The fall semester that’s underway at the University of Texas at Arlington marks still another record enrollment, but what is happening involves much more than the growing number of students.
Since I first started accepting some adjunct teaching assignments there almost 20 years ago, the student population has doubled. But the real story lies in the impact on the area’s economy and the results of ever-increasing opportunities in degree programs producing graduates who will change the world.
In greeting some 60 new faculty members a week ago, UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari welcomed them to the campus of what the national non-partisan think tank New America Foundation calls a “Next Generation University.”
“We are committed to becoming not just a great institution of higher education,” he told them, “but the model 21st-century urban research university, a thought leader setting standards for others to follow.”
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According to the Carnegie Foundation, that goal is being achieved. UT Arlington has just joined the ranks of R1 Doctoral Universities – the highest rating that Carnegie awards to universities based on research activity.
Unless you have followed recent announcements, you may be surprised to learn that the university now has 13 fellows in the National Academy of Inventors — which, according to news reports, is the highest number of any institution in Texas and second highest in the nation.
UTA is not resting on what it has achieved. Further development of physical facilities where all that research and invention are taking place is well underway.
Ground will soon be broken for a new $125 million, 220,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Innovation and Research building.
According to the university’s news department, the project will add 900 teaching seats in lecture halls and classrooms, which will support enrollment growth across campus, especially the planned growth in the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the College of Science.
Karbhari described the facility as enhancing UT Arlington’s capacity to meet the state’s need for generating a highly skilled workforce and intellectual capital while assuring the continued rise in that Carnegie R1 reputation.
Reaching beyond the engineering and science fields, local officials and community leaders joined in the ribbon-cutting last month of the new Career Development Center, “a place where talent meets opportunity,” said Tim Quinnan, vice president of student affairs.
“This is far more than just a location where resumes are reviewed and people sit for interviews,” Karbhari added, “ It will engage students with UTA alumni serving as mentors for career development in the tradition of the elite ivy leagues.”
UT Arlington traces its origins to 1895. Today it occupies 420 acres on its main campus, with more than 2,200 members of the academic staff delivering 180 different degree programs in 10 distinct schools and colleges.
Karbhari concluded his address to the new faculty members with a personal account of his journey to where he is today. It reveals his transition from bystander to leader.
“Years ago as an associate professor, I complained about obstacles in my path, bureaucracy that stymied my research and teaching, and policies that made no sense to me. One of my mentors took me aside and gave me advice that I have never forgotten. He told me to stop complaining and do something, be a researcher, teacher and administrator — make a difference from the center rather than sit on the sidelines looking in.
“I encourage each of you to do just that — your efforts, your ideas, your participation is what will make the difference between being a good university and a pre-eminent one.”
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.