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Mario Reyna, dean of business, public safety, and technology at South Texas College, and Rick Margo, interim center director for A&M’s higher education center in McAllen.

MCALLEN, RGV – A top official with Texas A&M University has praised McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge for telling an “excellent story” about the Rio Grande Valley to 85 universities across the United States.

Chad Wootton, Texas A&M University’s associate vice president for external affairs, invited Patridge to attend a summer meeting to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Atlanta, Georgia.

“What we were meeting about was how universities work with communities to build resiliency through education, through economic development, through innovation from the research universities produce,” Wootton said, at a McAllen EDC board of directors meeting.

“Keith did a marvelous job by telling the McAllen and Lower Rio Grande Valley story of the last 30 years, and the roll that many of you in the partnerships and collaborations play in that. Even this meeting is something that was novel to some of the university officials and presidents that were in the room. Even in their well-known cities across America, they don’t have this kind of moment on a monthly basis to touch base with one another.”

Among the developments discussed by Patridge at the meeting, Wootton said, was the birth and growth of South Texas College, the creation of UT-Rio Grande Valley, the UTRGV School of Medicine, and the partnerships being developed with Texas A&M University.

“It was a great opportunity to wave the flag and tell the story in front of about 85 different universities from across the country. I hope we can do more of the story-telling and sharing of the excellence that goes on here,” Wootton said.

Wootton also reported on the new campus Texas A&M is building on the Tres Lagos master-planned development in north McAllen. The McAllen Teaching Site should be ready for the 2018-19 school year. Until then, 38 A&M students are having their first year of training at South Texas College’s tech campus in south McAllen.

Mario Reyna, dean of business, public safety and technology for STC, also spoke to the MEDC board. He said Texas A&M University would likely be using facilities at STC’s technology campus for the next year or so. “We are very excited to have the Texas A&M students on our campus. We will have them for about a year,” Reyna said.

Wootton told the MEDC board that 38 A&M students would start their coursework at STC and then transfer to the Tres Lagos campus in the fall of 2018. Wootton thanked the STC leadership for allowing A&M to rent classroom and laboratory space.

“Our first cohort of Aggies here in McAllen. Thirty-eight young people will embark on a Bachelor of Science and Inter-Disciplinary Engineering. We are fondly referring to them as pioneer scholars. In some ways, they mirror the nine or so students that showed up in October of 1876 to create what is now known as Texas A&M University. Those students started on the prairie with some tents. We’ve got a lot better deal out of STC for these young people,” Wootton said.

Wootton announced that Roberto R. (Rick) Margo is to be the interim center director for A&M’s higher education center in McAllen.

“Rick is a Valley native and an Aggie. He has for the last several years been running our prospective student center here in the Valley. He will be particularly working with the 38 students and the six faculty we hired or reassigned from College Station to be here this fall teaching the coursework for our students,” Wootton said.

Wootton also reported that construction of the Tres Lagos campus was underway. “It is on budget and on time. We will be looking to take over the keys in early to mid-summer, in time for the fall of 2018,” Wootton said.

Wootton said Texas A&M is in discussions with UT-Rio Grande Valley to ensure there is no duplication in the courses being offered by A&M at the Tres Lagos campus. “We are also evaluating some new degree programs,” Wootton said. “We are working with the Texas International Produce Association and our Ag Engineering Department. We have created a program in food systems management. It has received approval at the Coordinating Board level. We are working to bring it to McAllen.”