HARLINGEN — The University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa was in the Rio Grande Valley on Friday to talk about the recently announced plan for a new university here.
The UT System Board of Regents announced on Thursday that it had approved a plan for one consolidated university with campuses at the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, which would become a medical school.
Cigarroa said the students initially enrolled at the medical school would take the first two years of classes at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio followed by the last two years in the Rio Grande Valley, according to university officials.
Eventually, when the medical school is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation, the Harlingen medical school would become independent of UTSA, officials said, and enroll students for the full four years of study.
Cigarroa did not speak at the RAHC in Harlingen because the building at 2101 Treasure Hills Blvd. does not have an auditorium large enough to accommodate the large number of people who were expected to attend Cigarroa’s presentation about the consolidated Valley university.
“I don’t think there’s really a facility at the RAHC where we could have that kind of community meeting,” Jennifer LaCoste-Caputo, executive director of public affairs for the University of Texas System, said.
Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said he attended the presentation at the Brownsville campus and his city was well represented there.
He did not feel that a stop by Cigarroa at RAHC was a problem, Boswell said.
“I was actually introduced and there were a lot of people from Harlingen,” he said. “They’re making two presentations, one in Cameron County and one in Hidalgo County. They rolled out the plan which was approved unanimously by the board of regents. Both university presidents spoke.”
Standing with leaders from the University of Texas System and local universities Friday, area legislators in a town hall event at the UT-Pan American Student Union Theater said they would do whatever it took to win the two-thirds approval of state lawmakers for a new Rio Grande Valley university.
“I will work tirelessly to make sure the legislature supports these efforts,” said state Rep. Terry Canales, who begins his first legislative session in January. “I know that I speak for the rest of the Valley delegation when I say you can have faith that we will pursue this vigorously and tirelessly.”
Cigarroa said the new university’s eligibility for money from the Permanent University Fund, an endowment of nearly $13.5 billion, would grant it the tools necessary to compete with other emerging research institutions.
He said the new institution could also become a national leader in the study of U.S.-Latin American relations and a focal point for exchange between the regions.
Monitor reporter Andrew Kreighbaum contributed to this report.