By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 12, 2015
Former president of the University of Alabama and Texas Tech University and first president of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Guy Bailey, served as keynote speaker at the Tip of Texas Counseling Association conference held last Thursday at the The Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island. Nearly 250 of the region’s public school counselors gathered to recognize National School Counseling Week. In front of the crowd of school counselors, Bailey spoke about his humbling experiences as a first-generation college student and his rise through the pantheon of academia, before highlighting the significance guidance counselors have in shaping the path for young students as they face trials from school and coming of age.
“For many of our students in the Valley, you’re it,” he said. “If a student is going to be successful, it’s largely going to be your doing in helping them get on the right path and once you start that growth, there aren’t many places to make a turn. Always keep that in mind.”
In a region where many students are indecisive of their university potential, Bailey stressed that having a focus on encouragement was one of many ways the new university expects to impact young Valley scholars in an area that has been left in uncertainty since the sudden separation of the University of Texas at Brownsville Texas Southmost College.
“We are going to be a university that rivals all the other schools in the state,” Bailey said confidently. “The expectations for UT-RGV are very high.”
He explained four major focuses. Organizing the university around student success would be the priority. Other priorities included expanding educational opportunity with the addition of programs to keep students in the region, devotion to expanding and enhancing healthcare in the region through the medical school, and research in issues that directly affect the Rio Grande Valley such as diabetes and obesity.
“When I heard about this, I was out of retirement in a minute.” Bailey went on to say. “I can’t think of a more exciting educational opportunity in the United States today. There is nothing like it out there… If we do it right. We’ll be the pattern for the rest of the United States.”
The University of Texas system has already invested roughly $350 million towards UT-RGV. It is only the second major university erected in the 21st century in the U.S. and the first in Texas. The UT System Board of Regents will decide on tuition in May and about 900 faculty members have been hired so far.
Following his speech, local law enforcement entered the venue citing Bailey had committed a “major violation.” For those unfamiliar with the SPI culture, ties are considered taboo, and Bailey found out the hard way as his orange silk tie was cut in half in front of a stunned crowd. Bailey, however, was all smiles after the spectacle saying he wanted no special treatment.
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