It is often said that there's nothing like the value of a good education.
And as education breaks new ground throughout the Rio Grande Valley, the phrase has become particularly meaningful in regard to the value of schools to the region's economy.
Whether it’s the merger of two universities, the formation of a new medical college or a groundbreaking workforce initiative at the middle school level, educational institutions and programs are a guiding force here.
The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is a prime example. With classes scheduled to begin in fall 2015, the new university has combined the talent, assets and resources of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American with the Regional Academic Health Center. It will reshape education in the Valley and have a far-reaching global impact, according to the school’s president, Dr. Guy Bailey.
“I’ve been in higher education for a long time, and this is the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career,” says Bailey, who was tapped to lead UTRGV in April 2014. “It’s also one of the most important things I’ve done. The impact we can have on the Valley is tremendous, greater than any impact from anything I’ve ever done."
UTRGV will include a medical school that will begin holding classes in 2016. It will be among the first of its kind in Texas.
“That really moves education in and of itself to another level,” Bailey says. “The addition of a medical school to a general academic institution has never happened in Texas before.
“First of all, I think it will build an educational pipeline to help us keep the best students here in the Valley. The second thing is, medical schools are huge drivers of research, and we’re interested in improving both the educational value of the Valley but also the health of the Valley. The research at the medical school as well as the health care will be crucial in doing that.”
Strides for the Younger Set
New initiatives in education for younger students are also expected to affect the economic vitality of the Valley. The McAllen Independent School District has partnered with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Economic Development Corp. to launch a career readiness program for middle school students, called Transforming U.
The mentoring program was to have begun in the 2014-15 school year, with 10 students from each of the district’s seven middle schools. Officials have said it will help students become more engaged in their communities.
McAllen’s ISD is already involved in a couple of other innovative programs. It began participating in the prestigious International Baccalaureate program in 2001, and some 600 teachers attended training in summer 2014 to become fully immersed in the program by 2015.
The district recently launched the TLC3 (Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community) program, in which all its 25,000 students have access to mobile technology devices, among other innovations.