Update 3/1/2012: Representatives from Jostens will be on campus March 6-8 to take orders. The company is offering discounted prices for the rings March 6-10.
The University of Texas-Pan American unveiled its newest tradition during Homecoming Week 2012: its class ring.
Students, faculty and staff crowded into the Student Union Friday, Feb. 17 to see the new symbol of Bronc pride and cheered when UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and members of a committee who planned the ring unveiled it.
At the pep rally where the ring was displayed, Nelsen spoke about the importance of having traditions at the University.
"When I first got here a couple of years ago, I noticed we didn't have very many traditions," Nelsen said. "We needed to come forward with new traditions and new ideas and have a real sense of what it means to have Bronc Pride."
So the University followed suit and began work on researching and developing the ring. A committee composed of students, faculty and staff spent the past year and a half creating the ring.
"Our students created this," Nelsen said. "They created it for you, they created it for tradition ... it's been a marvelous experience. Tradition is so important."
Students of Donna Mason Sweigart, assistant professor of art, designed the ring and Jostens - a Minneapolis-based company that provides products and services for schools - crafted the jewelry based on their designs, said Letty Benavides, chair of the ring committee and director of auxiliary services at UTPA.
The art students developed more than 60 designs for the ring, all based on information they received from their peers who filled out a survey about what they would like to see on the ring. Two of the art students went to Jostens' plant in northern Texas for an internship where they watched employees create the ring.
"The best part about the ring is that it was created by UTPA students for UTPA." Benavides said. "Our students by far captured what we wanted. It's much more than just a ring."
It tells the story of the University, Benavides said.
Included on the ring are the year the institution began -- 1927 -- as well as symbols of the University's commitment to education: a book with rays of light emanating from it, the walkways that lead students through a journey of learning and community, the arches that signify the bridging of different cultures, and the heraldic shield and a star, which, respectively, tell the story of UT Pan American's beginnings as a community college serving Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley and its merging with The University of Texas System 62 years later.
"What better way to represent this kind of Bronc spirit than to create our official university ring," Stephanie Corte, president of the Student Government Association said. "This ring was created to be the perfect visual token of our UTPA history and our future to look forward to."
Maggie Joseph-Contreras, a senior majoring in art who worked on the ring, explained the symbolism of each part of the ring to the crowd.
She said at first it was a challenge to design the ring because there were so many ideas being shared. But everyone's dedication to the project helped bring them all together and decide on a final design, she said.
"We were very inspired and moved by Dr. Nelsen's eagerness to get something out there for students and it meant a lot to us to be a part of it," Contreras said.
After the pep rally, students rushed to the table where Jostens representatives had the rings on display.
Sylvia Vela, a junior majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in elementary education said she can't wait to purchase her class ring.
"It's really beautiful and I love how it symbolizes our traditions," Vela said.
Alfie Gracia, a sophomore majoring in English, said she also plans to buy a ring to show her Bronc pride. "I think it's wonderful, I mean, all the other major universities like UT always have these traditions, and I think we need to start making new ones and I think this is a great start," Gracia said.
UTPA officials also showed the new ring to alumni during the 2012 Alumni Ball that night and the alumni 50-Plus Luncheon Saturday, Feb. 18.
Students and alumni who have older class rings can trade them for new ones for the first year. Students graduating this year will receive a free cap and gown with the purchase of a ring.
The rings come in five sizes from petite to extra large. Students and alumni can choose from six types of metal and can add either a small emerald or diamond to their ring, as well as stars to indicate whether they are a first-generation or subsequent-generation UTPA student.
Letters have been sent to alumni, graduating students and those currently enrolled who have completed at least 60 credit hours and are eligible to purchase a ring with information on purchasing the jewelry.
The first ring ceremony will be held May 4.
Those wishing to participate in the ring ceremony must order their rings by March 16.
Watch a video on the making of the class ring: