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Fall Faculty and Staff Meeting

October 5, 2017

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is always a pleasure and an honor to speak at this event as we celebrate the achievements of our faculty and welcome new members to the Maverick family. I stand here in awe of what you have achieved and I stand here thankful that I have the good fortune to serve as president for this great institution.

And there is much to celebrate – from rankings of departments and colleges, national and international honors received by our faculty from professional associations and other institutions, to funding awarded to our faculty for research and creative activity. The development of new knowledge, the creation of intellectual property, the presentation and exhibition of new creative activity – these and more have distinguished our institution over the past year.

Let me at the very outset acknowledge and thank our professors emeriti for their years of commitment to our students, to the furthering of knowledge and scholarship, and to this great institution. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the latest winners of the UT System Board of Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Awards. Carla, Bob, Ramon, Laura and Kathryn – you set a high bar for all of us – through your dedication to teaching and learning, through your undiminished drive for cultivating the thirst for learning within your students, and for serving as shining examples of the fact that excellence in teaching and research can coexist and thrive at a university. Through your example, and that of those who came before you, we are assured that the art of teaching, the inculcation of the desire for enquiry and discovery, and the dedication to the development of our students thrives at UTA.

In the 2016-17 academic year we conferred 12,732 degrees, an increase of 10.4 percent from the previous year, continuing the trajectory of increasing conferrals for the fourth year in a row, matching areas of high workforce need in the State of Texas including nursing, STEM fields, social work and business. I should note that the rate of increase in degrees is higher than the increase in our global population (6.3%) signifying that we have substantially enhanced the rate of student success as measured by degrees. And, yes, we exceeded the threshold of 200 doctoral degrees for the fourth year in a row as we inch closer to attaining Tier 1 status.

Numbers are wonderful in describing success but they do not even begin to reflect the level of passion, innovation, dedication and hard work that each of you put into teaching and mentoring. You continue to set new standards for bridging access and excellence proving that while the quality of incoming students as measured by rank is important, it is what is done while the student is at the university that really matters and that defines success. Thank you for enabling this, for in doing so we continue to serve our mission exceptionally well, ensuring that we are not just the socio-cultural hub for Arlington but the intellectual driver for the DFW Metroplex.

Our research expenditures continue to rise exceeding $93M in the last fiscal year, an increase of about 9% over the previous year, bringing us one step closer to the $100M mark. From NSF CAREER Awards to prestigious NIH grants and highly competitive awards from the Office of Naval Research, to grants from state agencies, our faculty are competing at the highest levels, winning large, multiple-year contract and grants that not only enable advancement of the state of knowledge through research but ensure the education and training of increasing numbers of students in areas of critical national need.

The most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking placed UTA first in the nation among public national universities for lowest debt per student, following three distinguished private institutions Princeton, Yale and BYU. The Brookings Institution ranked UTA among the top 25 “leader” universities among the nation’s 342 selective, four-year public research institutions, in providing high social mobility. UTA students from low-income backgrounds are able to move into higher income brackets and advanced careers as a direct result of degrees earned at UTA. And earlier this month Washington Monthly ranked us as #1 in Texas and #49 in the U.S. for adult learners.

As I sat down last night to pen a few words for today’s remarks I was taken back four years to this very event when I stood here a very new president. I was in awe of our faculty then and time has only increased my admiration for you. The past four years have seen significant stresses in the ivory tower. We constantly hear in the media and elsewhere that

  • higher education has become too expensive;
  • tuition has risen far faster than inflation;
  • student debt will be the next bubble to burst;
  • a college degree really does not have value in getting a job; and,
  • America’s top research universities have become “bastions of privilege and hypocrisy.”

While these may well be true of some institutions, they do not reflect what goes on at UTA. Bold Solutions – Global Impact. These two phrases, a tag line if you will, describes in many ways the past, present and future of the University of Texas at Arlington. We have always been a university known for the commitment of our faculty to enabling the dreams of our students through personalization while simultaneously being dedicated to the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge. When innovation meets personal touch wonderful things can happen and at UTA this has resulted in a transformative education for thousands of students on one hand, and deeply impactful research that has ranged from the very fundamental to that which has found application in resolving a critical issue immediately on the other. Whether it’s the use of digital delivery of instruction to enhance access, or the use of Shakespeare reciting robots to improve the psychological well-being of older adults, or the development of “cancer traps” and the use of novel nanotechnologies our faculty are at the forefront of innovation – the impact of which is not just in the local area, but throughout our nation, and across the globe.

I’m going to ask each of you to view each day as a tremendous opportunity – to reach for the stars and achieve great success in teaching and research, to provide a transformational experience second to none for our students, and to ensure that we have a positive and long lasting impact on the communities we serve – in the Metroplex, in Texas, and globally.

This is our mission. This is represented in our values. This is the University of Texas at Arlington and you – you are making this institution one of the very best in the world – setting standards for others to follow. Let me then end – just as I began – I am in awe, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to serve you and this great institution.

Thank you, and Mav Up!