Health and Technology
With first visit to Starr County Campus in books, STC President Dr. Ricardo J. Solis outlines his plans for the future of education in the region
STC President Dr. Ricardo J. Solis (left) held his first visit to STC’s Starr County Campus, in which he toured its facilities and met with students. Solis then met with county stakeholders in order to connect with local business and community leaders in Rio Grande City who heard for the first time, the new president’s plan to address the challenges for higher education in the region. Left to right, Dr. Solis, STC Board Chair Rose Benavidez, and Starr County Campus Administrator Dr. Arturo Montiel.
Never before in the economic history of the United States has the community college been better poised to create the skills provided for the next generation of jobs in the nation, according to South Texas College President Dr. Ricardo J. Solis.
Speaking during a Presidential Welcome Tour at STC’s Starr County Campus, Dr. Solis had the opportunity to connect with local business and community leaders in Rio Grande City who heard for the first time, the new president’s plan to address the challenges for higher education in the region.
At issue, according to those community stakeholders are the demographic benchmarks in Starr, as well as capitalizing on the many opportunities and responsibilities to the residents served by the college.
“For the first time in 27 years, South Texas College was in a position to find a new president, and it was odd to spend a year without (founding president) Dr. Shirley A.Reed when it came to college business,” said STC Board Chair Rose Benavidez. “We also knew that the challenges of a horrid pandemic changed us, not only in the way we do business, but in a sense allowing us to look at life and see what the future looks like.
“It almost seemed appropriate that opening up wasn't just about bringing students back, but it was about bringing the college back,” Benavidez said.
Sam Vale, President of Starr-Camargo Bridge Company added that the many opportunities and responsibilities the college brings forth, need to blend with partnered school districts.
“I think that the most important thing would be to blend together public schools and have them knowledgeable in early college activities,” said Vale. “I would encourage that we make room for all levels of people to be able to prosper.”
The tour was Solis’ first visit to STC’s Starr County Campus, in which he toured its facilities and met with students. He then met with county stakeholders during a luncheon.
“Our vision is to convert and continue growing this area into a stellar region for technology and health. These are the two areas that we will focus on because that is where the future is.”
Guests attending included Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, State Rep. Ryan Guillen D-Rio Grande City, as well as Sam Vale.
The South Texas College Board of Trustees was represented by Chair Benavidez, Vice Chair Dr. Alejo Salinas Jr., and Trustee Danny Guzman.
At the luncheon with stakeholders, Dr. Solis emphasized his background in economic development to outline his plan that will combine technology and health to grow local economies, something that Starr County Judge Vera emphasized as well.
“At one time there was (unemployment) at 35 percent, and if there is one thing the people of Starr County want, is to work,” Vera said. “Unfortunately, we did not have the skill labor to get them jobs.
“Thanks to STC and Workforce Solutions, we were able to get that unemployment number down to a single digit, but I think the major reason was STC in getting our people trained in the skills that were needed.”
At its roots, economic development is improving and setting up those conditions to improve growth and quality of life for communities, according to Dr. Solis.
“I was just blown away of the magnitude, the size of this campus, and most importantly the potential of where we are going take this because the infrastructure is already here,” Dr. Solis told attendees at the luncheon. “Our vision is to convert and continue growing this area into a stellar region for technology and health. These are the two areas that we will focus on because that is where the future is.”
Drawing upon experience in international trade, from international bridges to industrial parks in diverse regions including Mexico, South America, China and the Rio Grande Valley, Solis said it’s the community colleges that are now perfectly positioned to provide the next generation of skills providers in the nation.
“Never before in the economic history of the United States has the community college been better poised to providing these skills availability and the skills providers,” he said. “This is where the community college fits. The community college is perfectly positioned for this.”
State Rep. Guillen said that the county’s campus is important in adding to that economic development by ensuring that students at the campus succeed.
“The reason why we are here is because the campus is very important to us,” Guillen said. “It’s important to the Starr County community and the success of our students who attend the campus.”