I’ve helped give birth and it was good.
Okay, maybe not the best metaphor.
September 1st of this year marked the opening of the nation’s newest higher education institution, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. I had the profound privilege of guiding a team on UTRGV’s brand marketing, from conception to planning to execution, collaborating every step of the way with UT System and the amazing folks in the Valley who live this new U every day. It has been an 18-month-and-counting labor of love.
It is also a highlight of my professional career. But not in the way you’d think.
Sure, this was an amazing challenge. The new university brought together the former UT Pan American and UT Brownsville and added a new medical school, but was not officially a “merger” but a new university.
For all practical purposes, it combined the physical and human assets of the two universities, with the medical school as the cherry-on-top. But UTRGV was built for more than the sum of its parts. That was the magic—the promise of UTRGV became our guiding focus, our inspiration. It drove us.
While a white paper or professional essay can later detail the challenges, I want to share the reason this project and university matter to me. And should matter to you.
We live in a cynical world. It is hard to not hear something of society’s ills every day, the bad, the bleak. Themes of heartbreak and fear can intertwine with hope and happiness in our lives. It can be easy to feel down or discouraged about the future.
Enter education. We are all honored to work in this category, regardless of our job title, role, or responsibility. Education is opportunity. Education in nearly any form is a path of possibilities for anyone willing to do the work, from the most vocational of professions to the most cerebral.
I believe that the hands, head, and heart are all empowered by education. Introduce the right student to the right program at the right institution and we all win.
So, back to UTRGV.
I was able to attend the opening days of the new U and wander through the throngs of students, faculty, and staff there and take in what UTRGV meant to them. First-generation students and families immersed in this new experience side-by-side with some of the brightest graduate students in Texas. In all, more than 29,000 of them, supported by an entire city of faculty and staff living the university’s promise of support and concern.
Our campaign—We Will—had been brought to life in ways large and small, from thousands of t-shirts with We Will Inspire the World to huge blank boards for new students to add their own personal ending to the phrase. The months of work with the UTRGV staff to articulate the new U’s potential, all the agonizing over the right words and perfect phrasing, was brought to new life that transcended a tagline and “marketing.”
To see the impact of this new university in the most human of terms, in these peoples’ lives—was extraordinary.
It was a powerful reminder that the work we all do to make the right education connect to the right people for the right reasons is a noble cause.
Think about that every day.