FEATURED: Dr. Luis “Louie” G. Alamia, PT, DPT, Member, Board of Trustees, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are scheduled to take action on three major issues that benefit UT Rio Grande Valley, including approval of $35 million for facility maintenance projects, an Annual Operating Agreement between UTRGV and Valley Baptist Health System, and establishment of a Ph.D. in Computer Science with Interdisciplinary Applications. The regents meet in Austin on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 and Thursday, May 4, 2023.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
UT System Regents to consider authorizing $35 million for several facility maintenance projects at UTRGV, says Dr. Luis “Louie” Alamia, PT, DPT
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
The University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to take action on $35 million in recommended funding for several facility maintenance projects at UT Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Luis “Louie” Alamia, PT, DPT, has announced.
The nine-member governing board is set to consider that item, along with proposals to provide more than $2.7 million (two million, seven hundred thousand dollars) for graduate medical education programs with Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen, and establishing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science with Interdisciplinary Applications when its members meet in Austin on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 and Thursday, May 4, 2023.
“As a member of the Edinburg school board, I am keeping a close eye for the public on all proposed actions by the major higher education systems that are located or serve the outstanding students who come through the Edinburg school district,” he said.
“UTRGV and it’s School of Medicine, which have major campuses in Edinburg, provide enormous academic, social, and economic opportunities for the outstanding students who come through the Edinburg school district, as well as for all South Texans,” Alamia said. “It is in everyone’s interest that we know what the UT System Board of Regents is trying to do for our region, so we can help them and shape our own bright future at the same time.”
In addition to the UTRGV and School of Medicine’s major presence in Edinburg, the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at McAllen, also is located in the Edinburg school district.
With the 88th Texas Legislature in the last weeks of its five-month regular session, Alamia said he will continue working with Rio Grande Valley legislators throughout the year on their efforts and on proposed actions by state agencies, boards and commissions that will improve public and higher education in the Edinburg school district.
“UTRGV, South Texas College, Texas A&M College Higher Education Center in McAllen, and Texas State Technical College in Harlingen are among the higher education systems that impact the Edinburg school district,” he explained.
Individuals who wish to view the UT System Board of Regents meeting live or videotaped, and also have access to the full agenda packet, may do so by logging on to:
According to the agenda packet posted online by the UT System on Friday, April 28, 2023 about the meeting on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 and Thursday, May 4, 2023, highlights of the three key issues that involved UTRGV follow:
Approval of $35 million for facility maintenance projects
Jonathan Pruitt, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs, recommends approval of this item authorizing funding of $35 million from Revenue Financing System (RFS) bond proceeds for UT Rio Grande Valley to finance its multiyear Deferred Maintenance Program covering prioritized projects at its Edinburg, Brownsville, Harlingen, and South Padre Island locations.
The requested funding of $35 million will finance $25 million of projects related to general academic and medical school spaces and $10 million of projects related to student housing and other auxiliary services. Projects include exterior/envelope repairs, roof repairs and replacements, HVAC repairs, erosion control, building automation, chiller replacement, and interior refreshes and renovations. Opportunities to achieve energy savings, operational efficiencies, and cost avoidance will be sought.
The UT Rio Grande Valley Office of Operations, Planning and Construction has undertaken a comprehensive study on the institution’s facilities and has identified multiple deferred maintenance projects as high priorities. These projects are critical for student retention and success, research, and health care goals and are anticipated to be completed by the close of FY 2025.
However, the UT System agenda packet does not identify those projects by campus location and amount of funding.
Annual debt service is estimated at $1,963,067. The debt is expected to be repaid with designated tuition, medical school revenues, and auxiliary service revenues in proportion to amounts borrowed for general academic, medical school, and auxiliary spaces, respectively.
The institution’s Scorecard Rating of 3.8 at the Fiscal Year-end 2022 is below the maximum threshold of 6.0 and demonstrates that the institution has the financial capacity to satisfy its direct obligations related to parity debt. The institution therefore requests that the Board resolve in accordance with Section 5 of the Amended and Restated Master Resolution Establishing The University of Texas System Revenue Financing System that:
Parity debt shall be issued to fund all or a portion of the projects’ cost, including any costs prior to the issuance of such parity debt;
Sufficient funds will be available to meet the financial obligations of the UT System, including sufficient Pledged Revenues as defined in the RFS Master Resolution to satisfy the Annual Debt Service Requirements of the Financing System, and to meet all financial obligations of the U. T. System Board of Regents relating to the Financing System;
UT Rio Grande Valley, which is a “Member” as such term is used in the RFS Master Resolution, possesses the financial capacity to satisfy its direct obligation as defined in the Master Resolution relating to the issuance by the U. T. System Board of Regents of parity debt in an aggregate amount of $35,000,000; and
This resolution satisfies the official intent requirements set forth in Section 1.150-2 of the Code of Federal Regulations that evidences the Board’s intention to reimburse project expenditures with bond proceeds.
Annual Operating Agreement between UTRGV and Valley Baptist Health System
The Annual Operating Agreement (AOA) to the Affiliation Agreement between VHS Valley Health System, LLC, dba Valley Baptist Health System, and UT Rio Grande Valley documents the payments flowing between the parties in connection with graduate medical education programs and describes the commitment of the parties related to educational, clinical, structural, financial, and administrative needs of the medical education programs and other collaboration efforts as contemplated in the related Affiliation Agreement between the parties.
Graduate medical education (GME) is a formal, hospital-sponsored or hospital-based training program for individuals who have completed medical school and earned an MD or DO degree. It includes residency, internship, fellowship, specialty and subspecialty programs.
The estimated value of the agreement is $2,793,576 (two million, seven hundred ninety three, five hundred seventy six dollars) over the term of the contract, which covers the period of December 30, 2022 through June 30, 2024.
Ph.D. in Computer Science with Interdisciplinary Applications
James (“J.B.”) Milliken, Chancellor, The University of Texas System, concurs in the recommendation of Archie L. Holmes, Jr., Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the UTRGV President Guy Bailey that authorization, pursuant to Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 40307, related to academic program approval standards, be granted to:
• Establish a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science with Interdisciplinary Applications degree program at UT Rio Grande Valley; and
• Submit the proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for review and appropriate action.
UT Rio Grande Valley proposes a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science with Interdisciplinary Applications program, which will be designed to provide rigorous, fundamental training in computer science and the application of computational methods to other disciplines, including science, business, medicine, health care, and engineering.
Computer science is the study of computation, automation, andinformation. Computer science spans theoretical disciplines (such as algorithms, theory of computation, information theory, and automation) to practical disciplines (including the design and implementation of hardware and software).
Computer technologies and computing concepts have infused virtually every area of academic study. This interdisciplinary major is designed for students who wish to combine the study of computing and computers with another academic discipline.
The program will be designed to prepare graduates to become faculty and research-intensive universities or to establish research careers in industry. Students entering with a Bachelor’s (B.S.) degree will be required to complete 72 Semester Credit Hours, while those entering with a Master’s (M.S.) degree in computer science or a related field will complete 54 Semester Credit Hours.
All students will complete 12 Semester Credit Hours of required core coursework covering fundamental computer science theory and systems, research seminars to connect students with faculty mentors, and doctoral training to increase accessibility and elevate soft skills critical for collaborations and productivity.
They will also complete three Semester Credit Hours of a prescribed elective focused on advanced operating systems, computer architecture, or parallel computing. Students will also need to complete 36 Semester Credit Hours of research/dissertation, with research activities beginning in the first semester of study. Remaining coursework is chosen from computer science and interdisciplinary electives by the student together with their advisor to best support each student’s research development.
Need and Student Demand
Workforce projections in the U.S. and the State of Texas predict a large and ongoing shortage of workers in computer science and related fields. This includes the long-standing shortage in technology-focuses industries such as software development, communications, and cybersecurity, and is now made worse by the rapid adoption of computational, data-driver methods across engineering, business, healthcare, logistics, and other sectors. Data from the National Science Foundation (NFS) databases and the 2021 Taulbee Survey data demonstrate an increasing demand for doctorally qualified computer science graduates.
The number of graduates with B.S. and M.S. degrees has grown nationally by 175 percent (212 percent in Texas) since 2010.
The number of Ph.D. graduates has not kept pace, growing only 44 percent nationally and 39 percent nationally and 39 percent in Texas over the last decade.
In the year 2020, there were only 1,935 computer science Ph.D. graduates in the U.S. and 146 in Texas. This is not enough to support the current or projected growth in academic computer science programs, as computer science departments across the nation struggle to hire facility to support undergraduate and master’s-level program growth. As a result, the gap between the supply of qualified B.S. and M.S. computer science graduates and the workforce demand continues to grow.
This shortage of computer science Ph.D. graduates is detrimental to the research enterprise Data-driven computational methods have revolutionized research in all fields. A search of the NSF awards database shows that 40 percent (19,254) of all active grant awards contain the word “computation” in their title or abstract. Research teams heed interdisciplinary collaboration with computer science faculty and students, especially at the Ph.D. level.
A significant contributing factor to the shortage of academic is the increasing demand for Ph.D. graduates in the industrial workforce. The 2021 Taulbee Survey showed that 58 percent of computer science Ph.D’s produced in North America went into industry or government and only 32 percent took academic positions in North America.
Even the current down market for traditional “big tech”, the need for computational expertise is ramping up in every other quantitative sector. Searching for open job listings on indeed.com in computer science with a Ph.D. as a job requirement returns 15,905 in the U.S. and 893 in Texas.
The program will begin with seven core facility and anticipates hiring one new facility member each year in the first two years of the program. Current core faculty are active scholars, producing 194 refereed papers and receiving more than $14 million in external grant awards in the past five years.
An additional 10 facility will serve as support faculty, providing a wide range of expertise from engineering, mathematics and statistics, biomedical sciences, and human genetics. This year, seven research-oriented, tenure-track faculty were hired by the College of Engineering and Computer Science in a college-wide cluster hire in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and intelligent systems. Two of those faculty are assignment to the Department of Computer Science, and all the cluster of hires are expected to be involved in research collaborations surrounding the proposed program.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)