New UT South Texas University Signing Celebration
“It’s what we do every day as mothers and fathers, and it’s what
we should do as stewards of a university to make sure that the
next generation has a better quality of life and better access to
opportunities than we had.”
-Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.
Chancellor, UT System
Leaders of the UT System, the Texas Legislature and Texas Governor
Rick Perry have exhibited the speed and strength of both an ocelot and
a bronco in founding a new Rio Grande Valley university and medical
Less than a year ago, the concept of consolidating The University
of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas Pan American
was proposed and voted upon by The University of Texas Board of
Regents. In swift order, House Bill 100 and Senate Bill 24 made their
way through the Texas Legislature to become reality with Governor
Rick Perry’s signature in mid-June.
The stroke of the governor’s pen established a new university and
medical school for South Texas that would be eligible for the critical
funding that comes from the
Permanent University Fund, known as
the PUF. Access to PUF funding will enable the new university of
South Texas to be competitive with other Texas universities.
Perry, accompanied by Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Chancellor,
traveled to both campuses for ceremonial signings at both campuses
on Tuesday, July 16.
A name for the new university is scheduled to be announced before
the end of the year. Searches for a dean of the new medical school
and a president of the new university are underway. The newly named
university will enroll its first students for the fall 2015 semester.
“I have had some fabulous wonderful moments as the governor
of Texas, but I am not sure that I have ever had one that was
any more impactful or one that I have enjoyed any more than
being able to walk to that table and put my pen to the paper
and create one of the next great universities in America.”
-Governor Rick Perry
A-PRIME TIME BIOMEDICAL INITIATIVE BEGINS
Carlos Huerta, a Hanna High School graduate and UTB freshman, is one of the
first students to join the Accelerated Professional Relevant Integrated Medical
Education – Transformation of Medical Education track for the bachelor’s degree
in biomedical sciences.
“I am looking forward to the methods of learning,” said Huerta, an aspiring
pediatrician. “I like hands-on work because I think it is a much easier and efficient
way to learn.”
The Department of Biomedical Sciences kicked off the degree track in August with
a two-week academic boot camp for at least 20 students. Overall, there are 110
students in the biomedical degree program, an increase of the 36 that were in the
degree program last year.
“It is an accelerated pre-med/medical program leading to a M.D. in just six
years rather than the usual eight years,” said Dr. Michael Lehker, Associate Dean
of the College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions and Chair of the
Department of Biomedicine.
Under the concept, the first three years of academic work would be for a bachelor’s
degree. By this time students would be accepted to The University of Texas Medical
Branch in Galveston or The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
The fourth year would be combined with undergraduate work and the first year of
medical school. The fifth and sixth years would be for medical school.
“The degree’s classes will provide essential elements for the development of
professional formation, a process through which the students learn the knowledge,
skills, values and behaviors of a competent, humanistic physician,” said Dr. Hugo
Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedicine and Program
Director for APRIME-TIME.
The initiative is a partnership between The University of Texas System, UTB, The
University of Texas – El Paso, The University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg,
The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and The University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston.
NEW BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH BUILDING ADDS MORE LABS
University leaders and students celebrated the opening of the Biomedical Research
and Health Professions Building II in early September. The $4.9 million,
4,299-square-foot building was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant
and the university.
The new building will continue the university’s growing mission of biomedical
research to find solutions to local and worldwide health problems. In 2012, the
university had $8.3 million in annual research expenditures. Biomedical made up
27 percent of the university’s 2012 research portfolio, according to the Office of
the Vice President for Research.
The new structure has faculty offices, support space and six Biosafety Level 2
laboratories built to Center for Disease Control and Prevention standards, which
include stringent safety requirements and limited laboratory access by qualified
students and faculty.
Dr. Cristina Ballatori, Assistant Professor of
Music, has been named by The University of
Texas Board of Regents to receive the 2013 UT
System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.
“I am honored to have received this award, and
I am grateful to have the opportunity to work in
the UTB Music Department with such talented
and supportive colleagues,” Ballatori said.
Ballatori encourages her students to grow as
musicians and as future teachers by stretching
beyond their comfort zones during summer
“My hope is that my students will draw upon
every experience and every opportunity they
have had while at UTB and carry what they
have learned into their classrooms and make a
positive impact on their own students,” Ballatori
Online Education Program Ranked Nationally
UTB is ranked 39th nationally in U.S. News & World
Report’s 2013 Best Online Education Program
Rankings released in January. The university is the only
UT System institution ranked in the top 100.
“We know we have a strong academic program serving
the region, the state and internationally,” said Dr.
Miguel Escotet, Dean of the College of Education.
UTB offers an online 36-semester credit hour Master
of Education in Educational Technology. Students can
also complete certification in the Master Technology
Teacher Program and an E-Learning Certificate.
The magazine collected data from more than 1,000
institutions nationally that have online education
graduate degrees. Universities were judged in four
categories: Student Services and Technology, Faculty
Credentials and Training, Student Engagement and
UTeach to Have Second Cohort This Fall
The UTeach Brownsville program is expected
to have up to 80 students in its second cohort
this fall, doubling its size from last year.
UTeach offers teacher certification while
earning a degree in mathematics or in a science
field through a collaborative partnership
between the College of Science, Mathematics
and Technology and the College of Education.
“We have received positive feedback from
our students, our Brownsville Independent
School District mentor teachers who welcome
our students into their classrooms and from
the UTeach Institute in Austin,” said Gustavo
Valencia Jr., Clinical Assistant Professor and
UTeach Math Master Teacher.
UTeach Brownsville is financed in part by
a $500,000 grant from the Greater Texas
Foundation. The program is also part of The
University of Texas System’s Rio Grande Valley
Initiative to transform education in the region
during the next ten years.
New Leader at Mathematics and Science Academy
Dr. Wilma Jo Smetter, a longtime veteran of Rio Grande
Valley education, is the new principal of the
and Science Academy.
MSA is for high school-aged students who are gifted in
mathematics and science who are committed to continuing
their educations toward bachelor’s degrees. Students take
classes from UTB faculty with current UTB students,
but are provided more supervision and guidance than
traditional college students.
“Our students are talented, motivated, focused on
achieving success and obtaining a quality university
education,” Smetter said. “As an educator, it is rewarding
to see the support of their families as together we guide
them past the challenges of being a young college student
to become lifelong learners.”
May 2013 Commencement marked the fifth anniversary of
the MSA, when 44 students were awarded their high school
diplomas while also completing their first two years of
college. To date, 184 students have graduated from MSA;
the first few cohorts have already achieved their bachelor’s
degrees and many are continuing toward advanced degrees.
The MSA program and UTB were recognized by Texas
Gov. Rick Perry in his State of the State address for creating
academic degrees that students can receive for $10,000.
This fall, MSA admitted 42 new high school juniors and
boasts a 100 percent retention rate with 46 returning