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EDINBURG, RGV – UT-Rio Grande Valley has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NextDecade, LLC, the company which plans to build a $20 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville.

In a news release, UTRGV says it has entered into a “strategic partnership” with NextDecade to foster STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and math) education programs, facilitate research and job training opportunities for UTRGV students, and to “promote collaboration between academia and industry” as the two entities “seek common solutions to societal challenges today and into the future.”

Alex Domijan
Alex Domijan

UTRGV said the partnership was formed through a common belief that STEM learning and research programs provide pathway opportunities for students to enter the workforce in the energy, engineering and technology industries. Dr. Alex Domijan, the new professor and dean of the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science, said the program also will serve to bolster local social and economic development and will be tailored to meet the needs of the community as well as of prospective employers.

“Energy forms the basis for economic growth and many of our interdependent infrastructures, including transportation, water, manufacturing, security, information systems and healthy communities,” Domijan said in the news release. “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 the place of first choice nationally in 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.”

The Rio Grande LNG project is currently the largest proposed private investment in the state of Texas. In addition to the proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal at the Port of Brownsville, the project includes construction of the Rio Bravo Pipeline. This will consist of two parallel, buried 42” outside-diameter pipelines running between the Port of Brownsville terminal and the Pipeline’s northern terminus in the Dulce Market area outside of Kingsville, Texas, a distance of approximately 137 pipeline miles.

Kathleen Eisbrenner, chair and CEO of NextDecade, said that by working closely with educational and business organizations throughout the Valley, her company hopes to maximize benefits to the Valley community.

“NextDecade is passionate about inspiring today’s youth,” Eisbrenner said. “We support STEM education programming and have placed special emphasis in the Rio Grande Valley region, where we have a vested interest to attract and retain local talent. Our hope is that this partnership will have a significant long-term beneficial impact for all UTRGV students and the community in which it operates.”

The UTRGV news release said Eisbrenner has long been a mentor and advocate for young people. She was recently named to the board of Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, a volunteer-based organization that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, through the use of “experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows UTRGV President Guy Bailey and NextDecade founder, chairman and CEO Kathleen Eisbrenner signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, at the president’s office on the Edinburg Campus. The partnership’s goal is to foster STEM-based education programs, facilitate research and job training opportunities for UTRGV students, and promote collaboration between academia and industry. The photo has been provided courtesy of UTRGV/Paul Chouy.

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