The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, meeting Oct. 22 and 23 in Austin, gave final approval to a freestanding doctor of education degree in educational leadership at The University of Texas-Pan American.
The education doctorate has been offered at the Edinburg campus as a cooperative program with The University of Texas at Austin since 1993, with UT Pan American gradually taking more responsibility for the administration of the degree. The first three graduates of the cooperative program received their degrees from UT Austin in December 1996.
"The approval of this program is the next step in UT Pan American's evolution into a comprehensive regional university," said Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, UTPA president. "Outside reviewers have studied the program and given it a very favorable assessment. The Coordinating Board's actions indicate that the board members believe UT Pan American will continue to provide the highest quality doctoral degree program."
UTPA admitted its first class of students to the freestanding doctoral program in Fall 1998 in anticipation of Coordinating Board approval of the program.
The program is the second doctoral degree UT Pan American has been authorized to award; the university already offers a doctorate in business administration with an emphasis in international business. Earlier this year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the university's accrediting agency, increased UT Pan American's accreditation status to that of a doctoral-degree granting institution.
The education doctorate is directed toward school superintendents, administrators and other educators in South Texas who want to pursue a doctoral program.
"This region faces a number of higher education challenges, including high drop-out rates, low college participation, low incomes and wide diversity of language and culture," Dr. Nevárez said. "This program is designed to provide educational leaders with the knowledge and skills to meet these challenges."
The degree requires 69 semester credit hours of coursework, including at least 36 hours beyond the requirements for superintendency certification in courses limited to doctoral students. The program also requires proficiency in Spanish.
Dr. Hilda Medrano, dean of the College of Education at UTPA, said, "The goal of this program is to prepare educational leaders who can meet the challenges of education in the Rio Grande Valley.
"It is important for UT Pan American to offer programs such as the one in educational leadership, because the majority of our students are employed full-time and cannot leave their employment and their families to move elsewhere to pursue a graduate degree," she said. "This program will make it feasible for our students to earn a doctorate, and in the long run, it's the children in the public schools who will benefit. It's a step forward to more accessibility and equity in higher education."
Medrano said that while the educational leadership program is the first doctorate offered in the College of Education, the college is planning to develop additional doctoral programs in educational psychology and in curriculum and instruction.
"This program is a dream come true for many of us who believe that equal opportunities are needed in the Rio Grande Valley," she said.
At the October meeting, the Coordinating Board also approved UT Pan American's request to purchase the 12.4-acre Lamar Elementary School property on the northwest side of the campus. The property includes four buildings - three classroom buildings and a gymnasium totaling more than 49,000 assignable square feet - and associated parking lots. The university is already subleasing the property.
The purchase will increase the acreage of the main UT Pan American campus from 186.1 to 198.5 acres.