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Record-breaking research, enrollment growth and campus future highlighted in Texas A&M-Kingsville State of the University

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University president Dr. Robert Vela Jr. stands on the stage of the performance hall in the university's Music education complex.  Behind him is a PowerPoint presentation displaying a slide from his address presentation highlighting social mobility.

Stakeholders in the future of Texas A&M University-Kingsville gathered for the State of the University, delivered by President Dr. Robert Vela Jr. on Oct. 14 in the Performance Hall of the university's Music Education Complex.

Stakeholders in the future of Texas A&M University-Kingsville gathered for the State of the University on Oct. 14. The address, given by President Dr. Robert Vela Jr. to an audience made up of faculty, staff, students and community leaders, touched on the university’s enrollment growth, a record year in research funding and a look towards the university’s future.

“We need to own and understand what our competitive edge is in this community, and we need to double down,” Vela recounted. “And I can tell you in the short 15 months that we have all been working hard, it is starting to make a difference. I did not think it was going to be this fast. That is why I wanted to share the great news with you today, because it’s important. And it matters. And we’re all in.”

Vela shared that for Fall 2023, the university saw student enrollment gains for first-time in college students, graduate programs, doctoral programs, dual enrollment and overall enrollment. Student retention also saw an increase of 4% from Fall 2022.

“We have had a 7-year downward trend in enrollment. To break that 7-year downward trend takes a lot. This is the first year in seven years that our enrollment is up,” Vela said. “When you’re working synergistically with recruitment and retention, your enrollment skyrockets. What an amazing accomplishment for our teams.”

Texas A&M-Kingsville’s record year in research grants was also highlighted during the address, noting the university received $67.7 million in external research funding, a 277% increase from FY22. The university also received the largest grant award in its near 100-year history—a $20 million grant given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a collaborative, 5-year program to help ready students to obtain careers in the federal food, agriculture and natural resource sector.

“We are a practitioner-scholar model at the university,” Vela said. “You may say, ‘What differentiates you from all the other Tier 1 universities?’ Most of those universities, you’re going to have to wait until you’re in your graduate program to get into some significant research. Here our kids get connected in undergraduate research fast.”

Vela also revealed plans for the university’s future educational expansions into healthcare professions.

“We have not had adequate allied health programs,” Vela said. “We are going to launch an RN to BSN program here to begin to deal with nursing shortages. We are going to specialize in rural healthcare and it’s going to be a game changer.

“Our students are begging for allied health programs. We are going to begin the workings of a College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences so we can ensure we can embed stackable credentials on their way to becoming a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant, a pharmacist. We need to be in that space.”

Glimpses of a new comprehensive campus master plan were also shared, showcasing renderings of new facilities, including a new College of Agriculture complex, a Baffin Bay Event and Education Center, and a new athletics area.

The Javelina Marching Band closed the state of the university address with the Pride of South Texas’ rendition of “Jalisco,” as guests exited to an hors d'oeuvre buffet in the lobby of the Music Education Complex.

The State of the University event was underwritten by Kleberg Bank.

Category: General Univ

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