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UTA African-American Faculty and Staff Association Reception

November 20, 2015

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen - I’m delighted to join you at this reception. Organizations like the African American Faculty and Staff Association help make UT Arlington the kind of institution that attracts world-class students and faculty members, a place where students, faculty and staff work together to innovate, collaborate, dream and support each other as we work toward excellence in every regard.

And in speaking of excellence let me start by recognizing some of our outstanding staff and faculty for their recent achievements and contributions:

  • Prof. Dereje Agonasfer who not only secured more than a million dollars worth of services and equipment from Yahoo and Facebook for his pioneering research on finding efficient and greener ways to cool massive data centers;
  • Prof. Krystal Beamon on being promoted to associate professor;
  • Prof. Sedrick Huckaby who was recently named a finalist in the prestigious Portrait competition hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait gallery;
  • Dr. Yvette Weatherton who was just elected a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers;
  • Peace Williamson who has been one of the drivers behind the enhancement of the Fab-Lab in the library with the creative collaboration now taking place between the FabLab and the Colleges of Engineering, the Nursing and Health Innovation, and Science.

As we celebrate their success I would like to note that each of you personifies excellence, through your teaching, your research and creative activity, by your mentoring of students, and enhancement of the functioning of the university.  Without dedicated staff and faculty such as you UTA would not be where it is today – a shining example of a University on the rise, one setting standards for others to follow, and the institution that has set its goals on not just being good, but on being one of the “best of the best” – the model 21st century urban research university.

We started this Fall with a Texas based degree seeking enrollment of 37,008 and we expect to end this academic year with a combined on-campus and on-line degree-seeking student population of about 55,000. 

But it’s not just growth that we are achieving – its also student success.  More than 10,500 students graduated last year – making us the third largest generator of highly skilled intellectual capital in the state.

We have a lot to be proud of – and it’s due to your dedication and hard work. UTA is strong, it’s thriving, it’s diverse.  For the third year in a row UTA ranks fifth among national universities for undergraduate diversity. Our campus population mirrors the demographic trends of the region.  Earlier this month Military Times named us the single best 4-year college in Texas for Military Veterans and 16th is the nation.  Both these accolades as well as our HSI designation provide a tremendous opportunity to set new standards for excellence in diversity and inclusion.

While we have come far we still have a long way to go and cannot, should not, rest on our laurels.  Our student population needs further support to ensure success.  Drop out rates need to be changed significantly.  Under the leadership of Prof. Schnavia Smith Hatcher the Center for African American Studies is working hard to focus on supporting our students while also encouraging them to stretch and set high goals.  I’ve had the opportunity of attending a number of events organized by the Center and of meeting with their students.  To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

And we need to ensure that the diverse student body can look up to as diverse a set of mentors and role models as well.  This will not be easy since we are competing with the very best universities in the nation and we need to show that we are not only inclusive on paper, but in reality.  We need to ensure that we are welcoming and supportive – that inclusion permeates everything we do.  I look to each of you to assist in all searches that we undertake to ensure that we attract the very best from across the nation.

From my first introduction to UTA, I have considered the diversity of this campus to be among its greatest strengths.  It is one of our institution’s points of pride today, and it will always be a characteristic of UTA in the future.  It will always matter because diversity, in its broadest sense, is what makes us a great institution.  This must be a part of our ethos and we must celebrate it and we must take advantage of our current status to build even further.  I look to you to help me as we move forward. 

Together, we must not accept anything less than the highest levels of excellence.  UTA is thriving, vibrant, diverse - and that is what we need to hold foremost in our minds as we plan for our future, as we plan for the future of the next generation, the future of this great institution, and the future of our society.  Our students deserve nothing less.

Thank you for all you do what our students and for UTA. 

Thank you.