BROWNSVILLE – University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., announced Tuesday night the creation of the University of Texas Institute of the Americas to be led by UT Brownsville President Juliet Garcia – a nationally renowned leader who will help develop the institute and serve as its executive director.
The new institute will focus on developing the next generation of leadership, rooted in the values of a democratic society and will provide a non-partisan venue for convening discussions of critical issues with global significance, according to Cigarroa. Taking advantage of its geographical location, the new institute will position the UT System as a portal to the Americas.
“Because of the incredible role that Texas is playing as a national leader in bi-cultural and bi-national studies, we need a person with exceptional leadership skills and a record of advanced achievements in higher education to help us create a presence centered in this region of our state,” Cigarroa announced at UT Brownsville Tuesday night. “The institute will be similar to the Aspen Institute and other scholarly institutes, which foster the convening of scholars and other experts to engage in a dialogue of ideas and search for solutions in education, societal and policy issues.”
Garcia will continue to serve as president of UT Brownsville until Aug. 31. She will then begin a year of planning and developing the new institute, which will be located in the Rio Grande Valley. Garcia will report to the UT System’s Office of Academic Affairs.
“Providing educational opportunity for people of South Texas has been my life’s work and I could not be more proud of what has been accomplished and what the future holds with the creation of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley,” Garcia said. “The chance to lead this incredible new institute that focuses on an area so important to me -- both personally and professionally -- is truly an honor. The UT Institute of the Americas is unlike anything that currently exists and I am so eager to get to work developing our nation’s next great leadership institute.”
Garcia has served as president of UT Brownsville for 22 years and in that time has broken barriers and amassed an impressive assortment of recognitions and accomplishments.
She became the first female Mexican-American president of a college or university in 1986 and has become a national thought leader in higher education. Under her leadership, UT Brownsville has more than doubled in size and has produced 35,000 college graduates. In 2009, Time magazine named her one of the top 10 college presidents in the nation, and this year she was named one of the top 50 world leaders by Fortune magazine.
“We could not be more thrilled that Dr. Garcia will remain part of the UT System family,” said UT System Board of Regents Vice Chairman Gene Powell. A South Texas native, Powell was instrumental in the creation of UTRGV and serves as the board’s special liaison to South Texas. “Dr. Garcia’s service and contributions to higher education have been noted by her peers from around the world and the accolades she has garnered are well deserved. This is a new chapter for both UT and Dr. Garcia and it is one that holds endless possibilities.”
The UT System Board of Regents has articulated a clear vision for UT Rio Grande Valley and the impact it anticipates the university will have not just on the region, but on all of Texas and reaching into Mexico and Central and South America, Powell said. The UT Institute of the Americas is a key part of building a strong bi-national presence that will foster important relationships and conversations on critical issues facing the nation and the world.
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2013 enrollment of more than 213,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $14.6 billion (FY 2014) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.