One year ago, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 24 authorizing the creation of a new university in South Texas. Friday, the sole presidential finalist for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Guy Bailey, visited the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Bailey was greeted by UTB President Juliet V. Garcia, Provost Alan Artibise, UT System Executive Vice Chancellor Pedro Reyes and Francisco Fernandez, the founding dean of UTRGV’s medical school.
Garcia introduced Bailey to the crowd of faculty, staff and students. She said it was 18 months ago that the regents and Reyes began “unveiling the bold plan to establish a university in our region.”
“We now see the vision coming to life,” Garcia said.
Last month, the UT System Board of Regents named Bailey the sole finalist among applicants for the inaugural president of UTRGV.
Garcia calls Bailey a “seasoned’ university leader. Bailey has served as provost and executive vice president for UT San Antonio, chancellor of the University of Missouri Kansas City, president of Texas Tech University and president of his alma mater the University of Alabama.
“What is going on right here is unique in the United States,” Bailey said to the crowd. “Nothing else like it is happening. Think about this. This is the first major university formed during the 21st century.”
Bailey thanked and acknowledged Garcia’s work at UTB. Garcia has served as president of UTB since 1992.
“We’re not starting with a new university from nothing,” Bailey said. “We’re starting from something—the legacy these of two institutions (which) have done a wonderful job. Many years I’ve followed President Garcia’s work. I have the utmost respect for what she’s done.”
Bailey said the new university will be “the face of 21st century in higher education.”
“Just as the Rio Grande Valley is the face of the emerging United States,” Bailey said. “We’ll be able to do things academically that you couldn’t dream of doing 10 years ago.”
The most important thing to Bailey in his presidency is the students.
“Beyond anything else, I like to tell students this, ‘If you come to this university and you don’t graduate, we’ve failed, you fail, all of us have failed.’ The only measure of success in higher education is the success of students,” Bailey said.
Research is also a priority of Bailey.
“Research is something you do for students, with students,” Bailey said. “It will create enormous opportunity there.”
With the first emerging university of the 21st century comes a full-fledged medical school, the first for the Valley.
“I appreciate your support. I look forward to working with you to make this happen. By the way, there will be lots of challenges, you know that, I know that,” Bailey said. “It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of challenges. We’ll get through this by working together.”
Bobbette Morgan professor in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation at UTB asked Bailey what will he do in efforts of unification between UTB and UTPA.
“We have to begin thinking of ourselves as one university,” Bailey said. “It’s kind if interesting because the two campuses have been separate institutions and they have separate histories. It’s kind of hard to just forget that. One thing we have to do, we have to create similar teaching loads across the campuses.”
He added that those are things that aren’t going to happen overnight.
David Fischer, associate professor of history, asked what is on his “to-do list” for organization of UTRGV.
“Once I’m officially appointed, we’ll get that leadership team together,” Bailey joked. “Of course you naturally begin thinking about how you would organize things. That’s not something that I will do on my own. That’s something that we’ll do together.”