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EDINBURG, RGV – The Mexican American Studies program at UT-Rio Grande Valley is flourishing under the direction of Dr. Francisco Guajardo and Dr. Stephanie Alvarez.

Between 1980 and 2009 only three students graduated from the MAS program at UTRGV’s legacy institution, UT-Pan American. This Spring and Summer alone, 24 students have graduated, either with a Bachelor’s in Mexican American Studies, a Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Mexican American Studies, or a Graduate Certificate in Mexican American Studies.

“MAS at the university, especially at the legacy institution, which was UT-Pan American, was in existence as a Mexican American heritage course. Between 1980 and 2009 there were only about three students who graduated with that degree. Three students in almost 30 years,” Guajardo said, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian.

“During the last six years we have had dozens and dozens of students graduate with a Mexican American Studies undergraduate degree and we have also had a number of students graduate with a Master’s degree, in what is called a Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Mexican American Studies.”

Guajardo said students are now keen to participate in MAS at UTRGV.

“We have seen a robust participation and some very impressive numbers in terms of students graduating. We had our graduation ceremony in May and, I forget what the numbers were but I think it was something like 21 students who were graduating with a MAS degree and another five or six with a graduate degree. That is only in one semester,” Guajardo said.

“So, to think that in 30 years there were only three students who graduated and in one semester we have 20-plus graduating, we believe there is an appetite for this kind of form of inquiry and understanding and learning by local students. We are very happy we have invested in it and built it up and students are coming to this.”

Dr. Alvarez, an associate professor of Mexican American Studies, is highly thought of at UTRGV. In 2015, Alvarez was named a U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. There were only four recipients of this award in 2015. Alvarez was the first faculty member in the University of Texas System to receive this national award.

Dr. Stephanie Alvarez, UTRGV associate professor of Mexican American Studies, was named a Carnegie-CASE Professor of the Year in 2015, one of just four designations in the nation. She is shown here at center, accepting her award at a special luncheon Nov. 19, 2015, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Photo)
Dr. Stephanie Alvarez, UTRGV associate professor of Mexican American Studies, was named a Carnegie-CASE Professor of the Year in 2015, one of just four designations in the nation. She is shown here at center, accepting her award at a special luncheon Nov. 19, 2015, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Photo)

Queremos Mas MAS


Rio Grande Guardian columnist Gary Joe Mounce, a former UT-Pan American professor, offered this assessment of the turnaround in fortunes of MAS at UTRGV:

“We want more MAS – Mexican American Studies. The University of Texas—Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is one of the premier universities in the United States producing accomplished and published scholars in the important field of Mexican American Studies. That stage was not easily reached.

“Horrified students and professors at the University of Texas—Pan American watched as, first, Latin American Studies was eliminated. Then, for unjust reasons, the knife was aimed at MAS. We unified with supportive elements from the broader community. We protested. The Rio Grande Guardian covered the issue. With the aid of then President Dr. Nelsen, we were able to save the program.

“Key professors–Dr. Francisco Guajardo, Education, Dr. Marci McMahon, Department of English—and others reached out to other universities. Students in the program—many of them from migrant families—were among the chief defenders. They had seen the need and responded energetically to the challenge of greater multi-ethnic diversity in education.”

Graduating students


Here are the names of the students who graduated from the UTRGV MAS program in the Spring and Summer of 2016:

Bachelors in Mexican American Studies:

Spring 2016: Annaiz Araiza, Katrina González, Nicole Guzmán, Ricardo Munguia, Victor Limón, Erika Rojas Regalado, Santiago Torres, Diana Valencia, Yvonne Ybarra.

Summer 2016: Erica Escamilla, Sandra Pichardo, Cassie Rodriguez.

Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Mexican American Studies

Spring 2016: Sergio Barrera, Claudia Razo, Cynthia Saldivar

Summer 2016: Adolfo Hernández

Graduate Certificate in Mexican American Studies

Spring 2016: Mark Cisneros, Ruth Haque, Mayra Consuelo Mancera, Amalia Ortiz, José E. Villa.

Summer 2016: Gricelda Careaga, Mónica Fogelquist, Lizette Leal

Editor’s Note: Reporter Ena Capucion contributed to this story from Edinburg, RGV.