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Delivery on demand
UTA/Fort Worth Campus finds its niche as enrollment surges

The meteoric evolution of the UTA/Fort Worth Campus demonstrates that when great things are expected, great things are delivered.

Rob Morris and Donna Stump, students in the increasingly popular accelerated M.B.A. program, chat on the UTA/Fort Worth Campus.


Consider what's happened in just the last two years at the attractive 18-acre campus located in a corner of the Riverbend Business Park near Loop 820 and Trinity Boulevard.

• Enrollment in a master of science degree in health care administration has increased five-fold, from nine students to 52.

• A unique "cohort" M.B.A. program started fall 2000 with more students than expected, 49, and by last fall enrollment had more than doubled to 109.

• More than 400 working professionals have enrolled in skill-development sessions focusing on topics such as leadership, customer service and employee retention.

• E-business (digital certification) programs continue to boom.

• Graduate courses in business and technical areas have been so well-subscribed that classroom expansions or alternate locations will continue to be required.

"U.T. Arlington asked area business leaders what was needed. We told them we wanted programs for working professionals, and they then delivered with near-miraculous speed."
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram Publisher Wes Turner

The Fort Worth community has embraced the Riverbend operation with fervor. Which prompts the question: What's going on here?

Anne Robillard, marketing director at the UTA/Fort Worth Campus, knows the answer.

"The community told us what it wanted," she said. "We listened and complied. In short, niche marketing. Our marching orders from President Witt were to determine higher education markets that were underserved or not served. We weren't declaring war on any other university, but figuring out what the community needed. That's why from Day 1 we had a professional advisory council."

Some 30 strategic plan interviews were conducted with civic, business and academic leaders ranging from Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr and Fort Worth Star-Telegram Publisher Wes Turner to RadioShack Vice President of Organizational Development Rich Pendergast and Bell Helicopter/Textron Vice President of Engineering Art Lucas.

"What we heard from the community was a remarkably similar three-part mantra," Robillard recalls. "They wanted accessibility, affordability and state-of-the-art instruction that contributed directly to the competence of their employees and the economic well-being of the region."

Boiling it down, in support of this collaborative mission, UTA/Fort Worth is committed to:

• Meeting the lifelong learning needs of working professionals.

• Offering graduate programs with plans for upper-division undergraduate courses.

• Focusing on both credit and continuing education solutions.

• Expanding the role of applied research. (The campus also houses the renowned Automation & Robotics Research Institute.)

• Flexibility to capitalize on global opportunities with economic development potential.

Mary Lee Hodge, UTA assistant vice president for academic affairs, administers the Fort Worth campus. She believes a key component of its success relates to "cohort structuring," as used in the accelerated M.B.A. and M.S. in health care administration.

"Cohort-based means that students remain together throughout the program," she said. "It's a team approach that meets the needs of working professionals. In many ways, classmates become each other's mentors."

In both programs, one course at a time is scheduled in accelerated five- to seven-week sessions, with classes meeting twice a week. The health care degree is completed in 24 months, the M.B.A. in 28.

Meanwhile, noncredit courses span leadership and conflict resolution, customer service and improving individual effectiveness. Also popular are e-business offerings.

"Because business affects and is affected by technology, traditional organization arrangements, established business practices and conventional knowledge and skills are no longer adequate," says Professor Michael Reimann, the primary architect of the digital certification program. "Though concepts are varied, the heart of the matter is for students to learn how digital society can be applied to varied business situations."

Students who complete a four-course graduate-level curriculum earn Digital Society Certification. Course offerings include Electronic Enterprises, Electronic Enterprise Systems, Strategic Internet Marketing and Management of eBusiness.

Area business leaders like Turner recognize that the campus offers Fort Worth an opportunity to rapidly shape public higher education resources for maximum local economic impact. But to do that it will need the community's assistance, such as with the local hospital that provides classrooms for the M.S. in health care administration. It's a partnership.

"U.T. Arlington asked area business leaders what was needed. We told them we wanted programs for working professionals, and they then delivered with near-miraculous speed," said Turner, who was a member of the original advisory council. "Suddenly we were looking at a unique M.B.A. program, several digital certification programs, engineering and business courses and a hospital administration master's degree."

Turner's analysis? "I think enormous potential exists for the Fort Worth campus, given sufficient resources. It wouldn't surprise me to come back in five years and see an enrollment of 2,000 or more."

The Star-Telegram publisher recognizes that not all of the resources needed will come as quickly as everyone involved would like. So he has agreed to chair a resource committee to determine facility demands and consider the all-important matter of raising funds.

"The world's business and technical education needs are changing so swiftly that it's crucial that we here in North Texas stay ahead of the curve," he said. "This community is ambitious and wants the capacity to take advantage of fast-breaking international opportunities. The Fort Worth campus can go a long way to helping us achieve exactly that. Though we have some excellent private universities serving this region, there's no denying that the combination of accessibility, quality and affordability of a state university is a definite bonus."

Clearly, the UTA/Fort Worth Campus has enjoyed a successful start. Hodge is determined that the momentum will continue.

"We will always go to the community, find out what it wants us to do, what's working and what's missing," she said. "We're asking people to think about what their industry or company will be like in 10 years, then how higher education can serve that. Our formula for success is pretty simple but effective: They ask, we deliver."


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