The University of Texas at Arlington

 

University Faculty and Associates

Minutes

 

The Fall Meeting of the University Faculty and Associates was held at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, September 26, 2005, in the University Center Rosebud Theatre.  President James D. Spaniolo presided.

 

Recognition of New Faculty and Associates.  Provost Dana Dunn welcomed faculty and associates to the fall meeting of the University Faculty on behalf of herself and President Spaniolo.  She specifically welcomed the new faculty and associates and asked them to stand for recognition.

 

Recognition of Professors Emeriti.  Seven retired professors were conferred with the honorary title of Professor Emeritus because of their exemplary service and dedication to the University and the community.  Each individual received a framed certificate and a lapel pin.  Recognized this year were:

 


Carolyn A. Barros

English

 

Allan K. Butcher

Political Science

 

Jack Fitzer

Electrical Engineering

 

Richard D. McBride

Architecture

 

Charles V. Smith, Jr.

Electrical Engineering

 

Delbert A. Taebel

Urban and Public Affairs

 

Michael R. Yardley

Architecture                                         

 

 

 


Remarks by the President.  It’s great to be with you today and to be able to recognize our professors emeriti and to hear about the rich history and contributions they’ve made to our university.  It is also appropriate that we recognize all our new faculty that are with us today.  We are very proud to have them join our ranks at UT Arlington.

            I would like to begin by extending a warm welcome to all of you and especially our new faculty members and faculty associates.  I met many of you earlier this year at either the new faculty orientation or the reception held in your honor at the library a few weeks ago.  By now I hope you have had a chance to settle into the semester and come to appreciate what a special university we have here at UT Arlington.

            It is fitting that we recognize faculty members who have made extraordinary contributions to the development of this University over the course of their careers.  To the professor emeriti, you have our gratitude and your careers will serve as inspiring examples as we continue to meet the mission of our University.

            The agenda for today’s meeting honors the past and the rich contribution of our colleagues, while at the same time looking forward to the future of our University.  This duality - - respecting the past, while preparing for the challenges of the future - - is a theme that merits all of our consideration and discussion.

            As many of you know, especially the more senior members of the faculty, this University has a rich and varied history.  The University has operated under several names, as both an independent institution and as part of different university systems over the last 110 years.  Over the years it has evolved from an institution focused on narrow missions such as agriculture or military preparation to one of the most comprehensive educational institutions in the region.  We have changed from an institution primarily serving the local and surrounding communities to one that literally educates students throughout the world.

            Our university has grown and adapted to our changing environment.  And we will continue to do so.  The pace of institutional evolution is most commonly incremental and at times difficult to observe.

            But consistent incremental change, when aggregated over an extended period of time, can produce significant transformations.  While I have been here for less than two years, it is clear to me that our university today is not the same kind of place it was a decade ago, or even five years ago. 

            When we adjourn, take the opportunity to visit with those we have honored here today and ask them about their memories of UT Arlington when they began their careers.   They will tell you about a very different place with a different mission.  It was an important, strong institution, appropriate for its time and its place.  The time and place in which The University of Texas at Arlington finds itself today demands a different response as we look at ourselves five years into the 21st century.

            In recent months, I have had a number of conversations across campus as part of our strategic planning process and as part of the process of getting to know this university.  If there has been one consistent theme from these conversations, it is that the members of this faculty wish to see this institution reach new levels of distinction – by becoming one that is internationally renowned. 

            Simply put, the faculty and administration of this university aspire for UT Arlington to become a premier comprehensive research university.   What is not yet widely known  - inside or outside UT Arlington – is that we are quietly moving step by step in that direction.  In short, we are approaching the “tipping point.”

            I firmly believe that The University of Texas at Arlington has the making of a major research university.  The Washington Advisory Group said 18 months ago in its report to the UT System Board of Regents that this could be achieved within the next 10 to 15 years. 

            I do not have a crystal ball, nor do I have a precise timetable.  I do believe we can make significant progress toward that goal every year.  In fact we are beginning to do just that.

            For example, last spring, Professor Ping Liu and Associate Professor Quiming Zhang from our Physics Department were recipients of highly competitive $5 million grant from the Department of Defense to investigate the application of nanostructure-enhanced devises for energy conservation. 

            UT Arlington was one of just 27 universities to receive this award, including Duke, Ohio State, the University of Michigan and the California Institute of Technology.  Also, the number of million dollar grants has grown rapidly in the last several years.  With your support and active participation, I will do everything I can to appropriately shape institutional priorities, secure necessary resources and guide this University in its quest to reach its goal of becoming a leading research university.

            Heeding the wise advice of Dr. Clifton R. Wharton’s keynote speech at my investiture almost two years ago, please note that I did use the word “flagship” or “top tier.”  What I am saying is that we can become a major research university of distinction.  In short, we can become what we seek to be as a university, not what others want us to be or even perceive us to be.  I challenge you to be part of that collaborative process in developing that plan and vision for our future.

            Let me be clear about what I mean when I refer to a leading research university.  Such a university is one that obviously excels in the heavily funded research fields.  But it is important to remember that it is also a university that finds excellence in all fields of academic pursuit.  A leading university is one that plays a special role in the advancement and promotion of the visual and performing arts and in the preparation of scholars and professionals through rigorous and demanding professional programs. 

            A leading research university is one that values all forms of scholarship, but also places a premium on world-class teaching, mentoring, and the training of the next generation of scholars.

            If we are to become this sort of university, we must be candid about where we currently stand and what remains to be accomplished.  An honest assessment of our current status would not be as one the nation’s top research universities, but rather more accurately as an “emerging research university.” 

            In fact, this is the label used by the Coordinating Board to describe us and others such as the University of North Texas, The University of Texas at El Paso, The University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Houston and others in Texas.  In other words, we have many of the pieces necessary to be a research university already in place, and we have the potential to join the ranks of the major research universities, but much work remains to be done to reach that goal.

            A moment ago, I spoke about the pace of change and the fact that most change, especially at a university, occurs incrementally and unremarkably.  Without special efforts on our part, our University will continue to evolve and change in response to its environment, but it will not be the dramatic change that is required to attain the research university status we are seeking. 

            If we hope to become a major research university, we will need to each do something more than we are currently doing.  Stated differently, if we intended to join the top public research universities, each of us must find a way to contribute beyond what we typically do in the normal course of our current academic lives.  A change in our status, as well as our reputation, will require accelerated growth, not normal incremental growth, and it will require a commitment to this goal from faculty, staff, students, and administrators.  In other words, all of us.

            It will require each of us to become more engaged in all aspects of our university.   If we hope to succeed, all constituencies on campus must join together to achieve this goal.

            Just what do I mean when I speak of an ‘engaged university’ and why is it important to our efforts to be considered among our nation’s leading research universities? 

            In the simplest terms, I believe an engaged university is one where each member of the university community – faculty, staff, and students - contributes and embraces the life of the university beyond what is minimally expected. 

            The University life offers intellectual and cultural enrichment.  It provides a stimulating environment and it fosters a venue for inquiry and the unfettered exchange of ideas.  In addition to these traits, an engaged university must have a strong internal focus with interdisciplinary collaborations and enriching faculty-student interactions.  An engaged university must also have clear and strong connections to the world outside the boundaries of the campus through scholarly activity that connects to our communities and meaningful public service and contributes to the improvement of our society.

            We have done a wonderful job in the past couple of years of enhancing the experiences at our university.  We have drawn greater attention to the large number of traditions on campus and we have initiated new traditions such as the New Student Convocation during the fall and the all university graduation convocation at the conclusion of the academic year.  We recently recruited a new Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Frank Lamas, who will be a catalyst and facilitator for enriching the student life experience on our campus. 

            Last spring we announced our intent to enhance the campus life experience for our faculty by creating, at long last, a university faculty club.  Plans have been developed and construction is about to begin on this facility in Davis Hall which will open during the spring semester.

            We have, and will continue to, make significant contributions to the life of the university in terms of both physical and human resources.  Our ambitious construction and renovation process continues. 

            In the spring we will open the doors to our new Chemistry and Physics building which will include a one-of-a-kind planetarium.  These facilities will serve not only our faculty and students but the community and public as well.  We will also complete construction on a much needed storage building for our library and newly renovated space for our growing International Office. 

            During the past three years we have added nearly 150 new faculty members to our ranks with approximately 80 of these individuals representing expansion hires.  That’s a dramatic example of how this university is moving forward adding new faculty resources to our already strong university.

            They not only represent a significant infusion of new faculty, but they represent a commitment to the future vitality of our university.  These hires are the result of our aggressive efforts to attract the most highly qualified faculty members from the world’s most prestigious institutions – at both the junior and senior levels.

            All of these efforts contribute to the life of the university and I have spoken in more detail about these topics elsewhere. These changes to our university are important, critical, improvements but, in the end, they are really the sort of incremental changes that I mentioned earlier that are a necessary part of the university’s natural growth and development.

            But I’d like to challenge us to do more.  To reach the “tipping point” and beyond, to become a major research university, I believe we need a more fully engaged university.  We need a university that conducts business in ways dramatically different from our current practice.  We need more students who are committed to high academic standards and determined to graduate on time.  We need more faculty members who are committed to working with students, both inside and outside the classroom and lab, to see that students succeed.  

            The challenge here is daunting.  Roughly half of all high school graduates in the United States go on to have at least some college experience.  This is the highest rate of college enrollment in the world.  Despite this enrollment success, nationally only one in three will not graduate within five years and increasing numbers of those entering college are in need of remedial help. At UT Arlington, just over 37% of our students will graduate within six-years.  We can - - we must - - do better. 

            Last year, a number of faculty and staff members served on a Graduation Rates Task Force charged with investigating our low graduation rate and offering suggestions for improving our graduation rate.  I am pleased to report that the efforts of this Task Force were important enough so that UT System has encouraged other UT academic institutions to engage in similar efforts.  While we work to implement the recommendations of the Task Force, I believe part of the answer to improving graduation rates at UT Arlington is to find innovative ways to engage students. 

            For example, Dr. Elizabeth Morrow, a cello performer in our Department of Music, has found a way to engage her students.  Dr. Morrow, a world-class cellist, not only mentors students in her classroom, but she actively seeks out aspiring, young talented musicians throughout the state.  Dr. Morrow recently returned from McAllen, Texas where she spent two days working with area high school students. 

            Once the students arrive at UT Arlington, Dr. Morrow continues her involvement in activities that range from playing with their band to mentoring graduate students who will be the next generation of music instructors.  The simple thing to do would be for Dr. Morrow to simply teach her assigned classes, serve on a few department committees, and continue to master her personal performances.  In contrast, Dr. Morrow, like many of you, shares a passion for her profession and is engaged in a way that invigorates and inspires her students to succeed. 

            Dr. Morrow is just one example of the many engaged faculty we have at UTA, and I emphasize there are many, but we need more.

            To have an engaged campus, we must also have scholars who are engaged in collaborative research across disciplines and institutions.  Increasingly, the nation’s top research universities are engaged in interdisciplinary research and funding agencies reward multi-institutional proposals. 

            To encourage this type of research, last week President David Daniel from The University of Texas at Dallas and I announced the creation of a $250,000 fund to stimulate joint research projects between our two institutions.  The intent of this fund is to foster increased collaboration between our institutions and to fund the very kind of research that is necessary to raise our university’s profile.  We also announced a number of other steps that would bring our faculty at UT Arlington and UT Dallas closer together to encourage collaborative and cooperative efforts and to pool our resources. 

            Our decision to collaborate more extensively, to become partners as we never have before is not motivated by collegiality alone.  It is because we think we can raise the level of accomplishment and stature of our universities by working together as collaborators rather than competitors or adversaries.

            To become a leading research university, we need greater engagement from the faculty in the development of the universities strategic direction. 

            During the past academic year, members of our university community provided valuable input related to our strategic planning priorities.  We held a number of campus-wide meetings to gather reactions from a wide variety of offices.  Using your feedback, the Deans of our University worked with the Provost to translate the planning priorities into a set of strategic goals, objectives, and strategies. 

            It is now time for you to provide feedback to the latest round of the planning process.  In the next few days, you will receive an invitation from Provost Dunn and me to provide your reaction to the goals, objectives, and strategies developed by the Deans.  I encourage you to take the time review this important document and provide comments.  I also ask that you invite your colleagues who are not here today to join in this process. 

            In offering your comments, I would ask you to think about our goal of becoming one our nation’s leading research institutions and determine whether we are proposing the appropriate objectives and strategies to meet that goal.  Based on your feedback this fall, we will provide a draft strategic plan for your review during the spring semester.

            In addition to continuing our strategic planning process, our University is currently preparing for its SACS Reaccreditation visit which will take place next year.  Part of that process is the selection of a topic for our Quality Enhancement Plan which will, along with our strategic plan, form our university priorities in the coming years.  Numerous announcements have been shared with the faculty about this critical initiative, yet fewer than 150 members of the faculty have offered their input. 

            As an emerging research university, our direction should be guided by an engaged faculty.  I strongly encourage you to take the time to share your thoughts with us on this and other important initiatives.

            A leading research university should also have in place the infrastructure which can supply the necessary resources to support our research, scholarly, and creative activities.  Provost Dunn and I are committed to strengthening and providing more resources for our Office of Research to facilitate the research efforts of our university by our faculty.  Since I have arrived, I have significantly revamped three major administrative offices. 

            The Office of Development, under the leadership of Vice President Gary Cole, has been refocused and reorganized and is now positioned to undertake major development initiatives in partnering with our Schools and Colleges. While funding relationships with donors takes time, there has already been significant progress in raising funds. Our endowment which has been historically low is increasing.  For example, last month our College of Education received the largest cash endowment gift - $750,000 – in the history of the College.  The gift will be used as part of $2 million initiative to create an endowment to establish a Distinguished University Chair in Education. 

            The result of this and other efforts will be to significantly increase the size of our endowment.  Similar efforts to reorganize are underway in our Alumni Office and we have recently relocated their offices in a building more appropriate to their mission on West Mitchell.

            Finally, part of becoming a leading research university is about developing a unique, recognizable identity.  For too long, UT Arlington has been in the background rather than in the forefront.  We need a more compelling and coherent identity – and we need to promote it.  That is about to change.  In the coming weeks and months, you will hear and see more about our efforts to increase our visibility and more distinctly define our identity . . . and what it means to be a ‘Maverick.’  

            Of particular interest to many of you here will be a new university publication that celebrates the research accomplishments of our faculty who are frequently “Mavericks” in their academic field.  My favorite definition about Maverick is independent thinker.  That’s the way I think of UT Arlington Mavericks. Of course, promotion, advertising and media outreach alone cannot not transform a university, but these efforts, coupled with increased research and scholarly stature, are critical to moving UT Arlington forward toward our goal.

            The work that lies before us is substantial, but I am confident we are up to the challenge.  Just as Arlington State College transformed itself from a two-year school to a four-year school, and then later joined the UT System as UT Arlington and began to offer graduate degrees, we too must move boldly beyond our current status of an emerging research university. 

            I can think of no better group to rise to this challenge than a group of faculty members who have consistently shown determination and a propensity to rise to the challenges put before them. 

            Helping UT Arlington become one of the premier public research universities is our next challenge.  I urge you to become even more engaged in the lives of our students.  I encourage you to become even more engaged in the life of your discipline. 

            I encourage you to join with your colleagues in shaping the priorities of this University.  I challenge each of us to do something this year to become more engaged in the life of the university than we did last year.  I also challenge each of you to work to engage your colleagues in this important enterprise. 

            The goal before us is attainable and worth our efforts to see that The University of Texas at Arlington takes its next step in becoming a major research university.

            Thank you.  Please join Provost Dunn and I in the foyer for a reception honoring the new additions to our faculty and our professor emeritus recipients.

 

ADJOURNMENT.  The meeting adjourned at 5:00 p.m., followed by a reception in the foyer.

 

 

Michael K. Moore

Secretary

 

 

/jw