The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley held a two-day celebration of International Women’s Day, a global celebration since 1975 of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women past, present and future.
Luncheons on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses honored an Outstanding International Female Student and an Outstanding International Female Faculty on each campus.
Roshni Manwani and Perla Frias Perez received the honors on the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses, respectively. Each will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Manwani, a junior accounting major, was the recipient of the Outstanding International Female Student in Edinburg on Tuesday, during a celebration held at the UC Ballroom.
Manwani, 26, is of Indian descent and hails from Lagos, Nigeria. She holds a 4.0 GPA and has been on the President’s List for three consecutive semesters. She is founding president of the Association of International Students, and serves as the vice president of marketing for the Institute of Management Accountants on the Edinburg Campus. She also has served as a volunteer income tax preparer.
During the luncheon Tuesday on the Edinburg Campus, Manwani in her acceptance speech thanked the university and its Office of International Admissions and Student Services.
“Without you all, I wouldn’t be able to achieve the education that I am receiving right now, with all the support that you have provided me,” Manwani said. “You have not only provided me with an environment in which I can succeed, but you also have recognized my contribution, and you understand the meaning of the hardship of coming into a new environment.”
PERLA FRIAS PEREZ
Perez, a graduate student studying Early Childhood Special Education, was named Outstanding International Female Student in Brownsville, during a ceremony held at Salón Cassia.
“I would like to thank God for this blessing,” Perez said. “Second, the scholarship committee for granting me this award, thank you very much. This helps me get one step closer to my goal.
“It has never been easy for immigrants to dream and seek a future in a land that is not their own, especially in times such as these,” she said in her acceptance speech. “But awards like the Outstanding International Female Student hearten women like me to keep going. I thank UTRGV and the Office of International Admissions and Student Services for this award, and I encourage all of you to continue with this tradition of giving and recognition. You might not perceive it, but you are being the answers to prayers.”
She also acknowledged the special nature of International Women’s Day.
“To all the women in the room, congratulations on your day,” she said. “We are beautiful, wonderful and worth more than diamonds. And to the amazing men in our lives, thank you for letting us embrace our identity and goals, and for honoring us for who we truly are.”
Perez, 25, is from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. She received her undergraduate degree in 2013 and accepted a teaching position with the Corpus Christi Independent School District after her graduation. But she wanted to expand her knowledge in special education, and decided to return to the Valley to purse a master’s degree. She now holds a 4.0 GPA, and hopes to become a special education program director.
OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL FEMALE FACULTY
Two international female faculty members also were named in this year’s International Women’s Day events.
Dr. Bin Wang, professor of information systems, was honored as Outstanding International Female Faculty at the Edinburg ceremony.
“Growing up in China, I had an interest in math,” Wang said. “I started going to math competitions in elementary school, and I can remember, around sixth grade, I was very proud that I solved a math problem that none of my fellow students or my math teacher could solve.”
When she was growing up, many people told her that, as girls grow older, they don’t excel in math as well as boys do. She didn’t let that stop her, though, and went on to compete in math competitions in middle school, high school and college.
“You can be beautiful and enjoy shopping, and still enjoy school at the same time,” Wang said. “The only thing keeping you from success is your own intimidation.”
Wang has been with the university since 2004.
On the Brownsville Campus, Dr. Alexandre Couture Gagnon, assistant professor of public affairs and security studies, was named Outstanding International Female Faculty.
“When I came to this university in 2014, I had tons of logistical problems with some elements of the university because I was not an American citizen,” she said. “The turning point was meeting Samantha Lopez from the Office of Global Engagement. I still remember wanting to quit and run back to Canada. Nothing was working. With just a few phone calls, Samantha fixed everything.”
She thanked the Women’s Faculty Network for all their support.
“The United States lacks equality of women in office with only 19.1 seats occupied by women in the U.S. House of Representatives and 21 of the 100 seats in the Senate,” Gagnon said. “Canada, where I am from, is also a bad one. It gets the 62nd rank, with 27.3 percent of the House of Commons spots going to women and 43 percent of the Senate.”
Boys and girls have similar ideals about running for office, she said, but too often, as time goes by, women become less confident.
“We can all agree that society benefits from greater gender equality,” Gagnon said. “Women can run for office, and obtain Ph.Ds.”
The UTRGV Office of Global Engagement and International Admissions and Student Services, the School of Music, and the Women’s Faculty Network hosted the celebration.