EDINBURG, RGV – UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey has reaffirmed his commitment to creating a truly regional university, with programs and courses available to students no matter which of the four Valley counties they live in.
Bailey spoke about his plans for a regional approach while giving a presentation to visiting members of Congress about the opportunities and challenges faced by the new university.
And Bailey’s comments about regionalism were echoed at a different venue by Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, who said it is important for the media to tell the general public that UTRGV’s Brownsville campus will not be a satellite of the campus in Edinburg.
“Our purpose is to be a university for the entire Valley, not just one part of it. We are almost as big as San Antonio but we are stretched our linearly,” Bailey said, when giving a power-point presentation at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. The meeting with visiting members of Congress was hosted by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville.
Bailey listed the need for a regional approach under a section called “Challenges” for UTRGV.
“We are committed to offering all of our courses with a few exceptions all across the Valley. Technology will help us but that commitment to offering everything across the Valley is a challenge. And again, we have cutting edge technology to do that. We are also committed to the fact that no department, no college, no person, no administrator is based in one place,” Bailey said.
“If I give you my business card you will see three addresses, three phone numbers. I have offices in Edinburg, in Harlingen and Brownsville. We are a region-wide university and we have a strong commitment to overcoming any kind of political divisions to make that happen. Administrators have to travel.”
To illustrate his point, Bailey pointed out that he bought a new pickup truck just before he started at UTRGV. “I had 6,000 miles when I got to the Valley. I have been here since July 1. I have 28,000 miles on it now. That is all in the Valley.”
Bailey said while he wants his faculty to travel as needed throughout the Valley he wants to ensure that UTRGV students travel only for highly specialized courses. “We are committed to their being able to take courses where they are and programs where they are. Ensuring the same level of service at all places is a challenge but we are committed to it,” Bailey said.
Mayor Martinez made his comments about UTRGV being a truly regional university in interviews with reporters at city hall while filing his papers for re-election. Asked by a reporter to amplify a point he made at his recent State of the City address about Brownsville residents not realizing what great opportunities they have in their home town, Martinez said: “This is something I would love for the media to get involved with. The university is an important and integral part of our community. We need to dispel this notion that UTRGV is going to be concentrated on one end of the Valley and not be totally integrated in the entire region. We are not a satellite office of anything. We are part and parcel of a big university.”
Martinez said he has been privy to some private presentations on what UTRGV is set to become. He said he has been reassured that the new university will have equal campuses. “Now, maybe they will have different disciplines that will be explored, such as marine biology. You are not going to have marine biology in Edinburg. There is no marine biology in the ranchland. There is probably going to be space medicine in Brownsville because we have the space project going here. You will probably not see that in the Upper Valley,” Martinez said.
Possibly what got people in Brownsville talking about the possibility of losing out to Edinburg, home to UT-Pan American, Martinez said, was the fact that UT-Brownsville is so sports oriented. “I would suspect that as time goes on we will have sports activities that are suited for the type of community that we are. I think that is extremely important to get out to the public because the community that we are building together is going to be dynamite.”
In his speech to visiting member of Congress, Bailey used a power point presentation to make his case. Here are some of the key slides about UTRGV that Bailey presented to the members of Congress:
* To be a university for the entire Rio Grande Valley
* To enhance the success of RGV students
* To expand educational opportunity for RGV students
* To integrate general academic with medical education
* To become a research university – to reach emerging research status within seven years
* To do research on problems that affects the RGV and the state of Texas
* To be a catalyst for improved health care in the RGV
* To be a bicultural and bi-literate institution
* A massive investment in the new university by the UT System and strong System and Board support
* A region eager for expanded educational opportunity
* A largely bilingual and bi-cultural population with strong ties to Mexico and Latin America
* Rapid population growth/very young population (the youngest population in the state that has the second youngest population in the country)
* Rapidly increasing high school graduation rates that now equal or exceed state averages
* Large numbers of high school graduates with college credits
* Two fully accredited legacy institutions with all of their relevant programs accredited
* Medical school admitted for candidacy for I.C.M.E. accreditation
* Two legacy institutions that developed programmatic strengths that we can build on (e.g., astrophysics, manufacturing engineering)
* A willingness to try new things
– Competency based education
– Partnerships with private vendors for course delivery
* Forming a new university from the assets of existing institutions without replicating those institutions – this isn’t UTPA or UTB or a merger of the two
* Logistics of hiring faculty and staff for a new institution using assets of the legacy institutions when possible
– Sheer numbers of personnel (roughly 1,500 faculty and staff have been hired and we are only half-way there)
– Elimination of duplicative positions
– Different classification systems and pay scales at legacy institutions
More Challenges: A Distributed University
*Some basic principles:
– Almost all programs will be offered at both campuses
– Cutting-edge technology will be used to do this and to provide maximum access to UTRGV programs by students across the Valley
– No college, department, or support unit will be solely located on a particular campus
– All administrators will divide their time between relevant locations in the Valley
– Faculty will travel as needed to provide maximum access
– Students will travel only for highly specialized programs
Opportunities: Student Success
* Challenges in improving retention and graduation
– Many first-generation students
– Many students work more than 20 hours a week
– Most students do not live on campus and must travel to Brownsville or Edinburg
* UTRGV will implement new approaches to improve student success
– A university organized around student success
– An interventionist approach to student success
_ Tuition structure that incentivizes progress toward graduation
– Looking for ways to build affordable housing
Opportunities: New Tuition Structure
– Published tuition/fee prices will be what you pay
– Eliminate as many “hidden” and unhidden fees as possible
* Predictability: Guaranteed tuition/fee rate for four years
– Tuition/fees will be capped at 12 hours no matter how many hours you take
– If you finish in less than four years, the tuition guarantee carries over to graduate school
– Rates will have minimal impact on vast majority of students
– Pell and Texas Grant will cover all tuition/fees plus books.
Opportunities: Regional Relevance
* South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute
* Coastal Campus for exploring the ecology and health of coast and wetlands
* Astrophysics program that supports the emerging space industry (SpaceX and ULA)
* Manufacturing engineering program that support activity on both sides of the border
* Excellent translation program – one of the few of its kind in the country