Dear TAMIU family,
Having only recently begun to adjust to thinking of 2004, I find it almost impossible to believe that we are about to move forward to another year. This year at the University has been one of marked contrasts: rewarding and challenging, glorious and sober, exhilarating and demanding. It has also been a year that has set new standards on many fronts. At the Board of Regents meeting in early December, the Board accepted a gift of $10,000,000.00 for TAMIU, a permanent endowment to support graduate education. The donor wishes to remain anonymous for now; this is surely the largest single philanthropic initiative in our city. Since state and federal funding for graduate programs is at best meager, this money will create opportunities for scholarships and assistantships to a degree we have not previously enjoyed.
At that same Board meeting, the Regents approved our Master’s in Biology and distance delivery for our Master’s in Criminal Justice. While the pace of adding new programs has, when compared with previous years, begun to slow a bit, we are now looking at a few very significant projects. Plans are underway for our Border Center for Homeland Security, the $950,000 funding from Congressman Bonilla now thought to be secure. Dr. Momayezi is, at a donor’s request, working on plans for a Range and Wildlife Management Center. Dr. So is preparing a plan to incorporate a trading room into the Center for Western Hemispheric Trade. Dr. González and the College of Education, having recently received two very large grants, continue to expand our programs to reach professionals in this region interested in advanced degrees. Dr. Baker is well into her first cohort of master’s students in nursing, and an impressive 94% of this year’s students passed the licensing examination. Dr. Corti and his staff continue to realize fully the potential of our new residential living community, and Dr. Garippa and the entire athletic and rec sports program are working to finalize the plans for Phase V and the kinesiology build-out.
In late February, we will take delivery of the furniture and begin the process of moving into the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center. An upcoming-moves committee, headed by Elizabeth Martínez, has put together a plan for the myriad displacements and replacements and opportunities made possible by the new building. The Executive Council will look at that plan when next we meet, and then deans and directors will share it with all of you for comment and response.
The SACS process continues at a somewhat more intense pace. Academic programs must complete the matrix provided to show use of results following assessments. After months of discussions and planning meetings, Dr. Cass will put together a draft of the Quality Enhancement Plan over the vacation (Thank you, Jeff!), and in mid-January all of us will look at it and work toward a final version. The re-accreditation process is allowing us to focus in a new way and with new energy upon the question of writing, an issue we have taken up many times in the last two decades.
Representatives of NSF joined the Board of the Children’s Museum for a campus visit this week, discussing the plan to build their new building directly behind our new science building. The visitors, from San Francisco and Fort Worth, were as always amazed to find such a well-planned and beautiful university in Laredo, Texas. I am hopeful that we will be able to finalize plans to bring the Children’s Museum to the campus and to integrate their programs and mission into our College of Education.
In the midst of all this activity, the state-wide budget crisis continues to loom over all our heads. The 5% we were told to remove from next year’s budget remains out, and there have been no assurances that that loss will be offset in any way. While it is still not clear exactly what will happen, the upcoming legislative session promises to be an extremely difficult one. We are very fortunate to be in the hands of Senator Zaffirini, Richard Raymond, and Ryan Guillén. The Senator, as you know, has been our North Star for nearly two decades, and Richard and Ryan are no less determined to enhance the tremendous gains recent funding has brought to South Texas.
As the year ends, I realize once again how grateful I am to work with all of you in this wonderful place as together we change the face of South Texas. The charge we have been given is vast, as are the resources. Thank you, every one, for continuing the tradition of fidelity and devotion to our students, to the state, to the nation. I hope each of you enjoys the rest you so deserve, and that the new year makes reality of what our better angels long for.
Ray M. Keck, III