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Faculty and Staff Fall 2013 Convocation Watch Video

Fall Convocation
The University of Texas at Brownsville
El Gran Salon, Student Union
Friday, September 6th
                                                                                                                       
 
Buenas tardes. Good afternoon! It is a great pleasure to welcome you this afternoon. We had a dedication for one of our new buildings this morning, the Biomedical Research Building 2. Somebody said that they had told the angels that it should not rain in the morning because we were having this outside, but that it could pour in the afternoon, for all we cared. So, be careful what you tell the angels because it might pour.
 
We were here yesterday for Freshman Convocation, and it did. It poured all afternoon. So it’s a wonderful day in our Valley when it rains. We’ve needed it so badly. So we don’t want to wish it away; we want to enjoy it.
 
I understand that we have a “first” occurring today. And that is that our friends at UT Pan American have asked to join us, and so is it a webcast that we are on. Do you all want to say hello to the Broncs from the Ocelots? ¡Hola! Welcome and thank you for joining us. It’s good to have you on.
 
You have been watching a slide show of some posters as you came in that were produced by our Creative Services Team, led by Camilla Montoya and assisted by Anderson Marketing Group. They are going out into all the high schools this year as part of our local image campaign.  
 
Congratulations to our very talented graphic designers. They have done amazing and creative work. You know it’s wonderful when you can say, ‘I’d like a couple of banners,’ and then they show up, and ‘She wanted banners!’ Camilla, will you and your team stand so that we can recognize all of you for your hard work?
 
So one person, one team, can make a big difference as you all have known for a long time on this campus. So today I want to talk a little bit about what difference you can make over the next couple of years, because this is the time for design. A time for a transformative opportunity once again.
 
But first, I’d like to begin by recognizing two members of our campus community who have long been known for transforming lives, themselves, one student at a time.
 
First, Cristina Ballatori. Cristina, where are you? Will you join me? Each year, as you all know, the UT System Board of Regents honors faculty with their Outstanding Teaching Award. The recognition honors faculty for delivering high quality undergraduate education through excellence in teaching and sustained excellence in all aspects of instruction. In addition to a beautiful medal that Cristina is showing off there with her mom and her grandparents, Alan and I – just a joke, I’m sorry Alan. That is her mom, who looks like her sister! An impressive distinction, faculty awarded this honor also receive a $25,000 prize. So for those of you who thought, ‘maybe it’s too much work to self-nominate or nominate someone,’ next year, maybe there will be more incentive now that you know Cristina has gotten that award.
 
As the chancellor notes, there is a great depth and breadth of educators across the nine UT academic institutions, and the selection process is extremely rigorous. Recipients of this award are vetted by colleagues, students and campus presidents before advancing to competition at the system level.
 
Here with us today is UT Brownsville’s recipient, Dr. Cristina Ballatori. Cristina, please allow us to talk just a little bit more about you.
 
Dr. Ballatori, an Assistant Professor of Flute in the Fine Arts Department, joined our campus community five years ago. She earned her doctorate degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her dissertation on the Hungarian Peasant Suite was named a winner of the National Flute Association’s 2007 Dissertation Competition for its outstanding contribution to flute research.
 
Dr. Ballatori was among those selected for the Outstanding Teaching Award for her objective of “not only preparing students for their careers by improving their technical and practical skills, but also actively engaging them in their individual learning processes and providing them the opportunities to develop the critical thinking, listening, problem-solving and communication skills needed to become independent and lifelong learners.”
 
Since the inception of The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards in 1993, a total of 43 of you have been honored. Will all of you who have received this recognition in the audience today, please stand while we congratulate you and Cristina for this wonderful award.
 
 
Next, I would like to recognize another member of our Fine Arts Department. You’re going to think we’re heavy on the Fine Arts, well it just worked out that way. If I do too much physics, I get killed for physics. So we’re not doing physics just yet.
 
At their August meeting, The University of Texas System Board of Regents named Ms. Dianne Brumley Director Emeritus. The only people who can do that are the Board of Regents. Dianne, will you please join me on stage?
 
Ms. Brumley was nominated for this honor by her department and recommended by the Dean, the Provost and by myself to the Board of Regents.
 
For more than 20 years as founder and director of the South Texas Chorale, Dianne has been a great asset to our faculty, students and our community. Her leadership in choral music and music education throughout our region has flung wide open the doors to life-changing opportunities for our students, leading them to places like St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland and the Vatican in Rome.
 
Well known for her great respect for both the craft and for her students, her graduates are now, applying their talents and experiences to educate a new generation of students. For her over 20 years of dedication and commitment to our students, for her elegance and poise, for her leadership and for always striving to reach higher, not for personal gain or recognition, but always for her students, the UT Board of Regents bestows the designation of Director Emeritus on Dianne Brumley to ensure that she continue to have a presence in the Music Department and in the lives of our students. Please help me recognize Dianne Brumley as I bestow her medal.
 
Dianne Brumley:
Thank you. I am truly overwhelmed. I am honored and humbled to accept this honor as Director Emeritus and wish to thank my department of music colleagues, Dr. García and The University of Texas at Brownsville administration, and the University of Texas Board of Regents for this extraordinary tribute.
 
In the fall of 2003, Dr. Sue Zanne Williamson Urbis, then Department Chair of Music, challenged me to build a choral program at this university, thus began a journey I could have never imagined. Through the vision of Dr. Urbis, the dedication of countless students and the support of this administration, we were able to build the university master chorale into a program that garnered regional, state, national and international acclaim. The 10 years I spent at this university were the pinnacle experiences of my long career in music education. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have my name lined with The University of Texas at Brownsville and its remarkable department of music
 
As educators, I believe we have the greatest job in the world. While we will never become wealthy, we have been given a wealth of opportunity to positively affect our students’ lives. The opportunity to change lives, the opportunity to save lives.

The great American poet Robert Frost penned, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Hopefully along the way we have awakened a new generation of men and women who will make our world a better place.
Once again I thank all of you for this honor you have bestowed upon me - an honor that acknowledges my life’s work and what I love to do. It will be my continued goal to support and sustain the work of this notable university that holds such a special place in my very heart of hearts. Thank you.
 
 Before we look to the future, let’s take a moment to take stock of where we are right now.
 
We’ve made it through the very difficult process of resizing our faculty and staff. Our new core for this university is made up of 213 full-time faculty and 435 full-time staff.
 
It is time for us to recognize that we have survived this worst part of this transition. We have made it through. We did it professionally, ethically and humanely as possible.
 
My thanks to everyone who was involved in the process, and there were hundreds of you. But my special thanks today to those people who helped those employees who were on the Reduction In Force list make sense of their new lives – retool, regenerate their ideas about how to prepare for their new jobs and their new transition. And celebrate with them when they found new jobs.
 
Will Liza Benson, and Trini Yuñez, and the staff from Human Resources and Career Services who helped our colleagues transition to new careers. Will all of you please stand so that we may recognize you?
 
And while we were experiencing this most difficult of times, there was much work to be done to prepare the campus for the fall semester – when we would launch our classes within the new UTB footprint and accept a new crop of students who had met the new admissions requirements.
 
This was not an easy task, and I want you to know how personally grateful I am to each of you who took on this extra work in addition to your daily duties of running the campus.
 
Just preparing the new schedule was an enormous task. We went from having 85 general purpose classrooms to 32 ―a decrease of 60 percent. We were not exactly sure how many students would enroll for fall classes, so each time we had a freshman orientation, the deans and chairs were on standby to add more sections based upon the need generated that day. Many of you are teaching in classrooms you may have never taught in before. We had to be very creative in where and how courses were scheduled to ensure each class had a room that fit the number of students in that section. So there was a lot of moving around.
 
I’d like to thank the Academic Service Center, whichwas just invented this summer to become a place that could serve as a clearinghouse for much of this work, and all of the Deans and Chairs for the enormous effort it took to reinvent this fall’s course schedule. If you are a member of the Academic Service Center, if you are a dean or if you are a department chair, please stand so that we all may thank you for the enormous amount of work you did. ¡Muchisimas gracias! 
 
I have to explain to people in the community that when we talk about we’ve been moving a little bit this summer, we’re not talking about one office or two offices. We’re talking about more than 580 faculty and staff offices that were moved into compressed space that is one-third of our original square footage. So if you’re feeling a little cozy – that was the nicest word we can think of – then you’re feeling it for good reason. The campus that served the partnership consisted of 2.3 million square feet, and our new footprint consists of 750,000 square feet.  
 
There were 30,000 boxes used to pack up all the files, all the binders and all the books that needed to be moved. All of this inventory needed to be transferred and accounted for. The Business Affairs staff continues working to ensure each tagged item ends up in its designated place. Remember that scene in “Raiders of the Lost Arc”? They had that warehouse that went on forever, as they were stashing one last box with the forklift. That’s the vision I have when we talk about 30,000 boxes in their right place.
 
Facilities Services also completed, at the same time, 30 renovation projects to prepare space for people to move into. Let me give you just one example of repurposing. Olivia Rivas talked to us about her new office environment. She’s the one who lent us the word “cozy.” Where there were seven offices in that area for faculty before, the space has now been redesigned for 21 offices.
 
Si usted fue parte del equipo de expertos que ayudó con éstos cambios, o ayudó a construir espacios nuevos, o limpió y preparó oficinas, o movió miles de cajas, muchas veces a una bodega, y después a las oficinas nuevas, por favor pónganse de pie para reconocerlos y darles las gracias.
 
If you were part of the expert crew please stand so that we might recognize you for all your work. And Veronica and Abraham please stand up. Our greatest thanks to you both.
 
These dedicated staff members pitched in wherever needed. It didn’t matter what their title was. It used to matter – a plumber did plumbing, a carpenter did carpentry. This summer it didn’t matter. Everybody did everything. Everybody was a mover or part of the team that did this work.  
 
The work that IT completed this summer was also unprecedented. ITS staff helped each of those 580 people connect phones and computers in new locations – both on and off-campus.
 
To set up a moved office, ITS had to make sure the destination site had enough network connections to accommodate the requested move. Sounds like an easy thing, right? You’ve moved from one room to another in a house. Now imagine 580 moves. If not, new cables, connectors and switches were installed. ITS then configured network connections for phones, computers, printers, eFax, etc.
 
ITS also ran network services to our new off campus sites, which required installing completely new infrastructure in buildings that were not part of the university a few months ago.
 
If that weren’t enough, they also moved and connected computers in repurposed computer labs, all while keeping track of each inventory number of each CPU. If that weren’t impressive enough, IT was actively involved in the personal property negotiations with TSC, they were conducting the migration to Office 365 and moving themselves.
 
Last but not least, ITS helped identify and move computers for our TSC colleagues in order to help them get ready for their first day of school as well.
 
Will all of our very talented and patient IT staff, who have survived, please stand so that we can thank you?
 
Well here’s the good news: we’re all moved around; we’re connected somewhat. We have the things that belong to us, or we’re trying to trade for things that somebody else has that we like. And all of this was for good reason. Because we expected to show up this fall and have students ready to enter our doors. Now we had modeled the number of students that might come to us. But models are based on assumptions, and assumptions are based on good guessing. And so we had lots of good guessing going on to figure out how many students we were going to have. But finally, nobody would really be able to know because students make the decisions themselves. We had the issue of TSC having lowered their tuition, so we didn’t know how many students would be attracted to the lower tuition at TSC. We had students who had passed their exams and could go to either place. And then we just didn’t know how this was going to work out for many, many reasons.
 
Until the 12 class day, we won’t know with precision what our actual fall enrollment is, but we do know this: It is more than1,000 students over what we had predicted. So as of this week we have 8,618 students enrolled at UT Brownsville.
 
So just to give you an idea of what that means in one class, we had predicted that we were going to have 700 – maybe 750―freshmen. We have 1,799 freshmen. So students were not deterred by the new admission standards; they earned their way in.
 
But students don’t arrive, and didn’t arrive this summer, by chance. They are recruited, scholarshiped, they’re advised, they’re given financial aid, they’re enticed by our chess teams, and they’re enticed by our athletic teams. What will the new enticement be at this new university for our students? Will it be the new debate team – John Cook, where are you? Will it be the poets in residence program? Will it be an honors program or a new a Humanities Academy? Or maybe it will be a South Texas Coastal Research Center.
 
We have a short video that a local news crew produced on the exciting work of some of our professors and students and the kind of work that they are involved in that we’d like to show you.
 
 
And the reason I wanted you to see the ‘clip’ of the Texas Clipper, sorry, is because I wanted you to begin to get a glimpse of the work you all are doing as faculty and staff that often we don’t get to share with each other. One of the things that one of the professors told me about this was that often when a student gets on one of their boats, it is their first time in a boat. They’ve seen the water, but from the shore. They’ve seen it on a weekend when they’ve gone out to the beach. They’ve never seen the island from a boat. They’ve never understood the treasures and the science that occurs in the water and underneath the water, and that when they do it opens up worlds of opportunity for them.
 
Imagine when we combine the strength that we have here at UT Brownsville in marine biology with, we hope, the new Coastal Research Center that we’ll do with our partners at UT Pan American and their work that they’re involved in, with the study of marine toxicology, perhaps, and with the study, perhaps, with Space X and our physicists. We can do all of that at the Island. We might have a new campus we’d have to hook up with computers, Clair. You never know what will be happening next here.
 
One of the photos I wanted to show you is a picture of some of the students in our entering class. Remember we used to have Scorpion Scholars. And these were scholarships that we gave to top ten percent kids. Well they’re now called University Scholars. So what we did this year to introduce the community to the new name of our scholarship program was that Dr. Silva and their crew quickly had stoles made and went to every one of the high school graduations and handed this stole to the students who were the recipients of the top 10 percent scholarships.
 
Now let me tell you a little bit about that scholarship. They must have completed the recommended or distinguished curriculum and meet our admissions requirements. Those selected are fully scholarshiped, covering their tuition and fees, housing and $500 each semester for books.
 
The scholarships are renewable for eight semesters of a student’s academic career as long as they meet the program requirements, including meeting SAP requirements and participating in program activities. 



Fifty-five of our University Scholars are incoming freshmen. Notice they are wearing the stoles that Dr. Silva and her staff swiftly produced and personally delivered in time for the students to wear to their high school graduations.
 
In spite of being reduced to a one-third of their previous size, this summer the Enrollment Service Team processed 9,000 new student applications, enrolled more than 8,500 students from 17 different countries, processed 15,000 financial aid applications and awarded more than $56 million dollars of federal aid to our students. Student Affairs provided orientation for 1,455 students and welcomed 450 students into Casa Bella. Casa Bella, our student residence, is full to the brim.
 
Will the members of the Student Affairs, Enrollment Management and Advising please stand so that we can recognize you for the work in recruiting, advising, enrolling and preparing our students for the first day of class last week? And of course they did all of this while moving from one space to another at the same time.
 
Last week, the new UT Brownsville ring design was unveiled.
 
Freshly designed with input from students to reflect the university's evolution, the ring features symbols unique to UT Brownsville including the university bell and the ocelot and the Latin words:  Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis, which means “The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”

Remember – over the next two years, anything that says UT Brownsville will soon become a collector’s item – I’m just saying. So if you’re one of our alumni and if you’ve ever wanted a UTB ring, now is the best time to get your UT Brownsville ring.
 
The same day the new ring design was unveiled, the name of our university mascot was revealed. These have all been student-driven decisions, as you know. They chose the ocelot. It’s an endangered species. For just the naming of the mascot, they voted over a two- or three-day period, and 2,076 students voted. We need to encourage them to vote in November and May and the other regular elections.  
 
Please help me welcome our new UT Brownsville Ocelot; his name is Ozzie! Ozzie, please come forward and be introduced.  
 
You may think this is an ordinary ocelot. I have to go with him places. I used to be considered a very serious person, and now I have to hug an ocelot. I enjoy it, Ozzie.
 
But this summer we had some donors on campus just to brief them up on what was going on this summer. (Don’t look at me Ozzie, laughing.)
 
Anyway, they wrote me a little note after they left campus, and it was about how wonderful they thought it was that we had selected the ocelot. The name of the couple is Rick and Dianne Teter, many of you may know them. They are originally cattle ranchers from Wichita Falls. After a very successful career as ranchers both in Texas and Mexico, they decided to pursue a career change for the second half of their lives and earned new degrees from UT Brownsville in Education.
 
They quickly developed strong ties both with UTB, as alumni, and UT Pan Am, a longtime employer, and decided to split their estate between the two universities. (We’re going to have to have Ozzie come to our meetings, laughing.) Isn’t it great that now their entire estate will be not divided between Pan Am and Brownsville, but merged to the new university?
 
This summer, then, the Teters wrote me a little note after attending our lunch and here’s what he said about why he thought it was so appropriate that the ocelot was our mascot.
 
The most amazing feature of the Ocelot, (not this one, the real one!) to us, is the ability (well, maybe, let’s see, let’s check it out) the ability to stop a downward descent from a tree by using its unique back legs, which can grip around a limb like the front legs of all cats. This anatomical curiosity reminds me of the appropriateness of the Ocelot as a symbol for UTB. All other cats have to maintain their forward momentum while descending head-first from a tree, but not so for the Ocelot.
 
When its survival is threatened by this downward momentum, only the Ocelot can "put on the brakes" and even change directions in mid-descent, to follow a better path to its destination.
 
We think about this in relation to the events at UTB over the last couple of years; the university has exemplified this same unique ability of the Ocelot.
 
Whatever mascot is chosen for the UT South Texas University, we all know it was the Spirit of the Ocelot which brought UTB to this historic juncture!
 
Ozzie, you are going to have to be excused in just one second, but before you leave, I wanted to tell all of the audience also that the fellows and ladies out at Laguna Atascosa Reserve are also trying to save the Texas Ocelot. So they petitioned the State of Texas to produce a specialty license plate called ‘Save the Texas Ocelot.’ They got their wish! So in November, we will be able to buy our own ‘Save the Texas Ocelot’, which we think means us anywhere you live in the state of Texas. By the way, if you get your license plate renewal between now and November, go ahead and get your new license plates, but keep your receipt, because then you can upgrade to the new specialty license plate.

Ozzie, thank you for representing us so well. Thank you for going with me to the high schools. I love you too!

So what else do we know this semester that we did not know when we met last? We know our new campus footprint. We’ve been working hard to decide some things. Successful land and building negotiations with Texas Southmost College are now completed.  The new UT Brownsville campus is now comprised of 260 acres―the same size as several esteemed urban campuses including Rice University and the University of Chicago.

I want to show you three slides that give you an idea of what all of this land exchange and building exchange look like.

This is the ownership map when the partnership was still intact. Everything in blue belongs to Texas Southmost College. Everything in burnt orange is UT Brownsville. But you see the buildings for UT Brownsville are kind of like little islands, isolated, because we did not own the land in between the buildings. You also see that they are kind of spread out – some on one side of Ringgold, and some on the other. So what we were intending to do was to trade and divide up and buy and sell land so that we could have two distinct campuses for operational authority going forward, and yet for students to have easy flow back and forth. That shows you the intention.
 
The next chart shows you some additional land. What we had in land was not enough. So the Regents were looking at perhaps going elsewhere, remember, to other sites for the university. It was going to be possible to stay here only if we could acquire additional land adjacent to the campus. So the City of Brownsville decided that they were going to try and gift us 69 acres property that you see down at the bottom of the map. That land, if you drive by today, is the Lincoln Park and all of the land adjacent to it that was once Fish and Wildlife land for the corridor. The corridor no longer exists, so it’s not useful for Fish and Wildlife and we agreed to the City of Brownsville relocate the park closer to the residents of Southmost than this one was, because many of the residents that use this park are from the Southmost area. So with that agreement, the City of Brownsville found a law, and we helped them find the law, which was very helpful of us, I thought, a law that would allow the city to gift land to only one type of entity: a university, to entice them to come to their city or to stay. So with that law in hand, we went to the city commission and asked them to consider gifting us 69 acres, which they did.  We will not take ownership of that land until we have helped them identify the land for the new park and pay about $6 million for the relocation of the park to a new site. So in fact, it turned out better for the residents and much better for us.
 
So now you saw our land mass goring a little bit further.
 
The last map I’d like to show you is finally what we did with the negations and the land and building swap. So now you see that all the blue land and buildings are on one side of Ringgold and all of the burnt orange is on the other side of Ringgold. So now we have operational authority and distinctiveness on the two sides of campus. We think that’s a very good way to have concluded this negotiation. UT Brownsville has grown very significantly because we also bought 69 acres from TSC. So when you add together what we had plus what the city gifted us plus the TSC land that we bought – the land between our buildings and the land that connected all of this together – we now end up with almost 300 acres for this new campus.
 
So although we own just seven buildings UT Brownsville, that’s all we own right now, actually eight as of this morning with the dedication of the new biomedical research building II, which ones are they?
 
  • Life and Health Sciences Building
  • the Biomedical Research Building
  • We also own EDBC – now renamed Main. Why did we do that? Of all the things to do in the midst of all this, why rename it? As you know, many campuses have traditionally designated one of their buildings as that one that is the more formal front door to the campus. For us, it used to be Gorgas. Everybody kind of recognized Gorgas. So we needed a new front door that is distinctive to the new university. So our front door for UT Brownsville is now Main Building, the former EDBC. EDBC for Education and Business Complex, that didn’t apply anymore because we have lots of other people in there now too. So it was very convenient to take the opportunity to rename the building. It has a beautiful fountain, it has a beautiful glorieta, and as you see the master plan develop over the next few months for the whole of the new campus, you’ll see how that fits in nicely. 
  • We also own Casa Bella, our residence hall for students.
  • New to own ownership is the Student Union, which we bought from Texas Southmost College and the students were paying off that debt. Every semester the students were charged a fee. That debt has been forgiven to students, so they are minus one more debt to be paid. We took care of that too. 
  • We also bought what was called the University Boulevard. That made sense, given what I’ve shown you on the map, but the name didn’t make sense anymore. We gave that name to it because that’s all we could think of at the time. You  might remember that our master plan calls for planting native trees and plants on campus, and it’s also become our tradition to name spaces after native plants and flowers. Such as the conference rooms in the Student Union:  Salon Bougainvillea, Gardenia and Jacaranda, and the special events spaces in Salon Cassia, named after the native tree, the Cassia. It’s that beautiful tree in the business courtyard that has the yellow bloom – that’s the cassia tree. So along University Boulevard, to follow the tradition, the most prominent plant is the sabal palms, so we decided to call that building Sabal Hall to follow the tradition established in our master plan.
  • We also purchased one more important building – the most important building on a university campus, the Library. You couldn’t have a university without a library. We’re not going to change the name, it was just called ‘library’ but we added ‘University’, so now it’s University Library. That’s the only name change there.
 
Just as importantly, as I mentioned earlier, we now own the land in between those buildings to make it a contiguous campus. It was really quite a successful land and building swap.
 
Now, given that we have a very healthy enrollment this fall and that we expect to continue to grow in the future, we will continue to need to lease additional space from TSC over the next few years until we build new buildings of our own.
 
So we have leased the all of Eidman building. We have leased the Arts Center classrooms and the half of the days of the year in the Arts Center Performance Hall. We have leased all of Cortez, all of Rusteberg. We still have MO, and we have several labs in SETB and Garza Gymnasium.
 
Even then, we still had space needs that could not be met on campus, so we had to make the decision to move some offices off-campus. I want to tell you a little bit about who is now off campus.
 
We gave the highest priority for on-campus space to faculty and students and those support services that students need to access easily and conveniently. 

In some cases, we chose to take advantage of this moment to move services to places that would be actually more convenient, we think, for the constituents who used them. For example, the Language Institute, that used to be over at ITECC, and the and the Business Incubator, that used to be over at ITECC, and we added to that the Testing Center have been moved over to Resaca Village on Price Road. Now Irv is shocked when he sees this picture, because if you pass by right now, it doesn’t have a banner and it doesn’t have a name. But in order to encourage Irv to be quick about getting some signage up there. Now the irony is that it is Irv’s department that created the signs. Camilla, please lend Irv a banner and put it up there. So that building is in the Resaca Village, which is on Price Road. And it was already kind of prepared for a function of that kind. We needed it quickly, and so that made the most sense. If students are going to be tested, they actually go to the testing center there. If they want to be participating in the Business Incubator or in the Language Institute, classes have already begun in that building.
 
In other cases, we chose space for functions off site that allowed departments to remain intact and actually improve services. Business Affairs is a good example of that. They loved being in Tandy, right? I would go into Tandy and they would say, “Come look in my office! I had to paste the rug with duct tape.”
So we have new space for Business Affairs. It’s a little further off campus than we had wanted, but it’s beautiful now space, and it’s called UT Brownsville at The Woods. It’s off of Alton Gloor. It’s all of the Business Services division. If you want to see Human Resources and Trini and her group and the staff development group, they’re all there in that office. If you want to see our beloved Internal Auditors, Norma and her crew that we love, they’re also at the University of Texas at Brownsville at The Woods. Now, that seal is not really there either. But Doug, I think you should put a seal up there, so I’ve kind of hinted by putting it on there. Thank you Angela and Jose Luis for making that happen. 

You’ll see it right after Su Clinica, on the same side of Alton Gloor. It’s got great parking, a great location. And what they did was very, very important. They took advantage of this moment to rethink how they do their work. One of the new guiding principles that we have for our new university is that we should redesign processes to increase productivity and promote a student-centered model. So they took advantage of this moment to cross-train everybody, rethink how they are offering their services and then fit in that space. So thank you for taking the lead to do that over in Business Affairs. We appreciate it.
 
Institutional Advancement, previously located in the Commissary Building, as you know. Unfortunately they had to move from that lovely building. We wanted to find a space closer to campus for them and a place we could keep them all together. So Cueto Building is where they are all going to be. Cueto Building is just a couple of blocks off campus on Madison. It allows for very creative space for staff to maintain the synergy created by the many functions that are working there. I don’t think we did anything about signage on this one. We’ll leave that up to them to do.
 
If you’ve not been taking notes about who’s where, that’s ok, because you can go to the website and go to the home page or the directory page and you can quickly find where everyone is now located through a link called “We’ve moved.” So when a student comes up to you and says, “Where is….”, please don’t say, “Well, I don’t know.” Please take a moment, go to the website, and say, “Here! I’ll help you!” Help them and help each other as we find our way around in this new space.  

Purchasing land and buildings is an expensive proposition. As the chancellor and Chairman Powel noted when they were here, they stayed up night after night worrying about how to pay for the new campus that UT Brownsville needed. The establishment of the new South Texas University allowed us to now become eligible to receive funding from the $12 billion Permanent University Fund – when? Immediately! This is something we checked out quickly when we were still at the legislature.
 
At the July meeting, before the Governor even came on campus to sign, the UT System Board of Regents, appropriated UT Brownsville, for the very first time since it was established in 1876, - that’s not an inaccurate date. That’s when the PUF fund was established, we had never been eligible for that until this summer. We were allocated $44.8 million to do the land and building purchase. It was worth the juncture. It was worth this moment in time. It happened, not because of anything I did, it happened because we had a chancellor who felt it was time to right a wrong, and he had the courage and the will to try to convince regents that that’s what was meant to happen. And then they supported it. We went to the legislature, were we got unanimous support, as you know.
 
The story doesn’t end there, although that was fantastic. The chancellor likes to text and email little notes late at night. So he said, “Julieta, look at the language of the agenda for the next Regent’s meeting. You’ve never seen this before in the history of UT.” I said, “What does it say?” He said, “It says UT Brownsville and PUF in the same sentence.”
 
That door has been swung open. It doesn’t matter who’s president tomorrow, it doesn’t matter who’s chancellor tomorrow, it doesn’t matter who is on the Board of Regents, that door has been opened. We will forevermore eligible for Permanent University Fund dollars in the Rio Grande Valley.
 
If that weren’t enough, then I get a call from one of my bosses, Dr. Pedro Reyes Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. He says one afternoon, “Julieta, send a request for another PUF building.” And I said, “No te entiendo, I don’t understand.” He says, “What do you mean you don’t understand?” I said, “I have never heard those words before. Submit a request for PUF funds for a new building? I had never heard that before.” So he laughed. I said, “Please say it again, slower.” He repeated it and he said, “Can you get it to me quickly?” That call came in at noon and by 4:00 or 4:30 we had submitted our request.
 
Stay tuned, because at the November Board of Regents meeting, we expect that when the allocate PUF funding next time, that we will be at least one of two high on the list. So therein is our next building that we need to build quickly so we get out of leased space and start to build buildings on our new property.
 
Last week we held an event to bring together our Endowed Scholarship donors and the student recipients. It was our largest gathering for this event yet. It was in this room, and it was filled to the brim with donors and scholarship recipients.  Donors travelled from out of town to show their on-going support for the new university and their commitment to continue to join us in this work.
 
Speaking at this event was a representative from the family that established our newest endowment. Some of you will remember Ralph Vela. Ralph used to work for us at the University. He is the former Director of Development. He helped to establish an endowment in honor of his own parents, Federal Judge Filemon B. Vela Junior and Former Brownsville Mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela. When Ralph worked at UT Brownsville we had seven endowments. Today now have 110 endowments. 
 
Ralph told a story that day that was so intriguing. He told the story of when he was here as the Development Director and one of our students heard that Ralph was going to go fishing and asked if he could accompany him. Ralps said, “Sure I can always use someone on a fishing trip.” The person who asked was Sandesh Kadur. Some of you know Sandesh. He came here from India to live with his uncle and to attend school at UT Brownsville. He became a biology student, studying with Larry Lof and traveling to Rancho de Cielo in Mexico. Matter of fact, he would lead our tours of the mountains there. His trajectory from here went on to become a videographer and a documentarian. This year he became one of National Geographic’s 17 Emerging Explorers in the world.
 
But now back up a little bit, because we’re still on the fishing trip. Sandesh is a young biology student and he wants to go out with Ralph on this boat.
 
As Ralph was hunting with his rod and reel and Sandesh was hunting with his camera, he commented on the brightly colored Kingfisher bird. He explained to Ralph that it the kingfisher bird was very special because it is an “indicator species” – an organism whose presence or absence reflects a specific environmental condition. “When an ecosystem is healthy,” he said, “you will find the Kingfisher. When you don’t find Kingfishers where they should be, researchers want to investigate what is wrong with the environment in that region.”
 
Ralph said that he told his family that story and that his family had chosen to establish an endowment at UT Brownsville at this time of transition because UTB is the Rio Grande Valley’s Kingfisher. If the university is healthy and growing and productive, so is this region.
 
Ralph, Congressman Filemon Vela his brother and their mother, former mayor of Brownsville, all believe that it is their responsibility to help build this new university. They and over 250 other donors and scholarship recipients attended this luncheon the other day that day because they have the same belief and the same hope―that we’re the Kingfisher. If the university is healthy and growing and productive, so is the region.
 
So now let’s look ahead. Where are we with the consolidation and what do we know?
 
(Project South Texas Video plays)
 
 
The same meeting during which we were awarded $44 million from the PUF fund, the Board of Regents also approved the Guiding Principles for the new university. These principles can be found on the UT System Project South Texas webpage.
 
As you study the principles, you will see that many of them sound very familiar. They should, because last October, when the decision had been made to separate from Texas Southmost College, the Chancellor asked that we begin to plan a 21st Century university.
 
As part of the planning process, we were calling it UTB 2.0, we invited you to become part of the 21st Century University Commission. More than 270 people joined in this work - faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and community leaders. We organized the commission into seven different committees, and each committee was asked to respond with seven recommendations for the new university moving forward.
 
The work of the commission was compiled into a report which was then presented to a group of national thought leaders. The experts included our own UTB representatives, the chancellor and key members of the UT System leadership, executives from leading philanthropic organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation and national education leaders such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities and Excelencia in Education.
 
Our panel confirmed at that convening that we were right on target, and then they refined strategies to improve student success in this next-generation university.
 
Then a couple of months later, the chancellor called me into his office to discuss the merger with Pan Am and the establishment of this new university. I was struck by the absolute confidence he has in the people of this region. This new university would have to be sold to the Regents, it would also have to be sold to our communities - not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but across Texas to the 181 legislators who would be voting on the bill.
 
The chancellor said that the work of this community through its 21st Century University Commission was so forward thinking and on target that he had chosen to adopt many of these principles and weave into what was to the Guiding Principles of the new South Texas University – not the name of the new university, just a descriptor until we know what the name is.
 
So, when you look at the Guiding Principles, you will see that your work was folded into the vision for the new South Texas University. As a matter of fact, the preamble of the Guiding Principles and the new UTB mission are closely aligned.  
 
What you will see there is the UTB mission as we had first stated it and then as you look at the guiding principles, you’ll see a part of what we had talked about.  I’m not going to go through all of that here with you today, but I would ask that you take a look at the principles in that light.
 
The Guiding Principles are going to be our north star as we begin to work through the discussions over the next few months.
 
Remember that we had said in our 21st Century University Commission that we wanted to “be relentlessly student-centered.” Well, the guiding principle says we should streamline academic and administrative programs to make sure they are student-centered. Very, very similar.
 
We further said that we have a distinct opportunity to be a bilingual/bicultural university.  And notice that the new principles say “promote arts and humanities programs to produce state, national and world leaders who are bicultural, bi-lingual, and bi-literate.” We’ll continue to discuss the Guiding Principles and how they will focus our work this fall.
 
The chancellor, himself, will be traveling to the Valley several times to host town hall meetings. When he comes, when you hear about him coming, please show up like you did today. And the first thing you ought to do is give this guy a standing ovation, because we would not be here talking about this had it not been for his personal commitment to making this happen.
 
This month the UT System will also identify collaborative, inter-campus working groups composed of faculty members, staff, students, and community members. These groups will help conceptualize and plan all aspects of the new university and identify the numerous tasks to be implemented over the next two years in order to enroll the inaugural first-year class in the fall of 2015. So don’t go anywhere. There is a lot of work to be done, because two years from today we have to have all of that work completed so that we can receive that inaugural class.
 
Yesterday our Provost Dr. Artibise and the Provost from UTPA, Havidan Rodriguez, were asked to establish the first disciplinary and transdisciplinary working groups. These groups will involve four or five faculty from each university and will be to begin to envision the academic organization for our new university.
 
I’d like to introduce to you now someone who was introduced to the how UT System this week as the new Special Advisor who will lead and coordinate campus teams that will assist the UT System Administration with planning the new university and medical school.
 
Dr. Julio León, will you please join me here? I didn’t realize you were this tall! I’ve only sat next to you before, that’s why. Dr. León is an accomplished higher ed leader who previously served 25 years as president of Missouri Southern State University. Following his retirement, he served as Interim President of Colorado State University-Pueblo.
 
Dr. León will work from an office at the RAHC building, the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, and looks forward to spending time with faculty, staff, students, and community members throughout the entire region.
 
We are very pleased that Vivian, his wife, is accompanying him today. Vivian will you please stand so we might welcome you to our community?
 
Help me welcome Dr. León, as he has a few words to share with us.
 
Dr. Julio León:
 
Thank you so much President Garcia. It’s a tremendous privilege and honor today to be with you on your beautiful campus, yours and theirs. I have heard President Garcia in many national meetings speaking about this wonderful partnership that had been created. Never dreaming that someday I would be present while the divorce that is taking place, but also never dreaming that I would have the opportunity to be a part of the beginning of a new enterprise, an exciting enterprise.
 
I think we all now have experienced the difficult economic times over the last six or seven years. The result of that for higher education has been a tremendous contraction of state support for public institutions. So it is without any doubt this South Texas Project is the most exciting thing that is happening in higher education in this country. Nobody is doing what is happening now and what is going to happen here.
And so it is a privilege for me to have an opportunity to assist the University of Texas System in the planning process of a brand new university that is supposed to service to the people in the Rio Grande Valley. As President Garcia said, it is supposed to be a student-centered university, and it is my plan to make sure that those guiding principles will be the main framework that will lead us to the creation and planning of the new university. I know that there are some concerns about how this all is going to work, about the impact that it might have on the lives of many people, and I have already began to ask questions.
 
The first thing that seems to me, is that we should not use the word ‘merger’, because in the financial world a merger implies a very strong corporation or partnership swallowing another that is weaker. We don’t have that situation here. And I believe that the word ‘consolidation’ is better because what is going to be happening here is that we’re going to try to put together the combined assets and the strengths of these two great institutions and create a new one that is different from the original ones.

Why is it going to be different? It’s going to be different because the 15 guiding principles say that it will be different. The aim, and for those of you who are part of a given discipline, we know that faculty have strong allegiance to their discipline. But the goal is going to be for you to continue to do that, but primarily with a view to finding ways of using that allegiance for the benefit of the region in which this new university is located.
So in asking questions, I understand from the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor that it is their intention to make sure that there will be a minimal effect, if any, on jobs at this new institution. There is no guarantee, obviously, it can’t be guaranteed, but any time that you are talking about the possibility that this new university will grow to 50,000 students, it doesn’t make sense to lose talent that already exists at these two institutions. The combined enrollment at these institutions given today’s figures of what the new university would have in 2015, is about 28,000 students or so. I believe that when these two institutions and all of you working with your colleagues at Pan American begin to design the new plan for the new university and, as the word begins to spread, I would not be surprised if the new university begins in 2015 with 30-32,000 students. Because there will be a communications plan, a promotions plan as this new university moves along.
 
You need to remember one thing, as President Garcia explained, the accreditation process calls for approval by the SACS board in June of 2015 - essentially two academic years from now. Two academic years from now, once we get to that point, there are many opportunities that will have been created because of this planning that is going to take place - many opportunities for new personnel and for new needs of people with certain expertise. And I am convinced that eventually the economic impact of this region will reflect what will happen in the meetings we will be having in the near future.
 
If you think about the fact that the establishment of the medical school alone, when its fully functioning, it will require $40-$50 million a year to operate. When you think of all the expenditures that are going to be happening because of PUF availability and you apply the multiplier effect, you do know that this is going to have a tremendous impact on this region and it is our obligation to make sure that this new university is the right university.
 
As President Garcia said, in meeting with the Provosts we have begun to create these working groups, and we’re going to be asking you to work with your colleagues at Pan American, discipline by discipline, activity by activity, and begin to envision how these two assets can be combined consolidated, not merged, combined consolidated, with a view to creating this university that will be student-centered. It appears to me that that philosophy already exists here. Every student that enters our universities is precious - precious quote unquote - because they are sent to us, entrusted to us, by their parents. And we ought to make sure that their success is guaranteed from the first day they step on our campus - every one of us from the President down to the last person that works on campus. Nobody should be permitted to fail at this university. They are precious because they are just like your own, our own sons and daughters. When we send our sons and daughters to college, we would hope that there will be somebody on that campus that would want to take care of that precious child of ours. And that is the culture that must exist in this new university.   
 
Over the next few months, we’re going to be working to ensure that come April – there is a deadline – come April we’ll be able to present the Chancellor, at a summit, all of these creative ideas that these groups will come up with.
 
We’re not asking you to say, ‘Spanish and Spanish. Yes, you have a bachelor’s degree, we have a bachelor’s degree. Put them together, the plan is for a bachelor’s degree.’ The idea is to ask what else is happening in the Valley that can motivate us to create new programs, higher level programs. Because this university has to be not only be student-centered, but it has to be a university that will elevate itself to the next level. And that is the opportunity that you all have. It’s a gift that has been given to you- to all of you - and I think that you have to take advantage of it, because the charge is to create a first class university of the 21st century for the students of the valley. Let’s not forget that.
 
So President Gracia, thank you so much for the opportunity to address the campus and I look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you.
 
I thank you Dr. León for taking time today to come to our campus and saw a few words. Welcome, Vivian, to our community. They are living in Rancho Viejo, so if you just want to drop by anytime. So they are going to be good neighbors of ours for the next several months as we go through this very important process.
 
So it is not the UT System’s goal for the new university to become a bigger UT Brownsville or a bigger UT Pan American, as you’ve just heard. They have asked to so much harder work. To imagine how our combined assets – our human, our fiscal, our physical can be combined to become a whole new place.
 
It will not be about quantity, it will be about quality - the quality of an idea that has merit. And we certainly have an advantage on that front with each other. Because each of you came to this university to design new programs, innovative ones like the compressed biomedical degree called A-Prime, that takes an eight-year medical degree and compresses it into six years. This semester just started with that program, with 20 students ready to participate in as pilot. Pan American is also doing that pilot and UTEP is also doing that pilot. Remember, it was on this campus that the BAT and BAAS degrees were first invented. Today, that degree program is offered through the state. And remember also that it was UT Brownsville that offered the first online graduate program in the UT System, our master’s degree in educational technology.
 
We are very adept at designing; often from scratch and most often with scarce resources. Each of you came to this university because you want to use your talents to design and build. We have important work to do and students are counting on us getting it right.
 
This morning when we dedicated the Biomedical Research Phase Two building, I told the story of Ivan Valdez, a UTB graduate who was taken under the wing of Luis Colom and was subsequently recruited to Harvard University. Ivan came home to visit his mother last week, and me and many others, and stopped by my office to say hello. Ivan is now at Harvard pursing his Ph.D. in a very new kind of stem cell research that uses an ordinary cell from an adult.
 
He explained to me that scientists are learning how to turn back a cell’s biological clock, causing it to revert to a stem cell state. The cell can then be reprogrammed – to produce insulin, for example – and then reintroduced into the original patient, without fear of the cell being rejected. Ivan heard this lecture at the International Society for Stem Cell Research. He said there was scientist there from Japan giving this lecture, and when he what this scientist had discovered - that you could take any cell and actually reverse the progress back and then tell it what to become, and that that cell would then not be rejected in the human body because it was its own cell - he said he looked around the room and said, ‘how come nobody else is in awe here?’ This is extraordinary. This is going to change the world. He said at that moment, I knew that was to be my life.
 
This afternoon I'd like to share a story about another one of our students named Joey Martinez.
 
Joey, some of you know Joey, grew up in Brownsville. His parents do not have a college education, but they were determined to ensure that each of their children would have that opportunity. Joey, the youngest, had his passion for science first ignited at Cummings Middle School by an exceptional teacher named Andy Miller. Some of you know Andy. It was Joey’s good fortune that when he was graduating to high school, Mr. Miller also transferred to a position at Porter High School, where he continued to mentor Joey and many of his fellow students.
 
Mr. Miller soon became an advocate for the fledgling ARCC program (Arecibo Remote Command Center) that we have here at UT Brownsville established by Rick Jenet and his colleagues. This program gives high school students access to the largest radio telescope in the world, located in Puerto Rico. Access that today is the envy of even well-established universities and researchers. Joey said that as he became involved in the ARCC program, he became very excited by the possibility of making original scientific discoveries.
 
Joey came to UT Brownsville as a University Scholar - top 10 percent kid - and entered our 4+1 physics program. Last May he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and has one more year to complete his master’s.
 
Over the summer, Joey made a discovery of the kind he had dreamed of when he was a budding middle school scientist. Joey Martinez discovered the 9th neutron star-neutron star system known to man. The first to discover such a system were Joseph Taylor and his graduate student, Russell Holtz. Both won a Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1993.
 
We asked Joey to be here with us today, but he is in Austin representing UT Brownsville as part of the UT System Student Advisory Council. But if he were here, he would eloquently explain how sometimes when a star dies it becomes a pulsar that contracts onto itself. He says a pulsar spins more quickly in space, as an ice skater does when she brings her arms to her sides to increase the speed of her spin. He would even talk about, how even more rarely, two pulsars will sometimes rotate within each other – known as a double neutron star system. These systems radiate pulsing beams of radio wave activity, similar to a lighthouse beacon casting intermittent beams of light across the sea. Now he gave this very simple explanation so that someone like me could understand what he is studying.  
We were able to catch up with Joey over the summer by phone during his internship at the Max Planck Radio Astronomy Institute in Germany. Joey plans to pursue his Ph.D. at the Institute next year, because, in Joey’s words, “all they there do is eat, sleep and breathe pulsars.”
 
Our students are leading and pursuing scientific endeavors that will influence the way the scientific community sees/studies the universe. They are interacting with and are known by leading scientists and institutions from around the world and they are influencing the research agenda at the Arecibo Observatory. Our next observatory, Dr. Diaz, I understand, is going to be in the mountains of Argentina.
 
What if UT Brownsville had not been here for Ivan or for Joey?
What if he hadn’t connected with our professors while he was in high school? What if the University Scholars program had not been available to him? How would a kid from Cummings Middle School ever have found himself at the Max Planck Institute in Germany studying physics?
 
Thousands of students, as Dr. León said, just like Joey are sitting in our classrooms this fall. They're in our new enrollment center, they're in our labs and they're working in our offices. They are looking to us to offer them opportunities they never thought were possible. Each one of them needs us to take on the responsibility of providing them pathways to their dreams.
 
Two years from now, a new university will open its doors here in the Valley – just two years from now. It will have a new mission, a new academic plan, a new facilities master plan, and a new president.
 
Our job for the next two years is not just to fly under the radar and be satisfied with running the university in the meantime. Our job is to help design this new university with our best and most innovative ideas. There are many places you can choose to be. Places that are much more stable, right? And are steeped in history. Some days, perhaps like some of you, I yearn for such a place.
 
But that was not to be. Because, while you can be many other places that know exactly what they are to become, you will never have the opportunity, personally, to design a new place like you will here: a place now eligible to receive PUF funds, a place located in one the fastest growing regions of the country, a place whose very geography located on a border at the epicenter of two hemispheres and on the Gulf coast is perfectly positioned to take advantage of a global market that needs precisely the kind of student that we can produce. We didn’t invent the global market, but we certainly can take strategic advantage of it.
 
There isn't any other place that you could be where you can help design a new university. So, the next two years could be ordinary; or could be extraordinary.
 
Our path has never been an easy one; and I dont expect it to be easy going forward. But I do know one thing; all that weve experienced has strengthened us for whats ahead.  Like a sword that is placed in a hot furnace to temper it it; while it burns, it feels the intense fire; but once its removed from the flames and cooled down, it discovers that it has been strengthened; it is more resilient.
 
We are like the strengthened sword. We made it through the fire. We have survived and are the stronger for it.
 
I thank you for the opportunity to welcome all of you back to campus this year. I had hoped we would make it to this point this summer. We did. Thats the good news.
 
And now wed like to invite you to celebrate the launch of this very successful semester with us in the Office of the President. Dont everybody come at the same moment. We moved earlier than you did, as you know, so that we might be ready to help you in your own moves.  
 
We are located on the second floor of the Biomedical Research Building. We are going to be open this afternoon for an open house and would love to have you come up to the Biomedical Building Presidents Office. You can either take the beautiful sweeping staircase in the courtyard by the fountain or there is an elevator tucked into the entryway to the side.
 
We'll have a small merienda and look forward to some wonderful platicas together.
 
To end our ceremony and our meeting today―at the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of UT Brownsville, you recall that we installed a new tradition: the ringing of the University Bell. 
 
When the UTB-TSC partnership was established two decades ago, bells tolled around the campus proclaiming a new era in higher education in the Valley.
 
We chose to build upon the symbol of a bell because it was rooted in our own history, but also because of the role public higher education must play at the very core of our democratic society.
 
If in a democracy, the public, not the rich, not the elite, but the public does not have access to public higher education, there will be no sustained democracy. But if there is, as there is in our country, what we have the opportunity to do is fling open the doors of citizenship and of investment in this democracy to build a new generation of voters, of Americans, of people proud of their destiny here in the United States. And if we do that really well, they’ll be vested in our country, they will nurture it, they will protect it and they will sustain it. I cannot image any more important work to be involved in in our lives than saving democracy of this wonderful country.
 
I’d like to invite Dianne Brumley and Christina Ballatori to join me in signaling the beginning of the fall semester of The University of Texas at Brownsville by ringing the university bell.
 
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