Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz is one of five candidates to become the inaugural president of a new university in south Texas that would include a new medical school, a Texas newspaper reported.
The Monitor, of McAllen, said Azziz is one of the candidates for president of what will become The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
GRU issued a statement Wednesday, saying: “As a national thought leader, Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz is often approached about new leadership opportunities in academia and health care. He is honored to be considered for such leadership posts and remains committed to the success of GRU.”
Spokeswoman Christen Carter said Azziz would not comment further on the position.
Without confirming any of the names, Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, the executive director of public affairs for the University of Texas System, said that there are five candidates and that the University of Texas Board of Regents is still in the process of interviewing for that position. The board would then vote at an as-yet-unscheduled meeting to name finalists, and “the board can select several finalists, it can select one finalist,” she said. The names would be public then, and after 21 days the board could select a president.
The new Texas university will be created out of the merger of UT Pan American and UT Brownsville, LaCoste-Caputo said, along with the Regional Health Academic Center of Harlingen, Texas. The new school would have an enrollment of 28,000, $11 million in research funding and a $419 million annual budget, according to information she provided.
A new university was created out of the two so that the new school could take advantage of the Permanent University Fund, an endowment for Texas universities from the gas and oil proceeds of donated lands, worth more than $15.9 billion last year, that can be used for capital projects, LaCoste-Caputo said. Because the two previous schools started off as community colleges before becoming universities, they did not technically qualify for the fund but the new school will, she said. There will also be a new medical school, which had originally been conceived as a free-standing institution.
“The medical school was already in the works because we don’t have a medical school south of San Antonio in the state of Texas,” LaCoste-Caputo said. What will be South Texas School of Medicine is in the process of getting accredited and will enroll its first 50 students in 2016, LaCoste-Caputo said. The new university’s first class will be in fall 2015.