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Texas A&M: Texas A&M President Addresses BCS Chamber On Strengthening Community Partnerships

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Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks joined local business and community leaders Monday at the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet where she detailed plans to broaden and strengthen the university’s community involvement through the new Division of Academic and Strategic Collaborations.

“Our commitment to the communities where our campuses thrive, especially here in Brazos County, has never been stronger,” Banks said. “We are rolling out the maroon carpet and looking forward to engaging more with all of you.”

Banks spoke at the event at the College Station Hilton before an audience of about 600. She discussed Texas A&M’s impact on Brazos County, including the enrollment of more than 67,000 college students in the Brazos Valley; 15 capital projects in progress with a budget of $722.2 million; employing nearly 52,000 workers; and a total economic impact of $2.5 billion on Brazos County for fiscal year 2019-20.

Referring to the current “Golden Age” of Texas A&M, Banks told the audience that realignment in leadership and campus units – the Path Forward – has opened new resources and set the stage for a strong organizational foundation on which to grow the university’s impact.

“It’s a pivotal moment in time for the university,” Banks said. “We are ushering in a new era of success built on providing a transformative education that prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s world.”

Banks said the university is committed to making higher education more relevant, creating opportunities and helping the university to influence society in new ways.

She explained the university is accomplishing this by leveraging four interwoven areas of strength: transformational education; translational research enterprise; connectivity to the state, nation and world; and the unique campus culture, which she described as “celebrating the Aggie way.”

With connectivity as a major strength and opportunity for realizing the university’s vision, Banks highlighted the Division of Academic and Strategic Collaborations, which will facilitate collaboration within the university but also with local communities. She introduced Susan Ballabina as the head of this new division that will further work with the community.

“Our division is a window into the university, helping connect the Texas A&M University experience with our communities in ways that drive creative partnerships and solutions,” said Ballabina, chief external affairs officer and senior vice president of academic and strategic collaborations. “We are deepening our commitment to the community, and we look forward to building on our great relationship with Brazos County and the cities of Bryan and College Station.

The university will be “investing in the future,” Banks said, pointing to several endeavors of note including the new School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts (PVFA) and a proposed Center for Arts Innovation and Learning; the forthcoming Aplin Center, which will allow the public to interact with A&M’s academic culture; and a new small animal hospital.

A partnership between Brazos County and Texas A&M Health will address a community need for a medical examiner’s facility, Banks told the audience. Last week, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the donation of 2.5 acres of land to Brazos County to develop the facility, which will also support new degree programs and career opportunities for students who align with the medical school.

She also talked about the revitalization of Hensel Park being an initiative that crosses between both Bryan and College Station. She invited local business leaders to engage more with university.