Dear Friends and Colleagues,
On July 16, the community of the Rio Grande Valley gathered to witness the historic signing of the legislation to establish a new university in South Texas that will merge UT Brownsville and UT Pan American and add a medical school. This enthusiastic show of support for higher education impressed the Governor, the UT System Board of Regents, our Chancellor, and the many legislators who traveled to the Rio Grande Valley and to both academic campuses.
The creation of this new university in South Texas was first conceived by Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and our Board Chairman Gene Powell. They envisioned a new university that would serve the entire Rio Grande Valley with a distributed architecture that would allow students to benefit from the strengths of both institutions and their faculty and academic programs regardless of where they reside. Then, they imagined a university that would be eligible to receive funds from the Permanent University Fund. Neither UT Pan American or UT Brownsville had been eligible in the past. Finally, they imagined the new university also having a medical school to train the next generation of health care providers and much-needed nurses and physicians. The new university would grow to immediately become the second largest Hispanic Serving University in the nation and begin its trajectory toward becoming a Tier I research university.
The idea quickly captured the imagination of the entire UT System Regents, who unanimously supported the proposal. The excitement was then ignited early in the session when Governor Rick Perry included his personal endorsement for the idea in his January State of the State Address. Quickly, the idea caught on as legislators, both at home and throughout the state, realized that they had the collective opportunity to make a profound difference in the trajectory of the Rio Grande Valley and of the entire state. When the dust finally settled, the idea had received a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives and all but one vote from the Senate.
It was the hard work of many: elected officials, alumni, community leaders, faculty, staff, students and parents, who lent their voices to this dream, and finally made the expansion of higher education in our region possible. Especially crucial was the leadership of the Rio Grande Valley legislative team. It simply would not have happened without the entire Valley delegation leading the way. They deserve our sincerest gratitude.
The Rio Grande Valley is geographically positioned at the epicenter of two hemispheres and on the important Gulf of Mexico in a region of Texas that in many ways is more similar to the Global South than to Houston, or Dallas or Austin. Like the Global South, we face the same challenges of poverty, lack of educational attainment, prevalence of serious health issues and the search for a sustainable and healthy environment.
We intend to use this transformative moment to resolve issues that have regional relevance and global impact. We did not invent the global market, but we mean to take strategic advantage of it. We are poised to be able to produce bi-literate graduates with complex cultural competency with the abilities to negotiate a business deal or provide health services in a global environment.
With the well-respected and international brand of the UT System and the fast growing human capital hungry for opportunity in the Rio Grande Valley propelling our trajectory, we stand poised to innovate, expand and claim our unique and authentic advantage.
The University being created opens up windows of opportunities for thousands of students, who come to us having inherited their parents' hopes of achieving the American Dream; that they might have opportunities to contribute not only to their own families' wellbeing, but to that of the nation with a revered history of opening those doors of opportunity. No greater allegiance is there than to those who have given us, not a handout, but an opportunity to study hard, work hard, contribute to the wellbeing of others and succeed.
Texas cannot afford to be known for those we excluded. Instead, Texas must be known for those we included who are working to make their generation the one that ends vicious cycles of illiteracy and poverty.
We need our Texans who are minority and at-risk students to be victorious in their pursuit of success. We need them educated, bi-literate, and equipped with skills that can transcend state and national borders. We need them to run and expand our businesses and invent new ones. We need them to teach our children and to design our homes. We need them to care for us when we're ill and to perform life-saving surgeries.
I invite you to continue to join in this new adventure as we begin to imprint the destiny of the new university. The UT System has created a Project South Texas website that includes news, guiding principles and timelines for establishing the new university as well as an invitation to submit your comments and suggestions for the new university. You are encouraged to join the conversation online and in person at the town hall meetings the UT System will conduct in the Rio Grande Valley over the next few months.
The destiny of our children and of our country resides not in the past, but in the future; and the shape of the future is in our hands. The new university marks the beginning of a different future for South Texas; a future inspired by the hopes and dreams we share for our children.
With great respect,
Juliet V. García