Transformation - 2008 President's Report

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The Urgency of Now - 2008 President's Report

Message from the President

Transforming Our University
James D. Spaniolo

This fall I began my fifth year as president of The University of Texas at Arlington. Even before I arrived on campus, I realized the great promise of this university and the remarkable men and women who make it what it is. I joined an institution that was not only eager to advance, but also positioned extremely well to do so. I believed then, as I do now, that UT Arlington is an institution on the move.

This has been an incredible year for UT Arlington. By every measure, we are making great strides in our relentless drive to become a major national research university. The facts speak for themselves, and this , our first such report, provides a dramatic snapshot of the tremendous accomplishments achieved across this university in the past year alone.

Nowhere is our success more evident than in our burgeoning research enterprise. UT Arlington's research expenditures exceeded $66 million this year, up an astounding 57 percent from last year and more than doubling in the past six years. We have added 75 new tenure-track faculty positions and continue to recruit nationally recognized scholars and research faculty.

The work of our faculty—and the success of our students—is supported and enhanced by the construction or renovation of more than a dozen buildings during the past five years, adding more than 1.2 million square feet of space to our physical plant. This year we broke ground on the $150 million Engineering Research Complex; dedicated the new Civil Engineering Lab Building; established the innovative UT Arlington Optical Medical Imaging Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center; dedicated the School of Nursing's Smart Hospital; and opened the doors of our spectacular new Maverick Activities Center, which overnight became arguably the most popular campus gathering spot for students.

After several years of planning and preparation, the University embarked on developing its natural gas reserves this year. Our partner, Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc., began drilling at a site on the southeast corner of campus last November, and we are encouraged that six wells are expected to be in production by the end of calendar year 2008. The University's intent is to direct royalties from natural gas production to support undergraduate and graduate scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, and the campus master plan. These royalties will be invested and leveraged with private gifts to achieve their maximum potential.

An important dimension in advancing UT Arlington is private philanthropic support. This year we increased private support more than 20 percent. We intend to continue this momentum and are in the early stages of planning for our first comprehensive fundraising campaign. A campaign will be the catalyst for the University to make greater investments in endowment and capital resources than ever before. The $1 million gift we received this year from Texas Instruments to support the Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics is an excellent example of the way private support can play an integral role in the implementation of our strategic plan.

Our goal is to become a first-choice university for students, and increasing our enrollment continues to be a top priority. We are particularly proud that we already are the first choice for a growing number of Hispanic and African-American students, who represent 15 percent and 14 percent of our student population, respectively. Our challenge, and one that we are equally and steadfastly committed to, is to continue to bring more diversity to our faculty and staff, as well.

While we are grateful for these accomplishments, we do not have the luxury to pause. The future for UT Arlington is bright, but we have much work to do. We are guided in that work by a first-rate leadership team. Our vice presidents and deans are among the best in higher education, and this year we recruited some outstanding new individuals to complement an already stellar lineup.

Dr. Donald Bobbitt, formerly of the University of Arkansas, joined us as provost and vice president for academic affairs. Dr. Barbara Becker, formerly of the University of Arizona, was named dean of the School of Urban and Public Affairs. Jean Hood, formerly of Roger Williams University and Harvard University, joined us as vice president for human resources. Jerry Lewis, formerly of the University of Miami, is our new vice president for communications. Jim Lewis, formerly of Austin College, joined us as vice president for development. Dr. Karl Petruso, formerly associate dean of our Honors College, was named dean of the Honors College. And Dr. Ronald Elsenbaumer, who served admirably this past year as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, is now serving in an expanded role as vice president for research and federal relations.

It is no coincidence that the theme we have chosen for this report is Transformation. Anyone who has set foot on our campus in the past few years would agree that what we are experiencing here, what we have strategically set in motion, is a transformation of this university. It is with a deliberate sense of common purpose that we are redefining who we are and laying the groundwork for what we will become.

Perhaps the most vivid example of our transformation can be found in the fact that we have rounded the corner in our perception as a commuter school. UT Arlington is, once and for all, a residential campus. This year we welcomed almost 4,300 students who now call our residence halls and on-campus apartments home. Another 2,000 students live within a mile of campus. Within just a few short years, UT Arlington has become the residential campus it was always destined to be, replete with all of the programming, entertainment, services and support that contribute to a robust campus environment.

We are seeing a greater sense of pride and engagement at UT Arlington than ever before. I believe it is directly related to our increase in on-campus housing, which is fostering a renewed sense of spirit and community. The fact that nearly 96,000 of our 138,000 alumni live and work in North Texas adds an immeasurable dimension to the University community. Virtually all the ingredients are now in place to create a true college town here in the heart of the Metroplex.

Almost five years ago, I concluded my investiture speech by quoting one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. I have promises to keep, Frost wrote, and miles to go before I sleep … and miles to go before I sleep. We have come a long way since then at UT Arlington. But we can never rest.

signature of James D. Spaniolo

James D. Spaniolo