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New Faculty Orientation

August 21, 2017

Good Morning, everyone. I’ve just come from welcoming students and parents as they move into our residence halls. There is an excitement in the air, an enthusiasm for the new chapters that are being opened and that will unfold in our student’s lives through this year, and the expectation of bright futures enabled through education. Days such as today, when we welcome new students and welcome back our continuing ones have a profound significance on university campuses as they remind us of our mission to educate and prepare, and our responsibilities – not just to impart knowledge, but to transform lives of students, families and communities through the enablement of social mobility. We also bear the responsibility of continuing to strengthen the social fabric of the university community while caring for the well-being, growth and safety of our students.

Today also has significance as we greet new faculty as you join our campus, and renew ties with others who have already contributed significantly to our ethos and growing reputation. The “new faculty” booklet lists 57 new colleagues across all ranks joining us this fall and I know that there are a few more whose contracts were still being finalized when the booklet went to press. To all you, welcome or welcome back (as the case may be) to the University of Texas of Arlington and the Maverick family.

You join a wonderful and unique institution, one that has a storied heritage and legacy that can be traced back to the formation of Arlington College in 1895. But as the University of Texas at Arlington, formed by an act of the legislature in 1967, we are still a young institution and with that youth we have a vibrancy, a “can do” attitude, and pages that have yet to be written. Unlike what happens when one joins a well-established university with traditions that go back a century or more where one is expected to neatly fit into a small space on an already crowded landscape you are joining an institution that is still writing its history with space for each of you to create something wonderful, to follow your dreams and the vision you had regarding your future, and leave a tremendous imprint through your scholarship, research, creative activity, and success. We look to you to help guide our future, to put wind in our sails, and sprint to levels of achievement others only dream about.

It is not often that one gets the opportunity to join a university on the rise, one that just joined the ranks of Carnegie R-1 institutions and has aspirations not just of becoming better, but of being one of the very best, while still hiring significant numbers of new faculty. At a time when universities across the nation are facing financial pressures through decreases in state funding, we decided to invest in human capital – in recruiting the very best from across the nation. You represent that investment. Those of you who are joining us this fall will be joined by another 41 tenure track and tenured faculty for whom searches are now just being started. Few universities are able to renew their ranks and add new lines at this rate and this unique opportunity provides tremendous ability for UTA to write its own future, to lead academia in the 21st century in being the thought leader and setting standards for others to follow.

Our progress as a university is guided by our strategic plan that was developed to ensure that we serve the community in which we are situated with bold solutions while enabling global impact. As an urban university we believe that it is our mission to meet the challenges facing our community with vision and leadership, ensuring that the Dallas-Fort Worth megacity of the future will be one that addresses critical issues prior to their overwhelming the area. The plan is driven by a single focus of enabling a sustainable megacity that provides context for engagement and impact with four guiding themes:

  • Health and the Human Condition
  • Sustainable Urban Communities
  • Global Environmental Impact, and
  • Data Driven Discovery

These build on the strengths of our faculty across all colleges and provide the basis for our progress. Many of you might have noticed the themes highlighted on the first page of the “new faculty” booklet with thematic areas placed next to your names, representing the theme under which your position was developed and presented by your deans, then evaluated and approved by the provost and vice-president for research as a means of ensuring how the selected individual would contribute to the strategic themes with the primary goal being the theme area and the secondary one being your home discipline. The goal is to cut through barriers, boundaries and constraints – each of you not only has a home that is disciplinary but you have a research theme – or two or three – that integrates faculty across our departments and colleges. You represent a new way forward for the university and you bear on your shoulders the weight of our investment – in you, for our students, and for the future of this institution.

As a group, you bring a new dynamism to UTA. Among you are leaders in globalization, intelligent transportation systems, and project complexity, mesoscale computational materials science and computational neurosciences, pattern recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning, international organized crime and biosocial criminology, cardiovascular diseases, microbial pathogenesis and aging, game development and digital pedagogy and so many more areas of intense discovery and enquiry. 

We have high hopes and expectations of each of you. Yes, the standards set for you are higher than those that existed before, but the opportunities and support provided to you are greater as well. We not only hope for greatness from you, we expect it.

We are an urban university and you help fulfill our vision of being a pre-eminent location that inspires bold solutions with global impact through creative scholarship, transformative access, and collaborative learning. This is UTA – engaged, impactful, and a leader.

At UTA we believe that excellence in research and teaching are sides of the same coin, one cannot exist without the other. We also believe passionately in access – ensuring for each student an opportunity to excel. The incoming levels of our students are not as important as what we do to help them reach, and exceed, their potential while they are at UTA. The dedication and success of our faculty in enabling excellence in students is highlighted among other aspects by the number of degrees we award. In the 2016-2017 academic year we will have awarded more than 12,700 degrees making UTA the third largest developer in the State of Texas of intellectual capital and highly sought after students for the workforce. Now that’s impact.

Our value and worth is reflected largely though the success of our students and our ability to work as a team driven by the need to ensure a better future for all we serve. These aspirations are highlighted through core values of UTA expressed as five pairs of ten characteristics that we hold dear:

  • access and success
  • opportunity and excellence
  • inclusiveness and diversity
  • mavericks and innovators
  • collegiality and collaboration

As you make this your home I hope you will come to cherish them as well and use them to set new horizons for academia.

There is a picture with a quote that has hung on my office walls at various institutions for quite some time. It was originally penned by George Bernard Shaw and then used to effect by Robert Kennedy – “Some people see things and say WHY? I dream things that never were and say WHY NOT.”

That’s what I’d like to leave you with – the desire to think big, to say “why not” and then to make it happen. There is nothing that any of you cannot do, so spread your wings, stretch for the stars and beyond, believe that you can be the very best in your field, and make the impossible – possible. That is the Maverick way – to dream big and act in making the promise of the future a reality, and as of today you are members of the Maverick family so I expect nothing less.

Let’s dream together, work together, chart new directions, and attain levels of excellence that others did not even dare to dream of. UTA is destined to be the model 21st Century Urban Research University – let’s make it happen together.

Thank you for being here and welcome again to the University of Texas at Arlington.