Faculty and Staff Fall 2013 Convocation
University of Texas at Brownsville
Gran Salon, Student Union
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
with us today is UT Brownsville’s recipient, Dr. Cristina Ballatori. Cristina,
please allow us to talk just a little bit more about you.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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?
Brumley was nominated for this honor by her department and recommended by the
Dean, the Provost and by myself to the Board of Regents.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
we look to the future, let’s take a moment to take stock of where we are right
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
all of our very talented and patient IT staff, who have survived, please stand
so that we can thank you?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
week, the new UT Brownsville ring design was unveiled.
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.”
– 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.
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
help me welcome our new UT Brownsville Ocelot; his name is Ozzie! Ozzie, please
come forward and be introduced.
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
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.)
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.
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?
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
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!
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.
thank you for representing us so well. Thank you for going with me to the high
schools. I love you too!
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.
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.
now you saw our land mass goring a little bit further.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
gave the highest priority for on-campus space to faculty and students and those
support services that students need to access easily and conveniently.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
now let’s look ahead. Where are we with the consolidation and what do we know?
(Project South Texas Video plays)
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.
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
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.
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.
panel confirmed at that convening that we were right on target, and then they
refined strategies to improve student success in this next-generation
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guiding Principles are going to be our north star as we begin to work through
the discussions over the next few months.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
are very pleased that Vivian, his wife, is accompanying him today. Vivian will
you please stand so we might welcome you to our community?
me welcome Dr. León, as he has a few words to share with us.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
afternoon I'd like to share a story about another one of our students named
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
if UT Brownsville had not been here for Ivan or for Joey?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 don’t expect it to be
easy going forward. But I do know one thing; all that we’ve experienced has strengthened us for
Like a sword that is placed in a hot furnace to temper it it; while it
burns, it feels the intense fire; but once it’s 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. That’s the good news.
And now we’d like to invite you to celebrate the
launch of this very successful semester with us in the Office of the President.
Don’t 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 President’s 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.
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.
the UTB-TSC partnership was established two decades ago, bells tolled around
the campus proclaiming a new era in higher education in the Valley.
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.
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.
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.