PHARR, Texas – Half the students at UT-Rio Grande Valley did not have access to high speed internet at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This information was unveiled by Dr. Lance Nail, dean of UTRGV’s college of business and entrepreneurship, during a recent RGV Focus retreat. The retreat was held at the Pharr Development and Research Center.

Dr. Nail was a panelist in a discussion entitled “Navigating a Path Toward Educational & Economic Success.” During the discussion he said the digital divide was real in the RGV.

“And the third part (we have to address) is the technical skills. And this is the part where we really need our industry partners to be working with us,” Nail reported.

“As we were going through the pandemic and we went into the online phase at UTRGV we found that over 50 percent of our students did not have high speed internet access at home. We had students trying to take exams on their cell phones and they couldn’t because they couldn’t use the technology to take exams.”

Nail recounted other horror stories.

“We were having students come into our parking lots, parked next to our building, so they could get free Wi Fi to take classes.”

That, said Nail, is unacceptable.

“We have to invest in that infrastructure and have high speed internet available for every student,” Nail said.

“If there’s an equity component that we have to address, it is the most important thing in the Valley; it’s overcoming the digital divide. So that’s the one big thing that we really have to address because the students are capable. They’re more than capable. They just have to have the skills.”

Brag on your students

Earlier in the discussion, Dr. Nail was raving about the quality of the students at his college and those at other Valley higher education institutions.

“This is my fourth year in the Valley. I moved here from San Diego and I would tell you that the work ethic and the capabilities of our students are far greater than you probably realize,” Nail said.

“And I would put my students here and the students from any of our institutions against any (institutions) I have been at before and I think that’s the surprise I have seen here. We kind of wall ourselves off sometimes. This is the Valley and this is the way it has always been. And this is the way it is always going to be. We are changing that.”

Nail added: 

“The wonderful thing about the Valley is the people here are so warm and gracious and they’re so humble and modest. And it’s a wonderful thing. But, it also serves as a disservice because there’s not enough bragging of what goes on in K-12 and what we see as (the students) come into all of our institutions. So, I would say, first of all, don’t be embarrassed to brag on your students and what you’re doing because it is incredible. And I think the rest of the state doesn’t really know what goes on down here. And I think that needs to change.”

After the retreat had ended the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service secured an exclusive interview with Dr. Nail. Here it is:


Editor’s Note: The above video story is part of a series of stories about the recent RGV Focus Fall 2022 Retreat. Click here to watch Part One. Click here to watch Part Two.

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