By Sherry Wodraska Neaves
With all the new alliances between UTA and other area colleges and universities, maybe it's time for a fresh campus slogan.
UTA: It's not just in Arlington any more.
No, indeed. UTA professors and courses can now be found in places as remote as Waco and as close as East Dallas. Criminology and criminal justice Professor Robert Bing has a long commute when he heads out to teach his Institutional Corrections course each week-all the way to Waco. There, an arrangement with McLennan Community College offers local students the chance to earn a full four-year degree without leaving their hometown.
"Many students there are area-bound. They want to complete degrees but are not able to leave the area to do so," Vice President for Academic Affairs Dana Dunn explained. "So we're taking courses in criminology and criminal justice as well as business administration to them." Students complete their associate's degree through McLennan Community College, then transfer into one of the UTA programs.
"We've even set aside scholarship funds for these students," Dr. Dunn said. "We haven't developed this sort of partnership before with a school so far away, but I think we'll be doing it more in the future. We're also discussing expanding the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program to Weatherford Community College soon."
On the drive down I-35, Dr. Bing contemplates the upcoming lecture and the class discussions that will follow. He doesn't mind the lengthy weekly trip. Most faculty don't find the commute problematic," he said. "I enjoy the ride, and the faculty response to the program has been very positive, with many of them requesting an opportunity to teach on the McLennan campus."
Dr. Bing sees the alliance as a winning situation for both schools. "I think UTA benefits positively from the exposure," he said. "Further, students learn about the quality academic programs at UTA. Frankly, this is a way for UTA to fill a void in the McLennan County area."
Administrators expect the Internet and video conferencing to also play a role in the Waco connection. And with only a small percentage of McLennan Community College students currently advancing to complete four-year degrees, bringing the programs to their front door offers enormous opportunities.
Under the agreement, McLennan students with an associate's degree who take two classes each semester can complete their bachelor's degree in about three years. The UTA/MCC alliance makes that possible at a reasonable cost and without having to relocate. "I think we will see more and more of these alliances," Dr. Dunn said.
Making e-degrees easier
As part of another recent agreement, students at Mountain View College, part of the Dallas County Community College system, are completing their associate's degrees, then earning UTA bachelor's degrees in Web design/e-business. Offered through the UTA Interdisciplinary Studies Program, the e-business degree is the first of what Director Cubie Ward expects to be a series of alliances with area community colleges.
"This will bring new students to our university," Dr. Ward said. "They will be finishing the associate's degree at their home campus and will want a bachelor's degree. We can provide that." Additionally, students who transfer to UTA under these agreements do not lose any college credits already earned. That smooth transition saves class time and tuition dollars.
Medical school breakthrough
In another agreement designed to save not only time and money but also consternation, UTA has launched a partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center and its Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM). UTA pre-med students who meet established criteria will be assured admission to the Fort Worth school as part of a seven-year bachelor of science/doctor of osteopathy dual degree.
Beginning in the freshman year, UTA students apply to the program. The agreement guarantees that up to 10 will be admitted to the medical facility each year. Requirements for the rigorous curriculum include maintenance of a 3.5 grade-point average and a full schedule of required classes during both long semesters and every summer from the freshman through the junior year.
Upon successful completion of their junior year at UTA, students will enter medical school. After completion of the first year at TCOM, they will submit a transcript from the medical school to UTA and will then receive their UTA bachelor's degree. The joint, overlapping process knocks an entire year off the time it traditionally takes to earn a medical degree.
Students in this accelerated program will be carefully monitored and mentored by faculty and administrators both at UTA and TCOM. "Through this personal contact, we will be able to see that our students have all the necessary qualities of a good physician," College of Science Assistant Dean Edward Morton said. "We want students who are good with people, the kind who will involve patients in the healing process.
"If a person is mastering the academic criteria but not meeting the personal qualities criteria, they can be dropped from the program. This is something that was added to the agreement and that we all felt was very important."
Guaranteed admission to medical school is one of the most important selling points of the new program, said Dr. Morton. "Generally, there is a very high attrition rate with people who plan to go to medical school," he said. "We hope to attract people who can really make it through this program. TCOM will be happy because it will eventually get these great students. The students are happy because they get a guaranteed spot in medical school, and they're in a year early. And, of course, we're happy with these very, very talented students at UTA."
The happiness promises to spread as more medical and other types of alliances enter the discussion stage. The College of Science may soon have an agreement to guarantee students a place in pharmacy school, and a similar alliance is under review to send liberal arts students directly into law school.
"Hopefully, what we've done with TCOM will be a springboard to all kinds of alliances," Dr. Morton said. "I think we will have more and more of them," Dr. Dunn concluded. "In Texas, we have an ever-increasing educational outreach."