EDINBURG, RGV – Dr. Alexander Domijan, Jr., has stepped down as dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UT-Rio Grande Valley, says a university spokesman.
The news will come as a shock to those who saw Domijan unveiling ambitious plans for the college last Tuesday, when he spoke to five visiting site selectors from Germany. Then, Domijan spoke about a “boatload of money” he was going to make for the college, along with developing academic and business partnerships around the world.
Confirmation that Domijan is no longer in charge of the college came from Patrick Gonzales, associate vice presient and university spokesman. Gonzales told the Rio Grande Guardian:
“Marci made me aware that you are asking about Dr. Alex Domijan. I can confirm that he stepped down Friday as dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science to return to faculty, effective immediately. We thank Dr. Domijan for his dedicated service and hard work on behalf of the college since joining UTRGV in January 2016.
“UTRGV does not and will not publicly discuss employment matters and, therefore, will have no further comment.”
Marci is Marci Caltabiano, director of News and Internal Communications at UTRGV. The Rio Grande Guardian had contacted her Saturday after receiving a tip from an anonymous source that Domijan had been let go on Friday – the same day the Rio Grande Guardian posted a story about Domijan’s bold presentation to the German site selectors.
Domijan, who was previously part of the University of Buffalo, told the site selectors that the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science had tripled its research productivity and reversed a declining trend in enrollment. He also said partnership agreements had been reached between the college and various entities and countries around the globe.
Domijan’s departure as head of the college of engineering comes in the same week that UTRGV President Guy Bailey has shuffled his leadership team. Bailey announced that the new post of executive vice president of academic affairs, student success, and P-12 integration would be headed by Patricia Alvarez McHatton, and that the new post of executive vice president for research, graduate studies, and new program development would be headed by Parwinder Grewal. The post of executive vice president for health affairs is held by Dr. John Krouse, current dean of the School of Medicine.
During his two-year stint as leader of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Domijan crafted a Memorandum of Understanding with Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to develop a $20 million Manufacturing Innovations Hub in Brownsville. Some McAllen economic development leaders said privately that they only learned of this decision when they read about it in a university news release. They said they would have liked the opportunity to develop a Manufacturing Innovations Hub with UTRGV.
“We are actively engaging with the City of Brownsville to implement a strategic vision targeted at making the Rio Grande Valley the next Silicon Valley, but with a broader emphasis on bringing back manufacturing to the USA,” Domijan said of the UTRGV-City of Brownsville MOU, which was signed in May 2017.
“We will be partnering with many stakeholders globally, and leverage the tremendous people assets of the Valley, which represent the changing face of the nation. With industry and government, and use of our strategic plan that is based on compassion, community and technology as the drivers, we will produce jobs, create wealth locally and provide a path to a better life for all.”
Domijan was also involved in a controversial agreement UTRGV entered into with NextDecade, which hopes to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville. The agreement was criticized by the RGV Sierra Club and Brownsville Kiddie Health Center, among others.
In September, 2015, Domijan said of the LNG agreement: “Energy forms the basis for economic growth and many of our interdependent infrastructures, including transportation, water, manufacturing, security, information systems and healthy communities. This partnership will bring wonderful opportunities to provide a path to a better life for people in our region and connect us with global opportunities, as well.”
Domijan said UTRGV is positioned to be first choice nationally in the areas of education and research.
“We get things done, and our college will have professors and staff in all parts of the Valley working with the cities and counties. The College of Engineering and Computer Science strategy is all about compassion, community and technology, in that order, and moving forward, the partnerships we enter into are built on providing value to the people of the Valley, such as expanding job opportunities and producing innovations,” he said.
“This partnership with NextDecade will enable us to do just that, and more specifically will promote a close collaboration between academia, industry, citizens and government by providing energy, engineering and technology opportunities locally.”
Site Selector Visit
The visit to UTRGV by six site selectors from Germany came on Tuesday morning. They were on a three-day tour of the Valley organized by Rio South Texas Economic Council.
The site selectors, who specialize in helping European manufacturing companies expand into North America, were given a tour of the new engineering building at UTRGV in Edinburg. Before the tour, led by Dr. Constantine Tarawneh, director of the University of Transportation Center for Railway Safety and associate dean for Research, there were brief remarks about the university by Cristina Trejo, the associate vice president of community engagement and economic development. After Trejo’s remarks, Domijan spoke about the college of engineering and computer science, which he has led for the past two years. Both Trejo and Domijan made use of a power point presentation on a big screen on the wall. Here is what Domijan told the site selectors:
“I am not so quite. I can speak really loud. So we all are a growing unit. We are impacting the Valley to a great extent. And we are all about making opportunities happen in the Valley.
“We are going to make a boatload of money. I am going to create a lot of industries; move things forward. Up there (on the big screen) you see a lot of connections that we are making around the world. Our GPS signal is first about compassion. We are not doing it in a frou-frou sense, we are doing compassion because we want to think about what products and services we develop to benefit the end users. And so we develop all our products and services with that in mind. Once we have that going we bring people together and we develop community-oriented efforts, communities of customers, communities of cities, and as forth. And then we can make technology happen. And it is in that order. Compassion, community and technology.
“We are actively making partnerships around the world. I already have academic and business agreements with a number of nations around the world, including Spain and Thailand and some others. We have the biggest private investment in Texas, as an example, coming in with LNG enterprises in the Brownsville territory, at $20 million. I am going to make partnerships around the globe to align our academic efforts with the business efforts so that we can effectively do our products and services and connect with students and markets around the world and that will be done in many different fashions as well.
“We are a growing unit. We have not a hundred students. We don’t have 500 students. We have 3,000 students here today. They are all voters. They are all committed to this area. Three thousand students. If you multiply that by their families and stuff, that might be a factor of ten. They are stakeholders in our communities and distributed widely over the whole territory that Chris noted. You can see our traditional departments, civil out to mechanical and so forth, with 3,000 degrees awarded. The graduate program, about 205. We are actively moving towards developing PhD programs now as well.
“So, those are our programs. But we are developing programs really not traditionally based. We have our traditional academic departments. You can see some new programs being developed. A master’s in civil (engineering) has just been approved. We are developing certifications with places around the world, PhD programs, for example, dual degree and joint PhD programs.
“We have a whole bunch of laboratories, a whole boatload of them. And you will see a few of them in this facility that you will be going through, this high bay area, which has about $100 million worth of equipment right now, that is a total asset for people in the Valley. It is not a projected thing. It is here today. And Constantine will be showing you some of those things.
“We have a whole bunch of partnerships to develop skilled workforces. Incidentally, I understand some of you are from Germany. We have partnership going on now with Hilti Tools as well. So that has been actively been going on for a while.
“That is our approximate federal funding that has been acquired. Incidentally, in this past year, we are a growing research institution, we have gone from a teaching enterprise. I joined here about two years ago. In one year we’v tripled our research productivity. We have reversed the declining trend in enrollment. In one year. That has been done. We have accomplished things.
“This is our roadmap. I told you about the compassion, community and technology efforts. But where we are putting our resources is in those areas that I have in red. In the center is the mission of the university. We embrace that. But around that we have the traditional departments but I told you we are not doing traditional things. We are going after issues like water. We have 40 inter local agreements we have established in water within a one year period. Those are funded agreements with the cities and counties around our 150 mile territory.
“We are actively expanding energy and we are doing all those different efforts, manufacturing, critical infrastructures, that is a priority for our country because of the Trump administration investing about a trillion dollars in that area, so we want to be right on the forefront of that. Materials that you will see a lot of.
“We have a number of wonderful centers. Constantine, for example, leads a transportation center which has the largest transportation program in the United States in the railway area. He does that. And he will give you a presentation now of the high bay area. I know the schedule was tight so I will finish my presentation right here. Again, welcome. We actively want to partner with groups around the world and we are doing those partnerships. And we are all about developing money efforts so that we can actually make an impact in our Valley and lift everybody up economically. So thank you very much for your time here. Constantine will take you on the tour.”
Click here to read the Rio Grande Guardian’s story on Dr. Domijan’s presentation to the German site selectors.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows site selectors from Germany visiting UT-Rio Grande Valley’s new engineering department building on the Edinburg campus. Dr. Alexander Domijan is pictured in in the foreground in the brown jacket.