Texas Southmost College trustees Trey Mendez and Adela G. Garza.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Texas Southmost College trustees have a vision that their institution becomes the community college of the Rio Grande Valley.

Adela G.Garza, chair of the TSC board of trustees, and Trey Mendez, its vice chair, outlined their goals following an announcement that Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez, Ph.D., is sole finalist for president of TSC. They said Rodriguez shares their goal.

“Dr. Rodriguez’s vision was to make TSC the community college for the Valley. That is our goal and it is Adela’s and my dream. To continue to grow TSC to make it the destination point for the people of the Valley,” Mendez said.

“We have got so much potential and we have not realized it yet. To be growing the way we are growing… we grew last year, Fall to Fall, more than 20 percent in enrollment. We are fast growing.”

Mendez said TSC needs a “dynamic leader, somebody who has got a lot energy, someone who really gets what economic development is and how the college itself impacts the whole community.” He said that person is Dr. Rodriguez.

Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez

“That is what I am really excited about. We were fortunate enough in 2011, we kind of saved this institution, because we love it so much. We have seen it grow from 11, 12 employees to several hundred employees. I would never have imaged it would be going so great at this point in time. But, this is just the start. It is going to get so much better. It is going to continue to grow. People are already taking notice and they will continue to take notice,” Mendez said.

There are two other community colleges in the Valley at present – South Texas College operates in Hidalgo and Starr counties while Texas State Technical College – Harlingen, covers Cameron and Willacy counties. Asked if he really believed TSC, which is based in Brownsville, could become the Valley’s community college, Mendez said:

“Absolutely. A lot of that has to do with the type of programs you select. In order to attract students and businesses to work with the college, you need to identify emerging markets. You need to figure out where the economy is going, where the jobs are going. Our job is not just to get someone a degree. It is to get someone a job, that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They are not here to learn a couple of things and then work at Starbucks. It is all about wealth creation, it is all about people moving forward and the college providing that service. I am looking forward to all that,” Mendez said.

Garza agreed.

“Mr. Mendez and I have fought some hard battles. We move forward. Our college is going to be great. We set out to do that many years ago and I think we are going to accomplish it, or we are going to stay on the board until we accomplish it. We will see this through,” Garza said. “We have dreams and we have been dreaming for a long time.”

Originally established in 1926, TSC currently offers the first two years toward a bachelor’s degree, along with career and technical education leading to certificates and associate degrees, college preparatory studies to prepare students for college-level work, workforce training, and continuing education. Recently selected as a Bright Spot by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, TSC offers over 50 programs of study leading to an associate degree or certificate.

National Search

A national search for a new president began earlier this year. The search yielded 30 applications that were narrowed down to 12 top candidates by TSC presidential search consultant Dr. Byron McClenney. A search committee comprised of three trustees, two college employees and two community members further reduced the selection pool to eight semifinalists. The committee conducted interviews with all eight semifinalists and narrowed the pool to four finalists. In mid-July, the four finalists visited TSC and participated in an open forum as part of the final interview process.

Dr. Rodriguez is currently dean for the Business Center of Excellence at Houston Community College. Previously, he was a dean at Lone Star College System and Butler Community College, where he strengthened programs, student engagement and community partnerships. Prior to higher education, Dr. Rodriguez served as an executive director for an economic development organization and a maquiladora association.

The announcement that Rodriguez was sole finalist for president of TSC was made at a Special Meeting of the TSC Board of Trustees at the Gorgas Board Room.

“We had four fantastic candidates. Any one of them would have been an excellent president. It was a difficult decision to make,” Mendez said. Asked how Rodriguez stood out, Mendez said: “A lot of the faculty and staff felt they could work with Dr. Rodriguez a little bit better. I thought Dr. Rodriguez brought a lot of the intangibles to the process. He had charisma, he had the background we needed for this point in time. His background reflects experience in economic development, a lot of experience in building community and business relationships. I think the college at this point in time needs to start focusing on building community and business partnerships and relationships. He brings that to the table.”

Mendez said Rodriguez has had “extraordinary success” in the past at the institutions he has been at. “He is doing an excellent job at Houston Community College now. I think he identifies with the culture having grown up on the border. I think he was the only candidate that visited Brownsville during the selection process. He checked all the boxes for me personally. That is not to take anything away from the other candidates. We would have been fortunate to have had any of them.”

Asked what Rodriguez’s appointment will mean, Mendez said: “This now means we all move forward together. We all move forward as a community. As soon as Dr. Rodriguez steps on campus he is going to hit the ground running. I expect him to have the support of all faculty and staff from this point forward. I am excited for the future.”

Garza said the TSC board of trustees had a hard time deciding which candidate was the best choice.

“The whole board felt more comfortable with Dr. Rodriguez. I am a team player and we are going to united behind Dr. Rodriguez. He is very qualified. I don’t think there is anything to be scared of because we chose a great candidate. With the support of the community and the board I think we are going to make it happen,” Garza said.

Mike Shannon

Both Garza and Mendez paid tribute to Mr. Mike Shannon, interim president of TSC. Shannon was named interim president last September after President Lily Tercero was terminated.

Mike Shannon

“I want to thank our interim president, Dr. Mike Shannon. He has done a fantastic job. Last August we had to make a really tough decision. That decision was made for the community. It was made for the college because we just were not going in the right direction. It was obvious. Once we made that decision and brought Mr. Shannon on board, he has done more than I ever could have imagined. He has kept everybody on the same page. He has brought in individuals like Melinda (Rodriguez), who have done a fantastic job to grow the college and the college brand. My hope is Dr. Rodriguez picks up where Mr. Shannon left off and just runs with it,” Mendez said.

Garza said she hopes Shannon will stay on. “I hope it is possible to create a team with Mike Shannon because he is an outstanding guy and he cares for the college. You can see it in all his actions, in everything he does. You know he is a community college guy. We were very blessed to have him board, ready to take the reins when we needed him. I cannot thank him enough. He has done a fantastic job. He has brought the morale of the employees up. He has let them be creative. It shows in our college. We have talked to the faculty and staff. They are excited about being here.”

Shannon said he was pleased with the selection of Rodriguez.

“We believe Dr. Rodriguez is the right choice to be TSC’s new president because he understands the college’s mission, the needs of our communities and the direction in which we are moving toward,” Shannon said. “In addition to his impressive academic credentials, he possesses the characteristics we were searching for in a college president. Dr. Rodriguez’s innovative and collaborative leadership style are a perfect fit for TSC. He will provide the leadership the college needs for continued enrollment growth through dual enrollment and increased academic and technical programs, while meeting the demands of local business, industry, workforce training and the communities that we serve.”

Asked what Dr. Rodriguez thinks of the Memorandum of Understanding Shannon signed recently with the State of Tamaulipas, Garza said: “We talked about it during the interview and he said he was so excited. It is the uncertainty, what can we do with this prize? He was as excited as we are that the MOU was signed and to bring the State of Tamaulipas into our training and our classes. Looking down the road at a bachelor’s program, it is very exciting.”