March 6th, 2014
For 16 years, Rosalinda Montero called Venezuela home. So when the junior dietetics major spoke to a college friend still living there, she was distraught to hear what her friend had to say- “this is hell.” This prompted her to raise awareness of the protests occurring in the country with the help of the Latino Theatre Initiative (LTI).
“She told me ‘you know what…everything is sad. This is hell,’” said Montero, who is currently a McAllen resident. “‘Everything is wrong. We cannot handle this. The house in front of my house is ashes.’”
According to a presentation given by the UTPA Political Science Association (PSA) Feb. 28 in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, Venezuela is no stranger to conflict. The country has had an increased amount of protests occurring throughout 2014, but this is not the first time its has happened.
After the election of Hugo Chavez to the presidency in 1998, clashes between Chavez supporters, or “Chavistas,” and those who opposed his rule would persist beyond his death.
Supporters of Chavez, who served as president for 14 years before his death in March 2013, cite the significant reduction in inequality, poverty and malnutrition that occurred during and after his term, according to a recent article by BBC News.
Critics accused him of running a dictatorship while in office, due to an extremely centralized government. In addition, the economy of the country suffered after his death. The country has one of the world’s largest fiscal deficits, highest inflation rates and fastest-growing debt, according to a March 2013 article by Bloomberg Businessweek.
“It’s complicated. This thing has been going on for a while,” Montero said of the increasing conflicts in the country. “At the beginning, they just had the normal problems that any country has, so not a lot of people were concerned about it.”
These economic concerns have contributed to the recent protests. In addition, current president, Nicolas Maduro, has struggled to fix the country’s economy. Montero, who has about 90 percent of her family still living in the Latin American country, has been hearing about their living conditions.
“They’re not letting food come into the country,” Montero said. “They also aren’t distributing (products) to the supermarkets. They don’t have the simple goods that people need- toilet paper, toothpaste, rice, chicken, something that is simple. People started getting tired, which contributed to the protests.”
Montero said the lack of safety has also prompted protests. According to an article published this year by The Guardian, 24,000 murders occurred last year, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Only 19 percent of people in Venezuela said they felt safe walking alone at night, as stated in a Gallup poll.
“Students are suffering because of this,” Montero said. “Insecurity, violence, you can’t go to school after 6 or 7 p.m. It’s not safe. People who go to school at night are afraid.”
Perhaps nothing brought more attention to the increased violence than the death of former Venezuelan beauty queen Monica Spear, according to the PSA presentation. The nation highly values beauty queens, as Americans idolize movie stars or athletes, according to NPR, making the death of Spear significant and shocking to its citizens. Spear and her ex-husband, Thomas Henry Berry, were driving in Venezuela in January of this year when their car broke down and the pair was targeted by armed robbers. The 29-year-old soap opera star and Berry were killed and their 5-year-old daughter was wounded in the process.
According to Montero, the government isn’t helping, but only perpetuating the violence that already exists. At student protests, the government has used force when it wasn’t essential, she said. Students attempted a peaceful protest in Caracas, Venezuela less than two weeks ago, only to have tear gas and force used against them by police and the National Guard, according to BBC News. Venezuela’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, placed the initial number of deaths as a result of this clash at 13, but that number has increased to more than 50 since then.
“(The students) aren’t even armed,” she said. “They just have notebooks, or papers, saying they just want to go to school. And the government responded (violently). It’s really hard. The government is trying to pretend nothing is going on. They don’t want the world to know.”
Montero may be one person, but she hopes to raise awareness of what is going on through the help of the LTI, which promotes the arts and Spanish-language productions. She said the club is planning on having a production about the Venezuelan conflict during this year’s Festival of International Books and Arts, being held March 20-23. No location or date for the production has been set as of yet, but Montero wants to make sure student voices are heard.
“People think that because something is far away from you, it can never happen to you. But the sad thing is, that’s the worse thing to think,” the LTI treasurer said. “A country that has been known for a really good democracy…suddenly doesn’t have one. To have this situation in Venezuela is really unbelievable. My parents remember that free country, they never thought something like that could happen.”
As of now, there has been no U.S. intervention in the conflicts occurring in Venezuela, but Montero isn’t discouraged.
“Use your voice if you think something is wrong,” she said. “You don’t think it can happen here…but you never know. People used to think that about Venezuela. One day it can happen.”
March 6th, 2014
Canon’s “Wedding March” plays throughout the church and UTPA students watch from a distance as the crowd stands to welcome the bride.
Fifteen students helped plan a dream wedding last fall for Cassandra and Nick Reyes. They got experience on the job and completed UTPA’s Certificate in Wedding and Event Planning Course offered by the Office of Continuing Education. The class is instructed by Leticia Guerra-Cantu, an event planner of 20 years.
The course is scheduled to have its second incoming class every Saturday from March 22 to May 31 at UTPA’s McAllen Teaching Site, with a registration fee of $1,300 per student. The program is taught through readings, online studies and hands-on activities provided by Guerra-Cantu.
The curriculum for the class is offered by Preston Bailey’s Signature Wedding and Event Design Course, which is supported by the Lovegevity Wedding Planning Institute in Roseville, Calif.
The class allows students to practice actual business objectives in seeing the average workday of an event planner, and students learn such things as how to interview clients, according to the UTPA Continuing Education website. The certificate not only allows students to plan weddings, but also other types of events such as private parties.
Bailey’s design curriculum is currently available in similar classes at 2,000 colleges across the country including UTPA, according to The Wedding Planning Institute website. Others include the University of Texas at Arlington, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the City College of San Francisco.
Despite the fact that Bailey owns the curriculum, each university that offers the program is responsible for providing its own title for the class, hence UTPA’s Certificate in Wedding and Event Planning Course.
Guerra-Cantu believes the course is a great way to professionalize the industry in the local area.
“The event planning business is big in the Valley. (The Valley) does things big and does beautiful weddings,” Guerra-Cantu said. “With this course, I have students out there excited to know that they can do this and have the possibility of doing this because they love it.”
Guerra-Cantu, 54, has been around fashion her whole life, starting in the early ‘60s when she, her sisters and cousins would sit around her dining room table late into the night watching her mother and aunt sew everything from dresses to swimsuits. Guerra-Cantu picked up the needle at the age of 10 and started designing in high school.
“I took home economics every year in high school and perfected my sewing skills,” the California native said. “I just didn’t know any other field to get into but (fashion). I love it.”
She is also the owner and director of The Valley Wedding Pages, a McAllen company that does an annual planning guide, a social event quarterly magazine and an online website. She also owns Poise-N-Ivy Designs and her newest boutique, Vintage On Main, both located in McAllen.
Guerra-Cantu’s passion for the industry is shared by the first class of graduates as well.
UTPA alumna Mariella Gorena grew up watching her mother volunteer through community service and fundraising. As Gorena reached adulthood, she found herself involved with organizations such as McAllen’s International Museum of Art in Science and the Museum of South Texas History.
As a volunteer for McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan, the 64-year-old discovered the planning class as she helped organize The Valley Wedding Pages’ 10-year anniversary Birds of Paradise gala.
Gorena explained that the course offered her a way to polish her skills and enhance her work as a volunteer. She said that the class finished in December, and she was certified as an event planner Feb. 17, 2014.
“Right now, I’d like to do an internship to learn more,” the McAllen native said. “But one of these days, I would like to drive into a little (event planning) business…I just love the people and believe that life is a party.”
Gorena’s classmate, Debbie Jimenez, explained that she was no stranger to event planning prior to taking the class. As a pastor’s wife, she has done weddings, quinceañeras and even planned her own wedding.
“It was always a dream of mine to go to school and get certified as an event planner,” the Mission native said. “When I heard about UTPA offering the course, I knew it was going to be my opportunity to have one of my dreams come true.”
The 46-year-old was first inspired to become an event planner at the age of 14 after staying up until 2 a.m. to watch Princess Diana’s wedding July 29, 1981.
“Since then, the desire for wedding planning began to be my heart’s desire,” she said. “By watching (Princess Diana’s) wedding, it made me realize that I could help many young girls make their wedding (day) one of a kind.”
According to Sound Vision, a non-profit organization, 2.3 million couples wed every year in the U.S., which breaks down to about 6,200 weddings a day. Their research suggests that nearly $72 billion is spent on weddings annually.
Now that the first class of 15 event planners have graduated from the course, they continue to do what they love and will help Guerra-Cantu organize their first event as certified event planners, to be held March 6.
Guerra-Cantu explained that The Valley Wedding Pages will host the Diamonds in the Sky wedding showcase in McAllen, with many first-year graduates to help her organize. She hopes the course will continue to grow and one day become a replacement for jobs for future students.
Guerra-Cantu believes that by teaching students the ropes of event planning, she has allowed them to gain confidence when it comes to organizing events.
“From starting my design business to (teaching), it’s because…I know that there’s a lot of young students out there who are truly interested,” she said. “I tell my children ‘Do what you love, because you have to. Love what you do and make it happen.’”
Categories: Arts & Life
March 6th, 2014
As more than 1,000 community members from Peñitas filled the hallways of Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School Saturday morning, UTPA nursing students provided flu shots and health screenings, among other services, to this community located nearly 20 miles west of UTPA.
Participation in the 12th annual health fair accounted for 20 percent of the students’ grades for the course, Community Health Nursing 4504, which is a five-week process that includes the students choosing a community and assessing its health care needs. According to Health Fair Coordinator and UTPA lecturer Nancy Nadeau, a lack of access to services and little knowledge of health risks such as heart disease and diabetes, have made Peñitas, just east of La Joya, an underserved community in need of aid.
“When I drive on (Highway) 107, I said, ‘You know what? It’s time that we are here,’” said Nadeau, who is one of the instructors for the course. “I read the newspaper and there are (always) needs here. We have so much social health problems here that I decided this is what we are going to do.”
Spread throughout the middle school campus were specific areas of aid for community members; the school’s cafeteria was home to flu shots, glucose screenings, pharmaceutical aid and height and weight checks, all at no cost to the people who attended the fair.
The gymnasium was host to more than half of the 113 Bachelor of Science in Nursing students who fashioned tri-fold poster boards and a booth with helpful information, hoping to educate community members on healthy lifestyles.
Miguel Buhat, a native of the Philippines, was one of the UTPA students present in the gymnasium. He and his booth partner gave community members information on the importance of hand-washing. Buhat spoke about the importance of knowing proper hand-washing techniques, but also on the need to hold fairs like this in communities such as Peñitas.
“This health fair is for the underdeveloped community,” the senior BSN major said. “This is for them to come over here…so they can get educated about all the little things that they might not be aware of.”
Nadeau said the BSN program has served small communities in the Edinburg and Mission areas in the past and will continue to search for underserved local places to bring the services to.
According to Nadeau, no health fair is the same. She said the students’ involvement within the community in the subsequent weeks allows them to develop a health fair that is unique to the area it is serving. Each student goes to a home to collect data that helps establish the specific attributes and needs of this particular community, and the fair then meets those needs.
Some topical questions asked of the Peñitas community pertained to diet inquiries, household count and general knowledge of health risks.
“We have stats that we collect, so that’s how we build the community health fair, based on their needs, not based on what I think,” Nadeau said. “We observe, they tell us, we combine and we build this.”
According to health fair president and BSN student Araceli Aguayo, the students of the BSN program do not just get a class credit for putting the fair together. The experience of giving back to communities in need and learning about community engagement, she said, is more important than a letter grade.
“Community health is our goal as a class,” she said. “(Also) to find an underserved community and help them the best way we can.”
March 5th, 2014
The results of the 2014 Student Government Association elections were released to the student population Monday morning through Bronc Notes. Winning the election for President and Vice President were Alberto Adame and Carla Fernanda Peña, respectively.
A debate was held Feb. 18 in the Student Union Theater between Adame and Peña and the opposing executive ticket, Bianca Blanco and Johnathan Weisfeld-Hinojosa. Both tickets stated their platforms and answered questions about what they hope to accomplish during their year as president and vice president.
Some of the key points of Adame and Peña’s platform were longer library hours and healthier food options in the Student Union. They also said they are willing to adopt the platform of Blanco and Weisfeld-Hinojosa, which included moving toward a “green campus”, stating that their ideas were noteworthy.
While students learned of the election results Monday, Adame and Peña were notified of the news Saturday afternoon. Both expressed how they felt when they found out the news.
“It feels very humbling, honestly, that so many people voted for you and that they trust you in being their representative to the administration and basically representing the whole student body,” Adame, a finance major said. “It’s also very exciting.”
Peña expressed her feelings toward her and Adame being the last president and vice president under the University’s current name. UTPA will become University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in fall 2015.
“It is the last year as UTPA and we do want to leave our mark here. We don’t want people to forget about UTPA,” Peña, a junior rehabilitative services major said. “We want to lay the foundations for (students)…in the new university.”
Adame and Peña will be inaugurated into their positions April 14 in the Student Union at 1 p.m. They will be replacing incumbent SGA President Aaron Barreiro and Vice President Erik Sanchez. Their duties as president and vice president will officially begin April 15.
Results for SGA Senator positions by college
College of Arts & Humanities
- Andrea Perez
- Kathryn Brough
College of Business Administration
- Kassandra Alemán
- Marlene Sofia Ayala
- Christopher Villarreal
College of Health Sciences & Human Services
- Elizabeth Diaz
- April Martinez
- Joanna Alvarez
- Hilario Gonzalez
- Heather Nicole Gonzalez
College of Science & Mathematics
- Samantha Limón
- Rodolfo Singleterry
- Evan Schauer
College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
- Edna Pulido
- Ernest Baca
- Christina Cantu
- Yesenia Velis
- Lucero Ramirez
- Nicolas Haro
- Mauricio Lomelí- Martínez
- Everardo Ibarra
- Jonathan Salinas
- Albert Limón
The College of Education and The College of Engineering and Computer Science have no senators.
February 27th, 2014
As students and faculty took their seats in the dimming UTPA Student Union auditorium, facts on income equality in the U.S. began to unravel on the screen.
A film screening of the documentary Inequality for All took place in the auditorium Feb. 20 and nearly 100 guests attended. The film was made by University of California-Berkeley professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich who examined the reasons behind income inequality in the country and the disappearing middle class.
The documentary raised questions about the uneven distribution of income in the economy and revealed many statistics on the matter. One was that the U.S. has the fourth-highest degree of wealth-inequality in the world, with the 400 richest Americans having more money than the bottom 150 million combined.
Following the film was a panel discussion consisting of UTPA President Robert Nelsen, CEO of Knapp Community Care Foundation (KCCF) Bonnie Gonzalez, Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network Weaver Michael Seifert, UTPA assistant professor of sociology Stephen Merino and McAllen Independent School District board member Erica de la Garza-Lopez. The panel members commented on the film’s subject and answered audience questions. The moderator for the panel was Lisa Cardoza, UTPA chief of staff and governmental relations officer.
The event was open to the UTPA community and was sponsored by the Office of the President, the UTPA Department of Sociology and UTPA’s Outreach and Community Partnerships. The film was screened at 150 college and university campuses throughout the country, such as Ohio State and Boston College, all on the same day.
Reactions to the film ranged from shock after seeing statistics in the film to hopefulness from the movie’s closing message of potential change. Nelsen explained his hope for change after seeing the film.
“The first time I saw this movie, the phrase that stuck with me is that ‘this is not a zero-sum game, we can all live in it,’ because I think often we think it is a zero-sum game, like it’s the rich versus the poor and we look at it simply that way,” Nelsen said. “Just taxing the rich isn’t going to do it. It’s going to take a lot more than that, and we’ve got to do it together.”
Possible solutions brought up in the film were discussed by panel members. These ranged from changing tax policies to investing more in education.Gonzalez, one of Reich’s former students at Berkeley, elaborated on her belief that education is the key.
“What resonated with me about this film, and has resonated with me for the last ten years, being a workforce developer and involved in a community that has had phenomenal growth opportunities, is the fact that inequality, economic inequality and daily inequality, is linked to education,” Gonzalez said. “How do we help people understand that if you are not prepared, you will not be able to take advantage of the economic opportunities in a community like the Rio Grande Valley?”
Garza-Lopez agreed with Gonzalez that the answer to solving income inequality is education reform.
“I know that it’s not a war on the classes, it’s a war on education and a war on the states and federal government funding on education,” Garza-Lopez said. “In that brief period where we have students from K-12, we have to make them ready for when they’re going to college or to the career workforce.”
While education was discussed as a solution, Nelsen voiced his belief that voting is also the answer.
“We call (education) the great equalizer and it is, but if there aren’t any jobs, then it’s not,” the president said. “I hope every one of you out here is going to go vote at that voting booth out there, because that is one of the most important things you’re going to do and if we don’t change the laws and change them radically, we won’t succeed.”
One of the students who saw the film, senior Jessica Estrada, expressed her dissatisfaction with the state of the country’s wealth inequality.
“I thought it was very interesting and I was very disappointed in America for being so horrible to its middle class,” the biology major said. “I really like what Erica (de la Garza-Lopez) had to say, I thought she was dead-on with education and getting our little ones better prepared for the workforce.”
The RGV has a poverty rate of 34.5 percent. The median income for the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area in 2012 was $33,761 while the percentage of residents with an income of more than $200,000 was 1.8 percent. The Gini Index, which measures inequality of wealth from zero to one – zero being perfect equality and one being maximum inequality – gave the Valley a score of 0.4977 compared to the country’s 0.42 rate.
Despite mixed reactions to the film and this issue, individuals such as Merino expressed a positive outlook on addressing the situation.
“The good news is that we can change the rules, whether it’s the minimum wage, fairer tax policies that will keep a virtuous cycle going, expanding education or to invest in the middle class,” Merino said. “That’s the key, emphasizing this core value that we (Americans) have of equal opportunity.“
February 27th, 2014
The newly appointed dean of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley medical school greeted attendees of his first meeting at UTPA Wednesday. He opened by saying when he met with the medical school‘s Dean Search Committee, he’d felt like one of the Pointer Sisters, a mainstream musical group in the 1970s and 1980s.
As the crowd in the University Ballroom waited for an explanation, Dr. Francisco Fernandez said, “I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it”— lyrics to the Pointer Sisters’ 1982 hit song “I’m so excited,” expressing his excitement about being considered for the role as founding dean of the new school of medicine.
Fernandez is currently a professor and chairman of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa and was announced as the founding dean Feb. 14. He made his first visit to UTPA Wednesday and was joined by University President Robert Nelsen and University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.
In a packed room of more than 200 people, Fernandez addressed faculty, staff, students and community members. He expressed his gratitude to the Board of Regents for selecting him and spoke about future plans to work with the community to make the UT-RGV medical school a success.
“I’m going to need you to partner with me,” Fernandez said. “I’m going to need your wisdom and your good counsel and I really, truly will appreciate it.”
The Tufts Medical School graduate has been in his position as chairman in Tampa since September 2002, but is no stranger to Texas. He served as a faculty member for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from 1984 to 1997. While he said the move is bittersweet for him, he feels his new role as medical school dean will benefit the University of South Florida College of Medicine as well.
“It’s not easy (to leave), especially when you were there for 12 years and helped build the research infrastructure and the training programs, and so it’s difficult,” Fernandez told The Pan American. “But what we do here (at UT-RGV) will be used in Tampa, so a little piece will go back.”
The creators of the new UT-RGV School of Medicine have hopes of it being an emerging research institute. While this status will take time to attain, other medical schools around the country, such as the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, will be able to reap the benefits of such research.
Also present at the meeting were more than 30 physician assistant graduate students. Donned in white lab coats, the students stood out among the crowd and were recognized by Fernandez. He thanked them for being present and noted that students are the reason behind the creation of the UT-RGV medical school.
Javier Suarez, a graduate student in the physician assistant program, said the medical school is the kind of progression the Valley needed. He also noted that the appointing of the founding dean is the first step toward a better economy and quality of life for Valley residents.
“I think it would be a great opportunity now that UT-RGV will be able to provide its own medical school so we can have a lot of students stay home and stay in the forefront of healthcare,” Suarez said. “Overall in the state, we (the RGV) have the lowest quality of healthcare, so it would be a big improvement.”
At the end of the event, Fernandez opened up for questions from the audience. While most people made comments on their appreciation of his acceptance of the position, one audience member asked if a question in Spanish would be appropriate. Fernandez responded, “Sí.”
Born in Cuba and raised in New York State as a naturalized U.S. citizen, Fernandez is fluent in both English and Spanish. His wife of 36 years, Susan, is an educational consultant and expert on dyslexia. She will be joining him in the Valley as he embarks on his new role as the UT-RGV School of Medicine founding dean.
The new medical school will not enroll its first class until fall 2016, but Fernandez said his job as dean will begin as early as this April, as he searches for key members that will help facilitate the opening of the medical school.
“I promise you one thing: I will not let you down,” Fernandez said. “So thank you for this opportunity.”
February 27th, 2014
The Battle at Palmito Hill, fought just outside of Brownsville May 12-13, 1865, is known as the last land battle of the Civil War. However, citizens in the Rio Grande Valley may be surprised to find that several other Civil War skirmishes and battles took place across the area.
In order to enlighten the public on the historically-significant role the Valley played in the Civil War, the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools program (CHAPS) at UTPA is paving the way for the development of a virtual RGV Civil War Trail consisting of a trail map, podcasts and a website.
For example, in November 1863, 7,000 soldiers, commanded by Union Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, landed at the mouth of the Rio Grande and captured Brownsville, according to the Texas State Historical Association. In retaliation, Gen. John B. Magruder called upon state and Confederate authorities to halt the advances of Banks, who had captured another column along the coast of Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass and the Matagorda peninsula. In the confrontation that transpired between Union and Confederate forces, an estimated 15 battles and skirmishes occurred on RGV soil.
The proposed trail is set to launch in May 2015 and although states such as West Virginia and Tennessee have Civil War trails, the RGV version will be the first of its kind in Texas. According to CHAPS project coordinators Christopher Miller and Russell Skowronek, the goal is to present the trail during the re-enactment of the Battle of Palmito Ranch at Palmito Hill. The re-enactment is to be held on its 150th anniversary and should attract visitors from across the nation to the Valley.
The process to make the RGV Civil War Trail has been underway since summer 2012, but due to monetary reasons the project has had several delays. While the Summerlee Foundation – an organization that provides grants for the protection of animals and the study and preservation of Texas history – is helping CHAPS develop the trail, funds from local residents, visitors, businesses and civic organizations are needed for the completion and debut of the trail at the Battle of Palmito Ranch re-enactment.
Skowronek, a professor of history and philosophy at UTPA, said the idea of creating a RGV Civil War Trail started when his out-of-state friend visited the Valley and was introduced to Brownsville and the rest of the RGV.
“My friend comes down from Kentucky and he looks at these forts from the Civil War and says, ‘Oh my god, these forts were built from people who came from Camp Nelson in Kentucky,’” Skowronek said. “‘This is really great, you’ve got some really great stuff down here,’ and I look at him and think ‘Really?’ I had never thought about that.”
Having experienced a newfound appreciation for the Valley’s connection with the Civil War, Skowronek sat down with his colleague Miller and began to brainstorm on how they could inform the community about this historical gem.
Miller, a professor of history and philosophy at UTPA, and Skowronek started discussing how they could feature the Valley’s link to the Civil War long after the re-enactment of the Battle of Palmito Ranch commences. They realized the best method was to create a virtual trail to not only engage, but also inform.
“As two broken-down historians, we think, ‘what do we leave behind after all of this?’” Skowronek said. “Once the re-enactment is done and they fold up their tents, what’s left behind? And we thought this is the ideal moment to try to put something together that will be permanent.”
The initiative for the RGV Civil War Trail was established by focusing on a 40-year period of the Civil War and a 200-mile radius from Laredo to Brownsville, where a number of battles occurred. However, compiling the information is different from creating the media for dispersing the content said Miller, who noted that the project requires a team of web designers and graphic artists to create a mockup of a webpage and brochures.
“Our position is that we are historians, we can help you interpret, but we aren’t going to tell you what’s important,” Miller said. “We are facilitators, not developers and the main point that we are trying to get across to people is that we aren’t the referees of your heritage, we’re just here to help structure (it).”
Miller said the plan is to utilize multiple media platforms that people can enjoy from different technological devices, such as cellphones. One tool is technology that the National Park Service implemented for their Mexican-American War Trail and introduced to both Miller, and Skowronek.
“(The National Park Service) set this thing up and it’s a cellphone-driven tour to mark the trail that led to the first battle of the Mexican-American War,” Miller said. “And what they did was essentially identify key places and set up podcasts so that you could dial the number from your cellphone that’s on the company brochure and listen to the podcast. The goal is to use this same technology for the Civil War Trail.”
Skowronek said providing the experience of interacting with local history through technology enables the RGV Civil War Trail to have a positive economic impact on the region. This is done by educating tourists about the economic value of sustaining historical sites and the legacy embeded within them.
For example, Texas hosts more than 75 percent of the bird species in the country, according to the Parks and Wildlife Department. In addition, 70 percent of bird watchers visiting the Texas coast are from out-of-state and spend $20 million each year visiting the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the RGV.
“We are building on top of eco-tourism and heritage tourism,” Skowronek said. “We never appreciate what we have in our own backyards. We go to work and you hear the stories down here, but we hardly pay attention to it.”
February 22nd, 2014
As the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley takes shape and prepares for its inaugural year in fall 2015, the medical school that comes along with the transition in 2016 is making progress by appointing the founding dean.
Dr. Francisco Fernandez, a professor and chairman of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, Fla., was announced as the dean of the medical school by the University of Texas System Friday, Feb. 14.
The Tufts University School of Medicine graduate earned his board certification in psychiatry in 1985 and has served as the chair of the Psychiatry and Neuroscience department in Tampa since September 2002. This will be Fernandez’s second time working within the UT System. He served as a faculty member for UT MD Anderson Cancer Center from 1984 until 1997, according to The Browsville Herald.
In statements released by the UT System, Fernandez expressed his excitement toward rejoining the UT System and becoming part of the Rio Grande Valley community.
“I am excited and humbled by this tremendous opportunity to build the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine into a world-class educational center,” he said in the press release. “The chance to build a medical school from the ground up in a region as richly diverse and wonderful as South Texas is a dream come true.”
Governor Perry makes suggestions for UT chancellor position
According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry has given a suggestion to the University of Texas Board of Regents with whom to fill the newly opened position of chancellor. Perry has Kyle Janek, Texas Health and Human Services executive commissioner, in mind for the open job spot.
Janek, a Galveston native, has served eight years in the Texas House of Representatives, five years on the Texas Senate and has been in his current position as Health and Human Services executive commissioner since September 2012. Janek is also a board-certified anesthesiologist, according to the Texas Health and Human Services website.
Current UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced his resignation Feb. 10 during a press conference in Austin after five years in the position, stating that he would return to his original field of practice, pediatric transplant surgery. He also announced that he would stay in the position until the UT Board of Regents hired a replacement for the position.
While some higher education executive positions in Texas are Perry-appointed, his input does not guarantee that these positions will be filled by the suggested party. Previous suggestions by Perry include John Montford, former state senator, in 2008 for the position of UT System chancellor later filled by Cigarroa in 2009, according to The El Paso Times.
During the press conference Feb. 10, Board of Regents Chairman Paul L. Foster stated that the board would like to have the position for chancellor filled within the next six months and the governor’s recommendation for the spot will be “certainly considered,” according to the Texas Tribune.
February 21st, 2014
The Student Union Theater hosted the Student Government Association’s Executive Ticket Debate Feb. 18, where the candidates running for president and vice president of SGA discussed plans, goals and the future of the University.
Alberto Adame and Carla Fernanda Peña are running against Bianca Blanco and Johnathan Weisfeld-Hinojosa on the executive ticket, which includes the president and vice president positions.
Candidates were asked a series of questions, such as their position on a campus-wide smoking ban, and their plan to keep the UTPA legacy through a transition to the new university.
The first ticket, Blanco and Weisfeld-Hinojosa, had two minutes to respond, and then the same questions were asked to the opposing presidential and vice presidential candidates. Once both sides responded to questions, the moderator moved on to the next one without the opportunity of a rebuttal.
Adame, a finance major running for SGA president, said it’s important for the organization to have the debates and that he thinks both sides did well overall.
“It’s important for people to come out here and know who they’re voting for and what ideas they have,” said Adame, who currently resides in Mission. “A lot of times we’re out there campaigning and talking to students and they give us their concerns and everything, but we can’t reach every student in the University, so by people coming here they’ll know more about us.”
While both tickets said they want to improve UTPA, their platforms differ. The Adame-Peña ticket discussed plans to focus on extended library hours, healthier food options around the University and larger parking lots, while Blanco and Weisfeld-Hinojosa placed more emphasis on increasing numbers of microwaves in the Student Union, better bike racks, and recycling.
This year marks the election of the last SGA team to serve under UTPA before the advent of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in 2015.
Weisfeld-Hinojosa, a political science major running for vice president, said many of the items their platform can be achieved before the transition.
“What we want to do for this upcoming year is really bring (students’) voice to action, accomplish their goals, accomplish any problems they may have, any concerns and really make the year about the students and getting the students involved and getting the students to come and participate,” said the McAllen native.
Voting begins Feb. 24 and will end Feb. 28. To vote, students use their myUTPA account. Election results will be announced March 1.
February 21st, 2014
After 17 years, the developers that brought gamers the three-game Bioshock series (2007-2013) have decided it is time to end Irrational Games.
Bioshock was their biggest selling game with $500,000 in retail revenue. The iconic Bioshock series is set in 1960 where the player crash lands in the ocean, leading to an isolated city where it’s inhabitants attack the protagonist while he tries to escape what was meant to be a utopia.
However, it is not the only game Irrational Games has produced.
In 1997, three game developers in Cambridge, Mass., Ken Levine, Jon Chey and Rob Fermier, started their small studio in a living room. Since then, the games they’ve produced include System Shock 2 (1999), Freedom Force (2002), Tribes: Vengeance (2004), Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich (2005) and SWAT 4 (2005), all of which are for PCs. The 2007 release of Bioshock was the first game Irrational Games released for gaming consoles, such as PlayStation and Xbox, in addition to computers.
Gamers around campus were surprised when they heard the news. Reactions ranged from complete and utter shock to a silent awe.
“If I were (Ken Levine), I personally wouldn’t have stopped because bringing in as much money as he does- it’s worth it. But if he felt like it was time to move on, then I applaud him for making the decision that was best for him,” said English major Julian Vela.
Like Vela, graphic design major Alexander Cortez doesn’t see the company closing as a horrible occurrence. Although, Irrational Games has many employees, nobody is sure just how many seeing as the company will not say. However, they did say that they decided to let go of all but fifteen employees.
“I’ll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team. There’s no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition,” said Levine.
He mentions that the way he plans to help his former employees is by allowing them to continue to come into the office to set up their portfolios and he will also set up recruiting day where people who have contacted him about interviewing his former team can go to their offices to conduct interviews.
“It’s kind of fitting how even though they are going away, they will be remembered,” Cortez said. “It’s (not good) that he fired (his staff), but I like that he still cares enough about the former employees to help them find jobs. It ended on a good note.”
Not everyone feels at peace about the ending of what has essentially made video game history with what according to 19-year-old Vela has “an amazing storyline.”
Other students, such as CIS major Adrian Montez and pre-med student Rosendo Morin, might have been hoping for more. Montez mentioned how the closing of Irrational Games was a mistake and Morin added how he was hoping to see more.
“I loved the Bioshock series and I wanted to see something like it (in other words similar game play but a different storyline),” Morin said. “Not exactly the same, but with a similar game play.”
Although Bioshock is still one of the top-rated first-person shooter games out there, according to ING Entertainment, Levine believes it is time to move on to something new such as “digital gaming.” However, some gamers disagree. When Bioshock Infinite was released in 2013 Mike Wehner, a reporter for The Escapist Magazine, wrote a positive review of the game in March of that same year.
“Bioshock Infinite is in a class of games that only come around on very rare, very special occasions,” Wehner wrote. “It combines fantastic action with a story that will evoke every emotion you have to offer, and leave you wanting even more. This is as close to perfect as videogames get.”
Categories: Arts & Life