EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for the first time earlier this year, one of 119 colleges and universities to receive the designation nationally.

Issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the designation institution’s commitment to community engagement and its collaborations with local, regional, state, national and global partners, a statement from the university said.

“The institutions that we are recognizing today are doing extraordinary work in addressing their societal responsibilities in and through community engagement and service. In doing so, they bring scholarship, knowledge, and expertise to bear in the address of real challenges in our communal lives,” Paul LeMahieu, senior vice president at the Carnegie Foundation, wrote in a statement. “They inspire us, even as they instruct us how to be our best selves in service to our communities.”

A special team of faculty, staff and community partners convened over the course of a year to document UTRGV’s community engagement efforts from 2017-2018, the statement from UTRGV said.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said recognition by the Carnegie Foundation is an important acknowledgement of the work UTRGV does in and for the Valley.

“Community Engagement is one of UTRGV’s core priorities and this tremendous honor validates all the extraordinary things we’re doing for the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Bailey wrote in the release. “This is truly a team effort that recognizes the community engagement efforts of many of our students, faculty and staff. We should all be extremely proud of this designation.”

According to the statement, UTRGV was commended for documenting the nature and extent of engagement activities, including alignment of campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy community engagement.

“Engaging with our community is key to UTRGV’s mission to transform the Rio Grande Valley,” Veronica Gonzales, UTRGV’s vice president for Governmental and Community Relations, said. “This prestigious Carnegie Classification is especially meaningful because it recognizes the ongoing collective efforts made by our students, faculty, staff and leadership to connect with and positively impact our region. I am especially thrilled for our community engagement team, who led the effort to make this classification possible and who worked tirelessly to submit an excellent application.”

Last year UTRGV received another important Carnegie designation when it was elevated to the second-highest classification of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

“We have now reached the Carnegie research class two classification, which is really important,” Bailey said. “One of the things that we wanted to be was a research institution, and I think this designation really signals that we’re there.”

According to Bailey, UTRGV’s research funding for this fiscal year is approximately $60 million.

“We research on a number of things, but one of the most prominent areas is diabetes and obesity, and we have the largest center that focuses on that in the world. All of those people are geneticists, so we’re looking at human genetics,” he said. “The other is in cervical cancer, and cancer immunology more generally. Those are both huge problems in the Valley.”

Bailey said research at the university is important for the growth of UTRGV and its students.

“First of all, it creates opportunities for students that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Part of their education is learning how to do research,” he said. “A second thing, it’s really the way universities build their prestige. I mean, that’s how A&M built its prestige, UT Austin built its prestige.”