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Featured, from left: Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim, The University of Texas-Pan American, and Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, during ceremonies on Friday, February 28, 2015 in Pharr at the Boggus Ford Events Center, where García was honored as one of five alumni named 2015 Pillars of Success, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the region and to UTPA, which will become The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, complete with a full-fledged UT medical school, in late August.

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

Fresh off the grand opening of the $42.7 million Performing Arts Complex at the University of Texas-Pan American – and with the nearby $54 million Medical Education Building taking shape – local and state leaders are awaiting final approval on Wednesday, May 14, for the release of funding and final approval of design development for a $70 million Science Building at the Edinburg campus. The upcoming action item by the UT System Board of Regents, which will be part of that governing body’s regularly-scheduled public session in Austin, was announced by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC, whose president of its five-member Board of Directors is Mayor Richard García, is led by Agustín “Gus” García, (no relation to the mayor), the Executive Director for the EEDC. Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for UT-Pan American, also serves on the EEDC Board of Directors. The Science Building is vital since it will provide the academic skills, equipment, and laboratories to prepare university students to attend and succeed in the UT medical school in Edinburg, scheduled to open in Summer/Fall 2016, said Rodríguez. “This facility will provide the research experience that they need, with the expectation that our students will continue through a number of pre-med programs needed to apply to medical school here, and medical schools throughout the country,” Rodríguez explained. “The idea is to get these folks trained, have them get their M.D.s, and return to the Rio Grande Valley, or stay in the Rio Grande Valley to provide the healthcare needs of our population.” The Science Building will help increase the quality and number of courses known as STEM, which stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, STEM-related programs became a national priority in 2011 because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them. “The four-story Science Building will be built on the Edinburg campus for the benefit of UT-Rio Grande Valley,” the mayor said, citing UT System documents. “The approximately 115,000 gross square foot facility will increase research capacity for approximately 168 researchers and provide four teaching labs allowing students to take courses and labs during the same semester. The project will accommodate 16 additional research labs, two classrooms, 42 faculty offices, 11 staff work stations, and eight suites for research assistants.”

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$70 million Science Building for UT-Pan American set for final approval on Wednesday by the UT System Board of Regents, EEDC announces

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Fresh off the grand opening of the $42.7 million Performing Arts Complex at the University of Texas-Pan American – and with the nearby $54 million Medical Education Building taking shape – local and state leaders are awaiting final approval on Wednesday, May 14, for the release of funding and final approval of design development for a $70 million Science Building at the Edinburg campus.

The upcoming action item by the UT System Board of Regents, which will be part of that governing body’s regularly-scheduled public session in Austin, was announced by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC, whose president of its five-member Board of Directors is Mayor Richard García, is led by Agustín “Gus” García, (no relation to the mayor), the Executive Director for the EEDC.

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for UT-Pan American, also serves on the EEDC Board of Directors.

UT-Pan American is located in the respective House and Senate legislative districts of Canales and Hinojosa.

Those two lawmakers, as well as the rest of the Valley state legislative delegation, along with the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council, have been lobbying the UT System for continuing and major new growth at UT-Pan American.

Michael O’Donnell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction for the UT System, is scheduled to provide the opening presentation about the goals and plans for the Science Building.

The Science Building is vital since it will provide the academic skills, equipment, and laboratories to prepare UTPA students to attend and succeed in the UT medical school in Edinburg, scheduled to open in Summer/Fall 2016, said Rodríguez.

“This facility will provide the research experience that they need, with the expectation that our students will continue through a number of pre-med programs needed to apply to medical school here, and medical schools throughout the country,” Rodríguez explained. “The idea is to get these folks trained, have them get their M.D.s, and return to the Rio Grande Valley, or stay in the Rio Grande Valley to provide the healthcare needs of our population.”

The Science Building will help increase the quality and number of courses known as STEM, which stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, STEM-related programs became a national priority in 2011 because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them.

“The four-story Science Building will be built on the Edinburg campus for the benefit of UT-Rio Grande Valley,” the mayor said, citing UT System document. “The approximately 115,000 gross square foot facility will increase research capacity for approximately 168 researchers and provide four teaching labs allowing students to take courses and labs during the same semester. The project will accommodate 16 additional research labs, two classrooms, 42 faculty offices, 11 staff work stations, and eight suites for research assistants.”

The new Science Building in Edinburg will be the most modern of its kind in the region, Canales said.

“Biology, physics, chemistry, math, pre-med and environmental studies are among the tremendous academic courses planned for this facility,” Canales reported. “The building will be designed with interactive technology to allow students to participate in classes no matter their physical location, according to UT System officials.”

By the end of August, UT-Pan American will be renamed UT-Rio Grande Valley as part of a state law approved by the Texas Legislature in May 2013 that will create UT-RGV, and with it, a full-fledged School of Medicine which will provide the first two years of medical education in Edinburg.

While the first two years of medical school will take place in Edinburg, the third and fourth years of education to be conducted at the UT Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.

Medical education residencies, which usually involves another three years of training in a medical specialty, will take place in hospitals throughout the Valley.

Hinojosa, who in 2013 was the lead author of Senate Bill 24, which is creating UT-Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, noted the importance of the Science Building and the School of Medicine to the socioeconomic development of the Rio Grande Valley, a four-county region with almost 1.4 million residents.

“Confirming the allocation of these funds advances the goal of expanding access to educational opportunities and medical education, which will increase access to care for our Valley families and decrease our physician shortage,” Hinojosa said. “This is just the beginning. With future funding and construction projects, we are finally transforming a dream into a reality to benefit all of South Texas.”

According to the UT System, on November 14, 2013, the Board of Regents approved $70 million from Permanent University Fund Bond Proceeds for a new science building to be built at UTPA. On May 15, 2014, the project was included in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) with a total project cost of $70 million with funding from PUF Bond Proceeds.

The research laboratory space will support physical and biological sciences with a special focus on biomedical research by providing infrastructure to assist the university towards meeting the goal of $30 million in annual research expenditures.
PUF is a public permanent endowment established in 1876 by the Texas Constitution and draws revenues from gas, oil, and land leases from state land to support members of The University of Texas System and
Texas A&M University System.

But up until the passage of SB 24 – of which Canales was a cosponsor – state law did not allow UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville to access PUF for major construction projects

Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, was the House sponsor of SB 24, which also allows UT-RGV and its medical school to receive money from PUF.

In addition to Canales, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, were House cosponsors of SB 24.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, were among the joint authors of SB 24.

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The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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