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Texas Southmost College Interim President Mike Shannon shakes hands with Tamaulipas Secretary of Education Héctor Escobar Salazar after signing an MOU.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Texas Southmost College and the State of Tamaulipas’ education department can show the rest of Texas and the nation how to build bridges and not walls.

This was the message TSC Interim President Mike Shannon delivered when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tamaulipas Secretary of Education Héctor Escobar Salazar.

According to Tamaulipas’ international trade director, Francisco Galvan, the MOU could result in hundreds if not thousands of Tamaulipas students studying in Brownsville and the same the number of Brownsville students studying in higher education institutions in Tamaulipas.

“This is a momentous occasion for our college and our communities,” Shannon said, in remarks from a podium just before the MOU was signed. He pointed out that TSC was formed as far back as 1926. He said now was the time for the college to look beyond international borders.

“It is my belief our community should extend beyond the border and now we have an opportunity through this agreement to begin exploring possibilities to see students, to see faculty, travel back and forth, exchanging ideas, holding dialogue for the benefits of our communities, both culturally and economically,” Shannon said.

Shannon said he was alarmed to learn that some Brownsville students commute to Laredo in order to take a class. He said this was unacceptable.

“We need to create opportunities for students on both sides of the border to obtain an education locally at a reasonable cost,” Shannon said.

“We at Texas Southmost College are ready to work with our colleagues in Tamaulipas. I am looking forward to a very long and productive relationship as we work together to improve the quality of life of our citizens. I hope we can serve as a model for the rest of the country, that we can show our leaders that we should be building bridges not walls.”

Secretary Escobar agreed. “I am sure that it will be through these agreements of collaboration and respect between our universities, that we can train more and better professionals for the good of our communities,” he said.

Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Technology

TSC Trustee Tony Zavaleta said he was excited about the prospect of Brownsville and Tamaulipas students earning a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Technology at his college. Zavaleta said he first proposed this program to his board and then to state Rep. Eddie Lucio. Zavaleta said Lucio’s legislation did not look as though it was going to pass during the recent legislative session, but that it was, thankfully, picked up by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

“We held our breath to see if Sen. Seliger’s bill, SB 2118, was going to get signed by the Governor, but thankfully it was. The bill allows community colleges of a certain size to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Technology,” Zavaleta said.

“This is huge for us. It’s the whole world for us and Tamaulipas, to be able to offer this Bachelor’s degree. South Texas College has had it for a number of years. They had it on an experimental basis and it has been very successful. Now, we will be able to do it. It is tremendous.”

Asked why Applied Technology is so important, Zavaleta said: “Our future has to incorporate technology. We have SpaceX coming, LNG, more maquilas develop in Reynosa and Matamoros, the Sata Group foundry. All these projects require people with an education above an associate’s degree.”

After some setbacks, Zavaleta said TSC is moving forward in a positive direction.

“Things are really looking up. If we can get our nursing program back on track and our workforce training program back on track, it is going to be good for our community. We have 5,000 students. A large portion are dual enrollment but they count.”

Galvan Impact

Zavaleta and TSC Board of Trustees Chair Adela G. Garza paid tribute to Galvan, Tamaulipas’ international trade director. They said he was the catalyst for making the MOU happen.

“We will start with a small program, TSC and the State of Tamaulipas. But, by the end, we are talking about the hundreds and then thousands of students involved in exchange programs,” Galvan predicted.

“Oh, I love it,” Zavaleta responded.

“Let’s start with 20, 30, 40 students and go from there,” Galvan said. “We can interchange our experience. Even though we are neighbors we do not have enough communication. We are trying to enhance, to build bridges of communications so we can be on the same channel for information and technology.”

Galvan said there is no question, the TSC-Tamaulipas MOU is historic. “There have been MOUs signed by private universities in Tamaulipas with colleges in Texas. But, this is historic, the first time the State as a whole has entered into such an agreement with a college here in Texas. And, we are going to do many more.”

Chair Garza said the MOU came about thanks to Galvan. He said that at the very first exploratory meeting, Galvan brought Escobar and his state education officials.

“We had not even told our board. They said, how come we don’t know about this. We said, we did not know it was going to get so big. He (Galvan) has an idea and he runs with it. I am proud to know Francisco. He is so positive. He cannot see anything go wrong because he will make sure nothing goes wrong. He brought us together and we agreed there are just so many possibilities,” Garza said.

“And working with the Tamaulipas officials is so contagious. Look at the Cabinet the Governor has assembled. Everyone is under 40. It so contagious, how can you not want to bring Mexicans into this group. They bring so much. I am so excited.”

Garza said TSC students benefit from hearing students and faculty from Tamaulipas speak in Spanish.

“I promise you nothing bad is going to happen from this agreement. I am amazed with our leadership, Mike Shannon and Melinda Rodriguez. We said, I don’t know how you are going to do it (secure an MOU) but make it happen and they did. I am proud of them.”