In meetings with Valley press corps, President Bailey shares his vision for UT-Rio Grande Valley

Guy Bailey, founding president of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has put more than 37,000 miles on his pickup truck since July 1, 2014, driving from one end of the Valley to the other to ensure a stellar launch for this distributed university on Monday, August 31.

For Bailey, the trips across the Valley are worth it, as it all will lead to success for everyone involved in the creation of this new, one-of-a-kind university that will include a School of Medicine – from students to the community in general, he said.

“It is also rewarding because we understand that our mission is Valley-wide,” Bailey said.

Bailey will be joined at the Edinburg and Brownsville events by numerous state legislators, county and city elected officials, economic development leaders, with William McRaven, the chancellor of the University of Texas System, to be a featured speaker.

McRaven, Bailey and other area leaders will be featured leaders during a Flag-Raising Ceremony from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the flagpole on the north side of the Student Services Building at the UT-RGV Edinburg campus on August 31.

Those same leaders will then travel to the UT-RGV campus in Brownsville for a Proclamation Ceremony at the Main Building in the Plumeria Courtyard from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

“We are ready and we are excited about it, too,” Bailey told an audience of South Texas dignitaries and residents on Thursday, August 27, during the kickoff of the second season of The Monitor’s Newsmaker Breakfast Series.

The interview format series is a partnership between the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and The Monitor and is sponsored by IBC Bank.

Bailey was interviewed by Monitor Editor Carlos Sánchez.

The Edinburg Mayor, the Edinburg City Council, and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation were key players in lobbying for the state legislation in 2013 that resulted in the creation of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, were the author and sponsor, respectively, of Senate Bill 24, approved by the Texas Legislature in May 2013, which combines the resources of UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville into the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, were joint authors of Hinojosa’s SB 24.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, and Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, were joint sponsors of SB 24.

Another major aspect of SB 24 is that the new law gives the UT System the authority to draw much-needed revenue from the Permanent University Fund, which uses money from more than $14 billion in assets to help pay for crucial construction programs throughout the UT System.


UT-RGV is primed to welcome more than 28,000 students – more than originally predicted – and classes already are staffed with more than 1,000 full-time faculty who will be teaching across the region. Faculty hiring is ongoing, Bailey said, and he expects to hire an additional 90 faculty in the next round of hires.

“That is almost a 10 percent increase in faculty, by the way. If you’re a president, you know that very rarely do you get to hire that many faculty in a year. So we are very pleased with what we have been able to do this year, and we look forward to next year,” he said.

In addition, UT-RGV plans to offer close to 5,000 courses this fall, a 300-course increase from last fall when both legacy institutions – The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas – Pan American, offered a combined 4,723 active courses.

The UT-RGV School of Medicine, currently awaiting accreditation and on schedule to open in fall 2016, is one of only a handful of medical schools to be created in the country in this decade, Bailey said.

“Universities that have medicals schools are a lot more prestigious than those that don’t. So the prestige of the institution automatically goes way up. The kind of faculty you can attract when you have a medical school will make a big difference. We will have people apply from all over the country. I think we will have an enormous impact,” he said.

The UT System Board of Regents recently approved a $478 million budget for the new public university and the School of Medicine, Bailey said, and he expects that in 10 years, UT-RGV should have a budget close to a billion dollars, especially when the medical school is up and running. That all translates to more money coming into the Valley.

Bailey, at turns humorous and introspective, said his job as president of UT-RGV is the most significant thing he has ever done.

“I’ve had a real good career in higher education, and everything I wanted to achieve, I was able to achieve,” he shared. “But I have never done anything that will have the significance or the impact of what we are doing here.”

Sánchez said the hour-and-a-half Q&A session with Bailey had record number of attendees.

“I believe this is the largest crowd we have had for an event like this. I think it’s because everybody in the community is looking to see what happens, and everybody in the community recognizes the historic nature of the opening of UT-RGV,” Sánchez said.

“I think they wanted to get a sense of, and perhaps a preview, of what to expect,” he said. “I think Dr. Bailey candidly delivered on that.”


Bailey’s remarks came the same week after the UT System, which is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, announced that UT-RGV is launching its first, all-digital, no-paper textbook degree program.

As a result, entering freshmen enrolled in the new biomedical sciences degree program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will never have to buy a traditional textbook.

Instead, their course materials were delivered to them on iPads, which they received at orientation on Friday, August 26. And that’s just the first indication that this degree program will not be business – or in this case – higher education as usual.

The biomedical sciences degree marks the official launch of the UT System’s competency-based education initiative, an ambitious and sweeping mission to reimagine and personalize courses to increase student success and access. The degree uses elements of competency-based education.

Competency-based education allows students to advance through courses based on their ability to master knowledge and skills.

Students are held to clearly defined and rigorous expectations but can move through a course at a pace that ensures their success. Courses will be delivered in a hybrid format, a combination of online, classroom, laboratory or clinical time.

The UT-RGV biomedical sciences degree program was designed by the UT System’s Institution for Transformational Learning in partnership with UT-RGV Department of Health and Biomedical Sciences faculty and is part of a larger initiative to increase the number of physicians in South Texas, who are desperately needed in the region.

Francisco Fernández, M.D., dean of the new UT-RGV College of Medicine, calls the project a groundbreaking initiative in premedical education that’s a game changer for aspiring physicians.

“Using elements of the competency-based approach and student services supporting creativity, determination and drive, UT-RGV students are going to be better prepared to take the MCAT, enter medical school and be successful medical school students,” he said. “What this will result in is more qualified doctors coming from the Rio Grande Valley who have the power to transform this community.”

The reconstructed biomedical sciences curriculum features core courses relevant to health professions, including medical humanities, the history of medicine and public health, and health care policy.

“It’s an innovative approach for the biomedical sciences with emphasis in the clinical application of the basic science knowledge,” said Hugo Rodríguez, Ph.D., UT-RGV assistant professor of biomedical sciences.

Marni Baker Stein, UT System ITL’s Chief Innovation Officer, said UT-RGV faculty worked tirelessly to reimagine this curriculum for a new education delivery model that, if successful, could be adopted by other universities.

“The most exciting moment for all of us will come in the following years when we see students succeeding by graduating, entering medical school, and becoming knowledgeable and talented biomedical researchers and health care professionals,” Stein said.

Saraswathy Nair, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of UT-RVG’s Dept. of Health and Biomedical Sciences, said the biomedical sciences curriculum was developed by faculty working collaboratively across disciplines.

“We developed an innovative and integrated curriculum that will allow students to make connections between biomedicine, evidence-based medical practice and translational research that benefits their own communities and society as a whole,” Nair said.

All classroom and online content can be accessed with iPads via TEx (Total Educational Experience), a revolutionary, mobile-first, application designed by the UT System to boost student engagement and retention.

Highly personalized, TEx offers online support from faculty and student success coaches to help monitor students and keep them on pace to achieve their educational and career goals. Students will be able to speak to their classmates, cohorts and faculty online anytime and take courses.

Judith R. Shapiro, president of The Teagle Foundation, said she hopes TEx and the new biomedical sciences program will inspire other major state higher education systems to launch similar projects. The Foundation provided the UT System with a $300,000 grant to support its biomedical sciences project, which will provide a core curriculum that interconnects liberal arts with students’ professional aspirations.

The biomedical sciences program will save students hundreds of dollars because a per-semester program fee, which includes the iPad and content for all courses, is cheaper than buying traditional textbooks and course materials throughout college.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 in a historic move that will combine the resources and assets of UT-Brownsville, UT -an American, the Regional Academic Health Center and for the first time, make it possible for residents of the Rio Grande Valley to benefit from the Permanent University Fund, a public endowment contributing support to eligible institutions of The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System.

UT-RGV will also be home to a School of Medicine and will transform Texas and the nation by becoming a leader in student success, teaching, research and healthcare. UT-RGV is enrolling its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine will open in 2016.


Established by the UT System Board of Regents in 2012 and funded with $50 million, the Institute for Transformational Learning’s mandate is to drive student success and access through the innovative use of technology.


Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States.

With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas.

The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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