Working together toward a more engaged campus
As UT Arlington continues growing into a more vibrant, active campus community, I’m proud of what we have achieved over the last few years. But an active campus isn’t reserved for current students; alumni have a role to play.
And what is an engaged campus? What does "active" mean?
Let me offer some examples.
One definition of an active campus means no shortage of things to do. Certainly this is true at UT Arlington, and alumni participation in events has never been higher.
Our Music Department will hold 11 concerts this semester—an average of one per week. Our volleyball team plays 17 home matches, including hosting the Southland Conference Tournament, and our men’s and women’s basketball teams play at home several times before the Christmas break. Our Theatre Arts Department gives a dozen performances.
Our Alumni Gala is among the biggest events on campus. This is an excellent way for our alumni to stay connected.
The number of activities across campus will grow as we expand the Activities Building and continue our efforts to construct a Special Events Center. The latter will attract a variety of activities and free Texas Hall to host more suitable events.
But certainly an active campus means more than just attending events. It also means doing your share to help others succeed and giving back, not only to our University but to our community.
I was extremely impressed by the outpouring of compassion from the UT Arlington community for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We enrolled more than 200 students displaced from universities throughout the Gulf Coast, waived out-of-state tuition and deferred tuition bills and transcript requirements. We also conducted a blood drive, a campuswide fundraiser and other charitable campaigns to help victims in local shelters and beyond.
Francis Bacon wrote that “in charity, there can be no excess.” Our response as a university and as individuals in these times of great need is in that spirit.
In June, the Texas State Employee Charitable Campaign awarded UT Arlington its Top Pacesetter and Top Per Capita awards, recognizing that we had the highest percentage increase in SECC giving and the highest gift amount per capita of any university in Texas.
In recent weeks, I have corresponded with alumni who are curing diseases in Africa, educating our children at home and working in shelters and charities across the world. An engaged campus produces engaged alumni. We have thousands.
Another sign of an active campus is its celebration of traditions. Our second annual Commencement Convocation in May will bid farewell to the Class of 2006. One of our most prominent alumni, Gen. Tommy Franks, will keynote the event. Earlier this semester, we held our second MavsMeet convocation, which welcomed to campus the Class of 2009.
For the first time last spring, Academic Excellence Week recognized our best and brightest—students and professors alike. We’ll do that again in April, and distinguished Harvard fellow and UT Arlington alumnus Roland Fryer (see story) will address the assembly.
Last fall, we initiated Web chats so students could communicate directly with me in a forum that affords them the anonymity to be candid. A series of strategic conversations across constituencies let the campus community speak its mind while the provost and I listened.
In the national elections last November, our faculty, staff and students could, for the first time, vote on campus. The response was so overwhelming that we hope our University Center becomes a permanent polling site.
As you can see, UT Arlington, like never before, is an active campus. But we aren’t satisfied. In fact, we’re just getting started. We must reach new heights and achieve new goals together.
UT Arlington must never be an isolated campus. An active campus has strong connections to its neighbors—in our case, the city of Arlington and the Fort Worth/Dallas area—with industry leaders and corporations, and with local school systems, sister universities and medical centers. Taking pride in our University means taking pride in our partners.
Our engagement and enthusiasm are only real if they continue to grow. We don’t live in a vacuum, but in a rich and unique environment. We must build from the inside out. Engagement must become something everybody can embrace and achieve together.
— James D. Spaniolo