Recently appointed University of Texas at Arlington President Dr. Jennifer Cowley last month shared with Arlington Today her impressions of her new professional home – and of her role as its leader. Here’s what she had to say:
Arlington Today: Now that you’ve settled into the position, what stands out most to you about being UTA’s president?
Jennifer Cowley: Before my first day, I knew UT Arlington as a national treasure, an institution brimming with talent, innovation, and possibilities. In my first months on campus, I’ve learned that it’s all I expected and so much more. I’ve been fortunate to attend more than 100 events and met more than 5,000 members of our Maverick family. I continually find myself energized and inspired by the multitude of talent at UTA. We have true and distinguished excellence here.
AT: With a new school year dawning, what are some of the more exciting prospects for the university this fall and beyond?
JC: Getting the Texas Tier One designation has been a game-changer for the university. It’s a true milestone of academic and research excellence. It’s also really resonating with our students, who are recognizing how valuable a UTA degree has become in the workforce. We continue to attract academically talented students. We’re also becoming known more widely as one of the top universities in the state to get a great education and as a place that performs groundbreaking research that improves the lives and livelihoods of people living in Texas.
AT: What has surprised you most about your new position?
JC: The grit and determination of our students is something to behold. Each year, we’re setting enrollment records for the number of first-time-in-college students, but we also continue to attract a large number of working professionals who are resolute in improving their knowledge base and career prospects. I’m proud that our university offers the flexibility and choice that allows us to appeal to the 18-year-old college freshman and the post-traditional student. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the passion of our students, the leadership and expertise of our staff and faculty, and the global power, influence, and impact of our 250,000-strong alumni. To be a Maverick is to be part of a worldwide community of leaders, thinkers and difference-makers.
AT: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced early on, and how have you addressed them?
JC: One of my top priorities has been filling some of the senior positions that are critical to our academic leadership, athletic department and our marketing and alumni outreach, to name a few. I’m not at all surprised that our openings attracted some of the most talented professionals in their fields. We’re the fourth-largest university in Texas located in the nation’s fifth-largest and fastest-growing region. Students want to come here, and people want to work here.
What is your personal philosophy, and how do you integrate that into your role as president?
I have five core values that I have shared with my team and I believe are critical for the success of the university.
1) The first is a commitment to our work that achieves outcomes for our students and community.
2) In a resource-scarce environment – resourcefulness is critical. What impact can we create with the resources that we have?
3) Optimism about our future. Long-term optimism is all about opportunities.
4) Honesty. We bring our problems into the open, we own our mistakes, we take responsibility and in doing so we are building a high trust environment.
5) And, most importantly, impact. How can our work make things better for our students, faculty, staff and our community?
AT: What, to you, are UTA’s premier selling points?
JC: Our best selling points are our people, our scale and our location. Our staff and faculty are our institution’s greatest strength, and we have a long history of providing a quality education to a diverse population of students and providing access to that education throughout their lifetime. Our scale is a major advantage. We have more than 180 degree programs, hundreds of student organizations and flexibility in how we offer courses. You can chart a path at UTA that works best for you. And we have many ways we can partner with businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. And our location is hard to beat. UTA is located in the middle of everywhere, with major cities to the east and west and access to amazing cultural, dining, sports and entertainment activities in every direction. When Mavericks graduate, they gain access to jobs at 22 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the North Texas region —the fourth most in the U.S.
AT: When your time as president is over, what do you hope would be your legacy with the school?
JC: I believe that The University of Texas at Arlington can be one of the nation’s most inclusive and impactful research universities. We owe it to ourselves and to the state of Texas to achieve this goal. Our state needs us to dream big. With our commitment to making college education affordable, we have the passion and the programs to provide access to a college education for ordinary Texans and help them lead extraordinary lives.