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Former UTB athlete drowns at SPI

July 16th, 2013

According to Ousainou Senghore’s friend Robin Ejdeholm, Senghore was past the third sandbar off the waters of South Padre Island when he started to struggle. The current was powerful and kept dragging him out further as the waves repeatedly struck him. He struggled to swim back but by the time the lifeguards came, it was already too late; he was nowhere to be found.

On July 4 the churning SPI waters claimed a life as Senghore, a former University of Texas at Brownsville soccer player, drowned while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

That day, emergency crews responded to a swimmer in distress near the third sandbar close to Clayton’s Bar and Grill. There they learned the 27-year-old had gone under the water and not come back up.

The Coast Guard and lifeguards on the beach scoured the water for nearly two hours before he was found.

Senghore was not a Valley native though he lived in Brownsville. He was born in Banjul, Gambia and his hometown was Kotu, Gambia in West Africa. He is the son of Ebrina and Awa Senghore.

According to Senghore’s friend Ejdeholm, a 25-year-old Sweden native, Senghore was a strong swimmer and his drowning was unexpected. Ejdeholm was with his friend on the day he passed.

“We were together at the beach,” the UTB student said. “Ous loved the water and would always go in. This time he went a little bit too far out and he didn’t respect the current.”

The two had been friends since their time playing soccer for UTB in the spring of 2011, when Senghore joined as a new recruit from Barton Community College in Kansas. His personality not only made an impression on his fellow players but also his coach.

According to UTB Coach Dan Balaguero, Senghore or Ous, as he was known to his friends, was a very caring person. Balaguero knew Senghore for about two and a half years though he only played with UTB for the 2011 season. In total Senghore spent four semesters at UTB and graduated December 2013 with a degree in business.

Though Senghore wasn’t a Valley native Balaguero explained he loved the area, especially Brownsville.

“He was the type of person who had a great energy; he was a hard worker, a good defender and a good athlete,” Balaguero explained. “We had been watching him for a while; he played at Barton Community College. He played for us for only a short time because he ran out of eligibility.”

According to friend Juan Treviño, even though Brownsville was not his hometown Senghore had close friends at UTB. Treviño had known Senghore since he arrived on campus and according to him the two formed a close friendship.

“He was an amazing person. Good heart, and intelligent,” the 44-year-old said. “He had this glowing personality that shown through his smile. He was an angel, he brought happiness.”

A memorial service was held June 7 for Senghore at UTB. Dressed in white, friends and family released balloons as a token of remembrance. His brother flew in from St. Louis to escort Senghore back home to his family in Gambia. As a mark of appreciation from the athletics department and UTB, Senghore’s brother was presented with a jersey and a soccer ball signed by Senghore’s old teammates.

Categories: Sports

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A new company

March 15th, 2013

The members of newly minted Encantado Theatre have big dreams that involve a Broadway-in-the-Valley venue, six shows a year and workshops for local kids.
But that’s way down the line because for now, Encantado consists of seven people trying to raise about $9,000 for their first show in the summer, or September if they don’t get the money by then.

According to Isidro Lerma, the goal of Encantado is to tell great stories though theater in the Valley.

“We all have different areas of specialty,” the San Juan native said. “Mine is fantasy, another’s is realism, another, Shakespeare…We want to enchant every audience member so they leave thinking ‘Wow, what a great story.’ That they are so enchanted by the story, they won’t forget it.”

Lerma said that Encantado also wants to offer opportunities to actors in the Valley.

“There are some actors that are just used over and over,” said Lerma, who graduated from Corpus Christi University in 2010 before making his way back to the Valley. “There are some of us that want to teach, so we’re not just looking for actors to work with – we’re looking for actors to improve.”

Making sure to include several different actors in all productions is the reason for one of Encantado’s rules for the seven – no casting the same person twice in the same year, according to Mayra Ochoa, one of the founders.

“A lot of people always cast the same people in their shows and I have helped out on tech stuff and I see my friends say ‘I’m not good,’” said Ochoa, a senior theater major at UTPA. “But they are, and directors just get comfortable with certain actors, and that’s fine if that’s the way they work, but we really want to get a variety of people.”

Eventually, the members of Encantado hope to build a mega-venue in the Valley, with room for six plays at a time. The venue would serve not just Encantado, but possibly other companies in the Valley as well, like Thirteen O’ Clock or All Star Theatre. The idea came from two members who are studying architecture and business, respectfully.

“Like a mini-Broadway, so that people can go out at night and look at all the signs and say ‘OK which one do I want to see tonight?’” he added. “It might take 15 or 20 years to accomplish but it’s what we want to be able to do.”

For now, the new company will operate out of a venue in McAllen, opposite of Sprouts, that was offered to them for free as long as they also work with children to learn theater.

To raise the $9,000 for their tentative first show, the members of Encantado have planned fundraisers including a BBQ plate sale that nabbed them about $600 after costs earlier this month. Funding is the biggest hurdle to overcome right now, Lerma said.

“That’s part of being enchanted,” he said. “To believe that we can build a great company even though it’s quite difficult, especially with no funds.”

Categories: Arts & Life

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Gift procrastinator? Here are some last second ideas for him and her

December 24th, 2012

Si tu eres como yo que deja todo al último y la presión navideña ya se está sintiendo y aun no tienes regalos, pues tranqui aquí te van algunas ideas para él y ella.

Y como vivimos en un mundo cibernético todo puede ser encontrado por internet. Lo único que tendrás que hacer es demostrarles la foto de su obsequio y ellos lo recibirán en cuanto llegue.


If you are like me who leaves everything for the last minute and the Christmas pressure is piling up and you have yet to buy gifts, well no worries here are some gift ideas for him and her.

And since we live in a cybernetic world everything could be found online. All you would have to do is show them a pic of their gift and then they’ll receive it as soon as it arrives.




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Creo que todos los universitarios necesitamos esto, bueno, si es que no saben cocinar y sobreviven de lonches y cereal. (Cómpralo aquí)/ I think every college student should have this, well, if they don’t know how to cook and are surviving on sandwiches and cereal. (Buy it here)


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¡Un clásico navideño! Dime, ¿a quién no le gusta esta película? Estoy segura que a él o ella le encantaría agregarla a su colección de películas. (Cómpralo aquí)/ A holiday classic! Tell me, who doesn’t like this movie? I’m sure that he or she would loved to add it to their movie collection. (Buy it here)


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Esto es para seguir con el buen hábito de la lectura—pero ahora mas modero. No tan solo podrás leer libros si no revistas también. Muy padre si me preguntas a mí. (Cómpralo aquí)/ This is to keep the good habit of reading—but now a lot more modernized! Not only can you read books, but magazines as well! Very cool if you ask me. (Buy it here)



Para Ella/ For Her

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Créeme, serás la sensación si regalas este tipo de collar. El “Peter Pan Collar” o cualquier tipo de collar ancho están muy de moda y son muy accesible. De cualquier tipo de metal, ya sea cobre, plateado o dorado, ¡le encantará! (Cómpralo aquí)/ Trust me, you’ll be a total sensation if you buy her this kind of necklace. The “Peter Pan Collar” is very in and rather accessible. Any type of metal, whether it is copper, silver or gold, she’ll love it! (Buy it there)


beachwaves wand 295x300 Gift procrastinator? Here are some last second ideas for him and her

¿Alguna vez te han preguntado si crees en la magia? Si es que aun no crees, con este obsequio veras como por obra de magia un look cambia en menos de 10 minutos. Y dime, ¿a que mujer no le gusta verse bien? (Cómpralo aquí)/ Have they ever asked you if you believe in magic? In case you still don’t believe, with this gift you’ll see that by magic a look will change in less than 10 minutes. And tell me, what woman doesn’t like to look beautiful? (Buy it here)


OPI Line up1 300x163 Gift procrastinator? Here are some last second ideas for him and heryoo 0 300x245 Gift procrastinator? Here are some last second ideas for him and her

Una mujer con  manos bellas dice mucho de ella. Consiéntela y obséquiale varios esmaltes de O.P.I. y has que sus manos luzcan bellas y luminosas. También regálale unos parchecitos con estampados diferentes— ¡se ven súper reto! (Cómpralo aquí)/ A woman with pretty hands says a lot about her. Spoil her gift her with various nail polishes from O.P.I. and make her hands look beautiful and radient. You can also give her nail stick ons with different prints—they look super retro! (Buy it here)


Para El/ For Him

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Si conoces a un chico que no le gusta le música, entonces esto no es para él. Sin embargo, para los activos y adictos a la música este será el obsequio perfecto. (Cómpralo aquí)/ If you know a guy who doesn’t like music, then this is not for him. However, for the active and music addict this would be the perfect gift. (Buy it here)


kiehls 300x221 Gift procrastinator? Here are some last second ideas for him and her

Me encantan los hombres que se cuidan. Recuerda, tu cara habla por ti, cuidala y tratala con cariño. (Cómpralo aquí)/ I love men who take care of themselves. Remember, your face speaks for you, take care of it and treat it kindly. (Buy it here)


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No sé mucho de esto, en realidad no sé nada, pero mi hermano está completamente obsesionado con esto. Creo que sería un buen regalo ya que la mayoría de los hombres parecen estar muy interesados en ello. (Cómpralo aquí)/ I don’t know much about this, actually I don’t know anything about it, but my brother is completely obsessed with it. I think this would be a good gift since most men seem to be very interested in it. (Buy it here)


2 Corintios/ 2 Corinthians 9:7

Categories: Blogs

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UTPA likely to merge with UTB, new medical school

December 6th, 2012

The University of Texas-Pan American may soon change.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously voted to merge the University of Texas at Brownsville and UTPA, with the addition of a new medical school in Harlingen.

“This is more important than passion or emotion. This is literally about saving lives, about the future of America,” UTPA President Robert Nelsen told the Board of Regents Thursday morning. “We will create bi-cultural, bi-literate researchers. We will transform the Valley with your vote today.”

Right now, the university is being referred to as The University for the America’s in the Rio Grande Valley, but the name has still not been decided, according to Nelsen.

This merger would consolidate the RGV universities into one, according to UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s presentation to the board this morning. The new consolidated universities would have locations in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville, plus an administrative headquarters in McAllen.

However, the decision is not official until two-thirds of the Texas state Legislature approves the proposal in the next session in January.

It is very likely that the Texas Legislature will approve this new university, according to Nelsen.

The current enrollment at UTPA stands at about 19,000 students, but the predicted enrollment of this new University is about 28,000 students. Altogether, it would also have 1,500 faculty and 3,800 staff positions.

The Board of Regents will allocate $100 million total over 10 years for the development of the health science center in Harlingen, specifically the four-year medical school. The medical school will be open to the first class of students tentatively in 2015, although Nelsen said in a phone interview after the announcement with The Pan American that he would like to see it open earlier, possibly in 2013.

Additionally, UTPA will not move the programs it already has, such as the Physician’s Assistant program.

This university will be considered an emerging research institution on par with The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Dallas, and The University of Texas San Antonio, according to Cigarroa.

The merger will save about $6 million in total, for both universities and the new health science center, according to Nelsen. Additionally, he expects the merger to result in more university jobs than layoffs.

“There have been no talks about (layoffs) at all,” Nelsen said. “I see it growing under this really, because we are going to have access to more students, have more buildings, more research and we are going to need more faculty.”

Nelsen also added that he did not expect the merger to affect UTPA tuition in any way.

“Instead, this is bringing in funds so we don’t have to increase the tuition,” he said.

UTPA currently only receives Higher Education Resistance Funds from Texas, but if the new university is established in the Valley, then it will qualify for Permanent University Funds. The Permanent University Fund is a public endowment included in the Texas Constitution in 1876 that provides financial support to institutions in the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems. A two-thirds vote by the Texas Legislature is required for a new university to access the PUF.

“We have support of the delegation (of state legislators),” Nelsen said. “And more importantly, there is no fiscal note with this legislation, meaning it doesn’t cost the state anything.”

Permanent University Funds are a larger quantity of money than Higher Education Resistance Funds, so this new University will have more resources.

“We’ve known from the very beginning we had to get the PUF funds for the Valley,” Nelsen said. “Now we will be able to.”

Nelsen said that the administration started planning on how to get PUF six months ago, and two months ago is when they finalized the plans of how they were going to do it.

UTB President Juliet Garcia told reporters in a press conference held after the announcement that PUF funds would put the new University for the Americas on the same academic level as the other UT schools.

“It hurts President Nelsen and I when we see ourselves on the charts with the other universities and Nelsen and I see that but there’s not an asterisk saying ‘They don’t do as well because they don’t get PUF moneys,’” she said. “It’s like we’re barefoot, but give us the same pair of tennies like everyone else and watch us run.”

Cigarroa will visit the Valley Dec. 7 to hold town hall meetings at UTPA and UTB, and press conferences to discuss the new university and the health science center with Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell, Executive Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs Pedro Reyes, Nelsen and Garcia. There will be a townhall meeting in the UTPA Student Union at 1:45 p.m.


Categories: News

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LAW SCHOOL: Weighing the options

December 6th, 2012

The proposal to build a law school in the Rio Grande Valley was once again submitted to the state Legislature, Nov. 12 by State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, just months after the UT System announced plans to build a medical school in the area.

Two similar bills were submitted in the 2011 State Legislative Session, but failed to make it out of the House of Higher Education Committee, a body with jurisdiction over education beyond high school in the state of Texas.

District 40 State Rep. Terry Canales supports the move to bring a law school to the Valley. Canales has been an attorney in District 40, which includes a chunk of Hidalgo County, and Edinburg, for almost six years and is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. In a statement from an article by Edinburg Politics, he expressed the need for a law school in the Valley.

“First and foremost, a law school is about empowering a region with tools and knowledge to see and obtain legal and social justice,” Canales said. “In addition, a law school creates jobs through construction of facilities, the hiring of administrators, faculty and staff and securing government and private grants for everything from financial aid to legal clinics.”

If a law school were established in the Rio Grande Valley, it would not be the first. In the mid-’90s the Reynaldo Garza School of Law in Mission closed its doors after failing to earn accreditation from the American Bar Association, a professional organization focused on improving the legal profession.

Before an attorney can begin practicing, they have to pass the Texas Bar Exam. However, the exam cannot be taken unless the person taking it has graduated from an accredited school.

The closest such school to the Rio Grande Valley is Saint Mary’s in San Antonio. It is one of 9 in Texas (five are private). Jerry Polinard, political science professor at UTPA and pre-law adviser, said that it would play a big part in the decision to establish a law school in the Valley.

“Part of the question the Legislature would ask is why we would need more than 10 law schools. Our answer is that it would be location,” Polinard said. “The closest public law school is five hours away. Obviously it would be an advantage (for students), and it probably saves on travel and housing costs.”

However, the number of existent schools isn’t the only thing that could keep the law school from being established in the Valley. Another hindrance is that the entity would have to be established on state funding.

“It is an uphill battle. We are talking about a bill that would support a state law school. States are stingy with their education money,” Polinard said. “It always loops back to what it is going to cost.”

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board, the cost of starting a law school can range just above $80 million in a five-year period. This may prove a problem, especially for a state with a recent history of budget cuts. According to National Public Radio, state lawmakers cut $4 billion from education funding in 2011, leaving 12,000 teachers and support staff unemployed.

Not everyone agreed that creating a law school in the Valley would be a good call. One such person is Jackie Odum, a 21-year-old political science major and vice president of the UTPA Pre-law Society. She believes that although the school would bring more resources to law students in the Valley, she also thinks it would not  benefit the community since it would create an unbalance in the Valley’s legal world.

“I think it would open doors for students, but the Valley is such a close-knit community since people who grew up here tend to stay here,” Odum said. “With the system down here, if you’re an attorney from the Valley the odds are in your favor against out-of-town attorneys. It’s an unfair advantage.”

The idea behind this is that having people who graduated from a Valley school would create attorneys who have already had the chance to establish connections with judges and other attorneys, as opposed to someone who moves here from another city and has to start fresh.

In 2009, Texas law schools graduated 2,340 students, but only 1,837 of those graduates passed the Texas bar exam. Also, the Valley has the lowest lawyer-to-citizen ratios in the state of Texas according to The Texas Tribune.

Despite the obstacles before it and the history of the last law school in the Valley, Reynaldo Garza, the people behind the move seem determined to make it happen when the Legislature goes into session in January. But to Polinard, the chances are slim, especially after an announcement this summer by UT System Chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, who has made it his mission to establish a medical school in the Valley.

For the medical school, the plan is to convert two buildings in Harlingen and the Regional Academic Health Center, which is behind the campus’ Human Services Building, along with the creation of a school of public health in Brownsville.

“I do think that it is inevitable that South Texas will get a law school,” Polinard said. “There is a need since we are so far from an accredited law school, but the odds are against it this year.”

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Roam the net with eduroam

October 18th, 2012

Having gone live in early August, a new wireless Internet access service called eduroam is now available for use by students at the University.

The idea behind eduroam is that students, faculty and visiting scholars to the campus will be able to easily access the wireless Internet without having to mess around with network settings, as long as they come from another institution that also uses eduroam.

Likewise, UTPA students visiting other institutions with eduroam will be able to easily access their wireless connection.

After students register with the network using a username and password, eduroam stores the data so that when they visit another participating eduroam institution, the login info is instantly recognized and access is granted.

“We hope this is going to be a real convenience for our students,” said Anne Toal, technology assessment officer with the Office of Information Technology. “Especially those that are dual-enrolled or transfer.”

However, students are advised to use their school emails when doing the initial setup. When visiting another institution, they will find that the network will use a student’s email address to identify what university they hail from and send their credentials for verification.

“It’s not anonymous connection,” Toal said. “If someone from another eduroam school comes on, we have a record of them logging in. It gives us an email address. You’d be leaving little electronic footsteps so the system knows who you are.”

The University is a part of the University of Texas System, which in turn is a member of the Lonestar Education and Research Network, an association comprised of various academic and research institutions. Lonestar Education Research Network is a member of Internet2, another association much like Lonestar.

Lonestar focuses on supporting the research, education and economic development of institutions through statewide networking and access to global resources.

Internet2 focuses on the development of advancements in software, security,  network research and performance measurements to further the progress of Internet applications. The cost of eduroam is paid for by Internet2, and thus made available to any institution in the UT System that wants to use it.

Like UTPA, South Texas College has also started using eduroam.  As part of a joint project, it went live for both campuses at the same time, at the start of the semester.

Ideally, this will help students enrolled at both campuses, or those who’ve transferred to UTPA looking to continue their education.

“We first became aware of eduroam in March 2012,” said Jeffery Graham, chief information officer with the OIT. “We actually started working with STC to acquire it in May 2012.”

There are currently 76 institutions in the United States using it. The five in Texas include STC, UTPA, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas System offices in Austin.

UTPA was the first school in the UT system to adopt eduroam.

“This is really good for Pan Am,” Toal said. “This really shows us as technology leaders, and for us to be the first in the UT system to use it is really great.”

A change with eduroam is how one logs in to the domain. There is no difference in performance. Now, instead of having to know the name of the Service Set Identifier in order to connect, which was

Student2010 for students, the eduroam service is broadcast so that connection is instant.

“We still have the student SSID and the faculty SSID, but we are trying to go over to eduroam,” Graham said. “Our long term goal is to replace the other two with eduroam.”

Since the network has gone live on campus, students have been able to test out the service and get a feel for how it preforms.

“The service is fast and it doesn’t mess up for me,” said Valeria Rios, a 19-year-old communication disorders major. “It’s also good that you can just go (to another campus) and use it without having a problem.”

Other students, such as 22-year-old Bryanda Garcia, told of their rocky start with the service.

“I had overheard that some students have had problems, and in the beginning of the semester I was experiencing issues connecting with my phone, but it’s fine now. I use it almost every day,” she said.

Part of the reason eduroam was adopted was in the hopes that it will allow students to continue their education if they choose to move beyond the University, beyond the state and even outside the nation.

“It allows our students to venture out into the world and not have to worry about figuring out how to get on the Internet,” Toal said.

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Update on UTPA student kidnapping

October 11th, 2012

Photo courtesy of UTPA Public Affairs

The University Police Department and local FBI officials arrested Miguel Angel Navarro Tuesday afternoon for the alleged kidnapping of the UTPA student from a parking lot Sept. 25.

The 35-year-old appeared before a judge in the Edinburg Municipal Court and was charged with one count of aggravated kidnapping and has his bond set at $500,000, according to The Monitor.

He was “picked up” Tuesday afternoon at a McAllen business, according to the news release.

The student, a female whose name was withheld by officials for her protection, was forced into a vehicle in Lot T-2 Sept. 25, with one of the three suspects allegedly covering her mouth with his hand according to student witnesses.

The UTPA police officials believe Navarro and the other two men kidnapped the student for ransom and according to the news release, the suspects released the student two days later without pay. The case is still under investigation.

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Curtain call for Master’s in Theatre

October 11th, 2012

The final echoes of the Master’s in Theatre program at The University of Texas-Pan American are to be on Aug. 31, 2015. This is the time limit given to the University to finish students in that track.

Last fall, the University received word from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that they were to no longer accept admissions into the Theatre program, but the news came too late to stop registration for that semester. Because of this, the final cutoff date was held back until the start of the spring semester of 2012.

Two years ago, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, established by the Texas Legislature to oversee all things public higher education, brought the program up for review and looked at the number of graduate students it had pulled in over a five-year period.  At the time there had been only a total of seven degrees produced from the program over the span.

Ultimately, the board concluded that the Maters in Theater program, which was started in the  early 80s by Marian Monta, was not generating enough numbers and decided to close it.
The standards put forth by the coordinating board are as follows: A doctoral program has to produce three graduates a year in order to not be considered low-producing. For a master’s program it is five graduates a year, and eight for bachelors.

Once a program is considered low-producing, the University has to analyze it and either request an exemption from the board, or close the program. If an exemption is requested, a defense has to be put forth as to why the program should be kept. If the exemption is granted by the board, then the program is given two years to bring up its numbers.

The handful of students that had already entered the theater program prior to the cutoff date will be allowed to finish. In fact, some already have, bringing the final days of the drill even closer.

“There are around six students currently in the program. There may be more, but some are inactive. You never know if they are going to finish,” said Eric Wiley, a theatre professor with the Communication Department. “Five graduated this past summer. We probably went from about 16 to six in the last year.”

During the time the decision was made to close the program, the number of students joining had increased, to the point where the numbers would have been adequate, according to Wiley.

“In 2009 through 2010, the economy went bad,” Wiley said. “Our students were having trouble finding work, so they were going back to school to get their master’s.”

However, since the board had been looking at the results over a five-year period, and the number had been low beforehand, the decision was still made to cut.

Currently, there are no plans to replace the program, with focus being put on seeing the students in it to graduation. However, one option that Wiley spoke of that could possibly be offered as a replacement: an interdisciplinary studies MA in theatre. It would be a concentration in theatre, but not an actual master’s degree.

In interdisciplinary studies, students would have to acquire 18 hours in their concentration, which would then qualify them to teach at a community college or junior college. It would also qualify them to teach lower division courses at a university.

Several people in the Communication Department had made an effort to get the program cut exempted.

This included Timothy Mottet, the chair of the department at the time the decision was made. Mottet was involved with the creation of the defense, however, the board rejected the exemption, and the program fell through.

“We were all really disappointed by the decision. We seemed to have some renewed enthusiasm by faculty and students,” said Cynthia Brown, vice provost for graduate studies. “All the work they had done getting students interested was just coming into fruition. There wasn’t time to see the benefits of that enthusiasm.”

With the closing of the theatre master’s, students interested in continuing their education in the field have no choice, unless the option to transform the program into an interdisciplinary study is made, but to seek it elsewhere.

“This was the only master’s in theatre offered south of San Antonio,” Wiley said. “That has always been our main justification for keeping the program.”

Categories: News

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September 27th, 2012

This story was edited after publication to update information on the alleged kidnapping. 

When news spread about the alleged kidnapping that took place Tuesday night in a University parking lot, social media buzzed as various UTPA community members worried about the situation and safety for people on campus.

Screen Shot 2012 09 27 at 2.26.21 AM 300x106 Taken

It seems, however, that students around campus don’t feel as panicked about what happened as those talking on Facebook and Twitter.

“I don’t think it’s a reason to be alarmed or overreact,” said Michael Garza, a junior marketing major from Edinburg. “Especially over social media, people hear things and turn it around and overreact, but it could happen anywhere.”

A crime alert, or Timely Warning Notification, was sent at 9:23 p.m. to the University community Tuesday night to inform of the alleged kidnapping outside the Education Building.

“(The University) emailed us, and I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” said Victoria Ceballos, a junior kinesiology major from Harlingen. “They did a good job in alerting us. I mean, what else can you do?”

In response to Tuesday’s incident, a petition requesting University officials take the initiative to install more lighting in student parking lots was posted on The UTPA Student Facebook page.

The petition also calls for the University Police Department to offer students, faculty and staff an escort to their cars on campus. However, the PD already offers this service, and has placed blue emergency posts around campus for students to use upon request.

The petition has had over 2,000 Facebook likes since the time of publication.


The alleged kidnapping was called in by a witness to UTPA PD, who reported that a female was forced into a vehicle in Lot T2, with one of the two suspects covering her mouth with his hand.

According to the UTPA police, two Hispanic males are the suspects, one with a dark complexion, a light beard and a tattoo or birthmark on his left arm. The second suspect is described as in his mid-to-late 20s and weighing approximately 240 pounds, according to the Timely Warning Notification.

Abel Becerra, a senior mechanical engineering major from Weslaco, doesn’t blame the University for what happened.

“Unless you have security posted for every section guarding people, (the University) couldn’t have done anything,” he said.

Becerra said he believed the incident was probably specific to the victim, and that there is not a reason to be alarmed.

“I’m shocked, not scared because kidnappings are for personal reasons and they don’t target random people,” he said.

At the time of publication, Public Affairs and UTPA PD had no additional comments.

Thursday morning, a third Timely Notification Warning was sent to the University community via email notifying them that the victim of the alleged kidnapping has been returned to her family safely. Police are still investigating the incident.

Karen Antonacci also contributed to this article.


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UTPA official: Construction is delayed

September 23rd, 2012

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez

What used to be the stage for music, theater and dance majors is on its way to becoming a crumbled mess of concrete.

UTPA first announced the reconstruction of its Fine Arts Auditorium last August. However, before any upcoming construction takes place, demolition of the auditorium and the old Fine Arts Art Annex is set to occur by October.

As the anticipated two-year reconstruction project begins, the auditorium is expected to be completed by fall 2014. Demolition of the project was previously scheduled for September but was delayed a month.

“Preparing the entire Fine Arts complex for demolition is a long process,” said Oscar Villarreal, director of Physical Plant. “Right now we are clearing up the area by removing current pipework and any hazardous materials as well as recycling reusable ones.”

For now, music majors have been relocated from the Fine Arts Complex and are taking private music lessons with their professors in the dorms of Troxel Residence Hall. They practice in the classrooms of the Environmental Health and Safety portable building.

Villarreal said students and staff will soon see construction trucks coming in and out of the area by mid-October.

“We ask people to be please be patient with us, especially since we have blocked the service drive (parking lot in front of auditorium),” he said. “We have been working since late August in the Fine Arts Complex as diligently as possible.”

Construction for the project, which was originally set to begin by late November, is not outlined by a permanent schedule date yet, Villarreal said.

Villarreal met with project officials and have targeted a new start-of-construction date of late December, early January 2013 the latest. He explains that while there have been changes in the dates, these are just “minor details.”

In addition to the approximately $42 million project, principally funded from Tuition Revenue Bonds, or money borrowed from tuition fees that is required to be paid back, the demolition of surrounding facilities and the upgrade of others will be required.

The old Fine Arts Art Annex will be demolished to make space for the new auditorium while building B (Fine Arts office & classrooms) and building C (Fine Arts recital & band) are expecting indoor renovations only.

While the extra walk might be a hassle for some students, junior music major Estefania Arriazola sees the current circumstances as an opportunity to grow stronger as a student.

“Sure, I don’t like having to walk all the way to the dorms to have my music and piano lessons,” Arriazola said. “But it won’t kill me. We are just grateful to have a place to learn and rehearse.”

Arriazola, an Edinburg native, will continue vocal lessons as she awaits the completion of a new stage.

“It’s definitely a time of growth for UTPA and its music department,” Arriazola said. “I can’t wait to come back to pursue my master’s. I know the new auditorium will make me extra proud to be a UTPA music major.”

The University’s fine arts majors anxiously look forward to demolition for the 42-year-old auditorium. For senior dance major Ciara Perez, returning to the stage of the Fine Arts Performing Center will take longer than she expected.

“Honestly, it’s disheartening knowing I won’t be able to perform on stage during my final year as an undergraduate student,” Perez said. “I still love the fact that we are finally getting a new auditorium, it will be a great addition to our growing dance program.”

As of now, Perez and fellow majors will be holding small ensemble performances in UTPA’s Student Union, the library auditorium, and media theater while larger productions will be held at the McAllen Civic Center and Edinburg City Auditorium.

“Although the beginning of the demolition may seem like a slow process that require lots of preparation, we are still on schedule,” Villarreal said. “I’m just glad that the Fine Arts Auditorium is finally getting the renovation it needs. Both the community and students will benefit from such a good looking, state-of-the-art auditorium.”


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