Dr. Juliet V. García joined The University of Texas System as the president of The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) in January 1992 after having served as president of Texas Southmost College (TSC) for six years. When she was named as president of TSC in 1986, she became the first Mexican-American woman in the nation to become president of a college or university.
Dr. García has aggressively advocated increasing access to higher education through innovation and experimentation. In 1991, she and a group of community leaders spearheaded the establishment of a new university, The University of Texas at Brownsville. Then they created a partnership between the new university and the existing community college, Texas Southmost College.
The Texas Legislature approved the partnership, which resulted in the establishment of The University of Texas at Brownsville in partnership with Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC), the first community university of its kind in the nation.
The partnership, as it has come to be known, consolidated the fiscal, physical and human resources of both institutions, eliminated redundancy in administrative structures, increased efficiency, and eliminated all transfer barriers for students in the South Texas border region known as the Rio Grande Valley.
In 1997, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accredited the Partnership, commending “the entire university community – faculty, staff, students and community leaders – for its vision and courage.” In 2008, the partnership received reaffirmation of accreditation from SACS.
The partnership offers a full range of occupational-technical, continuing education, and community education programs with certificate and associate degrees traditional to the community college. In addition, it offers baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees and a doctoral program traditional to a university. Students move seamlessly through the community university to achieve their academic goals in an open admissions university that offers a wide range of certificate and degree opportunities. In the last five years alone, 14 new degree programs have been added to the community university’s offerings, and the number of full-time faculty has doubled.
During her tenure, Dr. García has directed two successful general obligation bond issues totaling $81.5 million and secured state appropriations in excess of $108 million used to dramatically improve campus infrastructure, restore historic buildings, build two heating and cooling plants, quadruple classroom space, double the size of the original library and construct a second library, build a science, engineering, technology building, a life and health sciences building, a student union, an education and business building, a state-of-the-art early childhood learning center, a recreation center, performing arts center, and athletic facilities. In the spring of 2009, construction has also begun on a new biomedical research building.
In addition to the significant expansion on the main campus, in 2002 the partnership purchased a former mall, with more than 550,000 square feet of space and 60 acres of land strategically positioned adjacent to an international border crossing to serve as a catalyst in the University’s endeavors in economic development of the region. Today, the former mall is now a renovated International Technology, Education and Commerce Center. The same year, the university partnership purchased a hotel adjacent to campus, which was converted to the first on-campus housing for students.
Under Dr. García’s leadership, the campus has grown from 49 acres to more than 460 acres; the budget has increased from $31.4 million to $145 million, and the total fall enrollment has grown from 7,358 students to 17,189 students, an increase of 133 percent.
When the partnership was signed in 1991, the university had just over $20,000 in research expenditures. Through strategic recruitment of key faculty, research expenditures have increased exponentially. Today, that figure is almost $6 million annually. Over the last several years, the university has been ranked in the top five public universities in the state of Texas for research expenditures in Aerospace Technology and Biomedical Research.
Student success has also improved dramatically, as reflected by the increase in degrees awarded: Certificates have increased by 150 percent, associate degrees by 163 percent, baccalaureate degrees by 240 percent and master’s degrees by 140 percent.
While the university has continued to increase in quantity, it has also grown in quality. The vocational nursing graduates have achieved a pass rate of 98 percent for their state licensures, which is 13 percent above the required program average and 3 percent above the state average. Likewise, the teacher education graduates achieved a 94 percent pass rate on their certification exams, with education students specializing in music, school counseling, Spanish, social studies, special education, physical education and mathematics achieving a 100 percent pass rate.
Many of the university’s students are now competing on a global level. Students in the music program have become internationally known with the Master Chorale invited to perform at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day in 2007 and at the Vatican during high mass in 2009. The Jazz Band has been selected for the prestigious invitation-only Notre Dame Jazz Festival three times. The University’s chess team has experienced its own Cinderella story. The newly established chess team, having been competing for just seven years, made their first trip to the 2009 President’s Cup: the final four of chess tournaments. The UTB/TSC chess team came within one point of the first and second place collegiate chess powerhouses, University of Maryland-Baltimore County and The University of Texas at Dallas, and defeated fourth place Stanford University.
UTB/TSC has also become known internationally for its establishment of a Gravitational Wave Astronomy Center in physics. In addition to ground-breaking research, the center engages in student outreach through innovative programs like the establishment of the Arecibo Command Center that allows high school students on the South Texas border to navigate through the solar systems in search of pulsars and the origins of life.
Dr. García has established a campus culture that is continuously in search of innovative ways to promote student success. The most recent examples include the establishment of a Math and Science Academy for high school level juniors and seniors, an Early College High School in collaboration with a local school district, and a large dual enrollment program designed for regional high school students.
Dr. García has a strong history of public service. She served as chair of the Advisory Committee to Congress on Student Financial Assistance and on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. She served as chair of the American Council on Education (ACE), the largest higher education association in the nation, and participated in ACE’s South Africa Project. She was a member of the San Antonio Branch of the Federal Reserve Board and Vice Chair of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Most recently, Dr. García has served on the boards of National Campus Compact, chaired Texas Campus Compact, and was a member of President-Elect Obama’s Transition Team.
Dr. García currently serves on the boards of Ford Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Humanities Texas, and Raise Your Hand Texas. She is also currently serving as the co-chair of the Notre Dame University Task Force: On the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools in America.
Among the many honors Dr. García has received for her work is induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in Education and the Hispanic Heritage Award. She also received the Reginald V. Wilson Diversity Award from the Office of Minority Affairs from the American Council on Education. She was named one of the Top 10 College Presidents by Time magazine, Hispanic Business magazine recognized her multiple times in their 100 Most Influential Hispanics annual publication, and she is featured in the book, Texas Wise Women Speak. In her home community she has received much recognition including the naming of a middle school in her honor.
Early in her career, she was named Outstanding Alumnus by The University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication and in 2007 as a Distinguished Alumna by The University of Texas at Austin. She has received honorary degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Brown University.
Dr. García earned a Ph.D. in Communications and Linguistics from The University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. and B.A. in Classical Rhetoric and Public Address and English from the University of Houston. For more than a decade, she has been invited annually to lecture at Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management on the university presidency and is frequently invited to speak on the issues of access and innovation in higher education.
Dr. García was born in Brownsville, Texas, and has been married to Oscar E. García for 40 years. Oscar is a semi-retired businessman who has served his community in various volunteer public service positions. They have had the unique privilege of spending their professional careers in pursuit of building a better life for the people of South Texas. They are the parents of two grown children, Oscar D. García and Paulita Rico, and are blessed with four grandchildren.