|BROWNSVILLE, May 16 - The sole finalist for founding president of UTRGV says he has made to feel at home by the people of the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Guy Bailey, a former president of Texas Tech University and the University of Alabama, will visit UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American on Friday. He plans to hold open forums with faculty, staff and students and meet privately with state lawmakers at both campuses.
"Everybody has been warm and hospitable. It's been a real pleasure to get to meet people there in the Valley," Bailey told Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88 FM and the Rio Grande Guardian, in a phone interview soon after arriving in the Valley on Thursday.
Asked why he is visiting the Valley, Bailey said: "It's really two-fold. First of all to give me a chance to meet as many of the faculty, staff, students, legislative delegation, in other words as many of the constituents of the institution as possible. And, by the same token it gives them a chance to meet me and ask questions. So, it is kind of an introductory trip that will give me a chance to interact and take some questions from key constituents in the Valley."
The UT System Board of Regents is expected to meet later this month to consider Bailey's official appointment. In addition to his two presidencies, Bailey has previously served as provost of UT San Antonio and chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
On Thursday, the regents announced they were making $5 million available to communicate the launch of UTRGV. According to a news release the monies will be used to "fund resources needed to recruit and enroll students; create a comprehensive website for UTRGV and its medical school; and to produce electronic, print and video materials needed to provide essential information to students, parents, faculty and staff."
At a meeting in Austin, UT System regents voted to "consolidate programs" at UTB and UTPA in order to establish the new institution. In its news release, the UT system says more than 100 faculty members from UTB and UTPA have been meeting since October to help guide the process of combining the academic programs of the two institutions.
“The first day of classes for UT Rio Grande Valley is quickly approaching, and we are pleased with the progress being made to transition to the new UTRGV as smoothly as possible,” said Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster. “We are indebted to the students, faculty and staff of UT Brownsville and UT Pan American who have been helping us guide this historic effort.”
The board of regents also approved degree programs to be offered at UTRGV. A total of 137 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees are proposed to be offered at UTRGV. An inventory of the degree programs will be sent to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for review and approval. A complete list of degree programs approved by the board of regents can be found at this website: http://www.utsystem.edu/sites/utsfiles/news/assets/utrgv-degree-programs-2014-05.pdf. The UT System news release said a group of faculty and academic administrators from UTB and UTPA worked together to accomplish the consolidation.
The UT System also adopted the process and procedures that will be followed to hire tenure and tenure-track faculty from UTB and UTPA. The full process adopted by the Board of Regents can be found at this website: http://www.utsystem.edu/sites/utsfiles/news/assets/utrgv-tenured-tenure-track-hiring.pdf.
The news release says the votes by the board of regents marks the first official act to "combine the talent, assets and resources" of UTB and UTPA. UTRGV will welcome its inaugural class of students in the fall of 2015. Its medical school will open in the fall of 2016.
UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said: "This has been a dream of so many for so long, and it is incredible to see the wheels fully in motion. We are establishing a world-class university for South Texas, and there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in the next 15 months and there’s not a moment to waste.”
Cigarroa, meanwhile, is going to help find an interim president for UTPA. Robert Nelsen is leaving his post as president of UTPA at the end of August.
Editor's Note: Reporter Mario Muñoz of Rio Grande Valley Public Radio contributed to this story.