|RIO GRANDE VALLEY, November 29 - I am so honored to be on this journey with you to establish the first major American university of the 21st Century — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Our journey will be eminently worth it when we reach our destination and open UTRGV in Fall 2015 and the UTRGV Medical School in Fall 2016. Together, we have accomplished amazing things in a few short months. Let me share just a few highlights from this year with you.
* In February, Francisco Fernandez, M.D., was named the founding dean of the School of Medicine. Since arriving in the Valley, he has been working on attaining accreditation for our undergraduate medical education program and residency programs. He has also been developing pipeline programs to improve access to biomedical education for K-12 and for undergraduate students whose backgrounds are typically underrepresented in academic medicine.
* In May, we dedicated the UTRGV Smart Hospital. A $10 million facility located on the Harlingen RAHC campus. It includes an operating room, a delivery room, and lifelike computerized mannequins that allow students to solve real-world situations like treating a heart attack patient and delivering a baby. Mobile technology will facilitate instruction throughout the entire region.
* In July, construction began in Edinburg for the Medical School facility and is expected to be completed by Fall of 2016. In addition, leaders in Hidalgo County and the cities of Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, and Pharr committed $50 million in support for the medical school over the next 10 years.
* September brought great news on the technology front. A combined investment of $9 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and The University of Texas System created STARGATE, a research and technology commercialization partnership with SpaceX.
* In October, we established the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute led by Dr. Sarah Williams-Blangero and her 21-member research team which is working on genome sequencing, genetic analysis, and advanced imaging genomics. The research team, which has generated more than $200 million in NIH funding over the past 15 years, will be located at university facilities throughout the region.
* Also in October, we began accepting applications for the first freshman class at UTRGV. I have met with high school seniors who are excited to be in the first freshman class, and it will be a joy to send out their acceptance letters in early spring.
* Tenure and tenure-track faculty have been sent offer letters of employment, and Phase II hiring of non-tenure track, lecturers and clinical staff began in November. A majority of staff hiring will be complete by the end of calendar year.
* Most recently, the UT System Board of Regents unanimously approved the Vaquero(a) as UTRGV’s NCAA Division I athletic team nickname and blue and green as the official athletic colors. The logo design and team uniform selections are now underway. Chris King has been appointed the inaugural athletic director for UTRGV.
* In November, we launched the UTRGV.edu website and companion social media sites on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter (@UTRGV) and Instagram (@UTRGV). Please follow us, and join the UTRGV conversation.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we are most thankful for. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to help build our new university, and I appreciate the support and tireless work of so many to make this dream — our dream — a reality for our families, our communities, our state, and our nation.
Wishing you and your family a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Guy Bailey is president of UT-Rio Grande Valley.