|EDINBURG, August 16 - UTPA President Robert Nelsen says he intends to apply for the post of president of the Rio Grande Valley’s new university - if, once he has seen the application form, he feels he is qualified.
The new university will be formed by combining the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas at Brownsville. It should be open and educating students from August 2015.
“I have not seen the job ad but if I am qualified, yes, I will certainly apply,” Nelsen told the Guardian, in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “I love this Valley and I love the people in the Valley. I would love to have the opportunity to be able to continue that. But, again, I have got to see the ad.”
The selection of a president for the as yet unnamed new university will be made by the UT System board of regents after an extensive national search. If the selection was left to the students, staff and faculty of UTPA the likely outcome would be Nelsen by a very wide margin. Since becoming president of UTPA in January 2010, Nelsen has garnered respect and affection across the Valley for putting the well-being of students first.
Asked when the UT System might announce its shortlist of candidates for the new university, Nelsen said: “The board of regents runs that and they have not announced the committee for that. It will be announced when they bring them (the candidates) on to campus. The same way it was when I came on to campus. They announced just before each one of the people (candidates) came on to campus.”
Asked if he was making a sacrifice in pushing for the merger of UTPA and UTB even though it could cost him his job as president, Nelsen said: “I don’t think it was a sacrifice. I think it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to help the children in the Valley and I always looked at it as a way to save our children.”
Nelsen gave his comments to the Guardian following a speech made at an Edinburg Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday. In his speech, Nelsen spoke about the timeline for the new university. He said the accreditation process could run until April, 2015. He said it is slated to open its doors in August, 2015. He said the name of the new university will be known by December, and a new president installed possibly as early as January.
The name of the new university will be made by the UT System board of regents, after the board has garnered input from the community. A series of public meetings across the Valley are being organized.
Among those at the luncheon were Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, state Rep. Terry Canales, Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance interim CEO Carlos Cardenas.
Asked afterwards what he thought his legacy at UTPA would be Nelsen spoke about the work to create the new university. “I want it to be that we partnered together to be able to do this with the entire community. And it really was the collaboration of all of us working together to make it happen.”
Nelsen thanked community leaders for their input in uniting the Valley in support of legislation to create the new university. Senate Bill 24 was passed by a unanimous vote of the legislature in May.
“All of the mayors and the judges were very influential in what happened. They went and talked as a delegation. They met with so many of the legislators up there (in Austin). They believed in the university so their support meant the world because they solidified things for us,” Nelsen said.
Asked if he had a particular message for Valley residents at this time, Nelsen said: “What not is important is the name (of the new university). What not is important is the mascot. What is important is the future for our children and the ability for them to be able to really have a first-class education. What I did not talk about (in my speech) was the excellence of this university and it really will be excellent.”