Robert. S. Nelsen, Ph.D., former President of The University of Texas-Pan American, addressing a gathering at the Student Union Building on Thursday, October 24, 2013.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees on Wednesday, March 25, appointed former University of Texas-Pan American President Robert. S. Nelsen, Ph.D., as President of California State University, Sacramento (officially known as “Sacramento State”). He will assume leadership of the university in July 2015. “Sacramento State has truly become a destination campus where students receive a transformative educational experience that prepares them for success in the future,” said Nelsen. “The opportunity to work alongside the many dedicated faculty and staff who guide students along that journey and prepare them for achievements beyond the classroom is incredibly exciting.” Nelsen will become the eighth permanent president of Sacramento State and succeeds Alexander González, who will retire at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president. “Dr. Robert Nelsen is an ambitious and visionary leader who will successfully build on the foundation President González has established at Sacramento State,” said CSU Trustee Steve Glazer, chair of the Sacramento State Presidential Search Committee. “He has extensive experience leading a large, diverse university and a long history of always putting students first.” Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the UT System, congratulated Nelsen on the announcement, citing the soon-to-be former UTPA president long-lasting impact in Texas. “Dr. Nelsen served The University of Texas System with great distinction and we will miss his leadership and guidance,” said Reyes. “He embraced the culturally rich environment of the Rio Grande Valley as president of UT Pan American, and his passion and dedication for students and faculty and their success are without comparison.” Nelsen’s importance and influence in Edinburg also was recognized last fall with a proclamation in his honor unanimously approved by the Edinburg City Council. “Jody and I have loved everything about the Rio Grande Valley, and it will be very hard to leave this magical place,” Nelsen said. “But we are excited to embark on a new adventure in California, and we will take all of you with us in our hearts. Somos para siempre familia.”
Dean Leonel Vela, M.D., featured left, takes University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, who began his role as administrative leader of the UT System at the beginning of the year, on a tour of the UT-Rio Grande Valley simulation hospital at the Harlingen Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen in January 2015.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
For the past 15 years, medical education in the Rio Grande Valley has been under the watchful eye of Dr. Leonel Vela, M.D., Founding Regional Dean of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC-SA) Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen. Vela began his work at the Harlingen RAHC on March 1, 2000. He observes his 15-year anniversary with the institution this month while already deeply committed to his new role in the next chapter of medical education in the Valley at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Vela has been named the Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the new medical school. “I am thrilled and excited about what lies before us all,” Vela said. “We are so fortunate to have Dr. Francisco Fernandez at the helm as Founding Dean of the UT-RGV School of Medicine. He has established a team that has coalesced around his vision of Valley medical education that is focused not only on producing excellent physicians but also physicians being an integral part of transforming healthcare for the area’s residents. Dr. Fernández is always mindful that the community’s best interests be paramount in our efforts.” A native of Pharr, Vela said he draws strength from his humble farmworker family background. “We see so many challenges in our region,” he said. “When I started at the RAHC 15 years ago, I always had my eye on the eventual transformation of this program into a full medical school. Now my dream, and that of many others, is being realized. UT-RGV and its School of Medicine will be a beacon of hope for a better future for all residents of the Rio Grande Valley.”
Featured, from left: Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodríguez; Congressman Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio; and Mayor Richard H. García, during the Thursday, January 1, 2015 swearing-in for Rodríguez, held at the Pharr Events Center.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Honoring his family’s legacy is important to Richard H. García, who can trace his roots in South Texas back to the late 1700s. “When they were colonizing all of the cities here on the river, 38 families were brought to Mier, which was the original colony here,” he said, “My family was part of that group.” Today, as a successful attorney and mayor of the City of Edinburg, the UTPA alumnus and 2015 Pillar of Success continues to build on what his ancestors helped establish in the Rio Grande Valley. The Pillars of Success are the university’s official annual “Alumni” awards, which honor UTPA’s most distinguished alumni. The Pillars of Success celebrate a select group of Broncs for their inspirational stories and outstanding achievements. The event, which raises funds for scholarships, will be held on Friday, February 27, at Boggus Ford Events Center (formerly the Pharr Events Center) at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 each and can be purchased online or at the UTPA Alumni Center in Edinburg (2402 S. Closner Blvd.). García talks with pride about a new pedestrian corridor that will connect Edinburg’s City Hall to the UTPA campus and include a Valley Metro station and a new residential complex for students that will feature apartments above retail space, a project that had the enthusiastic blessing of UT-Pan American’s administration. “I was a little nervous with the transition (to The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley), but Guy Bailey (president of the new university) tells me he buys into the whole plan,” García said. Also on the horizon for the City of Edinburg is a new $60 million, 8,500-seat events arena that will be home to the NBA Development League Champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers, beginning in 2017, and will host other sporting events as well as provide a prime location for concerts, graduations and meetings. The 115,799-square-foot arena will be built on 40-acres of land located on the east side of I-69C (US 281) on Alberta Road. The entire property includes nine additional pad sites for the development of a future hotels and restaurants. When the project was announced in November 2013, García said not only will it enhance the economy by millions of dollars, but it will also improve the quality of life for Edinburg residents and visitors. “People want to visit and live in cities where they can get educated, where they can work and where they can play. We’ve created more than 3,500 jobs in the last three years; we have UTPA, which is about to become an even larger UT System campus complete with a medical school; and now we will also have a place for entertainment,” he noted. The mayor also boasts of another project, La Sienna, a 726-acre master planned community along I-69C (US 281) at Monte Cristo Road that is “going gangbusters.” In addition to several moderate to exclusive residential areas, renowned Dallas developer Henry Miller will develop 45 acres along the freeway into what García describes as “a cross between The Quarry and La Cantera (two high-end shopping areas in San Antonio)” that will include water features, restaurants, shops, a hotel and an IMAX theatre. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, also has 100 additional acres that it will soon put on the market. “With those two things – the arena and La Sienna – along with the medical school, the sky’s the limit for the city,” said García, the president of the EEDC Board of Directors. He said he is excited about the transition of his alma mater, UTPA, into The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley next year. “When San Antonio got its medical school 25 years ago, the demographics and population were similar to Hidalgo County’s today. Now, San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas and number seven in the nation. That’s because of the medical investment. That’s what I see happening to us down here, and the impacts will be the medical school and UT-RGV. The fact that it’s going to be the second largest in the UT System speaks volumes, and Dr. Bailey said we may end up being even larger than UT Austin in numbers. Wow, what can you say about that?”
Featured, from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling on Thursday, June 17, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
With southwest McAllen as part of his House District 36, which includes a major presence of South Texas College along with key international bridges and transportation systems, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, will be a powerful asset once more for The City of McAllen and its ambitious, progressive agenda during the ongoing 140-day regular session of the Texas Legislature, which runs through May 31. Muñoz’ body of work at the Texas Capitol, in partnership with his fellow Valley lawmakers, is sure to continue registering victories, especially following his reappointment to several of the most influential House of Representatives legislative committees. Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, one of the three most powerful leaders in Texas government, on Wednesday, February 4, elevated Muñoz to Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Insurance, and also kept him as a member of the budget-setting Appropriations Committee, and the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. “I am sincerely honored and grateful to be reappointed to these very important committees by Speaker Straus,” Muñoz said after receiving his assignments. “I fully intend to represent the interests of my constituents and the greater Rio Grande Valley region as I serve on these committees. I thank Speaker Straus for entrusting me with these assignments and for placing me in a position to better serve Texas.” Muñoz’ rising star in the Texas Legislature is a definite asset to the City of McAllen’s legislative agenda, which was adopted by the McAllen Mayor and McAllen City Commission late last year. McAllen’s top state priorities will focus on the following goals: the creation of a Hidalgo County Hospital District; improving international trade and shipping with Mexico through local international bridges; seeking funding to build the first phase of a northbound commercial vehicle inspection station at Anzaldúas International Bridge; extending Ware Road (FM 2220), a primary north-south arterial in McAllen, north from Trenton Road (FM 676) to State Highway 107; building an overpass over Pecan Boulevard at the South Texas College main campus, which is one of the fastest growing in the country (32,000 students), to coincide with a $55 million locally-funded campus expansion currently underway; enhancing Texas’ relationship with Mexico, including holding high-level annual meetings in McAllen or Rio Grande City featuring the Texas governor’s office and Texas secretary of state’s office with their counterparts from Mexican states that border Texas for the purposes of discussing trade, transportation, energy, security and other bi-national issues; and seeking funding, through legislation or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department prioritization, for the construction of hike-and-bike trails in McAllen and surrounding cities.
Featured, from left, Blanca Davila and Stephanie Méndez encourage students to apply for an Archer Fellowship. The application deadline for both the fall 2015 semester and the spring 2016 semester is Monday, February 23. For more information, contact Stephen Cisneros, Interim Director of Student Engagement, at 956-882-7152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photograph By LETTY FERNÁNDEZ
Stephanie Méndez and Blanca Davila are enthusiastic promoters of the Bill Archer Fellowship Program, an education program designed to provide students from throughout The University of Texas System with an intense learning and exploration experience in Washington, D.C. Students attending The University of Texas at Brownsville – who will be enrolled at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall – can apply to the Archer Fellows Program for the 2015–2016 academic year. Méndez, who will graduate from UT-Brownsville with her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Management in May, was an Archer Fellow during the fall 2014 semester. Davila, who will receive her Master of Public Policy and Management from UT Brownsville in May, participated in the Archer Graduate Program in Public Policy in summer 2014.