Gov. Perry signs a bill giving UTHCT authority to grant degrees

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill on June 1 giving The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler the authority to award academic degrees.

The signing took place at the Trane manufacturing facility in Tyler, where Gov. Perry also signed new workers compensation legislation. The Texas Legislature passed the UTHSCT bill during the 79th session of the Texas Legislature, which ended May 30.

“This is a great day for The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler and for all East Texans. By giving UTHSCT the authority to award degrees, Gov. Perry and the Legislature have expanded academic opportunities for people throughout the region. We want to be able to give the students in East Texas the opportunity to get higher-level degrees in related health sciences without leaving East Texas,” UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said.

“UTHSCT has been the only institution in The University of Texas System that could not award academic degrees. Now that this barrier is being removed, we will be working with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, area universities and community colleges to see how we can collaborate in awarding degrees,” he said.

Currently, UTHSCT offers two master’s degree programs in conjunction with Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. They are a master’s of science in biotechnology and a master’s of science in environmental science. UTHSCT also collaborates with The University of Texas at Tyler to offer a master’s-level course in pediatric environmental health at UT Tyler.

Anne DeWitt, executive director of the Office of Related Health Sciences, said, “I’m so excited. We will be able to develop collaborations to offer degrees in health sciences that match our expertise in biomedical research, environmental science, occupational health, and responses to biological and chemical hazards,” she said. In fact, one initiative being planned is a master’s degree program in environmental health in collaboration with UT Tyler.

“This certainly is a milestone for the Health Center. It enables us to make major contributions to the academic growth of East Texas and allows us to share the unique knowledge base and skills of our nationally known science faculty,” DeWitt said.

The next step for UTHSCT is to get degree-granting approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, DeWitt said. Then UTHSCT can apply for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits all higher education institutions that award degrees in 11 southern states.

Once these requirements are met, the UTHSCT name can be added to diplomas awarded in the existing collaborative master’s degree programs, DeWitt said.

“The ability to grant degrees will give us an opportunity to support the programs of area higher education institutions. This will consist of partnerships between UTHSCT and other academic institutions. Their faculty and scientists will benefit, too,” she said.

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