University of Texas – Brownsville
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (LRGV) is a growing region situated along the US-Mexican border with two major Universities: The University of Texas Brownsville (UTB) and the University of Texas Pan American (UTPA). This 4 county region faces a number of challenges including low educational attainment amongst residents, high rates of diabetes and heart disease, and 30% of all residents living below the poverty level. U3 Advisors has been engaged in the LRGV to envision a new campus for UTB in downtown Brownsville and to identify economic development opportunities for a community agenda for the new merged University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
In 2012, As UTB was contemplating a move to a new location outside of the city, U3 Advisors was engaged by the Ford Foundation as part of a team of experts to help retain the University in Downtown Brownsville. U3 Advisors participated in a design charrette and community engagement process that developed a vision for new UTB campus that would leverage University owned property and create a new dense urban campus. This vision helped retain UTB in downtown Brownsville.
In 2013, the University of Texas System announced the intention to merge UTB and UT Pan American to form the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and create a new Medical School. The impact of a combined Valley University and Medical School will have a significant impact on the Rio Grande Valley region and has the potential to act as an economic development tool and provide pathways to education and wellbeing for all residents of the Valley, including the region’s often-neglected poor communities.
U3 Advisors was engaged as part of a team of experts to develop a community agenda to present to the University of Texas Board of Regents. Specifically, U3A identified economic development opportunities for the combined institution and lead community engagement sessions to communicate those opportunities. Through community meetings and a Valley-wide vision session, the United for Rio Grande Valley agenda was created around the categories of Education, Health, Economic Development, and Regional Planning with the following goals:
- Engaging Low-Income Communities: Mobilize the resources of low-income communities in the Rio Grande Valley to build an enduring institution that supports regional transformation and well-being.
- Developing Mutually Beneficial Partnerships: Identify and develop partnership opportunities between the institution and the low-income communities of the Rio Grande Valley that address shared goals and mutually beneficial outcomes.
- Ensuring Shared Decision-Making: Ensure successful partnerships and achievement of outcomes by committing to inclusive leadership, shared decision-making, transparent communication, and accountability
As the University of Texas System pursues the merger of these two universities, the United Rio Grande Valley Agenda will be a key component to creating a new institution that helps unite the region and address the interests and needs of the low-income community of the Valley.