Close to 125 student leaders at The University of Texas-Pan American attended a luncheon Dec. 1 honoring President Blandina Cárdenas on the eve of her formal investiture as the seventh president of the University.
The Student Leaders Luncheon was planned by a committee comprised of officers from four student governing bodies on campus - Greek Council, University Program Board (UPB), Residence Hall Association (RHA) and the Student Government Association (SGA). At the luncheon, a representative from each group spoke about their group's "Dreams for the Future," the adopted theme for the gathering designed by and for students as part of a weeklong list of investiture events. Each group also presented Cárdenas with a gift from their organization.
"After a healthy discussion we were able to come to an agreement - an agreement that saved the students over $400,000 but also benefits the University's new advisement program. With this, I learned a lesson and that lesson is that she is willing to listen to us and that our opinions matter and that we are all a part of a team - the University team - and we can cooperate with one another to achieve things and endeavor to listen," Schwarz said.
Although Schwarz expressed concerns that only 1,000 of the more than 17,000 students are actively involved in campus life, he said it was up to the students that are involved - "the passionate few" he said he liked to call them - to get more students connected to campus life.
"Through our passionate involvement we can increase the value of our University life, the value of our degrees, and the value of the surrounding community," he said, before presenting Cárdenas an SGA pin making her an honorary member.
"A famous singer once said 'in complete darkness we are all the same, it is our knowledge and wisdom that separates us.' With the Greek Council helping you to set the foundation with the bricks of knowledge, know in your heart that we will never let you down," Cacares said.
Stephanie Banda, a sophomore from Rio Hondo majoring in English, serves as the president of the RHA and talked to Cárdenas about the importance of a family atmosphere for the residents on campus.
"I have lived on campus a year and a half and in that short time I have seen Residence Life grow from a place to set your belongings down and sleep at night, to a home," she said.
Banda said Residence Life has been a blessing to many students who would otherwise have found it difficult to leave home and attend college.
"Our dreams are those that any family would want, stronger bonds and community with each other and the ability to bring a little bit of our real homes to our second homes and share that with our new families," she said. To accomplish this Banda said the University needs to continue to improve the current campus housing communities and expand the current residence life to allow more students a chance to encounter the "total university experience."
The RHA presented Cárdenas with a framed Bronc-shaped photo collage of UTPA housing residents with a plaque that read, "When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts and talents come together...expect a masterpiece."
Speaking on behalf of the UPB were Edward Adrian Sandoval, a senior from Lyford, Texas majoring in political science and philosophy and UPB president, and Rosie Leal, a senior majoring in English and a UPB committee member. Composed of 12 different committees led by UTPA students, the UPB is an all-campus programming organization that provides social, cultural, educational and recreational activities for the University community.
"It's our memories that make us who we are. Our dream for the future of UTPA is that the UPB and the administration continue to work together to tell the students that they can have a Pan American experience which they can cherish for the rest of their lives," Sandoval said.
After Sandoval presented Cárdenas with a basket of items invoking her own memories, he said, "We the students are entrusting you with something that is more precious than anything - our faith. All that we ask is that you help UTPA students so we can fill our own baskets of memories."
Following the presentations, Cárdenas spoke to the students, telling them she would not want to serve anywhere else.
"The students at this University are the most respectful of the opportunity that is presented to them, the most mindful of the responsibility that this opportunity thrusts upon them, the most grateful for all the love and affection of those who support you. I am proud to be your president," she said.
Reaffirming the thoughts of the students, Cárdenas agreed that there was a need to build more community and memories for the students.
"We need to make sure every student walks away with memories, memories of learning, memories of friendship, memories of affirmation, memories of empowerment, memories of expanded horizons, memories of experiences that let them know how wonderful they are. We are going to figure out how to touch more and more of our students as whole human beings not just as students," she said.
Cárdenas told the students that she felt it was important that in this period of UTPA's history that the students, faculty and staff experience the centuries-old academic ritual of an investiture.
"This investiture is for you. This is about creating and shaping and representing this University not only for what you are doing here now, but for what will last for the rest of your life. Twenty years from now when this University is kicking you know what all over the place not only at the state but at the national level, as we are already starting to do in many fields, you all will say 'I am a graduate of UT Pan Am,' 'I support UT Pan Am,' 'I'm sending my kids to UT Pan Am,' because there people get educated not only in their mind but in their heart," she said.
Adan Nito, a junior from Mercedes majoring in political science and a UPB member, attended the luncheon and said the president's speech made him want to participate even more in the University.
"It made me want to continue to take part in the University even when I graduate as an alumnus and to be proud of my UTPA heritage. She (Cárdenas) wants to make it where you will want to scream it from the highest mountaintops that you are a UTPA graduate and everybody will know how proud you are. People will know how hard it is to graduate from our University and that it is one of the best universities around," he said.
The investiture ceremony will be held Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium. Since the seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis, students will have the opportunity to view the ceremony via video screens set up in the Student Union or webcast on their computer. The processional to the ceremony may also be viewed by students beginning at 1:30 p.m.