ALAMO, RGV – One of the last major assignments UT-Rio Grande Valley Founding Provost Havidán Rodríguez had at the university before he moves to Albany, New York, was to deliver its first-ever strategic plan.
Next month, Rodríguez, 58, becomes the first Hispanic president of The University of New York at Albany in upstate New York. UTRGV President Guy Bailey asked Rodríguez to head the team that developed the strategic plan. The plan was unveiled to the UT System last week and to UTRGV students, faculty and staff on Wednesday.
Bailey said the strategic plan revolves around four core priorities: educational opportunities, health and medical education, research that benefits the Valley and beyond, and community engagement. Those four, Bailey said, all center on the main priority – student success. Other initiatives listed in the plan include building UTRGV to become a bilingual, bicultural and biliterate university, and providing more professional development opportunities for faculty, students and staff.
Asked why the strategic plan is important, Rodríguez said: “It is important because it defines the university for the Rio Grande Valley. It defines who we are and where we are headed as a university. We are here to serve the people of the Rio Grande Valley. The people we are addressing are either students, the parents of students, the grandparents of students, the neighbors of students, the parents of future students, we are all impacted by what happens at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.”
UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions. UTRGV’s predecessors, UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville were unable to access the PUF.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island.
UTRGV enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
President Bailey said it was important to develop a strategic plan for UTRGV in 2015. “I have asked that the strategic plan be quantifiable and measurable to help determine our success, as well as concise and to the point,” he said, early in the process. “Many strategic planning processes simply build off pre-existing plans, but we don’t have that luxury. Ours will be the first for the university and set the foundation for years and years to come.”
The project started with a retreat on South Padre Island at the start of 2016. Fifteen subcommittees were set up with over 70 individuals involved, including faculty, staff and students. In an interview about the strategic plan last year, Provost Rodríguez promised the document would not be placed on a bookshelf to gather dust.
“We will review this plan every six months to make sure we are making progress, to make changes in policy as needed. We do not want to develop a plan and then just file it some place. It has to be an active, live, document that is being monitored throughout the years at UTRGV,” Rodríguez said.
“This document will allow us to set the foundations for the future of the university. If you have strong foundations, you have a great chance of developing a great university. Then we can reflect, five, ten, 15, 20 years from now what progress we have achieved. I think people will say, it has been amazing.”
The strategic plan includes a Mission statement, a Vision statement and a Values statement. Here they are:
To transform the Rio Grande Valley, the Americas, and the world through an innovative and accessible educational environment that promotes student success, research, creative works, health and well-being, community engagement, and sustainable development.
To be one of the nation’s leaders in higher education, its premier Hispanic-serving institution, and a highly engaged bilingual university, with exceptional educational, research, and creative opportunities that serve as catalysts for transformation in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.
Transforming the Rio Grande Valley, the Americas, and the world requires weaving excellence throughout the fabric of the university and into the core of everything we do.
Diversity, Access, and Inclusion
Establishing an accessible educational environment requires that we cultivate and enhance the diverse, multicultural, and linguistic assets of our university and the Rio Grande Valley. UTRGV also promotes access, inclusion, and lifelong learning to ensure that all members of the university community have opportunities to succeed.
Inquiry, Discovery, and Creativity
Igniting, illuminating, and enhancing the talents and passions for open inquiry, discovery, and creativity of the university community inspires generations of lifelong scholars and artists who impact the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.
Engagement and Impact
Seeking to be a catalyst for transformation, the university integrates social justice, civic responsibility, innovation, and sustainable development in its endeavors. Such change is best undertaken through interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches across the university and with community, government, business, and non-profit partners.
Participating in decision-making processes with integrity, trust, and respect is a responsibility of all UTRGV stakeholders. This requires an environment of shared governance, academic freedom, accountability and transparency, and open and honest communication.
Instilling a sense of value and empowerment in all members of the university community is a fundamental responsibility of leaders at all levels, and involves facilitating professional, intellectual, cultural, and personal growth.
Health and Well-being
Recognizing that our success is integrally related to the condition of our community, UTRGV strives to promote the health and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff, and create a healthy, equitable, and resilient community.
In March, Rodríguez delivered the final draft of the strategic plan to Bailey. He penned this letter at the time:
March 22, 2017
Dear Dr. Bailey:
On behalf of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC), I am attaching the final draft of UTRGV’s Strategic Plan as well as an Executive Summary. Please know that after final approval from the UT System Board of Regents, University Marketing & Communications will be formatting and structuring the plan into a highly interactive and engaging document. As you know, this plan resulted from the ongoing commitment, active engagement, and hard work of many faculty, staff, and students that form part of this excellent institution, as well as the external community.
The Strategic Planning Committee and the SPSC met on a regular basis throughout the development of the strategic plan; we actively engaged members of the internal and external communities; we broadly disseminated, through multiple mechanisms, information about the strategic plan; and we kept our community informed regarding our progress throughout this entire process. This strategic planning document is based on the insights, ideas, recommendations, and feedback of faculty, staff, and students, as well as external community members. It is also noteworthy that the proposed core priorities and other key areas of focus in this plan are intrinsically linked to UT System’s Quantum Leaps.
I am most proud of the fact that we developed a plan that actively engaged our community and that reflects their ideas, hopes, and aspirations for a new university that will become a model for higher education throughout the country. I am also very pleased to indicate that, by far and large, we have a university community that cares about our institution; is committed to the success of our students; wants to create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing; and wants to achieve success in everything that we do, as manifested through our proposed core priorities and institutional values.
I was extremely fortunate to have the honor and privilege to Chair the Strategic Planning Committee and work with an outstanding group of colleagues that helped develop and design UTRGV’s first strategic plan, which will establish a strong foundation for what is to become “one of the nation’s leaders in higher education, its premier Hispanic-serving institution, and a highly engaged bilingual university, with exceptional educational, research, and creative opportunities that serve as catalysts for transformation in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond” (proposed UTRGV Vision).
Havidán Rodríguez, PhD
Provost and Chair, Strategic Planning Committee
UTRGV students, faculty and staff were told the strategic plan was now complete at events in the University Ballroom in Edinburg and PlainsCapital Bank El Gran Salón in Brownsville. In his remarks, President Bailey lauded the university’s accomplishments thus far and said the best was yet to come.
Bailey pointed out that UTRGV has graduated more than 10,000 students since opening its doors in 2015. He said more students are taking 15 student credit hours or more, which will allow them to graduate earlier. He also spoke about new academic opportunities available at the university, such a doctoral degree in physical therapy.
“We want you, as students, to have the same opportunities here that you’d have in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio,” Bailey said. “You are every bit as deserving as anybody else in the state of Texas. Our job is to ensure that you have those opportunities.”
Expanding opportunities for students is part of UTRGV’s strategic plan, which will serve as a roadmap for where the university needs to go to ensure student success, Bailey said.