UTPA, STC continue partnership in education with articulation agreements
By Jennifer Berghom, Public Affairs Representative
Posted: 08/31/2011
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The University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College (STC) strengthened their alliance in making sure Rio Grande Valley students complete their higher education studies by signing six more articulation agreements Tuesday, Aug. 30.

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Partners in education: UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen and STC President Shirley Reed sign articulation agreements for six academic programs Tuesday, Aug. 30 that will provide STC graduates continuing their education at UTPA a seamless transition in their studies.

The agreements — for academic programs in business, communication studies, music, chemistry, computer science and criminal justice — will provide a seamless transition for students who graduate from STC with an associate degree and enroll at UTPA to continue their studies for a bachelor's degree.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said establishing the agreements was "the right thing to do" and said the agreements themselves shouldn't be cause for celebration, but the commitment from faculty and staff at both institutions should.

"It's what we should be doing, it shouldn't be a big deal, because every student who goes to South Texas College is important and it's important for us at Pan Am to work with South Texas College and make sure the agreements are there," Nelsen said. "We should celebrate today, but we should leave this meeting knowing we did the right thing. We've got a bunch more of these right things to do and we have to keep doing them."

With this most recent signing, UTPA and STC now have articulation agreements for 17 academic programs. The last time the institutions signed articulation agreements was in 2009, when Dr. Charles Sorber, then interim UTPA president, and Reed signed contracts for 11 programs to be aligned between the college and University.

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Administrators from UTPA and South Texas College showed their camaraderie Tuesday, Aug. 30 by wearing T-shirts and hats of each other's institutions after an articulation agreement signing ceremony. The agreements will allow for a smooth transition for graduates of STC coming to UTPA. Pictured in the front row from left to right are UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, STC President Shirley Reed, UTPA Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Ana Maria Rodriguez, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan Mejia and UTPA Provost Havidán Rodríguez. Pictured in the back row from left to right are Dr. Ali Esmaeli, STC dean of bachelor's programs and university relations, Mario Reyna, STC dean of business and technology, and Dr. Margaretha Bischoff, STC dean of liberal arts and social sciences.

"We think that's quite a testimony to both institutions," STC President Shirley Reed said. "It certainly is a testimony to your confidence in our faculty and our students and it's also a testimony to our confidence in all of you at UT Pan Am that you will in fact be taking very good care of our students."

During Tuesday's ceremony, Nelsen and Reed made a pact to have articulation agreements signed for all 57 bachelor's degree programs UTPA currently offers within the next two years.

Officials from both institutions also praised Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, senior vice provost for undergraduate studies at UTPA, who was instrumental in developing the articulation agreements. Rodriguez, who has served the University for 36 years, is retiring Aug. 31.

Rodriguez said it was "exhilarating" to see the culmination of years of work between faculty members of both institutions.

"We've been working on these agreements now for some time and it's not an easy thing because you're looking at faculties from the two institutions agreeing on the equivalency of the courses and how the courses at STC fit into our degree plan," she said. " But what's even more important is that it has a tremendous potential for achieving the goal that ensures students are graduating from college, that they're transferring from community colleges and whatever they're taking there is going to count on our degree plans and that the students are not taking courses they don't need, which is heartbreaking when you see a student come in with so many hours that don't count toward anything."

Rodriguez said she hopes these agreements will reduce the number of credit hours students have to take and the amount of time it takes them to graduate.

After the ceremony the presidents stressed that the agreements show a strong commitment their institutions have to bettering the educational opportunities for their students.

"We're doing this for the students 100 percent," Nelsen said. "It allows those students to come through without any extra credits, without having to take a lot of extra hours and know exactly what they need to do to graduate."

Reed said STC specializes in offering associate degrees for students but wants all of them to continue their education. STC also has three Bachelors of Applied Technology programs, but students majoring in other areas of study most likely pursue their bachelor's degree at UTPA, she said.

"Our students want (their college education) to be affordable, high quality and close to home, so Pan Am has to be our partner," Reed said. "I do fear that if we don't make this transition smooth for students they simply won't go on."