Before the COVID-19 pandemic, UTRGV students, staff and faculty would gather at either the Brownsville or the Edinburg campus, grab a seat at the performing center and wait for one of the famous personalities to take the stage as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series.
This school year, due to the pandemic, UTRGV kicked off its 17th season of the university’s series in a virtual format where actor John Leguizamo was seen from the comfort of his home on Thursday. Previous Distinguished Speakers include Wilmer Valderrama, Diane Guerrero and Julian Castro.
“The actor originally was scheduled to participate in the series, hosted by Student Activities, in person in April, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic was rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 25,” a press release by UTRGV reads.
The Distinguished Speaker Series is a signature program under the leadership of Student Activities, that aims to provide the university and surrounding community with world-class speakers and lecturers. Before the pandemic, DSS hosted public events with priority seating for UTRGV students, faculty, and staff.
“We felt that the series could continue despite all the challenges that our students and UTRGV family have been facing,” Cindy Mata-Vasquez, director of Student Activities, said in a press release.
“This is one way that we can continue to provide a sense of normalcy, by continuing to bring events like this to UTRGV. The team behind the scenes — the agency we work with and the Student Activities team — are working hard to ensure that this event and the series can continue.”
UTRGV communications professor Gregory Selber moderated the online event and introduced Leguizamos to the audience as hilariously informative, the press release reads.
“We are lucky to have this man with us tonight,” Selber said.
During the event, Leguizamo talked about his inspirations and how a kid from Queens, New York, made his dreams a reality. He also advised students to never stop learning.
“Find the best teacher in your community, in your area, and study. Learn the craft, and then you can throw down with anybody,” Leguizamo said.
Leguizamo, a Latino, also talked about the lack of Latino representation in Hollywood and said only one percent of stories in the industry are for Latinos, even though Latinos are almost 20 percent of the population.
“Why aren’t they putting us in shows and why aren’t they telling our stories?” Leguizamo told the audience.