It’s not every day that
college students can say they’re meeting the university president’s wife for coffee … or that they sat next to her during a recent sports event, jumping and screaming for the home team. That’s what makes Lisa Karbhari unique – and so special to students at the University of Texas Arlington. It’s safe to say the wife of UTA President Vistasp Karbhari has comfortably settled into her role since the couple began their tenure at the university almost three years ago.
“I had come to Arlington not quite knowing what to expect, but with an open mind to learn what UTA and the city of Arlington were all about, and it has been great. I’ve been able to be myself and get to know so many good friends and members of the UTA family.”
Lisa received her civil engineering degree in 1990 from the University of Delaware, where she and Vistasp met, and eventually married. After graduation she worked for a geotechnical firm designing landfills, testing areas for environmental remediation, and developing plans for the management of water resources. With those days behind her, the 47-year-old “First Lady of UTA” now keeps a tight schedule of a very different kind.
On any given day,
one can spot her attending a variety of different campus functions, including student group meetings, athletic events, Greek fundraisers, music concerts and theatre productions, to name a few. Once a week she also teaches MAVS 1000, a mandatory class that orients first-year students to Maverick life and assists in the home-to-college transition. “My biggest challenge is not having enough time in the day, or the ability to be in more than one place at the same time,” she says.
Being so involved in UTA’s student life has given Lisa the opportunity to serve as a mentor to the more than 47,000 students enrolled at the university. Although impossible to connect with every single one of them, she has found ways to reach out and touch many, including senior Nursing major and Student Congress Secretary Sara Morgan. Morgan says:
“It has been great seeing Lisa (and Dr. Karbhari) at all of the events supporting the students and submerging themselves into Maverick traditions. She is so supportive and even comes to student organization functions. Lisa helps to make a big university a little smaller, and gives it a face that students can relate to.”
Student Congress President and junior Psychology and Neuroscience major Emmalie Moe says:
“Lisa is so humble and authentic, and she’s got a real knack for making people laugh,” “I think it is awesome that she’s married to the president of our university, and that she makes a real effort to know as many of the students as she possibly can.”
As exciting as it is for students to see Lisa so engaged in campus life, it’s equally as thrilling for her to be a part of it all. “UTA is an amazing institution with tremendous faculty, staff, and students. There are so many wonderful things happening here,” she says, referring to the university’s increasing reputation for being a growing research powerhouse. “Research increases the knowledge that students receive, and helps them to be more successful.”
Making students feel “at home”
is a high priority for Lisa. With a campus known for its ethnic diversity and growing national/international student body, many students don’t have the option of driving home for the weekend to spend time with the family. “I can’t imagine coming halfway across the world at 17 or 18 years old,” she says. “We also have a lot of first-generation college students here at UTA, and it’s scary doing something out of your comfort zone. We want to do everything we can to help them all feel welcome and at ease, so they can reach their full potential.”
One of the more successful ways she has been able to connect with students and the community is through social media. “Having a Facebook page gives me the chance to share what’s going on at UTA, and at the same time let people get to know me a little better,” she says. It has also opened up opportunities for her to reach out to students who are struggling with something in their lives. “Sometimes I’ll private message a student who appears to be having a difficult time, and I’ll ask if they’d like to meet for coffee,” she says.
Erika Long, who recently graduated from UTA with an Advertising and Public Relations degree says:
“She has such a big heart, and you can tell she cares about each person she meets,” “She never walks around as though she is above the students. She truly cares about each one of us. It helps students keep going, knowing that she is in our corner and cheering us on to achieve great things.”
When not on campus, Lisa is UTA’s biggest cheerleader in the community, representing the university at civic functions, and also serving on the community advisory board for the Junior League of Arlington. “I hope that my involvement with UTA and the partnership it has with the city of Arlington enables me to better serve our community,” she says.
The Karbhari couple lives in Arlington with their pride and joy, a German shepherd named Gabriella. “She keeps us laughing and always finds ways to surprise us,” Lisa says.
When time allows, she enjoys scrapbooking, creating things with Legos, and scuba diving. “It has been challenging to find the time to go diving, but we have managed to go on a few trips,” she says. “I love it because it allows me to explore and discover the ocean. Being underwater is very peaceful.”
Above all else, the couple thoroughly enjoys meeting people and representing UTA. And it is sincere. “I love our students, and it’s critical that they know that my husband and I care for them not only as UTA students, but as members of our extended family,” she says. “Being there for them, cheering them on, applauding their accomplishments, and being a shoulder to lean on when needed … it’s all important.”