Third strategic plan symposium focuses on health and the human condition

Friday, Apr 26, 2019 • Media Contact : Dana Jennings

At a symposium held earlier this month, faculty and leadership at The University of Texas at Arlington discussed their multidisciplinary research and education efforts in the area of health and the human condition—one of the University’s four strategic themes.

President Karbhari at Health and Human Condition symposium
UTA President Vistasp Karbhari addressed the crowd at the Health and Human Condition symposium.

The April event was the third of four symposiums instituted to discuss progress on initiatives that support the themes of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020. Faculty and staff members were invited to hear from select University researchers and contribute updates of their own about ongoing projects and initiatives.

UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said the events create an opportunity for faculty to discuss and explore new research and educational collaborations with colleagues. The symposiums also serve as a vehicle for tracking current and future progress as the University continues to update its strategic plan.

“There’s wonderful, cutting-edge research and scholarship happening across our university supporting the theme area of health and the human condition,” Karbhari said. “But the challenge—as at any large university—is that others outside a small circle of researchers within a group or department are not aware of it, resulting in significantly less synergy than might otherwise be possible between researchers with similar or aligned interests across the university.

“Having symposia such as this will hopefully facilitate ongoing discussions between researchers in areas of mutual interest, leading to greater collaborations and interdisciplinary partnerships across colleges.”

The first in this series of symposiums was held in early February and focused on sustainable urban communities. The second symposium, held in mid-March, centered on global environmental impact.

Provost Teik C. Lim said over 50 new faculty with experience both directly or indirectly supporting health and the human condition have been hired across every college at UTA since fall 2017.

Jon Weidanz, associate vice president for research, discussed five key areas related to health and the human condition in which the University is conducting impactful research: cardiovascular health, healthy aging, tissue engineering and biomaterials for cancer research, brain health and host defenses and inflammation.

“Our research expenditures have grown 30% in three years, which can largely be credited to our development of a broad research portfolio,” Weidanz said. “And we’ve made the commitment to recruit additional faculty who will accelerate our progress related to health and the human condition.”

Weidanz highlighted the newly established North Texas Genome Center as an example of UTA’s leading expertise in health-related research and said its creation is a foundational piece in the University’s move into precision health research.

In an update on the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Dean Elizabeth Merwin said the college has faculty and students doing work across the entire spectrum of keeping people healthy. Their work has been advanced by a growing research infrastructure at UTA, she said, including the newly constructed Science & Engineering Innovation & Research building.

Merwin said CONHI is focused on making a difference in the lives of people, and that involves translating research into academic programs.

“It’s important we integrate our scientific findings and evidence into our educational programs,” Merwin said. “Our programs should be innovative, serve our communities and equip our students with relevant skills.”

The second half of the two-hour event was dedicated to a number of faculty from across UTA sharing their areas of interest focused on health and the human condition and how they hope to collaborate with colleagues.

Doug Garner, coach of the Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball teams, was in attendance and emphasized the importance of addressing and developing a deeper understanding of issues related to disabilities as an important facet in exploring health and the human condition. Garner closed with an offer to help connect faculty with potential industry partners.

In his closing remarks, Karbhari emphasized that he wants to hear from faculty about ways the University could help continue such discussions, enable the sharing of ideas and research results, encourage partnerships between faculty members and further facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration.

Watch a complete video of the symposium here. Registration for the May 8 symposium on data-driven discovery is now open.