Lamar University President Talks to Texas Border Business

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The university started operations to serve the Valley last month

Pictured L-R: Steve Ahlenius, President and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Kenneth Evans, president of Lamar University. Photo taken during the ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening of Lamar University Student Service Center. Photo by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

Texas Border Business

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

Good news! Lamar University celebrated the grand opening of its Student Service Center in McAllen to serve anyone considering enrolling in college. According to Lamar officials, Valley residents from graduating high school students through working adults are welcome to come to the center to learn about higher education opportunities in-person, directly from experts. 

Dr. Kenneth Evans, president of Lamar University (LU), came exclusively to take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony at the grand opening and to mingle with Valley residents and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce welcoming group. The ceremony took place on April 11, 2019.

Evans told Texas Border Business that he became president of Lamar University six years ago. Before taking the helm of this institution, he was the Dean of the College of Business at the University of Oklahoma and the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Missouri. 

He was proud to say that in 2023 Lamar University will celebrate their centennial. “The university started as an engineering, technical-oriented school primarily dedicated to the Gulf Coast industry, principally petrochemical. It continues with a great reputation in the engineering area, chemical engineering, mechanical, and electrical.” 

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He said, “About 2008/2009 we began to expand our operation into the online environment principally with master’s degrees in education and leadership, counseling, and educational doctorates. Now we have 6,000 students online out of our 15,000 students the university serves.” Currently, according to Dr. Evans,there are 9,000 students as the resident population in Beaumont, Texas. He pointed out that they are the only four-year institution within an 80-mile radius. 

Lamar University officials began exploring an opportunity in McAllen in the area of nursing, looking at helping RNs become BSN’s (Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree) to help some of the hospitals with the ratio of BSN’s that they need for funding purposes. “That initiative struggled a bit in terms of some of the issues in qualifying students. As we were looking at where there was an opportunity to provide online education that is accessible and affordable to an area that was underserved, McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley was an odd missed opportunity. We thought we could offer a service that was meaningful to the population,” he stated. 

The Lamar University Student Service Center is now open for business in the Shops at 29 Shopping Mall, located at 2802 West Expressway 83 in McAllen. There are about six, and sometimes seven people in this location at any given point in time focused on online preparation, helping students understand how to get online and use the online facility. “There are folks here that are going to be advising them on the curriculum and there is some career counseling that we’ll do as well, because it’s critical for the student to see what the opportunities are like.”

Will you be targeting students in Mexico?

Response: “Well, any student who can meet the requirements for admission would certainly be somebody that we would be interested in talking with and providing an opportunity.” He also said that they are looking at helping students with dual credits. “There are the students that are in high school looking for qualified post-secondary credits while also completing their high school degree.” He said, “Students that are transferring from community colleges, we have a large transfer population at Lamar.”

Evans added that the online opportunity makes a great deal of sense to educate people in place, while they can continue to work, many of them are working for part-time, and then also be able to access an affordable, high quality first, secondary education. 

Do you have projections of success in South Texas?

Response: “Well, the numbers would suggest, because the SMSA is about 1.5 million people, just on this side of the border. So, the opportunity here is tremendous. I can’t give you an actual number, but we wouldn’t be here if we’re not seeing the area as an opportunity to serve.”

Before his career in education, Evans worked in business for a while. “I owned my own construction company for a while, and I was reasonably successful at that. Then I used the funds that I was able to secure to afford to go back for more education “Then I worked in marketing for some time after I finished my MBA, and then I got my Ph.D. in business. I’ve been in education ever since.” 

Some of the most successful careers online are criminal justice, business, nursing, general education, and undergraduate degrees. “We also have students that are pursuing degrees in computer science. One of our engineering degree products, industrial engineering, is entirely accessible online as well.”

As a nationally ranked University, LU currently offers more than 100 programs of study, with the Student Service Center emphasizing on-campus and online bachelor’s completion programs in business administration, communications, nursing, criminal justice and more, as well as graduate degrees in business, education, and nursing. Online programs offer the flexibility of multiple class start dates and the convenience of paying by the course. 

Evans said, “Beyond the fact that we’re excited to be here. I think this is a great opportunity for us to play a substantive role in the Rio Grande area. We want to be a partner here, and we’re looking forward to a successful relationship.”

Rodriguez with Victor Alaniz, the designated Subject Matter Expert for business/undergraduate at the Center

Editor’s note:

Lamar University Student Service Center shared exciting news with Texas Border Business on May 13, 2019, they have accepted their first student: Linda Rodriguez, who will begin course work for her Bachelor of Science in Sociology.

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