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Parent and Family Weekend Dinner

October 21, 2017

Good Evening, Everyone – Welcome or, rather, welcome back to Maverick Country. It’s always a tremendous pleasure and honor to greet our Maverick parents and families. I hope you and your UTA student are enjoying this weekend together, learning more about your Maverick's home away from home. At UTA our goal is to provide a transformative educational experience, a foundation, if you will, for the wonderful and truly impactful actions that our students and alumni make every day. Through their hard work they not only create a tremendous future for themselves, but also for their families, and for the communities in which they live.

A number of people here today represent legacy families, ones that have multiple generations who have attended UTA. There is no greater recognition of a person’s pride in a university than ensuring that their children and grandchildren attend the very same institution. Thank you – we are building a university beyond comparison on your shoulders.

All of you here today mean so much to us at UTA. Whether you are parents, siblings or other members of the family, you have an intrinsic connection to our campus through the student from your family who is attending the University of Texas at Arlington. You are, therefore, a member of the Maverick Family and I hope that you have not only felt welcome as you attended events and took in our campus, but that you feel the pride and excitement that exists at our institution.

  • #1 among national public universities for graduating students with the least debt;
  • #1 in Texas and #20 in the nation for Veterans;
  • #1 in Texas for adult learners;
  • #1 in Texas and #10 in the nation for the graduate taxation program;
  • The only University in Texas to have two MBA programs listed in CEO Magazine’s Tier-1 list;
  • One of the very select and prestigious group of 115 of the top research universities in the nation designated by the Carnegie Foundation as R-1 “highest research” institutions, the ultimate ranking for a research university;
  • One of the nation’s top three percent, and #24, among 875 undergraduate elementary teacher programs across the United States;
  • One of the top 25 “leader” universities among the nation’s 342 selective, four-year public research institutions, for providing high social mobility and producing high levels of impactful research;
  • One of only 63 institutions nationwide named to Phi Theta Kappa’s 2017 Transfer Honor Roll, which recognizes excellence in community college transfer pathways;
  • Home to internationally recognized faculty who have won the top awards in their fields this year such as:
    • David Nygren (from physics) winner of the Marie Curie award,
    • Sandy Dasgupta (from chemistry and biochemistry) winner of the Talenta Medal,
    • Robert Gatchel (from psychology) awarded the American Psychological Foundation’s 2017 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement,
    • Ken Reifsnider (from mechanical and aerospace engineering) awarded the prestigious lifetime achievement award for computational and experimental engineering and sciences,
    • Peggy Semingson (from The College of Education) winner of the International Literacy Association’s 2017 Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award,
    • Robert Hower (from art and art history) one of only four Global UDA Medallion awardees.
    • The largest campus in the University of Texas System and one of the fastest growing in the nation awarding over 12,700 degrees at the Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degree levels, and
    • The university that over the past three years has generated one-out-of-every-two nurses with a Bachelor’s degree, one-of-every-four with a Master’s degree and one-of-every-five with a doctoral degree.

And that list could go on and on – and no I’m not describing accolades won by Rice, or SMU, or Austin, or A&M. I’m listing just a few examples of rankings and awards from your university – the University of Texas at Arlington.

Our students could not be at UTA at a better time. The immediate, and future, success of our students is always uppermost in the minds of our faculty and staff. They are committed to not only providing a transformative education that develops an intellectual capacity second to none, but that also prepares them for success in our workforce. A recent report from PayScale.com noted that, on average, UTA students earn the second highest of all universities in the Metroplex, 11% greater at the early career stage and 9% greater at the mid-career stage than the average of all universities, public and private in the Metroplex.

But this is not enough. In an ambitious project, we are attempting to ensure that all undergraduates have access to five distinguishing characteristics – an internship before they graduate, active involvement in undergraduate research, development of leadership skills, participation in community service, and intentional international engagement. We believe that these five Maverick Imperatives will be crucial to set our students apart, to give them an edge over all others and to ensure that they are well prepared to not only succeed in life but to be leaders in the communities in which they reside.

Let me apologize for the inconvenience that you might have faced as you walked or drove through campus this weekend. We are in the midst of a massive expansion that will position UTA as a leader nationally. The new Science and Engineering Innovation and Research Building at the south end of the campus will open in summer of 2018 serving as the hub of our efforts in health sciences. The new 534-bed residence hall on the northwest end of campus which will be occupied by students next fall will continue to add to the residential flavor of this campus which now has one of the highest percentages of students staying on campus in the state. A new dining hall and student activities center adjacent to the residence hall which will be open next summer and will add much needed facilities. And the 1500 slot parking garage already partially in use add to our facilities as we increase the momentum started earlier this year with the landmark opening of the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center – a location that engages with students from their first year on campus and helps develop them for success in the workforce. Expect more facilities to be added in future years to meet the growing needs of this fast changing institution.

All this is due to the wonderful people who work at the University – many of whom are here today. They are hosting your tables as well as reaching out to envelope you in our family. Could I ask all members of the UTA faculty, staff and administration to please stand so that they can be recognized? Could you please join me in a round of applause for them to thank them for all they do to ensure that our students receive the very best experiences – inside and out of the classroom?

Through the semester, based on what our students have told you and from the news you’ve read, I hope you’ve had an opportunity to learn more about this exciting university and the exceptional opportunities that our students are experiencing. We are a university on the rise, advancing in national and international stature. We are a university that knows no bounds and are driven by the determination and talent of our students. Diverse, innovative, excelling in all that we put our minds to – and first-choice. This is who we are, and this is who we aspire to be – the best of the best – the model 21st Century Urban Research University, setting standards that others will follow, and our students are the drivers and catalysts for this.

I hope some of you had the chance to watch our volleyball team in action last night as they overpowered Georgia State, and our National Champion Movin’ Mavs, who some of you might have watched this afternoon. From basketball to softball, tennis to track and field, golf and baseball – our athletes compete at the highest levels and they excel in the classroom as well. Let me invite you through the rest of the year to watch, in person or on TV or online, our teams in action as they represent us at the highest levels of intercollegiate and national competition. For those able to attend in person – stop by and say, “Hi.” Lisa and I attend as many games as we can and we love seeing our Maverick parents and families joining our students cheering loud and proud for our UTA Mavs.

I hope this visit will be just one of many to UTA. I hope many of you, especially our alums, will be back here in a few weeks for Homecoming 2017. If your student has not invited you already, please let my wife, Lisa, and I invite you back to Maverick Country for a range of events starting November 5th and culminating on November 12th. The Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala will be held on Friday November 10th; followed by the homecoming parade, street festival, pep rally and men’s and women’s basketball games on November 11th. As the organizers have put it “More energy. More fun. More sports. More excitement. It all adds up to something great: All Maverick”.

There are many more events through the year at which we’d love your attendance. Join the Parent and Family Association, come attend a sports event, a concert, a play, a Maverick Speaker Series lecture, follow us (and me) on social media, or just come visit. You are UTA, and we want you to feel welcome and to feel proud – you are Mavericks – Maverick Moms, Maverick Dads, Maverick Uncles and Aunts, Maverick Grandparents, and Maverick siblings – THIS is your home.

Most of all, parents and family members, I thank you for your encouragement and support of your students as they journey towards excellence. I know how much your children mean to you and how much you have sacrificed to have them attend UTA. I assure you that we take very seriously our responsibilities to nurture them and help them to grow into the fulfilled, accomplished professionals you wish them to become. We are committed to doing our very best to take good care of them, focusing not only on their education in the class room, but also on their overall growth, their safety and wellbeing.

Thank you all for being here tonight. Enjoy the rest of the weekend’s activities, and I hope to see you again very soon at UTA in Maverick Country.