MCALLEN, Texas – The new chancellor of Western Governors University Texas has reaffirmed her institution’s “huge” commitment to South Texas.

Linda Battles, who was appointed a WGU regional vice president and chancellor of its Texas division in September, recently visited the Rio Grande Valley.

During the visit she met with administrators from South Texas College and the chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Fred Farias, a Rio Grande Valley native. Producing more nurses and nursing faculty was a big part of those conversations.

For an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Battles was joined by Ivette Morales, WGU Texas’ strategic partnership manager. Asked about about WGU’s commitment to South Texas, Battles said:

“It is huge because we have limited resources as a nonprofit institution. We place our individual team members in strategic locations where we want to make a difference in people’s lives.

“Because my predecessor, Chancellor Steve Johnson, did make it a priority, that is why Ivette was placed here. And we hired for an individual here in South Texas.”

Battles hails from another border community, El Paso, Texas. However, she knows South Texas well because she previously worked for the late state Rep. Irma Rangel of Kingsville. Rangel chaired the House Committee on Higher Education for many sessions and in the early 1990s helped secure $460 million for the South Texas Border Initiative, a body of legislation aimed at assisting nine higher education institutions along the Texas-Mexico border. Battles also worked for THECB for 19 years.

“My commitment continues to South Texas. I have a big place in my heart for South Texas given my past work experience, traveling through seven counties throughout South Texas in one of my former jobs,” Battles said.

“I want to make sure that we are expanding awareness of who we are and what we offer to the people of South Texas, to really realize our mission, which is to change lives for the better by providing pathways to opportunity. We are all so passionate about that.”

Battles choked up a little when she spoke of that passion. “Every time I think about helping individuals improve their lives through the transformative power of education, it is just amazing the impact we can have,” she said.

Battles said Morales became WGU Texas’ strategic partnership manager just before the Covid pandemic hit. However, she said she has already had success in forging closer ties with Brownsville ISD, Texas Southmost College, STC, and Knapp Medical, where a clinical partnership has been forged for nursing students.

“Ivette’s role is to establish relationships and strategic partnerships, to ensure that WGU Texas is known in this area as a viable option for people who are looking to up-skill or re-skill, to get their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program where that (online) model works for them,” Battles said.

“I am really excited to have Ivette here because, just because we are online does not mean that we are not part of the community. We want to be part of the community here in South Texas. We want to be visible. We want people to see us here and become a household name.”

On building WGU’s presence in South Texas, Battles added: “We are not here to compete with any existing institution. We are here just to provide an alternate pathway to opportunity. She (Morales) has been a wonderful addition to our team. I have big place in my heart for South Texas. I want to make sure we are expanding awareness.”

Meeting with Fred Farias


In her in-depth interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, WGU Texas Chancellor Battles also spoke about her meeting with Farias, the THECB chairman.

“My biggest takeaway talking to Chairman Farias is how we are doing in terms of the overall goal of 60 percent of the population, ages 25-34, holding a post secondary credential and the number of adult learners still in Texas who have some college but no credential. There are four million across the state of Texas,” Battles said.

“So, there is a great need for WGU Texas as an option to the many options that are available to the people of Texas. And in particular to the people of South Texas.

The discussion with Farias soon turned to nursing, Battles said.

“We honed in on some of the workforce demands in South Texas and focused a lot on nursing and how we need a lot more nurses, including a lot more Hispanic, bilingual nurses, and how are we going to work together, I think that was the key,” Battles said.

“How do we work together, pooling all of our resources, across higher education, in this region… to expand those opportunities, to increase the number of nurses in the field. And, not only bed-side nurses but also nursing faculty. And getting more nurses into leadership and management positions.”

Battles said WGU Texas has an excellent nursing program.

“I was really excited to talk (to Farias) about our nursing program at WGU-Texas. We recently launched a post-Masters certificate so those individuals who have a Masters in nursing could take this two-term certificate to become either nursing educators or go into leadership in management. So, that is exciting. We talked about having it short-term; plus, also, to allow working students to continue with their full-time jobs, to continue juggling their family responsibilities and then being able to log in to get their degree at their time, independent of time and location. And so we are really excited about being able to provide that service.”

With regard to her meeting with STC administrators, Battles said:

“We talked about transfers. Transfers are big piece of what we do with community colleges across the state. Making sure we have one of the most friendliest transfer institutions in Texas.”

Battles said WGU Texas will “pretty much” accept any credit from community colleges into its degree programs.

“We talked about where the greatest needs are for this region. And again it came back to nursing. And so we focused our conversation around that. We also talked about IT. That is a great need, not only here in South Texas but across the state. So, we focused in on some of our degree programs. We have cyber security, we have cloud computing, software development. We also talked about our one year MBA program.”

Battles said Morales is “wonderful example” of the flexibility offered by the MBA program.

“She (Morales) completed it in 11 months. As opposed to one year. So, we are really excited about being able to provide that ability for students to go at their own pace and to accelerate through the program, making it much more affordable, completing the program with much less student debt and having a great return on their investment.”

About WGU

Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 130,000 students nationwide and has more than 244,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In 24 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and has been featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.

About WGU Texas

WGU Texas is an online, nonprofit, competency-based university established to expand Texans’ access to higher education throughout the state. Formed through a partnership between the state of Texas and nationally recognized Western Governors University, WGU Texas is open to all qualified Texas residents. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand career fields of business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. Since the university’s launch in 2011, more than 20,000 graduates have earned their undergraduate or graduate degrees through a variety of academic offerings. Learn more at texas.wgu.edu.


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