How innovative programs, enhanced recruiting and new campus housing have transformed UTA into the fastest-growing public university in Texas
by Mark Permenter
A brief conversation with a UTA recruiter at a college fair in 1998 changed Martie Garcia’s life.
Then a 17-year-old high school senior, she was pondering her future when along came Ray Casas, who’d traveled more than 500 miles from Arlington to Rio Grande City, a small town in far South Texas.
“He was very enthusiastic about UTA,” Garcia recalled. “He elaborated not only on the academic programs but also on the location. I was very involved in high school, and he told me about all the campus activities UTA has to offer.”
Fastforward to 2002. Garcia is now the first woman in her family with a college diploma, graduating cum laude in December with a degree in English. She’s also the first member of her high school class to graduate from college. Law school awaits.
Not surprising, says Casas, whom Garcia describes as “like family.”
“I knew Martie was special the first time I met her,” he said. “She was a very determined young lady who knew exactly what she wanted out of life.” Now UTA’s assistant director for undergraduate admissions, Casas was just as thrilled as Garcia and the 40-member entourage of family and friends who drove eight hours to attend her commencement ceremony.
“The thing I love the most is watching students I’ve recruited walk across the stage and get their diploma,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that you helped bring these kids to UTA, helped them get scholarships, and now they’re graduating.”
Garcia was one of 1,820 graduates last fall, a record number for a December commencement. She was also one of 23,821 students enrolled, an increase of 2,641 over the previous fall, making UTA the fastest-growing public university in Texas.
Five years ago, such a distinction seemed as far-fetched as UTA changing
its colors to maroon and white. After peaking at 25,135 in 1991, enrollment
began a steady decline, reaching a 20-year low of 18,662 in 1998.