UTRGV students and graduates who want to show off their Vaquero pride can now put a ring on it.

The new UTRGV class ring was unveiled March 23 on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses and streamed live. A ring reveal animation highlighted the event attended by students, staff, faculty and alumni.

“An official ring not only establishes a tradition for our institution, but also is a symbol of unity for our students and alums,” said Letty Benavides, assistant vice president for Campus Auxiliary Services. Benavides chaired the official Ring Committee that began work in fall 2015 to design the ring.

A COMMITTED PROCESS

The committee, made up of students, faculty, staff, medical school representatives and alumni, issued a survey in spring 2016 and used the responses, the majority from students, as a guide to what elements they most wanted to see on the ring.

The task to come up with the final ring design was then co-led by Ring Committee members Donna Sweigart, associate professor of art, and Dr. Kimberly Selber, director of Creative Services and Chief Creative Officer for University Marketing and Communications.

Sweigart involved students in her intermediate and advanced jewelry design classes to create preliminary designs. Many of those students also were involved in the research, design and creation of UTRGV’s ceremonial mace and presidential medallion and chain of office.

“Students used the basis of the research done for those items, looked at other college rings and their history, re-examined RGV history and reflected back on the survey results and what the people in the survey really responded to,” Sweigart said. “The students also were concerned that the ring design was really unisex in nature, not to be marketed as men’s or women’s rings, but as students’ rings.”

“We really focused on creating unity and having representation from everyone,” Sweigart added.

UNIQUE RESULTS

On the top of the new ring is the name “UTRGV” above the seal of The University of Texas System, which includes the wreath of olive and oak branches, the star of Texas, and an open book symbolizing an institution of learning.

One shank, or side of the ring, includes the graduation year, an arch – symbolic of the campuses’ architecture and the bridging of cultures – and the sun, ever present Valleywide and representative of new beginnings and prosperity.

The other shank incorporates palm fronds, a Valley skyline fixture, the degree received, as well as a stylized version of one of UTRGV’s eight college gonfalons (banners) indicating the college from which the wearer graduated. (The gonfalons – on display at all commencements and other ceremonial occasions – were created by University Marketing and Communications and approved last year.)

Each shank incorporates a swash, also part of the gonfalons’ design, representing the flow of the Rio Grande and the southern boundary of Texas’ southernmost region.

The ring will be available not only in various metals that can encompass a small stone of various types on top, but the top of the ring also can be composed of different stones that reflect the school colors – a bachelor’s degree is onyx, master’s is orange, Ph.D. is green and a medical degree is blue.

“You will be able to tell from across the room the level of your degree – the idea is to really highlight the exciting graduate degrees we offer and give them the level of distinction they deserve,” Sweigert said.

STUDENTS TOUT INPUT, UNIQUENESS

Vilma Flores, a senior studio art and sociology major who participated in the ring design, said it was challenging to refine all the symbolism and meaning behind the region and fit that on such a small yet significant piece.

“I hope students wear this ring with pride knowing that every single detail was worked on with them in mind,” she said.

Flores praised the many ring design options made available to students – from the simplest, to a “ring that lights up a room with flashy stones.”

She also appreciated that the university gave students the chance to participate in its creation.

“Having the opportunity to be involved in designing such an important ceremonial object such as the UTRGV class ring is something I will forever take pride in,” Flores said.

Flores and two other advanced jewelry students heavily involved in the ring’s design, Oscar Padron and Gloria Reyes, will travel to Denton, Texas, in April to view the ring manufacturing process by Josten’s.

Current UTRGV Student Government Association President Denisse Molina-Castro, who served on the Ring Committee, describes the new ring as “very unique, just like our university.”

Having a class ring represents many different things to students, she said.

“To many, it represents hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. It can also represent the beginning of a new chapter,” she said. “As we create this new tradition for future Vaqueros, we hope it seals one’s union to the university.”

ORDERING YOUR RING

The ring is now available for purchase by UTRGV students who have achieved a minimum of 75 credit hours, and by UTRGV alumni.

The UTRGV ring will be on sale starting March 23 at the UTRGV campus bookstores. It can also be ordered through the ring’s vendor, Jostens, at www.jostens.com.

Special promotional pricing is available March 23-31, and graduating students will be eligible to receive a free cap and gown with the purchase of their UTRGV ring.

A ring ceremony, in which students receive their rings in the presence of family, friends and university dignitaries, is planned for May 6, 2017. However, to participate in the ceremony, students must purchase their ring by March 31.