The University of Texas at Arlington

University Faculty and Associates

 

Minutes

 

            The Spring Meeting of the University Faculty and Associates was held at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, 2005, in the E.H. Hereford University Center Rosebud Theatre.  President James D. Spaniolo presided.

            Provost Dana Dunn introduced a video which celebrates research excellence and achievements at UTA.

 

[Video focusing on Research at UTA was aired.]

 

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT. 

The University of Texas at Arlington has a great deal to be proud of in the area of research.  Our scientists, scholars, and artists are internationally renowned.  The work conducted in our laboratories, studios and classrooms is making an important contribution, not only to the intellectual development of our students and disciplines, but also to the betterment of society.  While the video only has time to focus on a few important contributions, it does demonstrate the tremendous breadth of contributions our university makes in fields as divergent as nanotechnology and glass blowing and to fields as central to our everyday lives as health care education and politics.  Simply put, The University of Texas at Arlington is a world class university and a world leader in many fields.  You will be hearing and seeing much more about our branding and key messages project in the weeks and months ahead.

Last fall at this meeting, I noted that UTA welcomed, not only its largest student enrollment in history, but also the largest group of new faculty.  The faculty who joined us were our most impressive single group of faculty to join us at one time.  I’m pleased to report that next fall, we will welcome another 35 colleagues to campus and their credentials are equally impressive.  For example, Dr. Richard Billo joins us as associate dean of engineering and a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.  Dr. Billo comes to us from Oregon State University where he currently serves as an Intel Faculty Fellow and the Coordinator for the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.  Professor Tuncay Aktosun of Mississippi State will join the Mathematics Department.  Dr. Aktosun’s research in applied mathematics and differential equations has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.  Dr. Kris Wilson, currently at UT Austin, will be joining our Department of Communication as an associate professor of journalism.  Professor Wilson will join our faculty with years of both academic and industry experience where he has participated as a television anchor as well as a news producer.  There are many more you will be hearing about in the months ahead.  Hires of this quality are important to keep pace with our growing student enrollment to provide important replacements for retiring and departing faculty and to, more importantly, provide the women and men necessary to continue to advance our already high research profile.

We are not only bringing more new faculty to campus, we are also initiating concerted efforts to provide better support for our new colleagues.  This year, following a recommendation from the Committee on the Status of Women and Minorities, the Office of the Provost launched a new Faculty Mentoring Program.  This program matched senior UTA faculty with those in their first three years on a voluntary basis.  The early reports are that it has been a tremendous success and I would like to thank those of you that participated in this program.  We will continue the program next year and will expand its scope, both in terms of size and programming, and we will be responsive to the feedback we’ve received from this year’s participants. 

            In a similar vein, we recently had a conversation with the Academy of Distinguished Teachers about what we can do to provide greater support to faculty to improve teaching.  While limited resources exist across the campus, we should and we will do more to support teaching development and improvement.  As the research video attests, scholarly excellence at UTA is an integral part of our university’s mission.

            For some time we have needed a better vehicle for communicating with our campus and external audiences about our research achievements.  In the fall, we are going to initiate a new UTA research magazine designed to showcase the breadth and excellence of our scholarly achievements.  We expect it to be an effective tool for highlighting the great work conducted at UTA.

            UTA has come a long way but we still have progress to make over the next few years to become a major nationally recognized research university.  That is our mission, to become a major nationally recognized research university where ground breaking research is synergistic with outstanding teaching.  Our students have the privilege of being taught by scholars who are creating and applying new knowledge.

            An important indicator of a university’s research prowess is its annual expenditures on highly competitive federally sponsored programs.  In 2004, UTA increased its federally sponsored research expenditures by almost 40% over the previous year.  And we will continue to significantly increase this number each year.  Last July, UTA was selected over the University of Houston to lead the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, a 5.7 million dollar per year U.S. Department of Commerce program.  UT Arlington’s selection as the lead institution helps identify us as a leader in manufacturing, research and development in the state and will lead to even more funding opportunities.  Within the last year, two major federally funded programs were awarded to our faculty in Physics.  In January, a southwest consortium lead by UTA, with principal investigator Professor Kaushik De from Physics, was selected as a new national NSF funded supercomputing center for the U.S. Atlas Program, an international high energy physics program.  Funding is at the level of 3.2 million dollars over five years with the possibility of increasing to 5 million over 5 years.  The other two teams selected already existed, a Boston University/Harvard team and a University of Chicago/University of Indiana team.  I think this says something about UTA’s reputation in this area.  It truly marks the path for the kind of national and international recognition not just that we’re striving for, but that we deserve.  Also, UTA’s physics Professor Ping Liu was recently awarded a 3.2 million dollar grant for 5 years from the Department of Defense under the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative.  UTA is again the lead institution with collaborators from Brown, Georgia Tech, University of Maryland and Florida State.  This is just a few of the most recent successes.  It is these types of large scale activities focused around visible centers of excellence that will have a major impact on research and the reputation of UTA. 

            A second key ingredient of research success is our graduate students.  In particular, a key measure of an institution’s status is the number of doctoral degrees granted each year.  Since 2000, we’ve increased the number of doctoral students by 38%.  We will continue to increase both the quantity and quality of our graduate students by allocating more funds for their support.  This fall, we are taking an important step in this direction by providing fellowships designed to offset designated tuition and fees for doctoral level GRAs in science and engineering.

            During the past year we have remained active at improving the campus infrastructure which will enhance our teaching and scholarship and improve the overall appearance of the campus.  Our new physics and chemistry building will provide much needed laboratory space.  The new facility will also house a state of the art planetarium.  The Physics Department has already hired the director for the new planetarium, Dr. Robert Bonadurer, previously of the Minnesota Planetarium.  We expect this planetarium will bring thousands of new visitors to our campus every year.  Once the Chemistry and Physics Departments have relocated, we will begin renovation of their vacated spaces to create additional classrooms, offices, and laboratories.     Across campus, we just recently held the grand opening for the Studio Arts Center.  I strongly urge you to make the time to visit these impressive studios which were designed by the artists who are using them.  Surrounding a large courtyard, students interact with faculty and studios dedicated to printmaking, painting, sculpture, metals, glass blowing, neon and other mediums.  At the entrance leading to the courtyard, is a gallery that exhibits student work that also serves to attract the public to the important, creative work that we are doing at UTA.

            As we speak, students are voting on a referendum that will lead to enhancing the capacity and attractiveness of our campus.  This Student Life Initiative, championed by the Student Congress, would include an 18 million dollar expansion and renovation of the Activities Building.  The Student Life Initiative would also help fund the operating cost for the proposed Special Events Center.  The Special Events Center, which would be home to our men’s and women’s basketball team, our volleyball team and Movin’ Mavs basketball team, would significantly change the climate and life on the campus.  This facility would have multiple purposes both on campus and off campus.  It would be widely used by those including the Arlington Independent School District as well as the Arlington Convention Bureau.  It could be used for sporting events, concerts, lectures, graduation ceremonies and convocations.  This center would be a magnate as well as spawn much needed retail development around the perimeter of the campus. 

            There’s another project on the horizon.  There has been a vision of having a bell tower on campus for many years.  We’re working on a new version of that vision to serve as a central focal point for our campus, a clock tower.  Most campuses have a physical symbol which focuses the attention of the university community.  While still in the preliminary discussion stage for this, projects like this are necessary to build traditions.  A graduate class in architecture is providing the intellectual and creative juices for bringing together a proposal.  My goal is to find a way to fund the project with private donor dollars.

            A final building project is a new engineering research building which would significantly expand our engineering facilities.  We currently have a request pending for a tuition revenue bond before the Texas Legislature.  We believe this expansion is necessary to provide critical research, office and teaching space to our growing engineering departments.

            Facility planning for the campus also continues.  We will soon be announcing the firm that has been selected to update our campus facilities and our campus master plan to reflect our recent additions and our future plans.  We also continue the challenging task of keeping our current buildings in working order.  In January we moved our computing data center from the basement of Davis Hall to a building close to UTA’s Automated Research and Robotics Institute to provide room for expansion.  This summer we will close University Hall for approximately two months while we install fire suppression equipment and remove asbestos.  We recognize that this will be inconvenient for those of you who office, work and access services in University Hall.  I want to thank you for your cooperation, patience, and understanding for this critically necessary project which will be completed at the end of the Summer.

            Last fall, we announced that we would begin to replace our antiquated student information system with a new system called MyMav.  I’m pleased to report that this project is proceeding on schedule.  Officials from OIT, Academic Advising, Student Enrollment Services, and Accounting and Business Services have been working diligently to make sure our transition to the new system is a smooth one.  To date much of the work on the project has been behind the scenes.  By the time we gather again in the fall, we will have more concrete results to share with the campus and will begin to train the campus community on this new system. 

            Before the implementation of the MyMav system, we will make a significant change in the way we conduct day-to-day business with our students.  For several years now, e-mail has been considered an official means of communication between administration and faculty.  Beginning in the fall, we will make e-mail our official communication with students as well.  We have recently expanded our server capacity to accommodate the anticipated increase in usage of student e-mail accounts.  In the fall, tuition bills, academic advising notices, scholarship and financial award notices and other business related communications will now be delivered to student e-mail accounts instead of their home mailing address.  This will allow us to save postage and printing costs and increase the efficiency of delivering important information to students.  It acknowledges that e-mail is a way of life in terms of communicating in the twenty-first century.

            Let me say a word about the Texas Legislature.  The House and Senate bills related to Higher Education Appropriation are significantly different.  The Senate version provides more dollars to higher education.  However, it uses a new funding formula that reduces the amount of money we would receive for classes in engineering, education and nursing.  This is not something we have looked upon favorably and we have spoken in opposition to changing the formula.  The House version provides fewer dollars but uses the old formula, the one that we would prefer.  We would like to see a compromise which includes the Senate dollars distributed by using the House’s formula.  We’ll see how close we get to that ideal dream in the next few weeks.

            Given the uncertainty surrounding the Legislature process, we do not have definite word about the amount of money that will be available for merit raises.  We expect to have a merit pool available for faculty and staff and we have directed administrative offices to conduct merit evaluations so that when the pool becomes available the appropriate adjustments can be made.  It is likely that this exercise will not be completed until sometime this summer.

            We continue to recognize that salaries are not as competitive as we want them to be and believe that providing competitive salaries for our faculty and staff is a high priority.  This year, for the first time, our most research active faculty received either a one-time research excellence award or a supplement to their professional development account.  The total for these supplements was a million dollars.  I recognize that these awards are not a substitute for a permanent increase in salary.  However, the Provost and I believe that they demonstrate our commitment to act, not just to talk, about salary competitiveness.  It also recognizes that excellence can be rewarded in many creative, yet tangible, ways. 

            Contrary to what you may have read, the tuition increase that was recently approved is consistent with the Board of Regents pledge to keep tuition increases modest this year at five percent.  The tuition increase for most students is at or below five percent and for some it could be much less.  A student taking 3 or 6 hours will have an increase of 5%.  A student taking 9 hours will also have an increase of 5%.  A student who takes 15 hours will see an increase of slightly less than 5%.  Only students taking from 10-13 hours will see increases higher than 5% and we’re hopeful that many of these students will add one additional course to speed their time to graduation which is in the interest of the state of Texas as well as the interest of our students.  We also provide students the opportunity to receive a discount if they pay their tuition on time.  Students who take 30 hours per academic year and earn a 2.25 grade point average will earn a $200 rebate.  I’m appreciative to the members of the tuition review committee for their thoughtful and conscientious review of our tuition proposals and their contribution to UTA.  This modest tuition will help us maintain our momentum in building a stronger, more vibrant university.

            During the Fall Semester, the Provost and I held a number of strategic conversations where we solicited input from faculty, staff, students and members of the community on a variety of issues.  The comments from these conversations were used to guide our redrafting of the university’s planning priorities.  The new priorities were shared with the campus community for reaction.  Faculty Senate was especially helpful in drafting those proposed priorities.  After a comment period, I adopted the priorities that will guide our planning for the next academic year.    While the campus was revising planning priorities, the Long Range Planning Committee conducted a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the university.  Three weeks ago, I joined the provost, the deans, our vice president for communications and our vice president for research for a two-day retreat that was facilitated by Dr. Sheldon Eckland-Olson, the Provost at UT Austin.  The purpose of the retreat was to begin the challenging assignment of developing institutional goals and objectives related to planning priorities and making difficult strategic choices.  The work on the strategic plan will continue over the summer and, by next fall, we expect to have a draft of the plan available for campus comment.  In an environment of limited resources, we cannot be all things to all people nor can we meet every legitimate or pressing need.  The reality is that we need to make choices and at times these choices will be difficult and will not be embraced by everyone.  The purpose of this planning exercise is to provide a framework for making these difficult decisions and it’s critical that each of you be involved in the process.  The strategic plan is not, nor should it be, my vision for The University of Texas at Arlington.  This should be our plan and our shared vision for UTA.  The strategic vision for the University should emerge from the campus.  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will begin a review of our campus in 2006.  SACS expects, indeed requires, that a strategic direction of the university have broad based campus support and I believe ours will. 

            Since arriving at UTA, I’ve made building traditions and creating an exciting campus culture one of my priorities.  I believe that an exciting and engaged campus environment will go a long way to helping UTA recruit and retain the best and the brightest faculty, staff and students.  Creating this environment will require effort and participation from all of us.  Today the second of five candidates for Vice President for Student Affairs concluded his visit to campus.  Dr. Kent Gardner has held this position for a number of years and has lead the division of Student Affairs during a time of tremendous growth at UTA.  We all wish him well in his retirement and his new teaching role in the College of Education and we thank him for his outstanding service to UTA.  At the same time, we are excited and challenged by the prospect, the opportunity to bring new leadership to this important dimension of life on the campus.  Each of us can help in this process of invigorating student and campus life.  Students that feel connected to the university are better students, are more likely to stay in school, are more likely to make steady progress toward a degree, are more likely to graduate in a timely fashion and are more likely to be supporters of the university after they graduate.  At the core of these connections and activities are faculty sponsors and mentors.  I strongly encourage you to seek out just one opportunity, one student group, one student related program and become involved.  Imagine the difference we could make in the lives of our students if each faculty member on campus became involved in just one activity each year. 

            Improving the campus environment for students is just one aspect of enhancing the campus culture.  For some time now, faculty on this campus have desired a faculty club where they could meet, gather informally with colleagues and host visitors for meals while remaining on campus.  I am pleased to announce that either during the fall semester or early in the spring semester, we will open a faculty club.  It’s going to be in Davis Hall.  We moved the computing and data center off campus to Fort Worth.  This summer that space we will used to house displaced offices from University Hall.  Once that renovation is complete, we will begin to convert the space in Davis Hall to a Faculty Club.  We will likely start on a small scale to gauge the support of the club.  I’m hopeful that this club will contribute to enhancing faculty interaction and provide an enjoyable location for collaboration, socialization and community building.  We will be having more details in the next few months. 

            Each year we have the honor of recognizing the faculty who have made outstanding contributions in teaching, research and service.  Last week, we recognized a number of your colleagues during Academic Excellence during the President’s Convocation.  Today we would once again like to recognize faculty who received teaching or research awards as well as those who are recipients of the faculty development leaves and research enhancement grants.  The names of those who received the awards are printed in the program.  I would like to take this opportunity for those award winners who are here today to please stand so we can recognize you.  I’ve had the chance to hear the introduction of the award winners the last two years and it is almost overwhelming to think of the impact that they have made on our university.  I want to congratulate you once again.

            I want to invite you all to a new event which will I hope be a new tradition on our campus.  We’re calling it a Commencement Convocation – not a commencement ceremony.  It’s not replacing any school or college commencement ceremony.  It’s an all university commencement convocation to be held Friday, May 13th, in Maverick Stadium.  We’re inviting all of our 2200 students graduating in the Spring.  We’re going to have Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson with us to be our keynote speaker.  One of the Board of Regents, Robert Estrada, will also be there.  We’re going to have the band.  It’s going to be a UTA family community celebration.  I hope it will be the beginning of another tradition at UTA in which we can take great pride.

           

ADJOURNMENT.  The meeting adjourned at 5:20 p.m.  A reception followed.

 

 

 

Recorded by Janis Walkup