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Higher Education Center At McAllen Names New Leadership, Sets Enrollment Goal

Click here to read the original news article by Texas A&M Today.

Texas A&M University has named Manuel “Manny” M. Vela as vice president and chief operating officer of its Higher Education Center at McAllen, effective May 15.

“Over the next five years, we will double our enrollment at the Higher Education Center at McAllen, build a new nursing facility and expand our academic offerings,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, president of Texas A&M University. “Manny Vela, our new vice president and chief operating officer for Texas A&M University’s McAllen Higher Education Center, will play a critical role in advancing these goals. We are happy to have him join our leadership team in McAllen.”

Vela comes to the university from the Valley Baptist Health System, where he has served as president and CEO since 2012.

“Manny’s role with the university will complement and collaborate with other System schools and agencies across South Texas, strengthening our collective ability to serve the state,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “I’ve known Manny for years, and I know he will propel the McAllen center forward as the university targets aggressive growth goals.”

As a native of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), Vela said he’s thrilled to be a part of Texas A&M’s efforts to create educational opportunities for the people of South Texas.

“We are currently facing a staffing crisis across multiple industries in our state,” he said. “It’s imperative that industry and education continue to collaborate on strategies to address this crisis. I believe the challenge in the RGV is that we still have a significant pool of untapped talent just waiting for opportunities. It’s my commitment to collaborate with every single individual, institution or entity to create strategies that will lead to the expansion of opportunities in our area. I was born and raised in the RGV and couldn’t be prouder to join these efforts.”

In his new role, Vela will be based in McAllen but report directly to President Banks. He will focus on complementing existing leadership in three primary areas: operations/infrastructure for the goal of doubling enrollment by 2028; the Colonias Program which focuses on improving quality of life along the Texas-Mexico border; and university collaboration with South Texas communities and other Texas A&M System entities’ leadership in the region.

Now in its fifth year of operation, the Higher Education Center at McAllen offers undergraduate programs in agricultural economics, biomedical sciences, construction science, education, human resource development, engineering, maritime business administration and public health. The center currently enrolls 340 students.

Recently the university announced its School of Nursing and School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are planning for program expansions at the McAllen campus. During a news conference in McAllen, Banks showed renderings of the new facility which is slated for construction starting in 2024. Vela said this growth is emblematic of the university and system’s commitment to the RGV.

“By joining Chancellor Sharp, President Banks and the team at McAllen, I get to join forces with a group of phenomenal folks who have committed significant resources to meet our goal of creating educational opportunities for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley,” he said. “In this case, creating the opportunity to attend Texas A&M, and right here in McAllen, Texas.”

Prior to becoming president and CEO of Valley Baptist, Vela served as the health system’s senior vice president and chief legal officer (2003-2011). During his tenure, he was involved with a variety of major corporate transactions, including the purchase of Brownsville Medical Center by Valley Baptist and 2004 and a joint venture with Vanguard Health Systems in 2011.

Vela is from Harlingen, Texas, and obtained both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

Prior to working at Valley Baptist, he was a partner with his father Moises V. Vela in the Vela and Vela Law Firm. He is active in many local civic, state and national organizations.