MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
Knowledge is a powerful commodity. At The University of Texas at Arlington, it is a natural resource that has been flowing freely for well over a hundred years—and that has accelerated exponentially during the past decade. Witness the thriving research university that UT Arlington has become and the top-tier institution we continue to build.
Regardless of how you define or measure our success, UT Arlington's star is on the rise. Our optimism runs high and our Maverick spirit is unbridled, even as we confront stark realities on many fronts. UT Arlington continues to be challenged by state revenue reductions and federal budget cuts that show no sign of slowing for the foreseeable future. Our approach has been to face these constantly changing economic conditions head on—and to recognize that they are not likely to subside. Far from a downturn or a correction, this is the new economic reality, or as UT Arlington's Distinguished Research Scholar Richard Florida calls it, "the great reset."
With adversity comes opportunity. Despite a volatile external funding environment, the University has fared better than many of its peers. We have been aggressively addressing major challenges for the past several years. We have tackled important issues like affordability, access, efficiency, productivity, and student success. We have kept a laser-sharp focus on our strategic priorities. Our mission to become a nationally recognized research university guides every decision we make, financial or otherwise.
A major source of strength and resilience is that students continue to choose UT Arlington in record numbers. This year was no exception, as the University experienced successive semesters of unprecedented growth. Enrollment reached 33,439 by fall 2011, which is impressive enough, but perhaps even more significant is that the academic quality of our incoming students continues to improve. Almost a third of entering freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and more than two-thirds were in the top 25 percent. In a relatively short time, UT Arlington clearly has become a solid first-choice institution for bright, industrious students eager to earn their college degree at a first-rate university.
Two pivotal appointments in senior academic leadership this year will serve UT Arlington well for years to come. Dr. Ronald L. Elsenbaumer, formerly vice president for research and federal relations, was named provost and vice president for academic affairs. Dr. Elsenbaumer is an accomplished professor and researcher who has served UT Arlington with distinction for the past two decades. And Dr. Jean-Pierre Bardet, previously chair of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California, joined us this year as dean of the College of Engineering. Dr. Bardet is an internationally recognized scientist and a proven academic administrator.
Whether it's providing an unparalleled education for our students or addressing complex societal issues like aging, energy, health care, and national security, UT Arlington is in the business of enhancing the quality of life for North Texas and beyond.
An outstanding faculty is at the heart of any great university. Teachers, scholars, scientists, and mentors, UT Arlington faculty members are at the core of all that we are and all that we do. They routinely receive teaching awards and accolades and 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 sponsored research expenditures continue to soar, reaching $66 million this year.
The University marked a major milestone in its commitment to cutting-edge research this year with the opening of the state-of-the-art Engineering Research Building. This remarkable new complex significantly enhances UT Arlington's research profile and capacity. The labs and classrooms now hum with activity as students and faculty make the most of this extraordinary space, which was designed to provide the next generation of scientists with the environment and tools they need to explore new frontiers in engineering and science.
UT Arlington may well be one of the few institutions in the nation today where progress in facilities and infrastructure is measured not in square footage but in acres. Just a few blocks down the street from the Engineering Research Building, UT Arlington's next major construction milestone is nearing completion and creating a dramatic new skyline. The College Park District—a marvel of architectural design and engineering, a model of partnership between the University and the City of Arlington, and a stunning example of sustainable urban development—spans more than 20 acres and represents an investment of more than $160 million.
At its hub is College Park Center, the 7,000-seat special events center that will serve as our new home court for basketball and volleyball, as well as a venue for commencements, concerts, and a wide variety of community events. It is hard to imagine just how much this new facility will enhance campus life, but we anticipate the change to be profound. Our athletics program, in particular, will turn the page as our teams enter a bold new era of competition. Intercollegiate athletics will bid farewell to games in the venerable Texas Hall and will soon step onto a new stage that includes entry into the Western Athletic Conference.
The final phase of the College Park District will be completed in summer 2012 and features Vandergriff Hall, the Dan Dipert University Welcome Center, retail shops and restaurants, and a massive 1,800-space parking facility. The Green at College Park—a four-acre sustainable park that opened earlier this year—will take on even greater presence as construction fences come down, buildings open their doors, and this part of campus springs to life welcoming residents, neighbors, and visitors.
College Park Center has been a tremendous catalyst, a rallying point, in helping establish a culture of private giving to the University. New gifts and pledges to UT Arlington reached $15 million for the second year in a row. This is a clear indication that our alumni and friends have confidence in UT Arlington and are willing to invest in the University in new and meaningful ways. Planning for the University's first major comprehensive fundraising campaign is well under way.
The title of this year's President's Report is Discovery, a poignant theme for a university that has been dedicated to a mission of self-discovery and transformation for the past few years.
Each passion pursued, each accomplishment earned, each dream fulfilled demonstrates the enormous impact and the unlimited potential that are embodied at UT Arlington. Whether it's providing an unparalleled education for our students or addressing complex societal issues like aging, energy, health care, and national security, UT Arlington is in the business of enhancing the quality of life for North Texas and beyond.
There is no calling more noble—and no business we would rather be in.
James D. Spaniolo