This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of The University of Texas at Brownsville. These first two decades have been highly productive years spent recruiting high-caliber faculty and staff, establishing more than 80 new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, developing a strong research component in physics and biomedicine, refining our strategies for producing master teachers, building strong relationships with other UT institutions and paving the way for professional and doctoral education.
In addition, we have enriched student life experiences on campus by expanding competitive athletic programs, intramural sports, student leadership opportunities and service learning; producing national chess champions and expanding student housing. And finally, we have developed a campus of state-of-the art classrooms and labs with strong architectural integrity.
In Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum's new book, “That Used To Be Us,” the authors remind us about the need for the United States to adapt and to evolve. They insist we should leave behind the outmoded notion of the Cold War era that required an enemy to hate or an opponent to beat. Instead, they suggest that we spend our energy adapting and evolving to the next iteration of what we are meant to become.
UT Brownsville begins its own transition and evolution as a new university strengthened by the support of The University of Texas System and inspired by the hopes and dreams of the people of the Rio Grande Valley that it serves. This new challenge comes at a time of great fiscal constraint and scarce resources that require our university to invent creative strategies for keeping tuition costs affordable for students, to open up new and accelerated pathways for students to graduate and to become a model of innovation and excellence.
During this inaugural year of the new UTB, I will be sending out monthly open letters to help keep you informed about the many changes taking place. We have been given the privilege and the responsibility of designing a new university. Just as in the past, this important work needs the help and support of many to succeed.
The first step we took in designing our new university was to develop a mission statement that would guide our important work. We began by seeking broad based campus and community input.
Faculty members who have been recognized for teaching excellence recommended important concepts in teaching and learning that should be included in the mission. University researchers, experienced in obtaining grant awards and who are well-published, contributed their thoughts about the importance of research. Business leaders throughout the community were convened to discuss the role a university should play in regional economic development. A total of 29 university and community members helped guide the development of the new mission statement. Then, I met with campus leaders, beginning with the Academic Senate, to seek their input. Other very productive discussions followed with members of the Staff Senate and representatives of the Student Government Association. Each group further refined the concepts that best describe the fundamentals of our work.
The products from each work group were then given to our own highly-acclaimed poet, Dr. Charles Dameron, who wove the concepts together into an eloquent statement.
We took the draft of the new mission to a retreat with our Executive Council and our Executive Vice Chancellor David Prior. He declared our mission statement one of the most elegant he had ever read. Dr. Prior was most pleased that it reflects our unique geography perched between the northern hemisphere and the Latin Americas, raises the bar for excellence in higher education and will help us transform our region into a vibrant and dynamic community.
On Aug. 25, The UT System Board of Regents unanimously approved the new mission statement. It has now been submitted for approval to The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Once approved by the THECB, we will forward it to Southern Association of Colleges and Schools along with our request to officially change our accreditation status from one operating in partnership with Texas Southmost College to a new one operating as an autonomous university within the UT System.
Thanks to all who contributed to guiding the development of the new mission statement. In just three sentences, the new mission statement successfully captures the essence of our future work together.
The University of Texas at Brownsville draws upon the intersection of cultures and languages at the southern border and Gulf Coast of the United States to develop knowledgeable citizens and emerging leaders who are engaged in the civic life of their community. It embraces teaching excellence, active inquiry, lifelong learning, rigorous scholarship, and research in service to the common good. The University promotes the interdisciplinary search for new knowledge that advances social and physical well-being and economic development through commercialization, while honoring the creative and environmental heritage of its region.