Shortly before the UT System leadership in Austin discussed the development of a doctorate of medicine for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, students at the University of Texas at Brownsville joined together to voice their dreams for what the new school will offer.
Melissa Millan, a senior studying English education who plans to become a teacher, said she hopes her future students will be motivated by the presence of the new university.
“I care about the future generations of students,” Millan said. “I want students to be motivated like I was, to get scholarships like I did and also have fun during the college experience.”
Millan said the establishment of UTRGV is also important because many students in the Valley have the dream of becoming doctors but don’t pursue that path because it would take them away from their families.
“There will be more options for people who work here,” Millan said.
The move by the Health Affairs Committee in Austin is a step closer to bringing a school of medicine to South Texas. The preliminary establishment of the degree will go for a full vote by the Board of Regents on Thursday, but on Wednesday UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa had this to say: “This is a big one.”
If approved, it would grant UTRGV preliminary authority to include a doctor of medicine degree as part of its portfolio while also notifying the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and William L. Henrich, president of the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio of the intention.
The board will also vote on the funding for the new medical school building in Edinburg. The cost to build it will be $54 million from the Permanent University Fund. It will be constructed under the leadership of the Health Science Center in San Antonio with executive involvement from UT-Pan American and will house the core administrative offices for the medical school. The building will accommodate for team-based learning, flexible teaching spaces and will embrace what UT officials said are 21st century teaching techniques in medicine.
Alexandra Rodriguez isn’t a pre-med major, but she hopes the new school will bring greater opportunities for all kinds of students.
“When you look at other universities, they provide a lot of opportunities, like internships,” Rodriguez, 22, said. “That’s something a lot of students worry about.”
Although she said she’s been lucky to find opportunities at the School of Business, Rodriguez said she hopes UTRGV will be able to make relationships with companies in the region so students can find opportunities there.
As a finance major, Rodriguez said it’s a bit more difficult to find employment in her field if she stays in the Valley.
“This is why I hope this university opens more doors,” she said.
Students were enlisted by the Office of Student Engagement to write their dreams for the new school on memo notes and poster boards. Heather Olague, director of student leadership programs, said those notes will be emailed to school leadership, who will then pass them on to the co-chairs of the academic and operational working groups who have been discussing ways to merge UTB and UTPA.
“The university wouldn’t be a university without its students,” Olague said. “(UTRGV) will be the only university in the pretty big region... It’s important to embrace our students’ dreams and thoughts.”