EDINBURG, RGV – Evidence of UT-Rio Grande Valley’s commitment to becoming a fully integrated bilingual, bi-cultural, and bi-literate university is the formation of the B3 Institute, says UTRGV Provost Havidan Rodriguez.

The B3 Institute will be led by Professor Francisco Guajardo, who graduated from Edcouch-Elsa High School and the University of Texas at Austin, and is founder of the Llano Grande Center and the Community Learning Exchange.

Dr. Francisco Guajardo
Dr. Francisco Guajardo

“Not only is becoming a bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate university part of our strategic plan, it will be manifested through our vision for the B3 Institute. We want people to know we are very serious about this,” Rodriguez told the Rio Grande Guardian, in a wide-ranging interview.

“Someone like Francisco, who does a lot of work in the community, with the colonias, who has a great deal of credibility, both inside and outside the institution, is the ideal person to be the executive director for the B3 Institute.”

Rodriguez said the B3 Institute will have three primary components, Mexican American Studies, the Center for Bilingual Studies and the Center for Interpretation and Translation. The B3 Institute is expected to be formally unveiled later this year.

Becoming a bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate university was one of the 15 guiding principles established for UTRGV by the UT System, Rodriguez pointed out.

“When the UT System Board of Regents announced the formation of UTRGV they set up about 15 guiding principles and one of those guiding principles was to become a bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate university. When we began the establishment of UTRGV, you might remember we set up about 50 working groups that developed all kinds of reports, from infrastructure to academic programs, etc.,” Rodriguez said.

“One of those committees was working on the bilingual, bi-cultural, bi-literate component. Right now, one of the 15 subcommittees that are working on our strategic plan is discussing how we develop a bilingual, bi-cultural, bi-literate university.”

Asked if there is another university like UTRGV in the United States that is committed to becoming a bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate school, Rodriguez said: “We have not found an example in the United States but there is one in Canada. When UTRGV was being planned, Francisco led a team to the University of Ottawa, where they focus on English and French. We got a lot of good ideas there.”

Havidan Rodriguez
Havidan Rodriguez

Rodriguez also pointed to a recent visit by the Educational Advisory Board, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., which does a lot of work to establish best practices in education across the country.

“EAB is a wonderful group to work with. One of the things they liked about what we were doing and proposing was our commitment to the B3 concept. They said, they cannot think of any institution in the country that identifies themselves as bilingual, bi-cultural, bi-literate, or were aiming in that direction. They said, ‘You want to be unique in terms of your values, your vision, your goals?’ They said, ‘You’ve got it’.”

Rodriguez said it only makes sense that UTRGV would aspire to being a bilingual, bi-cultural, and bi-literate university, given the demographics of the Rio Grande Valley.

“Think about it, we are building on the strengths of the Rio Grande Valley. Ninety percent of our population is of Hispanic descent. Ninety percent of our students are of Hispanic descent. That is a major, major strength, that we have. Rather than shy away from it – why would we? – we have got to embrace it and build on it. Such a plan recognizes who we are, as the Rio Grande Valley,” Rodriguez said.

“I think it is going to make us unique around the country. When people say, I want to study diabetes and obesity, the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute at UTRGV is where you want to be. When you want to talk about bilingual, bi-cultural, bi-literate, and you want to do research on it and do an academic program in that area, you want students to say, I want to go to UTRGV. It does not matter if you are from New York, Kansas, California, wherever you are, you say, that is the place I want to be. That’s what we want to do.”

Asked how committed UTRGV President Guy Bailey is to the concept of a bilingual, bi-cultural, and bi-literate university, Rodriguez said: “Dr. Bailey is a very strong proponent. We have 100 percent support from him.”

Soon enough, Rodriguez said, UTRGV’s website will be fully bilingual. “That is what we are working on. The Center for Interpretation and Translation is translating almost every aspect of the UTRGV website into Spanish. We also have a Master’s in Business Administration program that is available in English and Spanish. We want the latitude to develop programs in Spanish, to be fully bilingual, to offer many courses in Spanish. It is something we have to build from the bottom up. We have faculty who feel they can do this and will do this.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series based upon a wide-ranging interview with Dr. Havidan Rodriguez. Part One focused on UTRGV’s strategic plan. Click here to read it.