Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.66
Liaison Marianella Franklin
Submission Date Sept. 20, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
EN-11: Inter-Campus Collaboration

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Marianella Franklin
Director of Sustainability
The Office For Sustainability
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Is the institution an active member of a national or international sustainability network?:

The name of the national or international sustainability network(s):

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP)
American Institute of Architects (AIA)

Is the institution an active member of a regional, state/provincial or local sustainability network?:

The name of the regional, state/provincial or local sustainability network(s):

Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability (TRACS)
Texas Association for Physical Plant Administrators (TAPPA)
Valley Environmental Summit
Technology Student Association (TSA)

Has the institution presented at a sustainability conference during the previous year? :

A list or brief description of the conference(s) and presentation(s):

UTRGV hosted an international sustainability conference in 2017 in partnership with the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). An intensive two-day faculty development program entitled the International Center for Sustainability Across the Curriculum (ICSAC) Conference grew out of our university’s successful Project Sin Fronteras program's goal of bringing together faculty from all fields, allowing for an exchange of ideas nurturing an enriching collaborative atmosphere. This interdisciplinary exercise helps faculty to explore the shifts in pedagogy needed to incorporate sustainability concepts, problems, or solutions into new or existing courses. Drawn from experienced faculty and professionals on issues of sustainability, environment, and curriculum, these instructional materials, activities, and presentations will support the education for sustainable development in higher education.
International faculty, and faculty from across the nation, are invited to join local, state, national, and global participants, providing international experiences while opening a range of collaborative and networking opportunities for all. http://www.utrgv.edu/sustainability/news-and-events/international-center-for-sustainability-across-the-curriculum-conference/

UTRGV also hosted TRACS, the 2016 Annual Texas Alliance for Campus Sustainability Conference. This conference will be held at South Padre Island Convention Center, one of the largest destinations and most valued ecological regions of South Texas. We will focus on continued education for sustainability practices, along with the opportunity to engage and overcome emerging issues that are arising in today’s society.

College of Business Administration-Trans-Atlantic Sustainability Seminar (TASS).
Legacy institution the University of Texas-Pan American's Office for Sustainability, and the College of Business Administration, in co-operation with Leuphana University (Lüneburg, Germany) held the first Trans-Atlantic Sustainability Seminar (TASS) in 2013, and the program has since been offered again in 2014 and 2015. This two-week seminar allows students to learn and address sustainability initiatives in terms of energy, waste/water management, public policy, and transportation. Students are required to propose research topics and develop sustainability-related strategies. On the final days of the seminar, students present their research findings and strategies to faculty members from each university, official speakers from the local community, and agencies such as The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

UTRGV’s College of Education and P-16 Integration, in partnership with UTRGV Continuing Education, hosted the second annual three-day Critical Issues Leadership Conference. The meeting brought together administrators from local school districts across the Valley along with UTRGV faculty and administrators to discuss best practices in educating an ever-growing and diverse group of students, including English-language learners and students from low-income households. Founding director of the UTRGV Bilingual, Bicultural and bi-literate-B3 Institute Dr. Francisco Guajardo, also discussed the vision for developing students’ knowledge in this regard. Link:http://www.utrgv.edu/en-us/about-utrgv/news/press-releases/2016/september-14-utrgv-college-of-education-p-16-integration-hosts-critical-issues-leadership-conference/index.htm

Has the institution submitted a case study during the previous year to a sustainability awards program that is inclusive of multiple campuses? :

A list or brief description of the awards program(s) and submission(s):

Tree Campus USA is a national program launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging their students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

To obtain the Tree Campus USA distinction, UTRGV met the five core standards for effective campus forest management:

A tree advisory committee.
A campus tree-care plan.
Dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program.
Arbor Day observance.
And student service-learning project.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s 2016 annual report says there are 296 colleges and universities across the United States with this recognition, with nearly $47 million collectively invested by Tree Campus USA colleges and universities in campus forest management in 2015.
The effort to achieve the designation, first received by the university in 2014, was led by UTRGV's Office for Sustainability and it Facilities Planning and Operations Department.
“Although this is a team effort, the ultimate recognition should go to the Department of Facilities Planning and Operations – in particular to the grounds crew, whose continuous dedication and commitment to the maintenance and beautification of our campus provides us with this designation,” said Marianella Q. Franklin, chief sustainability officer for UTRGV. “We support this program in facilitating meetings, events and collecting the data required to meet the Arbor Day Foundation requirements.”
UTRGV owns and maintains a healthy urban forest of more than 2,000 trees on the Edinburg Campus alone, with a 2014 estimated value of more than $5,735,000.
Beyond being a vital component of campus infrastructure and landscaping, a healthy urban forest provides substantial benefits, including providing green spaces and shade for the campus community, energy savings and reduction of carbon dioxide in the air, and support to reduce storm water runoff and soil erosion, Franklin said.
Using the experience of the first tree inventory on the Edinburg Campus, done primarily by a team of biology undergraduate and graduate students, UTRGV’s goal is to expand the tree inventory process to other UTRGV campuses and subsidiary locations.

Read UTRGV’s 2016 Tree Campus Report: https://issuu.com/officeforsustainability/docs/final__2016_campus_tree_care_report

Has the institution had staff, students or faculty serving on a board or committee of a sustainability network or conference during the previous three years? :

A list or brief description of the board or committee appointment(s):

Marianella Franklin, Director of Sustainability, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley serves on the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Executive Committee. The committee is comprised of six elected members, who will focus on creating the TRACS governance structure and organizational bylaws as well as refining the mission and vision of TRACS.
Marianella Franklin is also the Vice-President for the Valley Environmental Summit; the goal of the VES is to bring together the general public, political leaders, neighborhood associations, non-profits, businesses, and students to identify possible solutions, and implement those solutions.

Does the institution have an ongoing mentoring relationship with another institution through which it assists the institution with its sustainability reporting and/or the development of its sustainability program?:

A brief description of the mentoring relationship and activities:

Has the institution had staff, faculty, or students serving as peer reviewers of another institution’s sustainability data (e.g. GHG emissions or course inventory) and/or STARS submission during the previous three years?:

A brief description of the peer review activities:

Has the institution participated in other collaborative efforts around sustainability during the previous year, e.g. joint planning or resource sharing with other institutions? :

A brief description of other collaborative efforts around sustainability during the previous year:

UTRGV collaborates regularly with other colleges and universities to build the sustainability community. Aside from the agreements highlighted below, UTRGV’s other existing agreements may be found here: http://www.utrgv.edu/oge/global-partnerships/existing-agreements/index.htm

The Center for Subtropical Studies is a multidisciplinary research component of the College of Science and Mathematics at UTRGV. In collaboration with scientists from Texas State University and McAllen Independent School District, the center supports research, education, and community service missions of the university by focusing on the environmental concerns of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, providing infrastructure and a forum for discussions, collaboration, and implementation of research, educational programs and initiatives involving UTRGV and non-UTRGV entities. It enhances institutional effectiveness by fostering organized interaction with civic, business, and political leaders of the area and with regional, national, and international organizations with an interest in subtropical studies or the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The Center for Subtropical Studies also provides opportunities for students in the natural sciences through an organized framework of research excellence. http://www.utrgv.edu/biology/academics/programs/subtropical-studies/index.htm

Volunteers trained by AgriLife Extension and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Coastal Studies Laboratory at South Padre Island and Texas A&M Corpus Christi have collaborated with scientists from Texas A&M AgriLife on unmanned aerial vehicle flyovers of the red tide algae bloom off the South Texas coast. Red tides occur naturally and are caused by high concentrations or blooms of microscopic algae. The algae produce a toxin that can affect the central nervous systems of fish, birds, mammals and other animals. In high enough concentrations, it can cause water discoloration, making it appear red, green or brown.
Link: http://today.agrilife.org/2015/10/22/drones-survey-waning-red-tide-at-south-padre-island/
Link: http://www.uavexpertnews.com/drones-survey-waning-red-tide/

The UTRGV/University of Minnesota partnership was one of six (PREM) award-winners selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) awards couple the expertise of NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) with minority-serving colleges and universities to involve those students in some of the nation's preeminent materials research. PREM aims to broaden participation and enhance diversity in materials research and education by stimulating formal, long-term, multi-investigator, collaborative research and education partnerships.
The UTRGV/UM partnership has provided research opportunities for 135 students that included incorporating them as scientific presenters and paper collaborators--and also as partners in submitting 12 patent applications (some licensed). While a high percentage of students come to the partnership without the advantage of strong scientific backgrounds, the program has seen a 100 percent retention and graduation rate among its undergraduates. The partnership's research has important applications for areas of study such as sensor development, novel lithium-ion batteries and spintronics, which play a role in the development of infrastructure and innovation - vital components to developed countries and sustainable societies.

UTRGV has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University (RMU), a nonprofit university in the Muang District in northeastern Thailand. This MOU serves to create a means for cooperative efforts between UTRGV and RMU for academic interchange of faculty, students, and academic and research information between the two institutions. This cooperative agreement with RMU fits in well with the four major goals of the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science:
To provide multinational learning in an innovative environment.
To conduct research that has global impact.
To develop opportunities for student engagement and scholarly activity.
To create an ecosystem that attracts and develops new industries.

UTRGV has partnered with Hengyang Normal University (HYNU) in China since 2009 through legacy institution UTPA. HYNU is a public undergraduate teaching institution with about 16,000 students. Since then the partnership has flourished with faculty exchanges, sharing methods and research each semester. Four HYNU faculty participate in the fall and another four in the spring. A few UTRGV faculty have travelled to HYNU to teach.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas on Dec. 3, 2015, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that will provide renewed collaborative opportunities to students, faculty and staff at both border institutions. The MOU, signed by UTRGV President Guy Bailey and Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas Rector C. P. Enrique C. Etienne Pérez del Río, provides for cooperative efforts to promote academic interchange of faculty and students, joint research projects, exchange of academic publications, reports and other information, and collaborative professional development, among other activities as approved by both institutions. Bailey said the signing formally continues a relationship that has been in place for more than 25 years.
Pérez del Río, who became his university’s rector in 2014, said he aims to lead his university from being “good” to “excellent,” and to produce graduates who not only are qualified, but also have strong values.
“We have established three goals or three areas of action – academic quality, research and internationalization of the institution,” he said, and cited some of their recent international awards and certifications for academic endeavors.
UAT’s Secretario Académico Dr. Marco Aurelio Navarro Leal – also spoke at the ceremony.
Navarro Leal said the border relationships that already exist in terms of families, the economy and growth already make this a strong region, and that there will be growing opportunities for students to fill needed positions in areas like technology and the space industry. Research will be important in medical technology, he said, and in meeting the countries’ common challenges of maintaining clean air and water.
“We need to start working together in terms of how we are going to prepare our students to face these new challenges,” he said.

Health promoters, also known as promotores in the Indian Hills community in Hidalgo County have been certified as part of a program that is a result of the partnership between the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. Once participants receive their state certification, they will help inform the people of their community by participating in health clinics. The program is funded by the United Health Foundation and is part of the UTRGV School of Medicine’s South Texas Interprofessional Team Collaborative for Health (STITCH), which includes collaborators from multiple locations across the nation. Hospitals, nonprofit groups and other educational institutions are also teaming up with the program in order to provide care for communities. In addition to certifying individuals to be health promoters, STITCH will offer a service for already certified promoters to continue their education, specializing in mental health. The third part would allow individuals to achieve college credit through the program.
Link: http://www.utrgvrider.com/bonding-the-community-to-health/

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley houses the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy – founded in 2003 with grants from the National Aeronautic Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. The UTRGV CGWA has the largest group of gravitational-wave researchers in Texas and is one of the largest from the United States involved in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) global research effort. Its scientists and student researchers are key contributors to the first direct detection of gravitational waves. This collaboration contributes to sustainable development, innovation, and infrastructure.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has been named one of six universities that will participate in a $15.4 million National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant that will enhance research opportunities for students in the School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences (SEEMS). UTRGV will be part of a six-university team working with the NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystem (CCME) on research led by Florida A&M University. The CCME already has begun developing an implementation plan that focuses on student recruitment. One of the unique requirements of the grant, which will be awarded over five years, is that at least 50 percent of the funds are used to support students.

Two UTRGV professors have been chosen to participate in a multi-institutional consortium to establish the Western Gulf Center for Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases, with a focus on Zika research and monitoring. Partners in the new Western Gulf Center based at UTMB will include UTRGV, UT Austin, UT El Paso, Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado and the University of Houston. Harris County and five other local public health agencies and the Texas Department of State Health Services also are participating in the initiative. This type of collaboration is necessary for sustainable development in the realms of health and education, and to maintain sustainable communities.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

UTRGV’s community partnerships work towards the sustainable development goal of sustainable communities, strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals by collaborating with other colleges and universities to help build the campus sustainability community.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.