UT officials unanimously approve name of new school - Brownsville Herald: News

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UT officials unanimously approve name of new school

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 10:30 pm

As technology failed and a shoddy connection threatened to derail the University of Texas at Brownsville watch party where faculty, staff and students gathered to hear the name of their future school, the news was delivered through a text message instead.

“They’re voting right now y’all,” Letty Fernandez, a spokeswoman at UTB, told the audience as she read the messages from her screen.

“Oh my God,” one audience member said loudly.

“Unanimous: UT-RGV,” Fernandez responded triumphantly.

Everyone broke out in cheers and claps.

The question of what the school should be called has been asked since Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa announced plans for the school in December 2012. It’s a question that University of Texas—Pan American President Robert Nelsen hopes to never be asked again. And while the name will help the school gain its identity, Julio León, a special adviser for Project South Texas, said it’s not more important than the academics the school will offer when it opens in August 2015.

Over the course of a month, the UT System was inundated with community response as they voted and suggested their own names. Though, according to the system, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was by far the most popular, UTPA community members came out in full force and suggested their own school’s name, placing it among the three most popular choices.

UTPA biology professor Zen Faulkes, who has taught at the school, said he is very happy with the name chosen. Faulkes has been part of a conversation that has evolved over the last few days of what the name should be.

“I think the name is the name that really reflects the region,” Faulkes said. “It connects with the community.”

In the future, Faulkes said, he hopes the name Rio Grande Valley will be synonymous with research and a rich learning community.

UTB and UTPA will be abolished when the new university receives accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, according to UT System Spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. The aim is to have the college by August 2015 to enroll its first class.]

In November, the regents approved $196 million for construction projects on the UTB and UTPA campus. More than 40 working groups from academic and administrative areas comprised of employees from both institutions have been meeting for months to try to consolidate departments. The groups will present their work to transition teams on Friday at UTPA, León said, but final recommendations won’t be due until late January.

The search for the medical school’s dean is nearing completion, UT officials have said. A search committee for the school’s president was named in October with an appointment scheduled for Spring 2014. After the president is chosen, the transition team (comprised of university presidents and provosts) will report their findings to the president who will make the final decisions. The president will also take control of what the school’s mascot and colors will be selected, though burnt orange needs to be part of the color scheme.

Valley legislators released press releases celebrating the naming of the new university.

Nelsen, UTPA’s president, sad he supports the chosen name, but he is also saddened that UTPA needed to be challenged.

“I hated the word abolished that we had to use as part of the legislative language, but we are moving on,” Nelsen said. “It’s going to be a great future for us.”

UTB President Dr. Juliet V. Garcia said the name suits the new university well.

“I think it does everything that we intended this unification to do,” Garcia said. “It gives us a fresh start. It owns our geography in a profound way and communicates to the rest of the state and the nation that our agenda is based on originality and always representing our region.”

Brittany Mendez, an 18-year-old English major at UTB, said she was happy with the decision the regents made.

“Anything as long as it wasn’t UTPA,” said Mendez, who will graduate from the new university in 2017.

Angie González, a university relations officer at UTB, said the regents made the right decision.

“It’s a historical event in higher education in the Rio Grande Valley,” González, also a UTB alumna, said.

mmontoya@brownsvilleherald.com

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