On May 15, the UT System Board of Regents voted to merge the UT Brownsville and UT Pan American to create a new university, UT Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). The proposed university will span across the Valley, with campuses in Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen and McAllen.
Three important items were voted upon during the meeting: the degree programs to be offered at the new university, a process to hire tenure and tenure-track faculty from UT Pan American and UT Brownsville and the creation of a fund of up to $5 million to assist communication efforts needed to launch the new university. UTRGV will receive its inaugural class of students in the fall of 2015. Its medical school will open in the fall of 2016. When the university opens, UTGRV is expected to become the second-largest Hispanic serving institution in the world.
The Board proposed a total of 137 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees to be offered at UTRGV, which will be sent to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for scrutiny and approval. The proposed course catalogue covers 24 fields of study; education, health professions and business, management and marketing have the most degree plans.
More than 100 faculty members from both UT Brownsville and UT Pan American have been working together since October of last year to consolidate the universities’ academic programs into a single set of programs and courses. At the May 15 meeting, UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster commented that “the first day of classes for UT Rio Grande Valley is quickly approaching, and (the Regents) are pleased with the progress being made to transition to the new UTRGV as soon as possible”
For the many faculty members under tenure or seeking tenure at UT Pan American and UT Brownsville, the Regents have laid out a hiring process. Under the current plan, all faculty appointments and tenures will be terminated when the two universities are abolished. All faculty seeking tenure will then have to seek recommendation and apply to the new institution. As usual, the Board of Regents will determine the passage of tenure applications.
In preparation for the massive organizational undertaking ahead, the Regents allocated up to $5 million form the Available University Fund. This fund will help pay for student recruitment and enrollment, the creation of a website for both the university and its medical school and to produce informative electronic, print and video materials to provide students, parents, faculty and staff with essential information.
“We are establishing a world-class university for South Texas, and there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in the next 15 months and there’s not a moment to waste,” stated Board of Regents Chancellor Cigarroa at the May 15 meeting.
On May 20, the Regents officially selected finalist Guy Bailey to be the first president of UTRGV; Bailey assumed the position on June 15.
Bailey has extensive experience with university management, and will be returning to the workforce for the first time since he stepped down as president of the University of Alabama to focus on his now-deceased wife’s health problems. Notably, he is a former UTSA provost in addition to serving as the president of both the University of Missouri – Kansas City and Texas Tech.
When asked how he felt about the appointment, Bailey expressed that he views the position “as the single most exciting educational opportunity in America today” and that he is “look(ing) forward to working with everyone as we launch the nation’s first major public university of the 21st century.”
Board of Regents Chancellor Cigarroa described Bailey as “a proven, progressive leader to be a part of this transformational mission in South Texas.”