UHV president says campus primed for growth

BY THE NUMBERS

1973: Year UHV was established13,178: Total degrees awarded575: UHV employees18 to 1: Student/faculty ratio

The University of Houston-Victoria is primed to fulfill its new identity as a premier campus for students seeking a college town experience.

That was the vision UHV President Phil Castille shared Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s Victoria Partnership meeting.

"If you're in Kingwood, Katy, in east Houston, and you would like your child to have a college town experience, we are it. It's an enviable position to be in, and it's why I took this job," Castille said. "We are far better positioned to take advantage of that niche with the University of Houston than we would be with any other institution."

Castille called the University of Houston system a highly regarded institution nationwide. And UHV is ideally situated to become the main university's hub for students seeking a college experience outside of a metropolitan area, he said.

As UHV looks to celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall, Castille reflected on how the university has changed, particularly during the past two years.

"The university has undergone a sea-change, and that sea-change has been brought about by 18- and 19-year-olds who are on the campus for the first time," Castille said.

Since UHV began welcoming freshmen and sophomores to its campus in 2010, the university's makeup has transformed into one that aims to provide an entire college experience. That means more space dedicated to student services and student life, which has spurred plans to construct new academic buildings and a sophomore dorm to complement two freshmen dorms.

The president has presented full-steam UHV's plans for expansion, even in the midst of a high-profile community group that would like to see Texas A&M take over the university.

On that, Castille doesn't shy away but insists on focusing on plans for UHV.

"People ask me what do you think about the events of last year," he said. "My answer is, 'I was in Hawaii. You know more than me.'"

Castille came to UHV in August after leaving the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where he was vice chancellor for academic affairs.

In a short lull between his presentation and question-and-answer session, Castille brought a little humor to the ongoing talk about an A&M takeover. There seems to be plenty of questions for John Sharp when he comes to town, Castille said to laughter, referring to the Texas A&M chancellor.

The audience didn't raise any questions about A&M, though, and took to exploring more details of Castille's plans for UHV.

For an economic-minded audience, Castille had touched on ways the university seeks to be a partner in a thriving region.

He mentioned hopes to expand UHV's scholarship program, which is where business leaders can support the university, he said.

"We would like to grow our university by also attracting the best and the brightest," Castille said. Scholarships "give students a reason to want to come to Victoria as a destination university."

Castille also talked about hopes to grow UHV's athletics programs, which will require further expansion off-campus.

Bret Baldwin, 48, recently returned to Victoria after a several-year hiatus abroad. He said he's encouraged by the direction he sees UHV and Victoria headed.

A consultant for Straet Global Consulting, Baldwin asked Castille what the university is doing to recruit more international students. Castille revealed he's looking at plans that would, for example, provide an attractive option for international students at Houston Community College to finish a degree at UHV.

"In order to facilitate that global process, it starts with education," Baldwin said. "I really believe Victoria is positioned for globalization."