Going green and campus safety highlight Fall 2008 Convocation
Contact: Melissa Vasquez 381-3639
Posted: 08/22/2008
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Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, president of The University of Texas-Pan American, ushered in the start of the fall 2008 semester for faculty and staff with the annual Fall Convocation Thursday, Aug. 21.

Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, UTPA president, addresses University faculty and staff during the annual Fall Convocation held at the Fine Arts Auditorium Thursday, Aug. 21.
Convocation is the event where the UTPA president and the executive team share their upcoming plans and message for the new fiscal year as well as reflect on the events that happened throughout the previous year with more than 2,000 University employees. Convocation is annually held prior to the start of the fall semester.

Cárdenas' presentation, titled "Creating a Culture of Achievement and Success," was also transmitted live on the main University Web site for the first time in order to reach University employees who were unable to attend the program.

During her address, Cárdenas discussed the University's initiatives, which included the campus "going 100 percent green" in the near future, and the fitness and health plan, which will utilize the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex and motivate the University community to live healthier lifestyles. In addition, she talked about the importance of students, faculty and staff "getting involved" in their communities through volunteerism and community engagement.

Cárdenas said reducing the University's "carbon footprint" is a work in progress and the responsibility of the entire campus community.

"The issue of making UTPA an environmentally responsible member of the community is going to be something that will be taking up more and more of our attention, and something we hope that you will join," she said.

As part of reducing the carbon footprint, UTPA is planning significant changes in the landscaping and irrigation systems as well as with building construction. Cárdenas said UTPA plans to build a storm water management feature, part of the UTPA West Campus Master Plan, which will capture rainwater in the reserve to reduce flooding and irrigate the campus lawns.

"This will allow us to save the money, and yet create a far more beautiful environment that again will raise the consciousness of the campus about environmental issues," she said.

Green standards will be implemented this year in the construction of the Starr County Higher Education Facility and the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center that will be located in McAllen.

Cárdenas said the Student Government Association (SGA) encouraged the UTPA administration to implement the green standards.

"With the help of SGA and the Environmental Awareness Committee we have studied the issue and came up with a long list of recommendations many of which have already been implemented," she said.

Among the recommendations already put into action is the Energy Management Program in which air conditioning equipment throughout the campus were inspected, cleaned, or replaced. Also, the light fixtures in five buildings were switched to the new energy efficient light ballast and fluorescent light bulbs, which resulted in the UTPA saving more than $85,000 on its energy bills. Also, the University's dining services, Sodexho, has jumped on the bandwagon and has done away with the use of trays.

"While you may find trayless dining a little tricky at first, you'll adjust knowing your saving thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars in detergent and energy. In addition, trayless dining helps cut back on the overeating ... This may actually have an impact on student health," she said.

The University also has plans to expand the campus-recycling program while the Environmental Advisory Committee is working to bring awareness to the University community. Cárdenas also spoke about campus security and the University's emergency response during Hurricane Dolly, which prompted University administrators to close campus for two days.

Dr. Paul Sale, vice president and provost for the Division of Academic Affairs, presents Cárdenas with flowers before the start of the Convocation as a thank you for her dedication to UTPA.
"The UTPA preparation and response was extraordinary ... Our great concern in closing the campus on time was that our students, faculty and staff, not be out there trying to get to the campus. That is going to be my position from now on as these emergencies arise. I would rather be safe and make it up later than to take a chance that might lead to a loss of life," she said.

In the area of campus security, the University has purchased and installed a campus notification system with text message and e-mails that will be tested in the near future. A siren system has been purchased too and is currently being installed and should be in use by mid-September. In addition, the University in partnership with the Edinburg Police Department and city of Edinburg will be organizing an active shooter mock drill this fall.

The president also announced the formation of the Student Concern Intervention Team (SCIT) that will assist administration, faculty and staff address students with emotional or psychological issues that may pose a potential risk of harm to others or themselves. For employees who may need counseling too, Cárdenas said the Employee Assistance Program through the Office of Human Resources is available to them.

"I have said it before and I'll say it again, I truly believe that the greatest prevention is to have a caring community..." Cárdenas said. "The bottom line is that we are all ultimately responsible for each other."