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UTRGV Presidential Finalist Visits UTB Campus to Meet Faculty, Staff, Students

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 16, 2014 – Dr. Guy Bailey, the finalist candidate for President of the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, met with faculty, staff and student groups on his first public visit to The University of Texas at Brownsville on Friday, May 16.

“The announcement of Dr. Guy Bailey as sole finalist for the inaugural president of UTRGV is one of great celebration for the entire region because it ushers in the next phase of designing and planning for the opening of the new UT Rio Grande Valley,” said Dr. Juliet V. García, UT Brownsville President.

García said Bailey cites five areas that have been consistent priorities of his leadership: the implementation of workable strategic and financial plans; the enhancement of resources; the establishment of private and public partnerships; the implementation of new programs; and the hiring of excellent personnel. 

New president walking on the UTB bridge

“What is going on here in the Rio Grande Valley is unique in the country,” Bailey told the groups gathered in one of the campus building courtyards. “This is the first major university formed in the 21st century. If we do it right, what happens in the Valley will radiate all over the state and the nation.”

Bailey spoke of the profound commitment by The University of Texas System, The University of Texas Board of Regents and the Texas Legislature to the creation of the new university.

“It was not an easy thing for the legislature to do this, and now it is our job to put aside local issues and serve students across the Valley with this new institution,” Bailey said. “The Valley has tremendous impact if it works in unison; the impact on the state and the nation will be tremendous. At the forefront of my thoughts is creating an institution that is distributed across the Valley.”

Bailey introduced Regent Ernest Aliseda, encouraging everyone to thank Aliseda for his support of UTRGV. Bailey also introduced Dr. Francisco Fernandez, Founding Dean, UTRGV Medical School; Dr. Pedro Reyes, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dr. Julio Leon, Special Advisor to Executive Vice Chancellor Reyes.

“This new university didn’t happen out of nothing,” Bailey said. “The two legacy institutions have done a wonderful job for many years, and I have utmost respect for your president, Dr. García. What is happening now would not have been possible without what she has done, setting the stage for the future.”

Bailey spoke to each group of the three areas that will take center focus in the foreseeable future.

“The primary focus of UTRGV will be educating students – that is what we are here for, it is the most important thing we do,” he said. “We want students to know if they come to this university and do not graduate, then we have failed them. Their success is our success.”

Bailey spoke of UTRGV as an emerging research university that will offer innumerable advantages to faculty and students, expanding opportunities in various areas of research. He said he wants UTRGV to be a model of an emerging research university for the country, and also a national model for student success.

The third focus will be on the formation of a medical school. Bailey pointed out that UT Austin and UTRGV are the first universities where the medical school will be integrated into the university. Students will be able to start and finish their medical degrees in the Rio Grande Valley and stay in the Valley and practice medicine.

“What we will be able to do for medical education in the entire Valley will be tremendous,” he said.

Bailey said he hopes to have a preliminary transition team together by the middle of next week.

“We have to begin thinking of ourselves as one university, to create one set of expectations and standards, one set of teaching loads and responsibilities,” he told the faculty. “This won’t happen overnight. I am open to ideas and suggestions about this ongoing challenge.”

Baily told the UTB staff they are the continuity of a university.

“Presidents come and go; students come and go, but you, the staff, are the continuity,” he said. “The new university could not happen without your hard work. We are sensitive to the bumps in the road, yet I know we will prevail if everyone stays focused on student success. Their success is your success – it doesn’t matter whether you are the president, a member of the faculty or a groundskeeper – we are all responsible.”

The new institution will be larger and more complex than the two single institutions as they exist now, Bailey said. “When the best structure for the new university is determined, staff roles may change. He sees this as a move in a positive direction, with more opportunity for advancement available in the new university. He foresees increased professional development for staff as changes take place and expectations grow.

“I think the chances for employment are really good; there will be opportunities as we go forward,” Bailey said.

Talking to the students, he told them he was a first generation college student.

Dr. Guy Bailey giving a speech

“I got to campus and I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t want to appear not to know anything,” he said. “My first year was a disaster; what I needed was a good advisor.”

He said he tells this story to emphasize his concern for students to receive good academic advising. He also assured the students the campuses will become interconnected as the separate institutional identities become minimalized and UTRGV becomes one institution.

“You’ll be wearing the same colors, taking same degree programs and working together through technology and in person – I think gradually you will meld together as one institution,” he said. “Campus athletics can help unify the student body. Think of the two times that the whole campus comes together – these times are at graduation and at athletic events. I am in support of athletics and I have some experience in this area.”

Bailey said he finds it hard to think of any university system in the country that is better than the UT System. He spent six years as Executive Vice President at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

When asked by a faculty member which is his favorite of all the schools where he has worked, Bailey responded in Texas-esque fashion to a quote attributed to Bob Wills, the Western Swing bandleader of the 1930s and ’40s.

“Bob Wills was once asked who he thought was the best steel guitarist he had ever played with; to this Will answered, ‘The one I’m playing with right now.’”

After chuckles from the crowd, Bailey said, “This will be the best opportunity I’ve ever had.”

Bailey will arrive in the Valley in late June or early July. He reiterated that his door is always open – to faculty, staff and students.

Video links from Dr. Bailey’s meetings on campus, Friday, May 16:
Faculty meeting
Staff meeting
Student meeting

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