Work force: The University of Texas at Arlington
Keeping the family close to home
The best instruction that UTA nursing students receive often comes from those who were educated in the same classrooms.
About a third of the approximately 90 School of Nursing faculty earned one or more degrees from UTA. The school doesn't pursue UTA graduates to the exclusion of others, says nursing Dean Elizabeth Poster. It's just that many want to stick around.
"They know UTA and have a commitment to the University and the School of Nursing, and we know the high quality of their education and level of knowledge and skill," she says. "Many of these nurses have been working with our students in local hospitals as preceptors, without pay, and have enjoyed the experience so much that they want to be faculty—either part time or full time."
Susan Rugari, a 12-year member of the nursing faculty, feels a connection with the students that only someone who has filled their white shoes can.
"I had the experience of navigating this University's system as a student, which helps me understand and empathize with the graduate students I teach now," said Dr. Rugari, who earned a master of science in nursing in 1991. "I understand the pressures of balancing multiple roles—family, employee and graduate student taking six to nine hours. I experienced this from both sides—as a student and as a faculty member. Balancing all the roles and being successful in graduate school is difficult."
Rugari is one of more than 100 faculty with UTA degrees listed in the undergraduate catalog. Electrical engineering Associate Professor William Dillon ('69 MS, '72 PhD), one of the first students to earn a doctorate at UTA, has been around more than 30 years. Anthony Cricchio, a lecturer in architecture, began this fall.
Marketing Assistant Professor J.D. Mosley-Matchett fits somewhere in the middle. She began as a graduate student in 1985 and eventually earned her master's and Ph.D. She also has a law degree from Southern Methodist University.
"UTA feels like home to me. I've spent much of my adulthood here," says Dr. Mosley-Matchett, who joined the faculty in 1997. "I love the practical educational environment offered by the predominantly working student body and the professionally experienced professors."
Staff members with UTA degrees are even more ubiquitous. Unofficial figures put the number at around 500. In some offices, there's one at every turn.
Six of the nine employees in Institutional Research and Planning are UTA educated. They hold an assortment of bachelor's, master's and Ph.Ds. ranging from psychology and sociology to communication and electrical engineering. Together, they have devoted more than 100 years of service to the University.
"Since we analyze data, having all that history helps," says Sam Stigall, IRP's associate director for reports. "Everything is data driven." Stigall holds two UTA degrees and has worked at the University since 1970.
Pam Haws, assistant vice president and director of IRP ('83 PhD), and executive assistant Judy Varnell ('88 BA) believe that UTA graduates are apt to be more loyal to the University.
"Knowing that your place of employment is also the seat of your education makes you want to do a better job and make the University look as good as possible so that other people will want to be part of the UTA family, as an employee, student or both," Varnell says.
The family is five strong in the Development Office, the central fundraising arm of the University. Gwen Notestine ('00 BA), who solicits major gifts for the College of Liberal Arts and School of Nursing, says it's rewarding to work side-by-side with the alumni who mentored her as a student.
"We're typical UTA graduates—down to earth, hard-working and playful. We have a sort of work-hard, play-hard mentality that gets the job done with a smile," she says. "That combination creates a sense of confidence in each other that allows us to take every challenge in stride, knowing that the others are equally committed to UTA."
When it comes to raising money for the University, being an alumna is a huge advantage, she says. She has likely shared similar experiences—late nights on the computers at Ransom Hall, napping between classes in the Palo Duro Lounge—with those whose support she's seeking.
"They understand that, like them, I have a place in my heart for UTA," she says, "and that together we can provide those experiences for future Mavericks through our fund-raising efforts."
While it's the Development Office that raises money, it's the business services area that manages it. Many of the folks overseeing UTA's finances are alumni, including Rusty Ward, who was recently appointed interim vice president for business affairs and controller.
Other high-ranking positions staffed by alums include the associate vice president for employee services, assistant vice president for budgets and financial planning, and associate controller for business services. Nearly a dozen graduates occupy director-level positions under the business affairs umbrella.
Linda Criswell ('77 BBA) started working at UTA as a student in 1970. The oft-romanticized tale of a young employee taking a mailroom job and working her way up is actually true for her. She's now the associate controller for accounting services, a position with huge fiscal responsibilities, from safeguarding assets to financial reporting.
In their third year of full-time University employment, husband-andwife Seth and Kerri Ressl can see themselves accumulating longevity comparable to Criswell's. Seth ('00 BA) is program coordinator in Student Activities, and Kerri ('98 BA) is assistant director of alumni programs for the Alumni Association.
"I'm very lucky in that I get to work with current alumni of UTA as well as future alumni," Kerri says. "I feel personally responsible for helping these students realize just how important it is to stay involved with their alma mater, especially to leave a legacy for future students."
Adds Seth: "I received so much from UTA as a student that I want to pass those experiences and opportunities on to current students."
The Ressls represent a growing number of young, gung-ho alumni returning to their alma mater for employment. Some, like Seth, never leave. He began his UTA job right after graduating. Others, like 25-year-old Kaleb Canales ('01 BA), spend a couple of years away before coming back. Canales coached high school basketball for two years before beginning in August as an assistant coach for the men's team.
"I'm so fortunate to be able to fulfill one of my dreams, which was to come back to the University where I graduated and help coach the basketball team," he says. "To be so young and get this opportunity makes me feel blessed."
Those with much more seniority feel the same way.
"I really like this place," says IRP's Stigall. "It's been good to me."
With educating and employing as the criteria, it's been good to a lot of people.
– Mark Permenter