President Nelsen: Despite budget restraints, UTPA will flourish
By Jennifer Berghom and Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representatives
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 08/31/2010
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Though state-mandated budget reductions may place some of The University of Texas-Pan American's dreams on hold, the institution will continue to provide a good-quality education to its students and provide for its faculty and staff, said President Robert S. Nelsen.

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UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen shakes hands with Deborah Myers, assistant professor of Health and Kinesiology, as he welcomes faculty and staff to his first convocation.

In his 2010 convocation speech Aug. 26 at the Fine Arts Auditorium, Nelsen told members of the University community how the institution has to cut $7.4 million from its budget to comply with the state's orders and continue supplying the needs of its faculty and staff, and most importantly, its students.

"That is why I am here and that is why you are here — the students. It's all about the students, our students, the Valley's students," he said.

Because the budget woes have prevented the University from offering merit raises, Nelsen promised the community that he will not accept a pay raise until faculty and staff receive an increase as well.

Despite the gloomy financial forecast for the next biennium, the University prevailed in setting aside an additional $1.8 million for employee health insurance, increased its education benefit plan to $200,000, hired two new deans for its two new colleges: the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and has hired 32 new faculty members.

"We are survivors," Nelsen said. "At Pan Am we are people who know how to exist in tough times and succeed in tough times."

UTPA also plans to offer new programs in the coming years, including bachelor's degrees in teaching physical sciences, early childhood development, master's degrees in health sciences and political science and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology and developmental education.

"UT Pan Am will be OK, much more than OK," Nelsen said. "We will continue to flourish, and in doing so, we will continue our upward trajectory toward excellence. We cannot let the budget crisis derail UT Pan Am."

After laying out the financial situation of the institution, Nelsen presented the six goals embedded in the University's strategic plan: to enhance UTPA's engagement with local businesses, communities, cultural and other organizations; initiate projects closely linked to the Valley and infusing Inter-American and global perspectives in curricula; increase the efficiency of processes for students, staff and faculty; identify and focus on targeted centers of research that are relevant to South Texas; collaborate with local school districts and institutions of higher education and provide students with a high-quality education so they can graduate in a timely manner and be prepared to be the next generation of leaders.

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Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president, delivers his first convocation speech Aug. 26. Nelsen said despite mandated state cuts to its operating budget, UTPA will continue to flourish.

"We are in this together. We will succeed together," Nelsen said.

Those who attended the convocation said they are optimistic about the University's future and look forward to working with Nelsen on advancing the institution.

"I think President Nelsen is uniquely qualified to bring this University together," said Dr. John Darcy, associate professor, College of Business Administration. "I think he touched on a number of themes and difficult questions regarding the budget and demonstrated the sensitivity that he understands and has compassion for each of the constituencies. I look forward very much to the upcoming year and I think I speak on behalf of most of the people here that we have a great deal of confidence in what is going to happen under the leadership of President Nelsen."

Students who listened to the convocation speech said they too are looking forward to cooperating with faculty, staff and administrators to make the most of their educational experience.

"We all need to work together to accomplish these very hard times with the budget cuts," said Alex Rodriguez, a senior majoring in business management and the Student Government Association president. "It's all about unity. Each one of us has a task to accomplish and this year it is going to be hard but I think he (Nelsen) has a lot of ideas, a lot of vision for this university and he is going to unify this University as a whole and I think that is what we need in moving forward. The Student Government Association is doing a great job of getting all this vision, all these goals together to accomplish these things and I think it is going to be a great year."