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UTPA Visual Art Building opens its doors to the community at Service Learning Showcase
Posted: 05/09/2013
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Juan Marquez said a presentation on the importance of attending college he heard at the McAllen Boys and Girls Club as a high school student piqued his curiosity about continuing his education beyond high school.

The University of Texas-Pan American officially opened its Visual Arts Building on Closner Boulevard with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house April 30. UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, and Dr. Susan Fitzsimmons, chair of the Art Department, pictured center from left to right, celebrate with students, faculty and staff. The grand opening was held in conjunction with the University's Service Learning Showcase.

"I was encouraged to enroll and attend college because someone took the time to share such information with me a few years ago," said Marquez, now a sophomore and criminal justice major at The University of Texas-Pan American.

He returned the favor by inspiring the next generation of college students recently with fellow members of the student organization Manos Unidas. The group shared their college-going experiences to children at the McAllen Boys and Club as part of its community service project, "Career Day."

"College is much more than just sitting through lectures and we wanted to show these students that post high school education is a very open-minded experience, where there are a variety of clubs and organizations, as well as a multitude of events and projects students can participate in, all of which UTPA has provided for us," Marquez said.

He and other Manos Unidas members shared their experiences in reaching out to young people with UTPA faculty, students and staff at the Service Learning Showcase held at the UTPA Visual Arts Building April 30.

The Showcase allowed many student groups to present the community service projects they have worked on throughout their academic year. Organizations and groups with which the students worked included the Palm Valley Animal Center, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley and Soñar Despierto, a Mexican-based nonprofit group that assists children.

UTPA also celebrated the official grand opening of its Visual Arts Building at the event with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the facility to attendees.

Dr. Danika Brown, professor of English and faculty director for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service Learning, said the University decided to dovetail the two events because much of the work done by students in the art building is experiential learning.

"We see this facility as a symbol as to what we are trying to bring to the whole University in this engaged way of learning."

At the grand opening, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen praised faculty and students for using their talents to help others.

"I am very proud of this building, but I am even more proud of the faculty that are working in this building and the student artists this building is helping to house and give an opportunity to create art, that marvelous thing that changes everybody's lives," said Nelsen. "I always say that we are family and we are family with the community that is out there. This Service Learning Showcase is about giving back and doing the right thing. It is what makes our university exceptional, engaging, different, and wonderful."

Dr. Linda Matthews, professor of management and a presidential fellow in charge of facilitating strategic plans for the University, said she believes the showcase is a great experience and an important aspect of student learning.

"Service learning is a great way for our students to grow in teamwork and critical thinking skills" Matthews said. "I think the more we expose our students to these types of opportunities, the more you're going to see our students step up and we'll become a place where a lot of our students are going to feel inspired."