SGA Inauguration Ceremony

April 17th, 2014

Newly elected Alberto Adame and Carla Fernanda Peña officially began their duties as president and vice president of the Student Government Association April 14. The UTPA Visitors Center lobby hosted the SGA’s 2014-2015 Inauguration Ceremony April 11, where Adame and Peña gave executive addresses.
Adame and Peña will be the last executive team to serve a full year under the name UTPA. After mergin UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville and creating the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, the 2015-2016 elected officials will divide their terms between both entities.
Adame, a finance major, said he is thankful to the students for giving him and Peña this opportunity and would like them to be involved with upcoming UTPA events.
“I’m very excited, but there’s also a kind of melancholy because UTPA is going away, but still very exciting nonetheless,” said Adame, a Monterrey, Mexico native. “I’m also very grateful to the students because we couldn’t have done it without the support of the student body.”
The inauguration began with Elections Committee Chair Yadira Mejia introducing Vice President for Student Affairs Martha Cantu for opening remarks. Following Cantu was the oath of office for every college, including senators for the College of Business Administration, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and senators at large, which then led to the president and vice president’s oaths.
“I’m very excited and a little bit nervous,” Peña said. “We definitely want to make changes for the better of the University and we’re hoping to get this done, but also (we don’t want to) forget about UTPA because we’re still here so we want to keep our Bronc spirit and just transition to UT-RGV together.”
Adame and Peña replaced SGA incumbents President Aaron Barreiro and Vice President Erik Sanchez.
“More than anything, I want to thank every single person in the University for giving us this opportunity and just to stick with us. Also to come out to all the events we’ll have,” Adame said.
Their platform centered on healthier food options around the University, longer library hours and larger parking lots.
“Our door is always open for (the students),” Peña said. “If they ever need anything, we’re always here for them. We’re here for the students, not for us, so just stick with us. We want to make changes to the University and hopefully they’ll support us and if they need anything, they’ll come to us as well and we’ll help them together.”

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Chivalry isn’t dead

April 17th, 2014

UTPA alumnus Robert De Leon said his father used to abuse his mother. Once he grew up, De Leon found that he was becoming abusive himself, not physically, but mentally and emotionally.

According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, between 1994 and 2010, approximately four in five victims in violent relationships in the U.S. were female. In 2012, 114 women were killed and there were 188,992 family incidents that included physical beating and verbal abuse among other types of violence in Texas.

“I’m here to share my story as a domestic violence survivor because I witnessed and experienced domestic violence in my home from a very young age and through my adolescent years,” explained 33-year-old De Leon. “So I thought that was what men were supposed to do or how men were supposed to act.”

In October 2013, De Leon founded “Bromodels” at his home in San Juan. The Valley-wide organization’s team consists of three other men that visit schools and universities to raise awareness about male violence toward women.

Bromodels teaches men about gender equality and speaks about proper ways to treat women. This organization attempts to solve the problem at its root by reaching out to males of all ages. De Leon believes that boys are prone to being violent because manhood is defined as being tough. Crying is considered feminine, so young men try to hide their feelings.

“As (boys) grow and get older, they’re suppressing those emotions and they can’t be expressive…because the moment that they shed a tear, their father, their friends, peers, media, they’ll say ‘stop acting like a girl’ or ‘that’s so gay,’” De Leon said. “That’s where men will see women as inferior to them, because they’ve learned that only women are submissive and only women cry.”

The strong traditional influence of Mexican culture in the Rio Grande Valley often brings in “machismo,” meaning manhood or male pride. De Leon said people tend to associate machismo with the character of “el valiente” from Mexican bingo. El valiente is a card depicting a man in a fighting stance holding a bloody knife. In English, it translates to “the violent man.” That is what De Leon is trying to change, showing that there has been a basic misunderstanding about what the term means; often it is seen as derogatory.

“I found that machismo is defined as someone that is worthy of imitation, and so we want to make people aware that machismo is actually a good thing,” De Leon explained.

Many people have grown to see masculinity as a bad thing, he said, but nobody acquaints it with chivalry. To be chivalrous is to be courageous, to be courteous, loyal and considerate to women. That is the version of machismo De Leon subscribes to.

















Mujeres Unidas is a local organization that has provided shelter and programs for 32 years to women, men and children who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault. This organization has two branches that serve people in different ways.

The section of MU that most people are familiar with is for women and children who have been in an abusive setting. With two McAllen offices and one in Weslaco, MU helps individuals by offering shelter, counseling and legal services.

Yesenia Ibarra, the coordinator of MU’s other section, the Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), said abusers grow up with domestic violence around them and they inherit that behavior.

BIPP focuses more on the batterers rather than the victims themselves. The 24-week program is similar to anger management but targets family violence. Ibarra believes this program is more effective because in group sessions, participants are able to give each other feedback.

“Many (abusers) have seen violence in their home. They go on seeing that their father was violent towards their mother, so when they get older they think that that’s normal,” said Ibarra, who has been BIPP’s coordinator for eight years.

According to, 30 percent of children who were abused will later go on to abuse their own children.

“That’s one of the reasons I do these presentations. To get more men involved and (so they can learn) how we as men can prevent violence against women,” De Leon said.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recorded 1,907 answered domestic violence hotline calls in Texas the day they conducted their 2013 census Sept. 17, which means more than 79 calls were answered each minute.

UTPA engineering major Victor Diaz feels one reason men might feel the need to treat women violently is because do not respect females.

“These men will use violence against women if they are mad or upset and think it’s alright to abuse them whenever and however they want,” Diaz said. “I believe Bromodels is a good cause because the more males that are aware of this abuse, then statistically the percentage of women being abused will decrease.”

Ibarra believes Bromodels can have a positive impact on the community and that it is important to start talking to children as young as 11 years old about stopping or avoiding violent behavior.

“I think it’s a really good approach to try to catch them at a younger age and the people that (BIPP) deals with have already offended, so they’re already in the system,” she said.

According to the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys (DASFK), about 4,000 women die from domestic violence each year. Ibarra mentioned that children may also be indirectly affected, adding to the toll of the problem.

“Most people associate family violence with just the physical aspect. They don’t think about the verbal abuse or the emotional abuse and even a lot of the participants that we get don’t see that being violent towards their partner is affecting their children,” Ibarra explained.

DASFK’s website also lists different types of domestic abuse including intimidation and guilt or scare tactics. Because of his history with abuse, De Leon said drinking would only make things worse, so he began to search for a solution.

“(I began) to abuse alcohol to express myself when I was angry, confused or frustrated,” he explained. “That was when I started to make something of these feelings and finding a way to let them out, which was talking to other men about it and saying, ‘You know what? It’s OK that I’m hurting right now.’”



To spread awareness, Bromodels participates in the annual Walk-a-Mile In Her Shoes, hosted by Mujeres Unidas. The latest edition will take place April 26 at the Edinburg Municipal Park. The 5K marathon will be followed by a mile challenge, where men wear high heels and walk a mile to spread awareness of violence against women. The 5K is available to men and women but, the 1K challenge is a men-only event.

The public is able to register at MU’s main office for $25 at 511 N. Cynthia St. in McAllen or online at Registration is open until the day of the event.

While he appreciates the event, De Leon said it doesn’t compare to some of the struggles women face, but believes it is a great way to raise awareness of some issues. He said the ultimate Bromodel is supposed to “encourage and empower” all males to become the solution when it comes to ending violence against females.

“At the end of the day, I know that there is a lot of violence against women and girls, but at the same time we have to recognize that these behaviors attribute to violence against ourselves as men,” De Leon said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of ourselves, but at the same time with an understanding that we have to respect, and when I say women and girls, I’m talking about all women and girls.”

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Event Calendar for April 16-24

April 17th, 2014

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Preparing for catastrophe

April 17th, 2014

The destruction of the Gulf Coast left by Hurricane Ike six years ago played on a screen as community members and University staff looked on in disbelief. Finance Insurance Real Estate, also known as FIRE, held a natural disaster symposium April 10 in hopes of preventing destruction like the kind left by Ike in the Rio Grande Valley. The conference was held at the Community Engagement and Student Success building located on Freddy Gonzalez Drive and Highway 281.

Hurricane Ike came two months after the Valley had been struck by Hurricane Dolly July 2008. The cost in damages added up to more than $1 billion, according to The National Weather Service.

Experts from all over the country attended the symposium, including UTPA Provost Havidan Hernandez and U.N. Representative Elina Palm to speak on the importance of disaster resiliency in the Valley.

“At the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) our primary focus is to engage with different factors to mobilize them to act before disaster strikes,” Palm said. “It is all about building resilience and reducing risk.”

Palm discussed the different ways an area can prepare for a disaster and build up resiliency. Examples included building regulations and designing buildings and homes with Mother Nature in mind.

In turn, the Rio Grande Valley has begun working on resilience by having a mock tornado drill March 5 in Brownsville as part of Rio Grande Valley Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 2-8. The week was designated by Gov. Rick Perry in 2013.

Awareness Week comes after the Valley was hit with a severe hail storm March 2012 that resulted in $200 to $500 million in damages, according to The National Weather Service.

At the April 10 event, symposium organizer Kenneth Lovell discussed the importance of being prepared and stressed the population growth of the Rio Grande Valley. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012 the RGV has a total population of more than 1.3 million.

Furthermore, UTPA is also helping build resilience by developing a disaster studies master’s program that will teach researchers how an impending storm can affect the human population it strikes, according to a 2013 article in The Monitor.

“If you look at our economy you will see that a lot of (it) is dependent of Winter Texans. If a hurricane hits us and there is damage to their homes, they would not come back,” said Lovell, a UTPA lecturer in economics and finance.

In order to raise awareness in cities worldwide about the importance of disaster resilience, the UNISDR created the Making Cities Resilient campaign which launched in 2010. The campaign advocates for a commitment from local governments to build resilience to disasters by way of better city planning and.

“There were some cities in the Galveston area that survived Hurricane Ike because they took the advanced precautions,” Lovell said. “We need to recognize that this can happen here in the Valley and we need to think about how we can make this type of disaster less effective.”

At the symposium, UTPA President Robert Nelsen discussed the need for action in the community.

“The new university, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, will be an anchor institution. An anchor institution is an institution that is committed to solving problems in the community. UT-RGV needs to reach out,” Nelsen said. “We will graduate students who will be able to solve societal problems and more importantly we will volunteer and be engaged in that work as a University from here on out.”

According to Palm, there has been a decrease in mortality risks, destruction and death for weather related catastrophe due to less vulnerability. This decrease is because of early warning systems, improved weather forecasting and preparedness.

“There is nothing else I want to emphasize more than the importance in planning and trying to avoid building more risk,” the U.N. representative said. “Building resilience is not a cost, it is an investment.”

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Some assembly required

April 17th, 2014

Caleb Elizondo, a senior computer information systems major at UTPA and public relations director for the Association of Information Technology Professionals, has found a way to use his education to help the less fortunate. He has been refurbishing and donating computers to an orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico through a volunteer project that promotes technology education to young children.
The orphanage, Casa Hogar MAMI, is a shelter for girls where education, room and board and medical/psychological attention are offered 24 hours a day. MAMI is an acronym for Ministerio de Amor y Misericordia, or Ministry of Love and Mercy. The orphanage can care for up to 50 girls, according to its website.
Jerald Hughes, an associate professor in computer information systems and quantitative measurement, started the project in fall 2013.
“The City of San Juan…and also a local FBI office, donated some monitors, and individuals and faculty have donated parts and PCs to be given to (Casa Hogar),” Hughes said. “So my team’s job was to go through every single one of them, make sure they’re in good working order and remove the parts or replace the ones that weren’t.”
AITP is a national organization that provides a community network for those seeking to be IT business professionals. They provide education programs for advancing technology and business skills, networking and online resources, according the main AITP website.
“The students from the AITP chapter are the ones doing the work,” Hughes said. “There are probably around 10 of them all together that have done the majority of the work. And of course their benefit is a lot of hands-on experience in hardware and software (and) figuring out what the system’s needs are.”
The members of AITP provided “operating systems” for all of the computers in addition to a program, which they wrote the code for, that made Linux easier to install. An operating system is software that supports a computer’s basic functions, such as executing applications and scheduling tasks.
Elizondo explained that students in AITP who are knowledgeable in the IT field are often bilingual and have been beneficial the organization in Mexico.
“Since the orphanage is in Mexico, we decided to (install the software) entirely in Spanish, which was pretty interesting,” Elizondo said. “And to be honest, I think if another university or college tried to do this, they might have had some difficulty…luckily (we) have some bilingual students that were able to run the code, install the software and everything in Spanish. So (this) was a learning process for those of us that don’t speak Spanish.”
The computers that were donated to AITP go through the process of being wiped clean, followed by “troubleshooting” at no cost to the organization. Troubleshooting is the process of tracing and correcting faults in an electronic or mechanical system.
“We had to resort to open-based software or freeware, which is why we chose a Linux operating system,” Elizondo explained. “If we were to go with some sort of Windows system (like) XP, 7, Vista, Windows 8, all of those would either have to be obtained at a high price or would have to be obtained illegally (and) we’re not in the business of doing things illegally, so we resorted to a Linux-based operating system that the kids can use.”
As of February 2011, there are 76.5 million Linux users. Linux is a computer operating system that is similar to Windows and OS X, which is the operating system powered by Apple computers, and is entirely free.
According to Elizondo, the Linux operating system was originally difficult to operate, but they have since developed a new, user-friendly version that makes it easier for children to use.
“My favorite part was being able to help other kids in need,” Elizondo said. “You know, develop their future and work with peers and other students from the organization and not only learn, but teach some of the underclassmen who have never worked with Linux before and installing anti-virus software.”
Ascension Mares, AITP president, said the organization likes to search for community engagement opportunities as a group to help out where it can.
“It involves the community and without this, a lot of our organization and the work that we do wouldn’t have any benefit,” said Mares, a Los Angeles native. “So we benefit and the orphanage benefits, so we would like to continue doing this so that we can continue our training and we can continue helping the orphanage.”
The organization had done community service before they started with the Reynosa orphanage. The idea of donating computers began with members’ volunteer work in Peñitas.
“We donated some computers to the local community center (in Peñitas) and I knew it was something our students would be good at and enjoy, so as soon as we found out that San Juan had surplus computers to use, we got right on it and figured out how to transfer them (to Mexico),” Hughes said.
According to Hughes, this will be an ongoing project and he does not want to see it end.
“The purpose of this is community outreach and engagement with the people of Rio Grande Valley,” he said. “These will be the first computers these students have ever touched. These children have not had access to anything like this kind of technology.”

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Tuition on the rise

April 3rd, 2014

As UTPA approaches its final year before merging with the University of Texas at Brownsville, its students may see a possible increases in their fall 2014 tuition. Whether this increase is related to the creation of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley has been discussed by students.

Karina Saucedo, a junior English major, said that there may be a connection between the tuition increase and the upcoming university merger.

“I guess they are doing it to accommodate (the new university) or just to get certain grants that maybe they need, or more money from the government,” the 19-year-old said. “They are putting schools together so they think, ‘How are we going to afford this?’ Raise it. Raise the tuition.”

The proposed tuition for fall 2014 is $1,830.36, a $94.36 increase from fall 2013. This three percent increase would be a leap from the 0.14 percent increase seen between the 2012 and 2013 school years. Despite proposed increases, UTPA’s tuition will still sit more than $2,000 below that of the University of Texas at Dallas and nearly $1,800 below that of the University of Texas at Austin.

“I feel that (UTPA) shouldn’t do it,” Saucedo said. “I guess we just have to bear it and hope financial aid gives us enough to cover it.”

While the proposed tuition raise seems unnecessary to some students, the Cost of Education Committee released a Powerpoint explaining the processes of initiating a possible rise in cost for students and where the funds would be distributed.

The Powerpoint states that the possible increase in tuition would help fund two new buildings on campus that will cost approximately $900,000. Also the University must set aside funds for exempt students, such as veterans. These factors, among others, are responsible for the possible increase, according to the committee.

The Cost of Education Committee consists of two faculty members, seven staff members, one parent and 10 students, including current Student Government Association President Aaron Barreiro. The committee members meet to discuss increases before making suggestions to University President Robert Nelsen.

Barreiro said that the committee is responsible for looking at tuition costs and deciding whether to approve an increase. The committee then sends recommendations for an increase to the University President Robert Nelsen.

“There are number of different factors that play a role in whether or not tuition increases,” Barreiro said. “This past fiscal year, the tuition increase was focused on taking the money and giving it back to students through a number of different programs.”

After a possible increase in tuition, UTPA and UTB would remain the two most inexpensive schools within the UT system, just below the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and the University of Texas at Tyler, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

According to an article by The Monitor, UTB may see an increase of nearly 7 percent in their fall tuition rates.

While a previous article by The Monitor stated that the possible tuition increase at UTB is set to match that of UTPA, University of Texas System Spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said that this is not the case.

“There’s no connection between UTB tuition and UTPA tuition,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “That discussion about what tuition will be at UT-RGV has not begun.”

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Events calendar April 3-12

April 3rd, 2014

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Campus mixtape

April 3rd, 2014

Some students zip up their backpacks after a day of classes and head to work or their homes. But for UTPA students Matthew Castillo and Sarah Walker, who perform in local bands, the day doesn’t end until the crowd applauds.

Texas country band Matt & The Herdsmen and alternative punk group Pinky Swear bring their own rhythms to the local music scene while balancing classes at the University.



Matt & The Herdsmen is a four-piece Texas country band starring three UTPA students: Matthew Castillo, Beto Cavazos, Danny Salinas and Texas A&M Kingsville alumnus Ruben Cantu. Since November 2013, Matt & The Herdsmen have been a part of the local music scene, performing in events as far as Austin.

Austin native and group frontman Castillo said he had always wanted to start a band and finally did when introduced to the group’s current drummer, Cantu, in October 2013.

“I’m happy with the group that I have,” said Castillo, a kinesiology major at UTPA. “We’re all hard workers by heart, we love what we do and we’re always itching for a new gig, changing it up.”

Castillo explained that Texas Country is Western music with a modern twist. He believes his band is one of few such bands on campus, and notes that each member brings a different element into the creation of songs and can’t wait to earn more notice and credibility in the music scene.

The members have been inspired by Country Music Hall of Fame artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.

Despite the fact that Matt & The Herdsmen have been playing together for a short period of time, they’ve found themselves performing locally at Monster Car Wash Bar & Grill and Austin’s Nutty Brown Café.

The band finds themselves pleasing crowds with top original songs such as “Too Drunk Anyway”, “Come Back Home” and “Dance All Night.”

As Matt & The Herdsmen prepared for a performance at The Flying Walrus March 27, the guys hoped the audience members would feel as if they were part of the music themselves.

“That’s the biggest reward, when nobody knows who you are, they go check you out and they end up staying the whole night,” Castillo said. “There’s people that have never heard us play or they don’t even like country, but they just like the style and how we push it and I think that’s what gets them.”

As Castillo described the process of adding the finishing touches on a song, Cantu explained that his favortie part of the music making process is nearly completing songs. He shares his passion for music with his bandmates and looks forward to what the future has to offer.

“When we finish a song and when we listen to it I’m like, ‘Wow, did we really just come up with that?’” said Cantu, an Edinburg native. “I really think they’re something you could hear on the radio one day.”

The Herdsmen all share a sense of accomplishment when it comes to creating original music, however Cavazos, who has been playing guitar for almost nine years, admits that with music comes hard work.

“I don’t know what else I would want to do sometimes,” the Edinburg native said. “I just want to play guitar and whatever I feel needs to come out, comes out.”



The night following Matt & the Herdsmen’s gig, McAllen’s Simon Sez was over capacity during a concert featuring San Antonio-based punk band FEA. The first performance of the night was by local band Pinky Swear, an alternative punk rock band whose members include: Sarah Walker, Christian Hanks, John Morales and Max Perkins.

Pinky Swear, whose four members are all UTPA undergraduate students, have been on the music scene since October 2013. The alternative punk rock crew formed when lead singer Walker met bass player Morales through mutual friends and discussed forming a band as a “side project.” They then met current drummer Perkins, who introduced them to existing guitarist Hanks.

After their recent McAllen gig, the band discussed onstage experiences.

“It’s always intimidating to perform, especially with other bands,” said Morales, a 21-year-old anthropology major. “But after the show, especially tonight, when members of the other bands congratulate us and remarked that they enjoyed our music, it’s always really cool.”

Since its creation, the band has mainly played in do-it-yourself, or self-funded shows, in venues such as local bars, like The Flying Walrus and the latest McAllen’s Galax Z Fair. The group’s members briefly argued about which type of venue was the best kind to perform in.

Morales, a Philippines native, vouched for smaller shows due to the “intimacy” that is provided between the audience and performers. But guitarist Hanks defended big stages.

“The bigger the crowd, the more exposure you’ll get,” said Hanks, a geology major from McAllen. “It’s also great to use it as a test to see what kind of reactions a big crowd will get.”

Pinky Swear practices at least twice a week in their drummer’s garage before the night of a performance, but meet up as often as possible to write music together. Walker remarked on the sense of camaraderie being in a band provides.

“It’s great just to hang out with each other and perform music that we’ve worked on to present to the public,” said Walker, a film and TV major from McAllen.

While most of the members of Pinky Swear admitted that they weren’t sure whether or not they’d want to continue performing in the future, Perkins expressed an interest in it.

“When I’m in a band, it’s a commitment,” said the 20-year-old biology major from McAllen. “I put my time, sweat and effort into it. I wouldn’t say that maybe I won’t make a career out of it, but if it happens, I wouldn’t mind.”



With upcoming gigs around the corner, Matt & The Herdsmen have been busy practicing, as well as writing original songs. The group hopes to start recording an album later this year and celebrate with a release party.

“I don’t mind performing for a long time. You get to write music, put your life on a piece of paper, make a rhythm out of it and have people relate to it,” Castillo said. “We would all give up everything if we could just make it, but we’re five months in and we have a long way ahead of us.”

Pinky Swear plans to release a cassette tape filled with their original songs later this year and has an upcoming performance at Simon Sez April 12.

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The Science Guy

April 3rd, 2014

Clad in his signature multicolored bowtie, Bill Nye kicked off his visit to UTPA Tuesday, April 1 with a blend of comedy and science aptitude. As the second speaker for the 2013-14 Distinguished Speaker Series, the first being columnist Ruben Navarrette, Nye spoke to a packed Field House about the necessity of science.

One of Nye’s main talking points concerned the changing climate of Earth. According to the 58-year-old Cornell alumnus, Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly since 1997.

“Everybody in this room, or almost everybody, was alive, when that number changed from .03 to .04 (percent),” said the former star of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired from 1993-2011. “In your lifetime, the Earth’s atmosphere has gone up a third.”

To better illustrate the significance of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Nye explained it in terms of the atmospheres on Venus and Mars. Both planets possess atmospheres that are made up of more than 95 percent carbon dioxide. As a result, both celestial objects have climates much different from Earth, and much deadlier.

“The clouds are made of sulfuric acid,” Nye said of Venus’ environment. “The reason Mars is the way that it is and the reason Venus is the way it is, is largely because of carbon dioxide.”

What is worrisome, according to Nye, is that increased levels of the gas result in the thinning of the atmosphere and this can lead to problems for humanity. The population increased to 3 billion when the scientist was in third grade. Now, it stands at more than 7 billion.

“The world’s population has more than doubled in my lifetime,” said the author of numerous children’s books, including Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Big Blast Of Science. “So the atmosphere of the Earth is thin, it’s got enough carbon dioxide to keep us warm. But now we have 7 billion people using it. Every single thing you ever do affects everybody in the whole world. We all share the air. There is nobody who doesn’t breathe the air.”

Nye has contributed to climate change discussions in the past. In January 2012 the scientist wrote the foreword for Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. Based on the findings of a 2001 report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, the book uses the “hockey stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years, as the crux of its argument. The graph illustrates the rising temperature and the increased rate at which it is occurring due to carbon dioxide levels.

The theory has faced scrutiny as recent as May 2013, with doubters arguing that it was too simple and that uncertainties in historical climate readings were disregarded to make the chart more dramatic. But opposition aside, Nye still supports the theory.

“It’s not the temperature of the world as such, it’s the rate, the speed at which is changing,” Nye said at the presentation. “That is our problem. And by our problem, I mean your problem.”

In addition to climate change, Nye also spoke about his continuing debate concerning creationism being taught as science. In February, Nye debated Kevin Ham, founder of the Kentucky-based Creation Museum, about the origins of life. Ham argued that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells factual information about the origins of Earth and life.

“They want to teach creationism in schools,” Nye said during the question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation. “That’s fine, if they want to teach it as philosophy or history of myths. If you want to teach creationism as part of that, that’s fine, but it’s not science.”

Isela Lopez was one of the more than 3 million people  who tuned in to the debate earlier this year. The business management major, and fan of Nye, entered an essay contest to have dinner with the celebrity prior to the presentation.

“I’ve loved Bill Nye since I was young,” the sophomore said. “Every Friday I would watch him in elementary. I have Bill Nye to thank for most of my science knowledge.”

While Lopez is not pursuing a science degree, she believes the presentation for the Speakers Series was relevant and important to everyone.

“I know I’m not a scientist, I don’t understand as much as I wish, but I know science is everywhere,” Lopez said. “Even though science isn’t my calling, people who have that power to study that, should be able to pursue it, and someone like him coming here to talk to us…it must mean a lot to them. It even means a lot to me and I’m not a science major.”

This idea was reinforced by Nye’s closing statements.

“That is the essence of science. It is inherently optimistic,” he said. “To celebrate the joy of knowing, that joy of discovery that is deep within us. It’s what drives us. You can, dare I say, change the world.”


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Lending a healthy hand

April 3rd, 2014

With student research posters lining the walls of the UTPA ballroom, demonstrations and games awaited the community in the quad the morning of March 29.
Maximizing Opportunities in Research and Education (MORE) took place on campus March 26-29. The four-day event included presentations and panel discussions by doctors and professors. Topics ranged from health care policies, such as the impact of the Affordable Care Act, to new research related to diabetes, obesity and other life-threatening diseases in the Rio Grande Valley.
The event culminated to the final day with a community health fair open to the UTPA community. Here, more than 50 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students presented their research projects the first day of the conference in a competition to find who was the best in each academic level. Research from students ranged from drug interactions to hearing awareness. Results were announced on the third day, with winners receiving a Kindle Fire as their prize.
The event was an initiative by the College of Health Sciences and Human Services with assistance from the Pan American Collaboration of Ethics in Professions (PACE), Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and many other community partners from the Valley. The conference brought awareness to important health issues, such as diabetes and obesity.
“It’s a chance for us to be engaged in the community, provide a service to the community, and give a reason for the community to come on campus and benefit from what the faculty and the students have to offer,” said Jon Ronnau, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. “There’s all kinds of topics and activities that will get the people to think about health, being healthy and provide information to the community to get healthier and particularly how to combat and reduce the amount of diabetes and obesity.”
This was the second year of the conference, and more than 100 students, faculty and members of the medical community were in attendance. Associate Professor of Nursing Beatriz Bautista commented on the benefits of the conference.
“It helps us grow future health care professionals in different areas and research is part of what we do since it helps us take better care of patients,” said Bautista, who has been at the University since 1991 and is the director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at UTPA. “We have a lot of talent in the Valley, so this helps us bring out that talent and push them in that way.”
Ana Quintero, a graduate nursing student, agreed with Bautista and compared the event to last year’s inaugural conference.
“This is the second year it’s happened, and it seems to have improved from last year, so I really hope it continues on,”  Quintero said. “As future health care providers in our college, I think it’s really important as we’re getting pushed out to start working, events like this bring up important topics for us to be aware of.”
Denise Alaniz, a senior student participant, shared her hopes of the conference receiving more attention in upcoming years.
“I believe the effort that students put into studies, whether it’s something that they wanted to expand their knowledge about and present it to the community, that it’s great,” the communication sciences and disorders major said. “I just wish it was more known to the community, and that they knew the amount of work that the students put into this, because it took a lot out of us.”
One of the main objectives of the event was to make a progressive impact on the UTPA community and the RGV. In 2012, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest rate of obesity and households below the poverty line in the nation, with percentages of 38.8 and 37.7, respectively. Currently, the rate of diabetes is 26 percent in the RGV, while Hidalgo County’s rates for hospital admissions for long-term diabetes are twice the statewide average, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
With these statistics in mind, Dean Ronnau hopes this conference and the years ahead will make a profound change in the RGV.
“I think any time that the University reaches out to the community, and the community can see the value added to the University by what the faculty does and students do and the great work that our students are doing, I think that’s a huge win,” Ronnau said. “We had a real good participation, a nice good variety of topics, and I’m very pleased with the turnout and the level of involvement.”

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