TAMUK president discusses past and future plans

TAMUK president discusses past and future plans

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Dr. Steven Tallant at the Capitol for Kingsville Day,. where he spoke in support of a new music building.

Five short years ago, TAMUK was a campus without lush scenery and many of the buildings that students now utilize on the daily basis. Much of that has changed under the help of the university’s president, Dr. Steven Tallant. Tallant, a native of Texas, previously served as the provost for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He said he found it important to be a school president in his home state. “I’m a Texan, and I had been away from Texas for a long time,” he said. “A lot of companies wanted me to be president of a university, and I said I’d only go back to Texas.” Tallant also sought to serve at a school that was struggling rather than one that was already in a good scenario. TAMUK fit that description. “I’m not a person who likes to be a maintainer, I’m a person who likes to solve problems and I’m a person who likes to create change,” he said. “So I wanted an institution that needed help, but I wanted an institution that had bones and a structure that was a good and I wanted an institution with a good history behind it.” “What I thought we lacked was a plan to move forward and we had kind of been stuck for 30 years. Not academically, but in other ways,” Tallant added. At the time, TAMUK had a barren landscape with little to look at. One of Tallant’s first priorities was to fix that issue by creating a beautification committee that added grass and lights to the campus. “It’s my belief that this is a beautiful campus, and it had been neglected,” Tallant said. “If we want to attract students and make them proud of themselves, the campus had to reflect that.” Perhaps the most obvious changes Tallant has overseen, however, are the new buildings that have been built in the past few years, which includes Lucio Hall, Mesquite Village West, the Student Recreation Center and Javelina Dining Hall. On the academic end, the university saw a number of new degrees, like the vet tech program and a gas engineering program. Another recent addition to TAMUK has been the Living Learning Communities that are designed so students with similar interests live together. “I thought that students needed choices in their lives and their lifestyles, and we started creating the Living Learning Communities,” Tallant said. All of these changes have contributed to a 27 percent increase in student enrollment since Tallant was named TAMUK’s president. “We made a five year plan and that’s all come to fruition now,” Tallant said. Looking forward. A big focus for the university last year was getting a tuition revenue bond (TRB) from the state legislature in order to construct a new music building. Unfortunately, the legislature was unable to agree, passing different versions of the bill, leading to gridlock. “The Senate had a version, and the house had a version,” Tallant said. “There were minor differences, and the author of the bill, Judith Zaffirini, pulled the bill the day before the session was over. So nobody in the state of Texas got a TRB.” Fortunately for the university, that’s where the bad news ends. This year, TAMUK led the state in the biggest increase in formula funding, which helped Tallant authorize a raise for faculty and staff. “What we’ve done is give a 4 percent merit raise starting September,” he said. “We’re going to

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invest in academic programs and faculty because that’s what we have to do now. We’ve spent five years to get our recruitment growing, increasing our retention and graduation rates. Now we have to take care of our core and faculty.” The biggest focus for the university is to excel academically. “I think this year is one where we’re really excited in our academic initiatives and we have the money to do something different,” Tallant said. New research centers are now open in the Engineering Complex, one of which is the Eagle Ford Center for Research, Education and Outreach. The university has also had to raise admission standards and deny more students last year than in years past, according to Tallant. “We have grown, and at the same time, we have increased our admission standards,” he said. “We denied 1,000 freshmen this year.” Though Tallant has said he is proud of how far along TAMUK has come, it is still only the beginning. “This is just the tip of iceberg,” he said. “We have so much potential here.”

Fares Sabawi
Managing Editor