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20131024 LJISD-Cigarroa-visit AF  2780 featureLA JOYA—La Joya High School freshman Gilbert Martinez has had his mind set on leaving the Valley to pursue a career as a pediatrician. But after meeting with University of the Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa last week, Martinez changed his mind.

“It is good to know there will be a school here by the time I graduate,” he said. “Knowing I have this opportunity to stay, I can get my doctorate and not leave home.”

Students from La Joya High School circled around Cigarroa taking advantage of their time with the head of UT, asking questions about the new university and medical school that will be added to the UT system. Cigarroa came down to the Rio Grande Valley Friday to visit with La Joya students as well as students, staff and faculty at the University of Texas Pan-American.

The chancellor opened with remarks about his roots in the medical field and his excitement for creating a medical school in the Valley. He added the school would give opportunities to students who were much like him when he first started his college career.

“It’s bold, and it’s thinking out of the box,” Cigarroa said. “The vision was to combine the wonderful intellect, assets that UT Brownsville and UT Pan Am have to create a new university and a medical school within that university.”

La Joya students’ questions ranged from the new university’s majors, testing scores to gain entrance and name options for the university.

Cigarroa said an estimated seven names are in the works, Jenny La Coste-Caputo, spokeswoman for the UT System, said they would be posting the final list of names over the next few months. She added students could follow the UT System on their social media networks to assist in surveys when choosing the final name.

La Joya HS National Honor Society member Esteban Chapa, a senior, said the talk with Cigarroa was enlightening, and he felt honored to have the chance to ask a few questions.

The NHS member plans on studying to be a psychiatrist. Though he is graduating in 2014 and has plans to attend UT Austin or Stanford University, he hopes to come home and experience college life at the new medical school.

Chapa said he had asked the chancellor about money needed for equipment and resources for UTB and UTPA, and also about the opening date of the medical school. Cigarroa explained the estimated opening date would land in the fall of 2015.

Cigarroa also joked with senior Clarissa Frias, who he said could be a public relations officer for the UT System in the future. Frias said she enjoyed the informal atmosphere of the visit, and was elated to have a person of great importance take the time visit with her campus.

“He (Cigarroa) wanted to visit our school, and wanted to hear the input directly from us,” Frias said. “I wasn’t aware of the medical school. It’s a great feeling to know I can still come back and this university will be here.”

Frias has plans to earn a degree in communications.

Cigarroa recently visited the Valley on Sept. 24, where he met with staff and faculty at UT Brownsville and Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy in Harlingen. According to La Coste-Caputo, the chancellor will be back in the Valley at the end of November, but a campus has not been selected yet for his visit.

The chancellor ended his visit by surprising students and their teachers during class time. Students in science classes were able to greet and meet with the chancellor. Cigarroa said the students were sharp and wished them luck on their journeys through college life.

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