here are pivotal moments
in a university’s development, when a convergence of accomplishment,
opportunity, and potential position it for even greater things. Regardless of
how you define it—the tipping point, the critical mass, a sea change, a
paradigm shift—The University of Texas at Arlington has reached that moment.
The extraordinary success our university is experiencing is nothing short of a renaissance. The year just completed could be summed up in one word—growth. By every measure, UT Arlington is bigger, better, and more productive than ever before.
This is no small achievement considering we continue to set the bar higher and higher. We are not content with incremental change or maintaining the status quo. We are focused on achieving the success that we demand of ourselves and that our students, alumni, and friends have come to expect. Each day, each milestone fuels our mission to become a major national research university, a Tier One institution in every respect and by every measure.
Nowhere is our success more evident than in our strategic initiative to increase our student enrollment without sacrificing quality. This year we experienced unprecedented, double-digit growth with enrollment reaching almost 33,000 students. While the numbers are remarkable, the academic quality of our incoming students is even more impressive. We continue to enroll a diverse mix of students who increasingly rank at the top of their high school classes and who are attracted to an outstanding, first-choice institution like UT Arlington.
We welcomed this year’s class as no other class before them—with the support and guidance of our new University College. Housed in Ransom Hall, our oldest building located in the heart of campus, University College brings together a wide range of services, including academic advising, tutoring, and counseling, that are essential to student success. Provost Donald R. Bobbitt, our deans, faculty, and staff are deeply committed to improving retention and graduation rates, and University College is the focal point of their efforts.
Our faculty members continue to be among the most outstanding in all of higher education. This year we recruited 75 talented new faculty from some of the best institutions in the nation, each bringing a distinctive expertise to our academic enterprise. They join an outstanding cadre of colleagues who excel in the classroom and who are extremely competitive in securing external research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and other public and private sources. Total research expenditures have nearly tripled since 2004, surpassing $63 million this year. Of that, $42.9 million was for restricted research—an important factor in terms of state investment in our Tier One initiative.
UT Arlington’s commitment to cutting-edge research is best demonstrated in our state-of-the-art Engineering Research Building, which was completed in fall 2010 and is the centerpiece of a spectacular new Engineering and Science Research Complex. Dedicated to engineering and science laboratories and instruction, this new complex significantly elevates the University’s research profile and capacity. The students and faculty members who build their careers here will generate new ideas and create new knowledge that will define the next generation of research at UT Arlington.
Just a few blocks down the street, UT Arlington has embarked on its largest and most ambitious campus construction project to date—the College Park District. Spanning more than 20 acres and totaling more than $160 million, the emerging district comprises three major components. At its hub is College Park Center, a 6,500-seat special events center that will serve as the new home court for basketball and volleyball, and will host commencements and a wide variety of community events. To the north is College Park, a mixed-use development that will include a residence hall and apartments, retail shops and restaurants, an 1,800-space parking facility, and a new University welcome center. And to the south is The Green at College Park, an inviting new park for use by the entire UT Arlington community.
Progress of this magnitude could not happen in a vacuum. Our growth and success are tied inextricably to that of our city, and we couldn’t ask for a stronger partnership or a better model for town-gown relationships. Together we are creating a true college town environment that is changing the face of downtown Arlington.
UT Arlington is showing significant gains in philanthropy, which is rapidly becoming part of the fabric of the University. Private giving reached an all-time high this year, with the University generating $15.2 million in gifts and pledges, more than doubling the previous year’s total. These outstanding donations included the largest cash commitment in the University’s history—$5 million from Carrizo Oil & Gas in support of College Park Center. Carrizo also is the University’s natural gas partner, and royalties from natural gas production are being leveraged with private giving to increase UT Arlington’s endowment, which now stands at more than $68 million. The University is in the early planning stages for a comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Yet, even as we pause to celebrate our extraordinary success, we are confronted by the prospect, if not the certainty, that UT Arlington will face significant budget challenges in the months ahead. These are sober times for all of us, as the Texas Legislature encounters the largest budget deficit in the state’s history during the 2011 session. It is a reality that UT Arlington will engage with thoughtful determination. We will continue to maintain our focus and manage our resources responsibly as we strive to become more agile and efficient—without compromising quality.
Finally, the title of this year’s President’s Report, Extraordinary Success, has a particular relevance for us. Earlier this year we conducted a campus-wide initiative to more clearly articulate the University’s purpose. We were not surprised by the outcome because it is authentic in every way: The purpose of The University of Texas at Arlington is to continually develop real solutions and prepare real people for extraordinary success in the real world.
Our purpose is crystal clear. We seek to transform UT Arlington into a major national research university while achieving extraordinary success each step of the way.
James D. Spaniolo