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TAMUK's new president is back home: 'We look forward to his vision and his leadership'

Robert Vela jumps from job as president of San Antonio College to president of Texas A&M - Kingsville
TAMUK prez.png
Posted at 9:46 AM, Jul 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 11:46:03-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A homecoming for Texas A&M University - Kingsville comes this summer in the form of one man.

Robert Vela is no stranger to the Texas Coastal Bend but the title he now carries is only days old. As of June 15, he is the university’s president.

Enrollment and student safety are top priorities for Dr. Vela as he rejoins the Javelina family.

“Bring your students here, and we’ll take care of them” is his promise. “I owe it all to this university,” said Dr. Vela.

Vela received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at TAMUK and has since paved a two-decades-long career in higher education.

His latest accomplishments were achieved during his time as president of San Antonio College. Last year, Vela helped secure $16 million for the college; $1 million of it came from the Aspen Prize – awarded for community college excellence. The rest of the dollars were donated by MacKenzie Scott, a billionaire philanthropist.

As Vela now takes the reins over TAMUK, he hopes students know that they come first.

"We have to be a safe learning environment – from every corner of the institution, we have to feel that” he said.

In late April, students held an on-campus protest of sexual assault. The university has 16 reported incidents between fall 2021 and spring 2022. Three of those reports went on to become formal complaints.

Students feel there are many other cases that have gone unreported; they are working with university staff to make school grounds safer. One new safety measure that will be implemented concerns light posts.

“We’ve talked about lighting," Vela said. "So, [we are] walking the students through the campus [asking] where are some of those dark spots you want to see?”

Vela also wants to see a rise in the number of enrolled students. The university is still recovering from the pandemic’s hit to those counts which include a drop of 540 students from fall 2020 to fall 2021.

“Everyone at this university needs to be focused on enrollment,” he said. “And enrollment consists of onboarding new students, but also ensuring that students stay on their path to graduate."

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