UTA Magazine
Educational allies
Plans unveiled to strengthen partnerships with UT Dallas

The University of Texas at Arlington wants to be the area’s leading research university. UT Dallas does, too.

But instead of dividing the resources that each needs to get there, top administrators at both schools say they’ll work together to attract research grants, exceptional faculty and scholarly students.

Photo of teleconference between UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo and UT Dallas President David Daniel
UT Dallas President David Daniel (on screen) and UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo (sitting at head of table) use a Swap Day teleconference to announce 10 areas of collaboration.

UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo and David Daniel, his counterpart at UTD, call it a win for the universities, The University of Texas System and all of North Texas. Dallas/Fort Worth is the nation’s largest area without a prominent research university, often called a “flagship.”

“We’re going to capitalize on each other’s strengths (because) this region has not gotten its share of higher education appropriations,” Dr. Daniel said. “President Spaniolo and I both understand that the best way for UTD and UT Arlington to achieve their full potential is by working together.”

In Texas, only UT Austin and Texas A&M are considered flagship institutions. Some educational leaders insist that this puts Texas behind states like California, Florida, Massachusetts and New York in research dollars, patents and technology transfer and in luring the best scientists and entrepreneurs.

“UT Arlington and UT Dallas both need to succeed, and the best way for them to do that is by collaborating,” Spaniolo said. “We believe we will be able to accomplish much more this way than we would by going it alone.”

To illustrate their willingness to work together, Spaniolo and Daniel swapped roles for a day last fall. The event put each president symbolically at the helm of the other’s university and included meetings with student leaders, faculty members and administrators.

It was a short drive. UT Arlington and UTD are only 35 miles apart. Both have nationally recognized colleges of engineering and science, both are considered emerging institutions, and both feature numerous distinguished faculty researchers.

There are also key differences. UT Arlington is a comprehensive university, while UTD is more narrowly focused and specifically defined. UT Arlington’s enrollment is also twice as large.

10-Point Plan

UT Arlington and UT Dallas recently announced these collaborative efforts:

  • Each will contribute $125,000 to stimulate joint research projects.
  • Each will enhance research collaboration by sharing ideas and equipment and applying jointly for grants.
  • The two universities’ materials science and engineering programs will work together on research projects.
  • The universities will allow distinguished faculty to hold concurrent adjunct positions. Also, students from one institution may take some courses at the other university more easily.
  • The universities’ development boards will explore joint fund-raising opportunities.
  • Their alumni associations will work together to educate the public regarding legislation that would benefit both institutions.
  • Presidents Spaniolo and Daniel will visit the congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., together to promote higher education in North Texas.
  • The presidents will make recruiting trips together.
  • The universities will sponsor a joint presidential lecture series.
  • Top administrators at the universities will meet regularly to explore research opportunities, ways to collaborate and to monitor joint projects.

The notion that collaboration allows one university to contribute resources the other may lack sparked a 2002 swap between the presidents of longtime rivals Texas A&M and UT Austin—a stunt that ultimately resulted in more publicity than promise.

Daniel said this won’t happen with UT Arlington and UTD. “We will follow up,” he said, “to make sure that the ideas do come to fruition.”

In fact, the two presidents used a Swap Day teleconference to announce 10 specific areas of collaboration. Already, UT Arlington and UTD partner on projects in science- and technology-based fields like nanotechnology, brain imaging, robotics, computer science and electrical engineering.

They’re collaborators in the UT TeleCampus program. They plan to submit a joint grant application to study pain levels in sickle cell patients. Both universities work with The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas on projects, including an advanced medical imaging center that opens in the spring.

“This is not a beginning, and it’s not just the continuation of the status quo,” Spaniolo said. “This is a new era of heightened respect and cooperation for both schools. It is important for the future of both universities and an absolute necessity for the economic growth of the North Texas region and the entire state.”

Daniel: “Is Harvard any worse off because MIT is literally right across the street? No. Is Berkeley any worse off because of Stanford? No; they both work together to benefit the Bay Area. The world of research is changing to focus on areas of collaboration.”

Daniel called this focus “particularly important and significant, not only to the community at our respective universities but the community at large in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.”

Spaniolo takes it a step further.

“We have a great responsibility to students, taxpayers and the entire region to leverage our capabilities and to work together,” he said. “We’re looking for real ways to provide value to each other and to our students, faculty and staff as well as, of course, the citizens of Texas.”

— Danny Woodward

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