The UT Vista Summit, which will take place Oct. 5 and 6 at the University of Texas at Brownsville, will bring together local, state and national leaders to discuss topics such as education, industry, economic development, policy, health, government and philanthropy in South Texas. The summit may have the potential to improve the future of The University of Texas-Pan American, UTB and the Rio Grande Valley as a whole.
Chief executives and other leaders of nonprofits, including the Ford Foundation, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Gates Foundation and the Greater Texas Foundation, will be in attendance.
UT Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa will host the event and discuss ideas on how these organizations can help the Valley and advance its education, health care and economic development.
Janice Maville, the interim dean for the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at UTPA, looks forward to learning how the summit will improve education in South Texas. She has been at UTPA for 35 years and anticipates more growth on campus.
“This is an exceptional event because it is bringing nationally recognized, very high-level caliber foundations to the Valley to enter into discussions about education and what we are doing here,” Maville said. “I think that this summit is something that is going to highlight the activities and the potential that we have to become major players in the state and in the nation in healthcare and on the STEM aspect as well.”
Maville hopes that the topic of improving research opportunities in South Texas will be discussed in the conference panels at the summit.
“We are hoping to get some understanding and support from the foundations because, in order to do the research, education and community outreach that needs to happen. We need their support,” she explained. “One of the things that (the leaders) will be working on is to really emphasize how we need to work together.”
A topic that will also be discussed is economic issues in South Texas. Alberto Davila is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance in the College of Business Administration and is aware of how important this is at UTPA.
“There are things that are of concern in our area, things that have to do with our lower levels of education, work experience, and are relative to the interior of our state,” he said. “When you look at the earnings of people in the Valley, they tend to be about two-thirds than those in the rest of the state.”
Discussion of the economy is designed to gather leaders’ opinions on ways to aid the two universities in improving education in an area where the per capita income is $11,000 below the national average and more than a third of the population below the poverty line, according to Census figures.
“A lot of the reasons for these depressed earnings have to do with the relatively low levels of education and human capital of residents compared to those in the exterior,” Davila said. “Any efforts to enhance the level and quality of education in our area are good for our economy.”
Many UTPA students don’t know about the summit. Nabyl Kalaf, a senior majoring in biology who plans to attend medical school after graduating, had not heard about it.
“The summit sounds great and is worth looking into, but I have hardly heard any information about it on campus,” she said. “It sounds like it has the potential to impact the valley in a very positive way, especially for those of us majoring in STEM degrees. I hope that the university will market the event more so that students will hear about it and be interested in attending.”
In light of recent budget cuts to education on the state level, many welcomed this opportunity for the universities to discuss South Texas’ needs. The summit also follows on the heels of the 10th annual HESTEC, which focuses on science, technology and mathematics, among other areas.
“Anything that has to do with promoting education is good for the Valley,” Davila said.
To RSVP your attendance to the summit, visit http://vistasummit.com/.