UTPA Report: Opening of a new Mexican American Studies Center


POSTED: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 2:25pm

UPDATED: Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:26am

The University of Texas-Pan American is celebrating the opening of a new Mexican American Studies Center that administrators say marked a historic day at UTPA and could potentially serve as a national model. Here's Sandra Quintanilla with this week's News Center 23 report.

This ribbon cutting celebration marked an historic day at The University of Texas-Pan American. University administrators, faculty, students, and staff gathered to celebrate the unveiling of UTPA's new center for the Mexican American Studies Program. Organizers say the opening of the facility is especially significant because they've been trying for a long time to find a home and overall support for the program. Its director and assistant professor of Spanish Dr. Stephanie Alvarez credited UT Pan AM's President Robert Nelsen and other top officials for making this opportunity happen.

Dr. Stephanie Alvarez, MAS Program Director, "Mexican American Studies has been present at UTPA for well over 30 years, but really never got going. It didn't get the support and attention needed but with the support of Dr. Nelsen and the Provost Havidan Rodriguez we're able to open an actual physical space for the center and the academic program. It's very important because we need that space to support our students and to support our faculty."

The center is housed in the College of Education Complex and will primarily be used as a meeting place for students and faculty to be able to collaborate on research projects, community outreach programs and other assignments. UTPA officials point out the new facility is also important for the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Robert Nelsen, UTPA President, "It’s an opportunity to celebrate our culture in the Valley. It’s an opportunity to educate our students about that culture. It’s an opportunity for us to maximize our presence here on the border. We have to be aware of where we are, who we are and what we are and the Mexican American Studies Program does precisely that for our students, for our faculty for our staff and for the public as well."

The center's grand opening took place during the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas 2013 Conference held on campus. The event brought in prominent scholars, artists and activists from across the state and nation to discuss ethnic issues, the state of Mexican American studies in Texas, community-based activism and literature and art.

Havidan Rodriguez, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, "This is really an exciting conference because it recognizes the work that we’re doing here at UT Pan American. It highlights our contributions and it brings top scholarships from throughout the country including from Texas and from UT Pan American to highlight very, very important issues that are particularly important for the study of Chicano and Chicana studies here at UT Pan American and throughout the country."

I'm Sandra Quintanilla reporting for UTPA and News Center 23.

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