Feed on
Posts
Comments
The Bronc Radio/TV team pictured front left to right are Jennifer Galvan, Orlando Vargas, Javier Guerrero and Vanessa Mares-Koch. Pictured rear left to right are Miriam Suaste, Joseph Tello, Melinda Garza, Omar Jimenez and Isamar Resendez. The BRTV student journalists won 12 awards at the 2015 Texas Intercollegiate Press Association State Convention held in San Antonio.

Student-journalists representing the University of Texas Pan American’s multimedia Bronc Radio/TV (BRTV) won 12 awards at the 2015 Texas Intercollegiate Press Association State Convention held in San Antonio.

BRTV student journalists competed in 20 on-site competitions and submitted 19 radio and TV productions.

TIPA officials announced that Bronc Radio/TV was named the 2015 Newscast of the Year.

“After winning best newscast, UTPA’s Mass Communication’s broadcast students have become the students to beat at TIPA,” said Orlando Vargas, Bronc TV’s Assistant Station Manager.

Fred Mann, the Bronc Radio adviser, said he was extremely proud of each member of the team.

“This shows how hard this team works,” Mann said.

Following is a list of the BRTV awards from the onsite competition:

  • 1st place, Spanish TV announcing – Alexia Chavero
  • Honorable Mention, Spanish Radio Announcing – Jennifer Galvan
  • Honorable Mention, Sports Radio writing – Daniel Galvan

BRTV also submitted work from previously published student productions. They won awards for the following advance submissions:

  • Honorable Mention, Radio Public Affairs – Omar Jimenez
  • 3rd Place, Radio commercial, PSA – Ivan Herrera
  • 3rd place, TV commercial, PSA – Vanessa Mares-Koch, Jennifer Galindo and Pablo Manrique
  • 3rd Place, TV Feature Story – Omar Jimenez
  • Honorable Mention, TV Non-Feature (2) – Orlando Vargas
  • 3rd Place, Radio Production – Ivan Herrera
  • 2nd Place, TV Sports Feature – Javier Guerrero
  • Honorable Mention, Overall Radio Excellence – Omar Jimenez, Ivan Herrera, Alfonso Rios and Dina Vera
  • 1st Place, TV Newscast – BRTV staff

Bronc TV Station Manager Javier Guerrero said several students won multiple awards.

“Ivan Herrera is a true talent at radio broadcast,” Guerrero said. “Alexia Chavero’s success with Spanish news, and our first-place newscast success, all show that UTPA produces mass communications majors who will succeed at any opportunity that comes their way.”

Bronc TV Adviser Nick Taylor said he is proud of the BRTV students, but in no way surprised by their success.

“The Bronc Radio and TV crew are as talented as any student journalists in the state and nation,” Taylor said. “Beyond talent, though, this team will outwork and outproduce just about anyone out there. Team and loyalty are more than just words for BRTV.”

Bronc TV Radio has been a part of campus life since 2005. The next state convention will be held in Dallas in April 2016.

Original Post by Vanessa Mares-Koch, Bronc Radio/TV Social Media Coordinator on May 7th, 2015.

Bravo! PAC premiere opens with packed house, powerful performances//

The Grand Premiere of the Performing Arts Complex on April 23 was a prime opportunity to blend performing arts from the Edinburg and Brownsville legacy campuses as they come together to become The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez (left), UTPA president ad interim and provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at UTRGV, and State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa hold the scissors as they cut the ribbon at the grand opening April 23 of the Performing Arts Complex at the Edinburg campus.
The free concert, which included faculty and student performers from both campuses, attracted not only arts patrons, but also students and community members to the PAC’s 1,000-seat, state-of-the-art performance hall. It was the long-awaited culmination of a $42.7 million project approved by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2011, said Martin Baylor, executive vice president for finance and administration for UTRGV.Baylor, who oversaw the project’s construction as UTPA’s vice president for Business Affairs, thanked the many people involved in bringing the project to fruition, including the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation that worked relentlessly to provide the funding for the PAC. He described the facility as a place for talented singers, dancers and musicians to flourish.

“I do take great pride in being a part of the team that has visualized, planned and created an environment in which ageless classical music will share the stage with the rousing sounds of mariachi and the romance of ballet folklórico … where talented collegians honing their craft will be introduced to world-renowned artists … and where seasoned patrons of the arts will share space with school children just being introduced to the beauty of the performing arts,” Baylor said.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA president ad interim and provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at UTRGV, welcomed guests at a reception sponsored by Plains Capital Bank. He said the premiere marked a day to celebrate the talents of the students and faculty of both legacy institutions – UT Pan American and UT Brownsville.

Ballet Folklórico dancers from UTPA were among the many students and faculty from UTPA and UTB who performed at the Grand Premiere Concert held in the PAC’s new performance hall April 23.
“Educational and economic opportunities are two obvious benefits, but increased opportunities for cultural enrichment through the arts will be an equally important measure of our success,” he said.The performance opened with a rousing fanfare by 26 trumpeters from UTB and UTPA that brought the audience to its feet. The concert included musical performances ranging from symphony to guitar ensemble, some featuring UTPA and UTB students performing together for the first time. UTPA’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán and the UTPA Ballet Folklórico wowed the crowd, reflecting two of the Valley’s most treasured cultural traditions.

Dr. Michael Quantz, associate chair of UTB’s Music Department and interim associate dean of UTRGV’s College of Fine Arts, led a guitar ensemble that included students from both campuses who came together beautifully, he said. Quantz called the premiere a galvanizing event for the community.

“It lets the public know in a very clear, impactful way that this stuff exists in the community for a wonderful purpose and is something that everyone is going to enjoy for a long time,” he said.

He described the PAC’s acoustics as “first rate.”

“You begin to play the hall. You respond to the feedback it gives you and you begin to use that as part of your expression,” Quantz said. “When students get that experience – that changes the game.”

The project, which also included renovations to Buildings B and C, added nearly 14,500 square feet of space for UTRGV’s Fine Arts program to accommodate more than 450 music and dance majors and 44 faculty members. Building A, which houses the performance hall, includes a large lobby and four new rehearsal halls, as well as dressing rooms. One is designated the “Green Room,” to honor a donation to the PAC by Emeritus Professor of Theatre Dr. Marian Monta, who attended the premiere.

Faculty offices, classrooms, a piano lab and a dance studio were added to the existing Building B. In Building C, practice rooms were expanded to nearly 40. It now has music analysis and listening labs.

The PAC’s 1,000-seat state-of-the-art performance hall was filled to capacity April 23 for a Grand Premiere Concert celebrating the opening of the PAC. Plains Capital Bank sponsored the opening event that featured student and faculty performers from UTPA and UTB.
Artwork will be showcased in the complex’s two art galleries and in the performance hall lobby where, currently, the work of McAllen artist and arts patron Kirk Clark is on display.Students who attended or performed at the grand opening took special pride in the facility.

Avery Benitez, a senior from San Juan who performed in the student orchestra at the concert, said the PAC is a wonderful place for the community to gather and now is on par with arts facilities in other colleges.

“I hope this facility will attract more students who want to major in music and dance to come here,” he said.

UTRGV Student Government Association President Alberto Adame said the performance hall is magnificent.

“It reaffirms the university’s commitment to the arts,” he said. “And it’s great to see the students enjoy themselves and be able to play at the premiere in this state-of-the-art facility.”

For Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the UTPA College of Arts and Humanities and interim dean of the UTRGV College of Fine Arts, the PAC represents the importance of the arts in the Valley, a facility that will highlight UTRGV as the “heart and soul of the community.”

The new PAC is an exciting reflection of what’s happening in the Valley now, Guerra said, the coming together of two institutions into a new university for the 21st century.

“This new Performing Arts Complex provides the very best facility for the education and the training of our students in the new College of Fine Arts at UTRGV,” she said. “This is a life-changing moment for our students and our community.”

Enjoy photos of the new PAC and the Grand Premiere at this photo gallery.

For more information on UTRGV, go to its website at www.utrgv.edu, like its Facebook page, or follow @utrgv on Twitter.

The University of Texas-Pan American’s University Theatre Productions will close out its spring season May 7-10 with a Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) production of the musical “Coraline.”

The musical, based on a children’s novella by author Neil Gaiman, has music by Stephin Merritt, and book and lyrics by David Greenspan. It follows a precocious young girl, Coraline Jones, who loves to explore and has plenty of time to do so because her parents are too busy to spend time with her. One day, she opens the door to a parallel world, which at first delights and then frightens her.

The book also resulted in a 2009 animated, 3D dark fantasy film, also titled “Coraline,” that received critical acclaim, including Academy and Golden Globe award nominations for best animated feature. The musical also debuted in 2009.

Playing the title role is 12-year-old Hailey Pearson, already a theatre veteran of TYA productions of Jackie and the Beanstalk and Twelve Dancing Princesses.

She is the granddaughter of Dr. Tom Pearson, professor in the UTPA Department of History and Philosophy and himself an experienced and accomplished thespian.

Pearson said he is proud of Hailey and loves watching her in action on the stage.

“I know she is very excited about opening night of Coraline,” he said.

Hailey said she has really enjoyed the Coraline rehearsals.

“They are a lot of fun, but I have a lot of lines to learn!” she said.

Coraline is directed by Brian Warren.

The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. May 7 and 8, and again at 2 p.m. May 9 and 10. All performances will be at the Albert L. Jeffers Theatre, located inside the Arts and Humanities Building (ARHU), corner of University Drive and Sugar Road.

General admission is $3 per person regardless of age, open seating only.

For more information or special accommodations, call the UTPA Box Office at (956) 665-3581. The box office opens one hour prior to all performances.

Original Post by University Theatre on May 1st, 2015.

The University of Texas-Pan American Dance Ensemble will present its annual Spring Dance Concert at the new state-of-the-art UTPA Performing Arts Complex.

The UTPA Dance Ensemble will present its annual Spring Dance Concert at the new state-of-the-art UTPA Performing Arts Complex at 7:30 p.m. from April 30-May 2.

The concert, April 30-May 2, 7:30 p.m., will include works by guest artists Libby Rhodes, Christy McNeil Chand, and Golden Wright, and pieces by UTPA Dance Ensemble Artistic Directors Min Kim and Dana Shackelford. The concert will also feature performances by senior dance majors Jossue Barajas and Courtney Wantland, whose choreography was featured in this year’s South-Central American College Dance Association regional conference.

The UTPA Dance Ensemble Spring Concert promises to be filled with a variety of dance styles as it presents three works by guest choreographers from different universities. Rhodes, from Stephen F. Austin State University, will present Fiesta, a lively Latin jazz ensemble piece. McNeil Chand, an assistant professor of dance from California Polytechnic State University, pays tribute to the 1920s Charleston dance craze with A Side, B Side.  Set to two pieces of music by Parov Stellar, A Side, B Side is an exploration of contemporary and classic jazz movement. The title refers to the fact that the two sections of music and dance are different just like the two sides of a record. Each section is its own experience and can stand-alone, yet go better together. Wright, assistant professor of dance at Lamar University, will present an emotional duet entitled The Next Chapter?  This piece examines the dynamics ofovercoming challenges and adversities within an intimate relationship.

UTPA senior Barajas will present Plains of the Serengeti, an African inspired extension of a historic understanding of the genesis of dance movement influenced by primitive tribes that live amongst wild animals in Africa. Wantland, a UTPA senior dance major, will present FIN, which was recently selected to be part of the South-Central American College Dance Association Gala Concert. This is the first time a UTPA student has advanced to the Gala Concert. Wantland was one of only three undergraduate students whose works were selected for the concert.

Shackelford, a UTPA Dance faculty member, will choreograph Support Systems, a work set to the music of composer Johann Johannsson. It explores the physical and practical realities of weight sharing and the resulting vulnerabilities that we as humans experience when we “let go” and put our trust in others. Kim, also a UTPA Dance faculty member, will be presenting a contemporary work in progress.

Tickets will be available at the door. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $5 for children and students with ID. For additional information, contact the Dance Program Office at (956) 665-2230 or visithttp://www.utpa.edu/programs/dance.

Original Post by UTPA Dance Program on April 22nd, 2015.

UTPA student and dancer Courtney Wantland was recently selected to perform her choreography at the American College Dance Association South Central Regional Conference. She is a member of the UTPA Dance Ensemble.

The University of Texas-Pan American’s dance department’s first-time, all-student showing at the annual American College Dance Association South Central Regional Conference turned up big accolades for undergraduate dancer Courtney Wantland.

Wantland’s choreography and performance, entitled “FIN,” from her senior dance project was selected for the final gala performance, said Dana Shackelford, associate professor of music and dance and co-artistic director of the UTPA Dance Ensemble.

The gala performances are chosen as the final best-choreographed dances of the conference.

“She choreographed a witty and modern performance set to the music of Vivaldi and the judges were really impressed with her,” Shackelford said.

The American College Dance Association (ACDA), formerly known as American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) annually hosts 12 regions with a total of 324 higher education institutions. Twenty-seven schools participated this year at the South Central Conference held March 18-21 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Several out of region schools were also able to participate this year including several from California and one from China.

For each region, a panel of judges, known in the ACDA as adjudicators, selects 10 works from the entries, this year 38, and selects the final dance pieces for a gala performance on the last day of the conference.

“It was the proudest moment of my dance career and such an amazing feeling to be recognized by top professionals in the dance world,” Wantland said.

Wantland’s performance piece, “FIN,” was an original modern dance interpretation of a musician warning up, performing and finishing a performance on stage.

“This is a historic event for UTPA’s dance program because it is the first time an undergraduate student’s work has been selected for this honor,” said Shackelford.

Wantland, a music major turned dance major, attributes her success to the dance department at UTPA.

“I started my dance career at Pan Am and feel so proud to be able to utilize the tools I’ve been given to create something that best represents my dance style, achieve recognition, and in turn, I hope I have done the dance program proud,” she said.

Although Wantland was the first UTPA student recognized at the ACDA gala, two of 15 other UTPA dancers who participated in the conference  garnered noteworthy performances.

UTPA senior Jossue Barajas presented his dynamic “Plains of the Serengeti” to glowing comments from adjudicators, and senior Robert Alvarez presented his work “Before We Turn to Stone” in an informal concert, Shackelford said.

Since the dance major/minor was implemented in 2002, UTPA has had strong regional success at ACDA, but the first student recognition came this year.

In 2012, a choreography submitted by Francisco Muñoz and performed by the UTPA Ballet Folklorico, was showcased at the biennial 2012 National College Dance Festival held at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, “Bitter Sorrow,” a dance choreographed by UTPA Assistant Professor of Dance Min Kim was selected for the gala performance in Huntsville, Texas.

The Dance Ensemble will be performing their annual Spring Dance Ensemble Concert at the Performing Arts Complex auditorium from 7:30-9 p.m. on April 30 and May 1-2. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students or children.

More information about the ACDA is available at www.acda.dance. For more information about the dance program at UTPA visit www.utpa.edu/dance or call (956) 665-2230.

Original Post by Christy Mendoza, Student Writer, Office of Public Affairs on April 23rd, 2015.

The Grand Premiere of the Performing Arts Complex on April 23 was a prime opportunity to blend performing arts from the Edinburg and Brownsville legacy campuses as they come together to become The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez (left), UTPA president ad interim and provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at UTRGV, and State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa hold the scissors as they cut the ribbon at the grand opening April 23 of the Performing Arts Complex at the Edinburg campus.

The free concert, which included faculty and student performers from both campuses, attracted not only arts patrons, but also students and community members to the PAC’s 1,000-seat, state-of-the-art performance hall. It was the long-awaited culmination of a $42.7 million project approved by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2011, said Martin Baylor, executive vice president for finance and administration for UTRGV.

Baylor, who oversaw the project’s construction as UTPA’s vice president for Business Affairs, thanked the many people involved in bringing the project to fruition, including the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation that worked relentlessly to provide the funding for the PAC. He described the facility as a place for talented singers, dancers and musicians to flourish.

“I do take great pride in being a part of the team that has visualized, planned and created an environment in which ageless classical music will share the stage with the rousing sounds of mariachi and the romance of ballet folklórico … where talented collegians honing their craft will be introduced to world-renowned artists … and where seasoned patrons of the arts will share space with school children just being introduced to the beauty of the performing arts,” Baylor said.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA president ad interim and provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at UTRGV, welcomed guests at a reception sponsored by Plains Capital Bank. He said the premiere marked a day to celebrate the talents of the students and faculty of both legacy institutions – UT Pan American and UT Brownsville.

Ballet Folklórico dancers from UTPA were among the many students and faculty from UTPA and UTB who performed at the Grand Premiere Concert held in the PAC’s new performance hall April 23.

“Educational and economic opportunities are two obvious benefits, but increased opportunities for cultural enrichment through the arts will be an equally important measure of our success,” he said.

The performance opened with a rousing fanfare by 26 trumpeters from UTB and UTPA that brought the audience to its feet. The concert included musical performances ranging from symphony to guitar ensemble, some featuring UTPA and UTB students performing together for the first time. UTPA’s award-winning Mariachi Aztlán and the UTPA Ballet Folklórico wowed the crowd, reflecting two of the Valley’s most treasured cultural traditions.

Dr. Michael Quantz, associate chair of UTB’s Music Department and interim associate dean of UTRGV’s College of Fine Arts, led a guitar ensemble that included students from both campuses who came together beautifully, he said. Quantz called the premiere a galvanizing event for the community.

“It lets the public know in a very clear, impactful way that this stuff exists in the community for a wonderful purpose and is something that everyone is going to enjoy for a long time,” he said.

He described the PAC’s acoustics as “first rate.”

“You begin to play the hall. You respond to the feedback it gives you and you begin to use that as part of your expression,” Quantz said. “When students get that experience – that changes the game.”

The project, which also included renovations to Buildings B and C, added nearly 14,500 square feet of space for UTRGV’s Fine Arts program to accommodate more than 450 music and dance majors and 44 faculty members. Building A, which houses the performance hall, includes a large lobby and four new rehearsal halls, as well as dressing rooms. One is designated the “Green Room,” to honor a donation to the PAC by Emeritus Professor of Theatre Dr. Marian Monta, who attended the premiere.

Faculty offices, classrooms, a piano lab and a dance studio were added to the existing Building B. In Building C, practice rooms were expanded to nearly 40. It now has music analysis and listening labs.

The PAC’s 1,000-seat state-of-the-art performance hall was filled to capacity April 23 for a Grand Premiere Concert celebrating the opening of the PAC. Plains Capital Bank sponsored the opening event that featured student and faculty performers from UTPA and UTB.

Artwork will be showcased in the complex’s two art galleries and in the performance hall lobby where, currently, the work of McAllen artist and arts patron Kirk Clark is on display.

Students who attended or performed at the grand opening took special pride in the facility.

Avery Benitez, a senior from San Juan who performed in the student orchestra at the concert, said the PAC is a wonderful place for the community to gather and now is on par with arts facilities in other colleges.

“I hope this facility will attract more students who want to major in music and dance to come here,” he said.

UTRGV Student Government Association President Alberto Adame said the performance hall is magnificent.

“It reaffirms the university’s commitment to the arts,” he said. “And it’s great to see the students enjoy themselves and be able to play at the premiere in this state-of-the-art facility.”

For Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the UTPA College of Arts and Humanities and interim dean of the UTRGV College of Fine Arts, the PAC represents the importance of the arts in the Valley, a facility that will highlight UTRGV as the “heart and soul of the community.”

The new PAC is an exciting reflection of what’s happening in the Valley now, Guerra said, the coming together of two institutions into a new university for the 21st century.

“This new Performing Arts Complex provides the very best facility for the education and the training of our students in the new College of Fine Arts at UTRGV,” she said. “This is a life-changing moment for our students and our community.”

Enjoy photos of the new PAC and the Grand Premiere at this photo gallery.

For more information on UTRGV, go to its website at www.utrgv.edu, like its Facebook page, or follow @utrgv on Twitter.

Original Post by  Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative on April 24th, 2015.

High school students received encouragement at The University of Texas-Pan American March 4 from two Rio Grande Valley natives who found success pursuing their love of the arts.

Author, playwright and filmmaker David Rice speaks to high school students at The University of Texas-Pan American March 4 as part of FESTIBA.

Hundreds of students enrolled in the federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), administered by Region One Education Service Center, came to the UTPA campus as part of the University’s Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA), which runs through March 8.

Throughout the day, the teenagers heard from artists who stressed the importance of literacy and of not giving up on one’s dreams.

“I can honestly say that I always feel inspired when I come to these events, I just think that with the speakers that they bring, the messages they have, the certain lessons that they teach, it’s always a learning experience,” said Joshua Betancourt, a sophomore at La Feria High School.

Author, playwright and filmmaker David Rice and actor and playwright Raul Castillo, both natives of the Rio Grande Valley, shared their life stories and urged the students to never stop pursuing what they love.

The GEAR UP students were all laughs during Rice’s presentation. The Edcouch native is the author of “Give the Pig a Chance & Other Stories” and “Crazy Loco” which was awarded the “Best Books for Young Readers Award” from the American Library Association in 2001.

Rice shared a piece from his 2011 book “Heart-Shaped Cookies and Other Stories.”  Rice narrated a story called “The Death of a Writer” about the time his fourth-grade teacher assigned the students to write a short story pretending to be shipwrecked on a deserted island. Rice’s classmate Ramiro read a one-sentence story about being eaten by a monster aloud to the class only for the teacher to send Ramiro to the principal’s office.

“That is the death of a writer,” Rice said.  “She didn’t kill him literally but figuratively yes, she crushed that writer. What she should’ve said is ‘okay Ramiro, what kind of monster was it?’ I don’t want to kill any writers, I don’t want to kill any artists. The sad thing is that a lot of the times you kill yourself. I want you to succeed, I really do, I want you to write monster stories.”

Diana Quintanilla, a 10th grade GEAR UP student from Port Isabel High School, said Rice’s presentation motivated her to continue her hobby of writing.

Actor and playwright Raul Castillo speaks to high school students at The University of Texas-Pan American March 4 as part of FESTIBA.

“He actually gave me more inspiration to keep on writing, to fix my grammar…to write more from the heart than what people actually want to hear,” Quintanilla said.

Dalton Swink, a 10th grade GEAR UP student from Port Isabel High School, said Rice’s presentation was very insightful.

“I try so hard to write many different stories and stuff and I don’t think they’re coming out right but he helped me learn that I can just fix them later,” Swink said. “If you like to write and if your ideas are good then you can make something out of it and that’s really inspiring to me.”

Castillo, who delivered the afternoon keynote address, encouraged students and shared with them how his journey as an actor began at his alma mater, McAllen High School.

After taking a theatre class in high school and participating in various plays, he discovered his passion in the arts. He later attended Boston University’s School of Fine Arts and graduated with a degree in theatre.

To continue pursuing acting, he moved to New York City where his opportunities soon began to unfold.

He is currently best known for his portrayal as Ricardo “Richie” Donado Ventura in the HBO series “Looking.”  Castillo made his feature film debut in “Amexican,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. He also has several film and television credits such as, “Bless Me Ultima,” “Cold Weather,” “My Best Day,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Law and Order.”

As a young Hispanic man, he felt that he would not be given many opportunities as an aspiring actor. After overcoming several challenges, such as rejection and living away from his family, he eventually appeared in many projects and earned an honorable mention at the AFI Fest in 2012 in the Student Academy Award winning short film “Narcocorrido.”

UTPA students perform scenes from the play “Evita” during GEAR UP Days at FESTIBA.

“I think we are very lucky that we come from this incredibly traditional environment and community.” Castillo said. “I feel fortunate enough and I am very thankful for FESTIBA that I can come and speak to you guys. I hope that my story can encourage you all to further your education.”

The students also attended breakout sessions, where they saw UTPA theater students perform scenes from the play “Evita,” learned about animation from Graham Toms, an animator at Newtek, and received tips on writing from the University Writing Center.

FESTIBA continues Thursday, March 5, with the Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars Program, in which children’s book authors visit elementary schools throughout the Valley to read their work and pass out books to children. There also will be a celebration of the UTPA Mariachi’s 25th anniversary and release of its newest CD.

For more information on FESTIBA, visit www.utpa.edu/festiba.

Original Post by Office of Public Affairs on March 4th, 2015.

Educators and parents need to work together to make sure Hispanic children are achieving academically, FESTIBA Congressional Roundtable Discussion panelists told librarians and educators March 6 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Panelists of the Congressional Roundtable at FESTIBA’s Librarians and Educators Day stressed the importance of forming partnerships to encourage children to read more. Pictured from left to right are panelists Connie Humphrey, chief of staff for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15);Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author; KGBT-TV Action 4 News Anchor Marcy Martinez; Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President ad interim; Valente Rodriguez, actor and UTPA alumnus; Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza, executive director of the South Texas Literacy Coalition; Dr. Hermelinda Hesbrook, H-E-B Read 3 consultant; and Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of UTPA’s College of Arts and Humanities.

About 120 librarians and educators from school districts and libraries throughout the Rio Grande Valley came to the UTPA campus for FESTIBA’s Librarians and Educators Day. They heard the panelists — educators, authors, artists, and partners from the public and private sectors  — address the educational achievement gaps between Hispanic children and their white peers and how literacy can help close the gap. They also received copies of books to take back to their classrooms.

Panelists were Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President ad interim; Connie Humphrey, chief of staff for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15); Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author; Dr. Hermelinda Hesbrook, H-E-B Read 3 consultant; Valente Rodriguez, actor and UTPA alumnus; and Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza, executive director of the South Texas Literacy Coalition.

The panelists gave startling statistics about the low literacy rates in the region. Just 58 percent of residents in South Texas are literate and nationally there are about 44 million people who are illiterate, Acuña-Garza said.  They also talked about the challenges schools have to engage English language learners in literature.

Valente Rodriguez, who was born in Edcouch and whose family traveled north for migrant work, talked about his struggles as a child to do well in school. He said it was his teachers who guided him to college and pursue a career in acting.

“But for you, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I did,” Rodriguez told the crowd. “All of us up here had somebody in our lives who has guided us and who has cared enough about us to push us in the direction and here we are … and so we are your proof that your hard work does work.”

UTPA’s Ad Interim President Rodríguez gave the educators an update on The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which will open this fall, and said that the many programs and initiatives the University will have will address many of the challenges educators are facing.

At UTRGV’s core is community engagement and the university is working to collaborate with middle schools to better prepare students for college, he said.

“It’s about opening our arms, reaching out, working with our communities, understanding what are your needs, what are your priorities, how can we ensure that we work with you so that you can make your students successful  so that they can come to UTRGV as a university of choice,” he said.

Educators and library staff members said after the roundtable discussion they felt validated by what the panelists had to say.

Luis Sepulveda, an English teacher at La Villa High School, said he and his wife, a kindergarten teacher in the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, make it a priority to read to their 4-year-old daughter, Sophia.

“She loves books already and we see the difference,” Sepulveda said. “She learned her letters quickly. She’ll go to the store and go to the books first, then the toys.”

Sepulveda said he also instills in his students, some of whom are already parents, the importance of parental involvement in reading to young children.

“It feels good to know that you’re doing something right,” he said.

After the roundtable discussion, Nazario delivered a keynote address. She talked about her experiences reporting on the migration of children from Central America to the United States, which won The Los Angeles Times two Pulitzer Prizes and became the national best-selling book, “Enrique’s Journey.”

Her book has become required reading in many universities and schools throughout the country, she said, and she has received letters from those who have read the book telling her how it changed their views on immigration.

“With knowledge, people can change,” she said. “Stories are what help people go beyond the superficial.”

Original Post by Jennifer Berghom on March 6th, 2015.

For Margil Vale, the Civil War wasn’t just a topic covered in history class. It was a vibrant narration passed down from generation to generation.

UTPA celebrated the virtual ribbon cutting of the RGV Civil War Trail Feb. 28 at an event held for the community. Pictured left to right are Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA president ad interim; Juanita Rea, CHAPS undergraduate assistant for publicity and social media; Dr. Russell Skowronek, CHAPS director and UTPA professor of history and anthropology; Dr. Chris Miller, UTPA history professor; and Roseann Bacha-Garza, CHAPS program coordinator. Holding the ribbon were local Civil War re-enactors Ruben Martinez (Confederate)and Don Drefke (Union).

Margil grew up in Roma listening to stories about his great-grandfather, John Heinrik Vale, a Swedish immigrant who arrived in New York in 1840 and came to the Rio Grande Valley to volunteer for Taylor’s Army of Occupation during the Mexican-American War. John, a Confederate sympathizer, made a living by transporting bales of cotton along the Rio Grande.

“(John) came around the 1840s, with the American forces fighting the Mexicans in the 1850s. So he goes into Mexico, then comes back to the area of Roma and he marries a woman from Mier (Mexico),” Margil said. “He was in the business of trading cotton, and from Mexico they would get cotton, coffee, sugar that they needed here … He was back and forth, basically buying and reselling.”

His family’s legacy, combined with his passion for history, prompted Margil to attend the launch of Rio Grande Valley Civil War Trail, presented by The University of Texas-Pan American’s Community of Historic Archaeology Project with Schools (CHAPS) Program Feb. 28 at the Student Union Theater.

“I think the information was well presented,” Margil said. “I learned things that I hadn’t heard before, even though the cotton trade was the story of our family, what our ancestors did.”

The RGV Civil War Trail is a virtual tour that includes a map, guide, brochure and associated web page and podcasts, all available in English and Spanish. Together the elements provide a conceptual “walk” through the history of the Civil War in South Texas. Local historians, educators and representatives from local, state and federal agencies provided support for developing the virtual tour.

Civil War re-enactors Rodger Wahl (left) and Ruben Martinez showed visitors replicas of Civil War-era weapons and other artifacts at their military camp re-enactment set up on UTPA’s Student Union Quad Feb. 28.

The trail runs through a five-county stretch between Laredo and Brownsville and has key locations identified on a map, such as the “Robert E. Lee House Museum” in Rio Grande City. These are accompanied by audio podcasts that describe each site’s significance. The podcasts are accessible by cell phone and have an associated QR code that takes visitors to a linked website with additional information.

A six-hour professional development workshop was held Feb. 27 at the UTPA McAllen Teaching Site where 50 K-12 educators learned how to incorporate the trail into their history curriculum.

The RGV Civil War Trail website, explains that the Valley served as a significant point of conflict in skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces along the border between the military forts of Fort McIntosh in Laredo, Ringgold Barracks in Rio Grande City and Fort Brown in Brownsville. The last land battle of the Civil War was fought on May 13, 1865 at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville.

During opening remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, UTPA President Ad Interim Dr. Havidán Rodríguez said the project is history in the making and will help contribute to the growth and development of the region.

“It is a historical event, not only for The University of Texas-Pan American, but for the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Rodriguez said. “This is about building communities, strengthening partnerships to allow us to continue to move forward to recognize the history, the culture, the traditions, the value of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Chris Miller, UTPA history professor, said that over the past nine months, experts and community members contributed their knowledge to help develop the program.

“We realized there was a whole lot more than just that one battle, there were dozens of them and nobody around here knew about that,” Miller said.  “The way we do history these days, we want to know more than just the battles. We really want to get more into the lived experience of the people who were here during the Civil War. The best way of doing that is to bring in members of the community, people who know those stories, people whose ancestors lived through it, people who have the pictures, the artifacts and the memories.”

A couple attending the RGV Civil War Trail launch Feb. 28 look over a trail map they received that provides information on key Valley Civil War era sites, events and people.

Guest speakers talked about the role of Tejanos in the Civil War, the military experience of African Americans in the Valley, archeological research and the war in Mexico from 1857 to 1867.

Jerry Thompson, a Regents history professor at Texas A&M International University, said not many books credit the roleTejanos and Mexican-Americans played during the Civil War.

“The fact is that Tejanos played a major, significant and most admirable role in the Civil War in Texas,” Thompson said. “At least 3,000 Tejanos served the Stars and Bars (Confederate Army) and 954Tejanos and Mejicanos joined the Union Army, and of these, 173 in both armies became officers. It is estimated that in the entire country at least 10,000 Mexican-Americans served in the war.”

About 300 attendees received goodie bags with a trail map and other promotional items.

UTPA History Club members encouraged attendees to stop by their booth to sketch drawings of Civil War generals and soldiers. Miriam Cepeda, club president, said many of the club’s members attended the educator’s workshop the day before and were trained to teach material from the RGV Civil War Trail to grades K-12.

“I’ve lived in Rio Grande City so I was already familiar with the city but a lot of students don’t know that Civil War history is right in our backyard,” said Cepeda, a history graduate student.

Outside on the Student Union Quad, was a living history exhibit of a Civil War-era military camp where men decked out in Union and Confederate army uniforms showcased replicas of artifacts, such as rifles, used during that time.

Civil War re-enactors Donal Drefke (left) and Joe Dale enjoy coffee they made over the campfire in their living history exhibit the group of re-enactors set up Feb. 28 of a Civil War era military camp.

“We started doing military (reenactments) down at Palo Alto about five years ago,” said Donald Drefke (BBA ’76), who donned a Union army uniform.  “I figured out that I had an ancestor here in the Union army, Milt Tyner, and he was a corporal.”

Margil, who received his master’s in educational administration from UTPA in 1995 and resides in San Antonio, said he looks forward to visiting the trail’s historic sites, including his great-grandfather’s house in Roma.

“Even though history was not my major, it’s one of those things that I love and I always had my eyes and ears open for,” he said.

CHAPS, established in 2009, seeks to discover the untapped cultural and historical resources of South Texas. Members of CHAPS hope the RGV Civil War Trail will increase community pride, encourage heritage and eco tourism and stimulate the economic development of the region.

Russell Skowronek, director of CHAPS and professor of history and anthropology at UTPA, said the RGV Civil War Trail is the first visible form of integration that covers a 200-mile section of the Rio Grande. He hopes the trail will one day be implemented into the curriculum of local schools. Future goals include filming a documentary and publishing a scholarly book and trail guide.

“I hope we will use it as a springboard to look at other historic periods in the Valley in a broader, regional way, I think there’re other opportunities for us to look at later time periods,” Skowronek said.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Cameron County Historical Commission’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee will host a series of events May 11-16, including a reenactment of the Battle of Palmito. For more information on the week-long activities visit their website at www.ph150.us.

To learn more on the RGV Civil War Trail visit www.utpa.edu/civilwar-trail or call their office at (956) 665-3231.

Original Post by Karen Perez on March 6th, 2015.

More than 200 pre-k and kindergarten school children, many clad in birthday party hats and festive party clothes, gathered excitedly in the library of the Emiliano Zapata Elementary School in Mission, Texas March 5 ready to meet the author and illustrator of the birthday-themed number book they recently read and enjoyed in their classrooms.

Fourth grade students at Emiliano Zapata Elementary School in Mission received a new autographed copy of author René Saldaña’s book “The Mystery of the Mischievous Marker” during his Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Star appearance at their school March 5.

René Saldaña, the noted children’s book author, and the book’s illustrator, Carolyn Dee Flores, made an energetic duo as they read Saldaña’s latest bilingual book – “Dale, Dale, Dale: una fiesta de numeros/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It, A Fiesta of Numbers.” They then demonstrated to students how Flores created the vibrant colorful illustrations for the picture/counting book that highlights a number of items found at a birthday party.

“She creates all of that out of my few words. Isn’t that magical?” said Saldaña, pointing to a page in the book with a piñata as Flores did a freehand sketch of a piñata that was projected on the library wall.

Saldaña, a native of Palmview and a teacher in the College of Education at Texas Tech University, and Flores are two of the six Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Stars who are visiting five Title I Rio Grande Valley elementary schools as part of The University of Texas-Pan American’s annual FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) activities March 2-8.  Other Reading Rock Stars visiting during FESTIBA are Pat Mora and Libby Martinez, who presented their book “I Pledge Allegiance” and Lydia Gil, who talked to students about her book “Letters from Heaven.”

The Reading Rock Stars program sends noted authors and illustrators to schools receiving TBF grants to read and discuss their books with students who have been studying their works prior to the visit.  Following the presentations, each child receives an autographed copy of the book from the author. Since its inception in 2008, the Texas Book Festival has serviced nearly 30,000 Valley students through the Reading Rock Star program. This year it will put 2,849 new, hard-bound books into the hands of youngsters in RGV schools.

“We choose books the students can identify with,” said Kendall Miller, Texas Book Festival Logistics and Outreach coordinator. “We see it as an opportunity to give them a book that they can relate to and to supply authors that look like them and talk like them because it is very important for them to know I can do this too, that I can be a writer, I can be an illustrator, I can be an editor, I can be a publisher. It is a way to get kids excited about reading.”

Book illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores, who collaborated with author René Saldaña on “Dale, Dale, Dale: Una Fiesta de Numeros,” gave a copy of the book to hundreds of pre-k and kindergarten students during their Reading Rock Star visits to Rio Grande Valley schools March 5-6 during FESTIBA.

The school’s principal Bertha Perez (BBA ’78, M.Ed. ’97) said her students looked forward to the event, which she describes as important because it increases the literacy of her students.

“We have to make sure that all our students are reading and become readers because if they are successful readers they are going to make it in life,” she said. “Saldana is homegrown so that gives kids inspiration that we can make it too.”

Saldaña, who once taught South Texas middle school students and at UTPA, also talked to fourth and fifth grade students who had read “The Mystery of the Mischievous Marker,” a third book in his mystery series featuring kid detective Mickey Rangel. He has contracted for three more books in the series.

Saldaña told students that he first discovered his love of reading, especially detective mysteries, when his teacher at his grade school in La Joya would send those who got their class work done early to the library. It was there he discovered the mystery series featuring Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. As he grew older, he said he began to become attracted to reading anything about the existence of aliens and lost treasures, wanting to know if they existed or not.

“The first thing you need to be to be a writer is to be curious. That curiosity leads you to reading and writing and it also leads you to science and math … I wanted to find out what I didn’t know,” Saldaña said.

Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Star author René Saldaña talked to fourth grade students during a question and answer session about his love of reading and writing and how to improve their writing skills while visiting Emiliano Zapata Elementary School in Mission March 5.

After reading from his first book “The Jumping Tree,” published in 2001, Saldaña asked for volunteers to describe the worst, nastiest, most gross thing they had ever eaten on purpose, as a dare, or by accident.

He used the two student volunteers’ efforts as a lesson on how to improve their writing by adding sensory details, dialogue and more descriptive phrases to their stories and to also encourage them to read more.

“The more words we put into our heads, the more creative you can be with those words and the more power and authority you will have,” he said. “I read recently in a picture on Facebook, ‘I’m not a bookworm, I’m a book lion.’ I liked that. Lions roar. Be voracious, be vicious when it comes to reading. Take every opportunity to ‘eat’ books like a lion would eat books.”

Fourth grade students Briseyda Rendon and Lorena Salinas both said they enjoyed reading Saldaña’s book and meeting and hearing from the author.

“It was awesome. I loved his book, I like mysteries also,” Rendon said. “I like to write and I like to read. All the examples he gave us, I feel like going and writing right now. He inspired me a lot!”

The Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Star program receives support from the following: H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Read 3, The Wright Family Foundation, ECG Foundation, Tecumpseh Foundation, UTPA, Target and individual donors.

FESTIBA continues March 6 with Librarians and Educators Day featuring a Roundtable on Hispanic Literacy led by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and keynote addresses by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Sonia Nazario, and UTPA alumnus, actor Valente Rodriguez. Due to inclement weather, the Friday, March 6 evening community festival has been postponed to a later date to be determined.

Original Post by Gail Fagan on March 6th , 2015

Older Posts »