hit Dec. 6 with full force.
The temperature dropped to a crisp 40 degrees, plus wind chill. Kadine Johnson, track and field assistant coach, said the weather alone was cold but was even more frigid in athletic gear primed for movement, such as track shorts and UTPA track T-shirts.
“The cold is really making a big impact, mainly because we are so used to practicing in the heat,” Johnson said. “But it’s always a good learning experience because you never know what you are going to face out in a track meet. We are trying to get used to it.”
Edmundo Mata, a freshman on the track and field team, participated in several events during the meet, including the long jump and the high jump, where he took first. Though he felt the weather was a bit bothersome, he did not consider it much of a big deal. He was just happy to get to compete amongst his fellow athletes.
“(Today) felt good. It’s the first time we do a full (competition), so it was fun to see where we are at, where our standings are,” Mata said. “It brings us together,cause prior (to the meet) we all get to talk a little bit of smack…we get to take a look at each other because a lot of us are freshmen, or just new, so we haven’t seen each other actually compete before.”
With all the fresh new faces on the team, Head Coach Xavier Richardson felt the meet allowed the athletes to showcase their talents and to bond as a team for the upcoming season.
“We have a lot of sprinters and jumpers that have been training all fall and they haven’t really had the chance to compete,” Richardson said. “But I’ve seen a lot of great things, a lot of good throwing, good jumping and good sprinting, so we are very excited about where our indoor season will take us.”
Now that the team has had their first taste of competition, they will be headed out to the start of their season Jan. 17 at the Texas Team Invitational in College Station.
December 5th, 2013
Victoria Villela remembers being flipped over when she was hit by a car on campus Nov. 6. The alum was at the crosswalk between Parking Lot C and the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex, crossing Sugar Road, when a gold Chevrolet Suburban failed to yield at the crosswalk and struck her right knee, causing her to flip over. According to a police statement, the vehicle’s driver said he did not see Villela until he struck her.
“I have never gone through something so traumatic. The accident plays in my head every night before I go to bed,” said Villela, a May 2013 UTPA graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and public relations. “Since I did not blackout, I saw and heard everything as I flipped and hit the ground. A few days later after the accident, my father and I drove past the crosswalk and I freaked. I started panicking and crying. It is hard to walk by or across it. I get this eerie feeling as if something is going to happen again.”
Keeping the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in mind to prevent future accidents, the city of Edinburg has put a bike box and traffic signal on the conjunction of University Drive and Joe Ochoa Avenue. The box is the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley and allows visibility of all cyclists by requiring drivers to stop behind the 24-inch stop bar. The traffic signal became operational Nov. 18.
Roger Stearns, chief of police for the UTPA Police Department, said crossing from University Drive to Joe Ochoa Avenue is a lot like playing Frogger, a popular 1980s arcade game that involves directing a frog back to its home by avoiding cars on a busy road.
“So I play Frogger and wait for cars and get to the center island,” Stearns said. “When I meet halfway with students who are coming from the other direction, we congratulate each other on making it halfway across the street and wish them well on the other half. So I’m very excited for pedestrian safety purposes that there is something in between Sugar and Nevarez [also known as 4th Street] and will now allow students to cross safely at the main entrance of our campus.”
The most important aspect of pedestrian and driver safety, Stearns said, deals with traffic enforcement on campus.
“I have asked officers to pay particular attention to vehicles who are failing to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks,” he explained. “It is important to have traffic enforcement because if drivers think there’s a negative consequence or possibility of getting a ticket, are they going to run the red light? Probably not.”
Records show that one auto-cyclist accident and one auto-pedestrian accident occurred in 2012, according to James Loya, assistant chief of police at the University.
As a pedestrian, Jaime Ramos said he feels safe on campus, but admits that it depends on the traffic flow and driver.
“I feel as though there are many types of drivers,” the biology major said. “Some pay more attention than others, but overall, I feel like those in the area pay attention pretty well, except when it gets busy. It seems like one end is constantly going and never has the courtesy to let the other (vehicle or pedestrian) pass. This can get frustrating and causes people to drive recklessly.”
Commuting from The Palms Apartments to campus on bike, Francisco Garza said he has to always keep an eye out for drivers.
“I’ve been close to having an accident several times,” the political science and history double major said. “I lost count. But at crosswalks and lights, I’ve been close to being run over by idiot drivers because most drivers are not cautious.”
Garza said he hopes the traffic signal will help make the community a safer place for both pedestrians and cyclists.
“We live in a community exclusively for drivers,” Garza said. “And not pedestrians or cyclists, unfortunately. Hopefully our community in the near future becomes a friendly place for cyclists and pedestrians.”
Villela’s crosswalk accident resulted in torn cartilage in her knee and five stitches in the back of her head. She had surgery Nov. 20 to repair the damage in her knee. To prevent incidents like this from happening again, the UTPA Police Department plans to do more to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety on campus.
Later on in the academic year, the University’s Police Department plans to initiate a safety campaign that involves partnering with student organizations to help raise awareness of pedestrian, cyclist and driver safety precautions, according to Stearns.
“Pay attention,” he said. “Pay attention to your surroundings. Drivers, pay attention to pedestrians and cyclists. And I see the majority of students who pay too much attention to their smartphones and not enough attention to their surroundings. I think that inattention that we have due to the convenience of our communication devices is becoming as much as a danger as driving while intoxicate.”
December 5th, 2013
For the nearly 1,000 students on the cusp of graduating in spring 2014, there are only a few more classes that stand between them leaving college. However, these classes could cost double the price they were originally paying when they first enrolled at UTPA.
The excess credit hours policy is a statewide policy. According to the state law, once a student has taken more than 30 hours required for their degree plan, they will be charged with non-resident tuition. This includes courses that are repeated, duplicated and/or dropped. With a recent approval to increase these charges, prices can jump from $810 for nine hours of classes to $3,186 by fall 2014, as stated on the Academic Advisement Center’s page on the policy. The law was implemented in spring 2006 and affects students at all public universities and colleges in Texas.
“What happens is that the state no longer reimburses the University for part of (a student’s) tuition,” explained Marilyn Hagerty, director of the University Academic Advisement Center (UAAC). “When you’ve reached your limit, the state says, ‘We’re no longer going to pay for part of your tuition,’ which is why you’re then charged for out-of-state tuition…basically it’s to get students to graduate sooner.”
Students are normally informed of this policy at their UTPA Orientation and the UAAC has held monthly information sessions since the excess hour charge was approved. Students who transfer from private institutions or institutions out of the state are not affected since the state does not pay for these credits earned.
According to Hagerty, students affected by this policy the most are ones who change their majors later in their academic careers.
“The later you change your major, the more you’re most likely to be impacted,” Hagerty said. “Students who also drop too many credits or keep repeating a class to get a better grade are mostly affected as well.”
For students who are notified of reaching their limit, their next step is to seek help from the advisement center to appeal the fees.
“When we get a report back that accounts for all of the student’s credits, we then schedule an appointment with the student and a professional guidance counselor so they can sit down and see where they are and how much time they have before they graduate,” Hagerty said. “Once they’ve developed a graduation plan and they see that they don’t have a lot of time in between then and graduation, then the student can go through with appealing the law.”
This was the case with Esteban Padilla, a senior chemistry major, that was affected by this policy when he attempted to pursue a double major in music and chemistry.
“Because the two degrees are so far apart, I had to appeal to get an extra 50 hours to my cap,” Padilla said. “However, as I got closer to graduation and saw that I would need even more hours, it became a situation where I had to give up the music major because financially I would not be able to add on extra classes.”
According to a 2011 study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, 59 percent of students attending a four-year institution graduated within six years, with 57 percent of these students attending public institutions. As for UTPA, a U.S. News ranking shows that the four-year graduation rate is at 18 percent, while its six-year graduation rate is 39 percent.
As the policy continues to be enforced, Padilla agrees with the policy’s intention to get students graduating within four years.
“I’d go as far as calling it a necessary evil,” Padilla said. “It really upset me to give up the major and if I had to go through it all over again I would hate it, but it forced me to get more career-oriented and find which direction I wanted to go in life.”
December 5th, 2013
The McAllen metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Edinburg and Mission, ranked number one on a list of the nation’s poorest areas, according to an article published in November by USA Today. With nearly 35 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the McAllen metro area ranked just below Brownsville, the second poorest area, according to the same article.
The Border Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium (BEDES) hosted a conference Nov. 22 to discuss the current border economic situation and the role Hispanics in the area play in its improvement. Speaking at the event were economists from The Federal Bank of Dallas and economics professors from UTPA.
Roberto Coronado, assistant vice president and senior economist for the El Paso branch of The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, discussed the difference between job growth and income per capita, the average income per person in a specific area, in the Rio Grande Valley.
“McAllen has about 5 percent job (growth) per year, Texas is about 2 (percent) and the U.S. is at about 1 (percent). When you look at the Valley from that angle, the Valley is a very vibrant, very dynamic and a very strong growth area,” Coronado told The Pan American. “Now, when you look at the Valley from an income perspective and per capita income, then the Valley does not look, unfortunately, very good. In fact, the Valley has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation.”
Coronado went on to explain that the Valley’s rapid population growth is the reason behind the juxtaposition of job growth and income per capita. According to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area was named the 10th fastest growing area between 2000 and 2006.
According to an article by 24/7 Wall St., the Brownsville and McAllen metropolitan areas have median household incomes ranging from $30,000 to $33,000, respectively. With an unemployment rate of nearly 11 percent, Brownsville’s median household income falls nearly $60,000 under the median household income in San Jose, Calif., the richest city in the U.S.
Coronado also discussed the effects that the upcoming University merger will have on the Valley’s economy. He said an increase in service industry jobs, like finance management and medical services, will help close the gap between job growth and income per capita.
The merger will be the union of UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville and the creation of a medical school that was put in place by Texas Senate Bill 24 signed June 2013.
“(The merger) will help the RGV move in the right direction. It will help solidify the fact that more service-side jobs will be created,” Coronado told The Pan American.
Coronado also pointed out the challenges that will come along with the merger. He said that the new medical school will create hundreds of service jobs with high salaries rather than thousands of low-paying jobs in the manufacturing field. While the income per capita will increase, the number of jobs will decrease.
The assistant vice president went on to explain that this transitional period from manufacturing-type jobs to service-type jobs is a difficult and painful one for the region to go through, but it is the reality and current economic state of the RGV. He added that the University merger will also provide resources that will help the Valley move into an economic state with higher incomes per capita.
Fabiola Urgel, a sophomore economics major and mediator at the BEDES event, spoke candidly about the relationship between Mexico’s economy and the economy in the Valley. She said the two countries have strong ties and the standing of one economy affects the other.
“It is really important to see that a lot of things depend on how the peso dollar exchange (in Mexico) is looking, how many people from Mexico are crossing the border and doing some shopping here,” the 20-year-old said. “That is why BEDES was created; to show the members of our community the importance (of) the partnership that we implicitly have between Mexico and the U.S.”
An exchange rate is defined as the amount one country will pay for another country’s currency. Currently, one Mexican peso is roughly worth eight U.S. cents. This exchange rate is constantly changing.
A report by Saber Research Institute published April 2013 states that the Valley’s economy is directly impacted by the Mexican national traffic that flows through local malls and shops. The report shows nearly 10,000 jobs are supported by this cross-border activity and just below $250 million of income is generated for Valley workers annually.
While the subject of the Valley’s relationship with Mexico was an important topic at the symposium, both Coronado and Urgel put an emphasis on what Valley students can do to improve the current state of the economy.
“The number one advice (to students) will be to stay in school and improve their skills as much as they can,” Coronado said. “Clearly by going to the University they are improving their technical skills and academic credentials.”
While both Urgel and Coronado acknowledged that two major Valley cities are the poorest in the nation, they spoke with optimism about the future of the region and what is already being done to turn the poor economic situation around.
“We have excellent students (and) we have excellent opportunities. Our location is privileged,” Urgel said. “That is something we have to look up to. We have the perfect combination between the Mexican culture and the American culture. Trust in the Valley.”
December 4th, 2013
In 2011, the 1961 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship men’s tennis team was inducted into the University of Texas-Pan American Athletics Hall of Fame.
Members of that hall of fame team included current Hall members Ken Lang (HOF Class of 2009), John Sharpe (HOF Class of 2008) and Don Russell (HOF Class of 2007). Its other members were Harold Natho and Jim Watson.
“As a championship team or esteemed individuals, they each represent the proud tradition of Bronc Athletics,” former UTPA Director of Athletics Chris King said at the Hall of Fame ceremony in April 2011.
Although in 1960, in Kansas City, the Broncs could have won their first championship, they fell short against a Lamar Tech dynasty. The Beaumont school had won the previous five titles, and the Broncs took the national runner-up spot that season. The 1961 men’s tennis team was the first of five championship teams, in a row for the UTPA, or Pan American College as it was called then.
In 1961 and 1962 PAC took the championship, winning by 19 and 18 points over Southern Oklahoma. In ‘61 Sharpe won the NAIA national singles title as part of the team’s championship victory. Sharpe paired with teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member Russell to win the NAIA national title in doubles.
The Broncs’ closest victory came in 1964 when Corpus Christi University was four team points away from taking its first title.
The 1961 team was the first team to claim a national team title for the school. The 1960 unit was national runner-up but like any good team regrouped and went 12-4-1 overall the 1961 season, finishing first in the nation.