UTPB student finds connection in Odessa

Vincent Bao

A senior who is on track to graduate in August, University of Texas Permian Basin marketing major Vincent Bao has been involved in the school’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Bao, who is from Oakdale, Minn., was already committed to a school in Wisconsin, but his dad told him about UTPB.

A swimmer in high school, his dad found out about UTPB’s swimming program.

“I thought I’d go take a look. My brother was already down here in Houston, so we came down here to tour the campus and I fell in love with the small size of the campus and decided to come here even though I didn’t end up swimming in college,” Bao said.

His brother has since moved to Colorado.

“It was a lot cheaper to go here and then staying in-state in Minnesota with all the scholarships that I got for my GPA in high school and also getting the competitive waiver due to those scholarships. It allows me to now pay in-state tuition,” he added.

If you get any one of a range of scholarships, it automatically gives you a competitive waiver, Bao said.

Not only has he enjoyed the small campus size, but Bao has found it easy to make connections and friends in Odessa. He said it’s why he stayed.

The marketing program has been wonderful because the small class size enables him to spend time with his professors face to face and they are very approachable.

“If I ever have a question I can always sit down with my professors after class and ask them personally instead of going to a bigger school, where the class size might be 200-plus, 300-plus. Especially this being a UT System degree, I think it’s amazing. I’ve learned so much in my classes and whatever I’m learning I’m able to actually put through since I work for Sewell marketing and I get to really think about it. I don’t think you can find that really anywhere else, especially class sizes and being close to the professors,” Bao said.

He works as a digital media coordinator for Sewell Family of Companies and also is a freelance photographer.

He noted that he’s excited about where UTPB is heading in its 50th year.

They interviewed him about the Wildcatters Trail.

UTPB and the City of Midland announced in November 2023 that each entity has been awarded a grant from the Texas Transportation Commission called the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program to fund the beginning stages of the Wildcatters Trail.

The Wildcatters Trail will be a biking, running, and walking corridor which will eventually connect the cities of Midland and Odessa.

The City of Midland’s grant award is $3,697,495 while UT Permian Basin’s grant award is $6,377,697.

The university website says UTPB President Dr. Sandra Woodley and City of Midland Mayor Lori Blong worked together on these grants to improve the quality of our spaces with safe and enjoyable multi-modal trails in the Permian Basin.

A Wildcatters Trail committee made up of representatives from UTPB, City of Midland, City of Odessa, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and industry leaders guides the planning for this 19-mile trail.

“I think that’s a great idea because I’ve seen the stats of how many runners or bikers get hit on the road because there’s not a long-distance solution, sidewalk-wise. So I think this is really great because it now allows us safe long-distance option for runners and bikers to use and it also will allow the community events” to happen when the trail is completed, Bao said.

The UTPB trail system, he said, is amazing.

“It’s about three miles. I use it quite often. I’m a cyclist myself. But if we’re talking about long-distance, if I want to get a nice long-distance riding while being on a safe trail that’s protected on a sidewalk, not me in the middle of nowhere, I would have to do at least six laps of the trail to get maybe 16 miles in, give or take,” Bao said.

“(It’s a) beautiful trail; lots of great wildlife. The sunsets are amazing. A lot of families go out there. I see a lot of ladies with their little strollers doing their weekly stroll. I also see a lot of cyclists out there, too, but definitely a long-term solution would be really nice,” he added.

Bao does a lot of the photography and sports photography for UTPB. He is a member of BGS, Beta, Gamma Sigma, which is an honor society for business students. He does a lot of photography for the school having worked for communications and marketing.

“That’s actually how I’ve been able to grow. I do still do a lot of events for the school. If I ever capture a cool photo on campus, I’ll send it to communications for them to post,” he said.

Once he graduates, Bao said he’s planning to take a full-time position at Sewell.

Eventually, he wants to own his own media production company, maybe with some marketing.

“Looping back in with a small class size … you really can build connections here really quick. Everyone’s so welcoming to you, as long as you’re asking for it and you can show that you’re a hard worker,” Bao said.

Director of Strategic Communications Alexa Dunson said Bao is not only an incredible asset to UTPB, but the West Texas community.

“We were so thankful in the Marketing and Communications office to have had Vincent as a student-intern on staff for as long as we did (we miss him!). He wants to learn, is a hard worker, and is undoubtedly a very talented photographer. I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in years to come, and I feel very lucky that he still captures UTPB events and shares his talents with us,” Dunson said.