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University Celebrates 21st Spring Commencement
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 10, 2013 – More than 1,300 students received their degrees at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s 21st Spring Commencement on Friday, May 10. 
 
Commencement Speaker Dr. Hans M. Mark
Dr. Hans M. Mark, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin and former Chancellor of The University of Texas System, speaks to graduates at the 21st Spring Commencement at UTB and TSC.
More than 500 graduates participated in the late afternoon ceremony held on the Cardenas South Hall Lawn.
 
It was the final Commencement for the UTB and TSC partnership. Both schools will have separate graduation ceremonies beginning this fall. In the last two decades more than 49,000 certificates and degrees have been awarded.
  
Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chancellor of The University of Texas System, told graduates that Commencement was an invigorating time and particularly transformational for the university as it looks to merge with The University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg and have a medical school for the region.
 
“Class of 2013, you are the future of Texas, and indeed, of the United States,” said Cigarroa. “You have so many doors open to you – to fields of study, and to careers that did not even exist a few years ago, let alone 22 years ago when UTB was created. In this 21st Century, change is most definitely a constant. Embrace change; you are prepared for it. As you leave this beautiful campus, as you bring to an end your daily interactions with cherished friends, faculty members and your extraordinary president, please know that what you accomplished here will not end.” 
 
Also giving remarks was Dr. Hans M. Mark, the John J. McKetta Centennial Energy Chair in Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and former Chancellor of The University of Texas System. Mark spoke at the first partnership Commencement in 1992. 
 
“I don’t have to describe it,” said Mark. “All you have to do is look around. That is the vision.” 
Soledad Ortiz-Paniagua, a teacher at Alton Memorial Junior High School in the Mission Consolidated Independent School District in Hidalgo County, was among six graduates who received master’s degrees in English at the ceremony.
 
“What helped the six of us to get through this was the sense of community and a lot of encouraging,” she said. “It’s difficult to juggle a full-time job and we are all in education. It’s a relief and we feel accomplished. We all stuck through it together.” 
 
Ortiz-Paniagua said because of their graduate degrees, the group will now be able to teach dual enrollment courses and early college high school classes in the Mission school district.
Commencement Speaker Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa
Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chancellor of The University of Texas System, addresses graduates at the 21st Spring Commencement at UTB and TSC.
 
Rolando Hernandez, 18, of Brownsville received his high school diploma and associate degree as a member of the Mathematics and Science Academy’s Class of 2013. He wore a red, white and blue cord to signify his 3.5 grade point average.  
 
“We got to become more mature students more quickly,” he said. “It broadened my horizons and made me a better student.”
 
Hernandez already knows what his next step will be. He will attend the university this fall and become a member of the first Accelerated Professional Relevant Integrated Medical Education program for the bachelor’s degree in biomedicine.
 
 
The ceremony marked other firsts and lasts for graduates. 
The university gave three degrees as part of the first BA/BS to MPH Program. The 4 + 1 degree program is a partnership between the university and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health.
 
 
Isela de la Cerda, 21, of Brownsville and a graduate of Hanna High School, received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a certificate in public health through the program. 
 
Graduate Student Nicole Ulloa
Graduates walked across the stage and down the Cardenas South Hall Lawn at the 21st Spring Commencement at UTB and TSC.
“I have a curiosity in the human body and how we deal with certain diseases and conditions,” said de la Cerda. “I will continue working on my master’s of epidemiology with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston but in Brownsville.”
 
 
Roni Rentfro of Brownsville received a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction through a partnership between the university and the University of Houston. She is the Interim Administrator for Texas Title I Priority Schools grant program at the Brownsville Independent School District. 
 
Rentfro, the last student to receive the degree in the partnership that began in the early 1980s, was hooded by Dr. Howard Jones, Professor Emeritus at the University of Houston, and Dr. Charles Lackey, Dean of Graduate Studies at UTB and TSC.
 
 
Rentfro used her experience as being the first principal of the Brownsville Early College High School to write her dissertation “Opening an Early College High School: A Personal and Professional Journey of Theory and Introductory Practice Through Shared Stories.” 
“I am very excited and it is rewarding,” said Rentfro. “I plan to use it in my career with the school district.”
 
The university also awarded the last certificates and associate degrees to graduates.  
 
“I think I will miss the uniting and everyone helping each other and succeeding and telling them to not lose hope,” she said.  
The university also granted its first master’s degrees in psychology and gave its last associate degrees to students at the Brownsville Early College High School.
 
“As our most recent graduates, today you become our newest ambassadors,” said Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, President of UTB. “Represent us well and take your place among the many that have preceded you to become stewards of our mission, leaders in our community and important contributors to making our world a better place. Build bridges not fences; nurture and care for our fragile environment; work for peace and justice and take your place as an engaged citizen of our world.”
 

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