A new partnership signed June 26 between The University of Texas-Pan American and the City of McAllen to establish a UTPA McAllen Teaching Site will provide Rio Grande Valley residents more convenience and greater access to higher education.
Starting fall 2009, UTPA will offer 12 graduate level courses in the Colleges of Education, Business Administration, Arts and Humanities and Science and Engineering at a 10,000 square foot leased facility located at 1800 South Main Street along Eastbound Frontage Expressway 83 in the Main Place Shopping Center adjacent to La Plaza Mall.
UTPA Interim President Dr. Charles A. Sorber and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the University and the city at a ceremony held at McAllen City Hall attended by city commissioners and officials as well as South Texas College (STC) President Dr. Shirley Reed and other UTPA and STC administrators.
In 2003, UTPA opened a facility in Rio Grande City to alleviate the 50-mile commute by a number of Starr, Jim Hogg and Zapata County residents. More than 200 students have since graduated primarily in the University's education programs from the Starr County Upper-Level Center and most have gone on to teach in Valley schools.
"We see this new partnership (at the McAllen facility) as a starting point. We see a future where those courses will be expanded and we are particularly excited about the opportunities along the way to begin offering upper division courses so the graduates of South Texas College can take advantage of a site here in town to finish their bachelor's degrees," Sorber said.
Other planned offerings at the McAllen Teaching Site are professional development courses, certification training classes, English language training and other continuing education courses demanded by the community or identified by local government and business partners as important to maintaining a marketable and competitive workforce.
Both UTPA and city officials said there was a demand for a site in McAllen from those seeking advanced degrees but because of family and job responsibilities needed a more convenient location to attend classes. Four of the courses offered this fall are ones in the master's degree program in educational administration. Other courses will meet the needs of business professionals interested in UTPA's MBA program and health care workers seeking foundation courses to pursue master's programs in the health sciences.
The facility, with a projected capacity of 200 students on site, will have eight classrooms, one configured as a conference room setting for seminar type classes. All classrooms will be "smart" classrooms, which means they will be equipped with all the technology and interactive capabilities that are available in UTPA's campus classrooms, recognized as state-of-the-art in The University of Texas System.
Cortez said the new site will be a win-win proposition not only for McAllen but for the entire region.
"This will not only affect our students but our economy. Residents who are interested in higher learning will have another choice with the McAllen Teaching Site," he said. "This partnership means we are on the right track and doing the right things to help our citizens have access to higher education. As we all know household income is a great measurement of economic preparedness. The higher education you have generally, the higher household income that you have."
Cortez said these types of partnerships are also important in promoting regional unity among Rio Grande Valley political jurisdictions which in the past have "wanted to protect their turf."
"UTPA is a regional asset. Economics really has no boundaries. Education has no boundaries. When we start sharing resources together and start sharing intellectual brainpower together, then we start solving our problems a lot better and a lot quicker," he said.
UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Sale said regionalization into McAllen is an outward sign of the University's commitment to work to strengthen the region.
"Today's signing establishes a physical presence that illustrates that regionalization," he said.
Sale said while UTPA is leasing the current site, the University has committed to evaluate the feasibility of a permanent site that could be available by 2012.
"We are just so grateful for our partnership with the City of McAllen and South Texas College. Together, the three of us, are going to be able to further strengthen a regional educational presence second to none in the state," he said.
For more information on the UTPA McAllen Teaching Site, contact the Office of Graduate Studies at 956/381-3661.