Featured, from left: Carlos Sánchez, editor, The Monitor, and Guy Bailey, the founding president of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, on Thursday, August 27, during the kick-off of the second season of The Monitor’s Newsmaker Breakfast Series, held at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Photograph By DAVID PIKE
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.
Featured, from left: Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., formerly of Alamo, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas System in Austin; and Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, Member, The UT System Board of Regents, in Edinburg on Tuesday, August 14, 2014.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the mammoth University of Texas System, and who has built a legacy as a long-time champion for student success, is stepping down to return to full-time teaching and research at The University of Texas at Austin. Reyes, who is originally from Alamo in the Rio Grande Valley, will stay through December 2015 in a pivotal role for the UT System leadership, providing guidance on UT-RGV, UT System’s engineering and computer science initiative, the establishment of the Americas Institute and other high-profile projects. “Working with the UT System’s academic presidents to make significant improvements in student success on such a wide scale has been one of the richest and most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” Reyes said. “But now it’s time for me to return to my other passion – teaching and research.” As the top academic leader in the UT System for the last several years, Reyes led a far-reaching – and successful – effort to increase student success and retention at every academic institution. He and his team coordinated funding, training and resources to help each campus set and strive to reach its targets. News of Reyes’ decision came on Thursday, April 9, the same day that Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, announced that The National Science Foundation awarded two separate grants to UT-RGV totaling $685,976 for a program that creates a pathway to obtaining a Master’s degree in Mathematics and a workshop that will encourage and assist women of color in entering the field of political science. “The National Science Foundation has long been a great source of support for many vital programs in education throughout our nation”, said Hinojosa. “These grants will benefit so many students at our new UT-RGV for many years. I am very pleased to see that our higher education system in deep South Texas continues to grow in ways that will enhance our communities and our residents throughout the Rio Grande Valley.” The goal of the conference is to provide attendees the necessary skills and networks to enter the political science profession, successfully achieve tenure and sustain their careers thereafter. This workshop brings together scholars from different universities, at different stages in their careers, to deepen intellectual engagement and to build coalitions that support excellence in diversifying the political science profession. Research demonstrates that women of color face barriers such as lack of mentorship, financial resources, and significant familial responsibilities in their pursuit of higher education and subsequent careers in political science. The awards are scheduled to begin this month and May of 201
Hidalgo County leaders on Friday, May 1, commemorated the historic infusion of about $300 million in federal funds for the Hidalgo County Levee Rehabilitation Project during a special recognition ceremony and press conference at the Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center Nature Park. Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, featured first on right, released an economic impact study, commissioned by his office and conducted by Sai Mullapudi of the University of Texas-Pan American’s Data and Information Systems Center Division of Community Engagement, that highlighted the economic impact of the levee upgrades. The study indicates that the entire levee rehabilitation project, when completed, will produce nearly 5,000 local jobs and generate $508 million in economic impact. From left, in this photograph, are: Ron Vitiello, chief for the Rio Grand Valley Border Patrol sector; Mayor John David Franz of Hidalgo; Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen; and Salinas. See story later in this posting.
May marks National Mental Health Month and to recognize the month-long health campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, the South Texas Behavioral Health Center hosted an advocacy reception for community leaders on Friday, May 1. Area leaders spanning from law enforcement, military, elected officials, health care practitioners and social service providers attended the event in recognition of the advancements and challenges of mental health care in the Valley. Standing, from left, are: Solomon Torres, District Director for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Doug Matney, Vice President of Acute Care and Group Director for South Texas Health System; César Matos, MD; Joe Rodríguez, CEO for South Texas Behavioral Health Center and Michael Sauceda, Business Development Director for South Texas Behavioral Health Center. See story later in this posting.
Manuel Garcia and Johnny Rodriguez, two of the board members for Edinburg Child Care, Inc., a non-profit business dedicated to providing nutrition and education services to children in day care homes, display a cake that helped mark the 25th anniversary of the local entity. The local firm, which helps generate a multi-million dollar economic impact for the region, hosted a celebration in the Edinburg/San Manuel region on April 25, 2009, as a treat for many of its participants. Operations consist of reimbursements to day care homes and day care centers for meals served to children under their care and administrative costs. All seed funds/startup costs were provided by Romeo Villarreal, a local businessman and educator. The policy-making board of directors oversees the program, which is administered by an executive director. Since 1991, this program has generated between $2 million to $2.3 million dollars annually and disbursed to providers from Corpus Christi to Laredo, to Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley. Three hundred to 500 small business owners of day care centers are being supplemented annually through this agency. Edinburg Child Care, Inc. is located 2002 West University, Suite 3, Edinburg, 78539. They may also be contacted by telephone at 956/383-6789; by fax at 956/383-6888; and toll-free at 1/800-281-6780. Mary Villarreal, the company’s executive director, may also be reached via Internet firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The Texas Senate on Monday, May 4, unanimously voted for Senate Bill 1443 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, that would provide financial relief to students and their families, while recognizing the shared responsibility of the legislature and higher education institutions to keep college affordable and accessible without sacrificing excellence. The bill focuses on total academic costs, not simply on tuition; caps increases and links them to formula funding; offers an optional 4-year guaranteed tuition rate; includes additional cost-cutting measures; and establishes legislative oversight. See story later in this posting.
Asian citrus psyllid nymphs, shown here in their development stages by a U.S. Department of Agriculture photograph, can live on citrus trees that are infected with the Citrus Greening Disease and can acquire that plague just before reaching the adult stage. Once that happens, those insects can immediately transmit the disease to uninfected trees, which ruin the trees and citrus. The greening disease, which has not yet been detected in Texas, could devastate the state’s $159 million citrus industry, most of which is located in Hidalgo County. A bill by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, has been passed by the House of Representatives. The measure would give the Texas Department of Agriculture the needed policy powers to help citrus growers prevent a potentially-devastating outbreak of this plant disease. See lead story later in this posting.
Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured second from left, on Wednesday, March 4, presented legislation that would create a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. His measure, along with similar, but separate plans by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, were considered by the House Committee on Higher Education. Peña’s measure, House Bill 110, would transform the Regional Academic Health Center, located in Edinburg and Harlingen, into a stand-alone, four-year medical school and health science center. The key legislative panel, which has no Valley lawmakers, heard testimony in support of the medical school idea, but no vote was taken. Featured during a break during the panel hearing to review the legislation are, from left: Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chair of the House Higher Education Committee; Peña; Martínez; and Lucio, III. See story later in this posting.
Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presents a Texas flag to Edinburg native Captain Leonel A. Peña after honoring him on Tuesday, March 3, with a Senate resolution on the Senate floor at the Texas Capitol. Peña is the youngest person and first and only Hispanic to become conductor for the United States Army Band program. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, not featured in this portrait, also was a co-author of the Senate resolution. See story later in this posting.
More than 200 educators from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the nation gathered in early March to discuss methods to accelerate students through the education pipeline and into the workforce. Hosted by South Texas College, 2009 marks the fourth year for the event. During the day-long summit, attendees looked at student access and success through a variety of lenses, including issues related to the Latino student population, issues faced by migrant and impoverished students, and how technology and the global marketplace have changed the education pipeline. Featured, from left: Pricilla Hinojosa, MISD project manager for STC; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Jessica Ray Rincones, a student in STC’s MCCTI Program with her parents Nancy and Ruben Rincones. See story later in this posting.
An intriguing list of presenters, events and activities will delight the community – young and old – at the third annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) scheduled for March 22-28 at The University of Texas-Pan American. FESTIBA is a weeklong celebration of the arts and humanities and promotes literacy and cultural awareness by providing students and the Rio Grande Valley community interactive, hands-on opportunities to experience books, theatre, storytelling, music, art, dance, and performance competitions. Participants in a February 20 press conference to announce FESTIBA 2009 activities were, from left: Dr. Peter Dabrowski, associate director, UTPA Department of Music and Dance; Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County Clerk and president of the South Texas Literacy Coalition; Stephen Leach, director of Government Relations and Community Outreach, Reading is Fundamental; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, UTPA dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and FESTIBA coordinator; and Dr. Steven Schneider, UTPA English professor, director of New Programs and Special Projects in the College of Arts and Humanities and Big Read project director.
Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, featured at the podium during the fall 2005 dedication of the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission – the first such state facility built by Texas – continues to work on behalf of Texas’ military veterans and their families. On Thursday, January 22, Flores filed a bill that would provide Texas veterans, who are physically- or mentally-disabled, as a result of military service, with as much as a 100 percent exemption on their home property taxes. "We are pleased that Rep. Flores has carried this extremely important initiative for veterans of this state. This bill is long overdue and we know that Kino has always taken a proactive approach to help veterans," said Emilio De Los Santos, the Veterans Services Director for Hidalgo County. "This bill not only will help veterans of the past, but also veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars." Flores is a U.S. Army veteran. An identical measure, Senate Bill 469 by Sen. John Corona, R-Dallas, was filed on Tuesday, January 13. See related story later in this posting.
In an effort to recover local funds spent on federal levee rehabilitation, U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, on Thursday, January 22, introduced legislation that would enable the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to reimburse Hidalgo County for expenses incurred. Hinojosa and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured center, also met on January 22 with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, featured right, to discuss the reimbursement initiative and voice their commitment to repairing the Valley’s levees. Cornyn has introduced similar legislation in the Senate that would reimburse Hidalgo County for its work on federal levee projects. See related story later in this posting.
Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, featured left, on Tuesday, January 20, announced she was retiring at the end of the month as a result of health concerns. She was praised by two area legislators as an inspiration to the region. "I am saddened by the unfortunate, but understandable, retirement of President Cárdenas. She has been an inspiration to me and to countless other people, not only in the Valley, but throughout the state," said Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, also noted that "Dr. Cárdenas set a standard for academic excellence and continuous pursuit of self-realization and personal enrichment. During her tenure, Dr. Cárdenas led UT-Pan American’s efforts to further establish the university as a model institution of higher education, serving a highly diverse population and increasing the access to advanced degrees in South Texas." She is featured here, with Dr. Marla Guerra, superintendent for the South Texas Independent School District, at the university in one of her final public ceremonies on Thursday, January 22. The two leaders signed a new partnership between UTPA and STISD to promote college readiness and success. See related stories on her retirement and on the partnership with South Texas Independent School District later in this posting.
Dr. Alejo Salinas, Ph.D., of Edinburg, accepts ties, in the college’s school colors of green and purple, on behalf of his colleagues on the South Texas College Board of Trustees from students, staff, and administration for helping steer the two-county higher education system through a successful 2008. “Last year was a wonderful year for the college with big growth in enrollment, launching our second bachelor’s degree, and kicking off our 15th anniversary celebration, but one thing is clear – none of this would have been possible without the support of the hardest working board of trustees anywhere in Texas,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president, also featured in this photograph. “Dr. Salinas is one of our biggest advocates and has been true to serving the interests of the constituents he represents. We thank him for the countless hours he spends safeguarding public funds and planning for the future of higher education in the Valley.” Salinas is superintendent emeritus for and a clinical lecturer at The University of Texas–Pan American, and former superintendent of Hidalgo I.S.D. He has served STC since 1996. As the District 5 representative on STC’s Board of Trustees, he represents northwest Hidalgo County, Edinburg, north San Juan, and northeast Pharr. “I sincerely thank the college community for this token of appreciation,” said Salinas. “The biggest and best reward for my work is watching our students cross the stage at graduation each May. I am so proud to be part of this dedicated board and look forward to another outstanding year of academic excellence from our students.”
The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce “Chamber Champions” Committee recently honored BBVA Compass Bank as Feature Business of the Month for January, 2009. BBVA is located on 2314 W. University in Edinburg, and may be reached at 956/926-4400. BBVA has been a member with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce for many years, and has always supported community endeavors. They contribute to local scholarships and non-profit organizations, as well as support local businesses. The Chamber Champion’s Committee meets every first Wednesday of the month; to serve on the committee please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. http://www.edinburg.com