Celebrating the 2014 Patriots of the Year

Redo Dr. Mabry and Brad Brookshire for blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, I was honored to present Bradley W. Brookshire, the chairman of the Brookshire Grocery Company Board of Directors, with the 2014 Patriots of the Year Award. Out of gratitude for their support in the building of W.T. Brookshire Hallthe future home of the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacywe chose to name all 14,000 partners in the BGC organization as the Patriots of the Year. The award was given at a luncheon on April 29, and was immediately followed by a groundbreaking ceremony for Brookshire Hall.

Honoring our Distinguished Alumni

Former Illinois Wesleyan University President Dr. Minor Myers, Jr., once said during a commencement speech, “Go into the world and do well.  But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

Dr. Rodney H. Mabry

Dr. Rodney H. Mabry

That is what I desire for our students.  Over the years, I have seen many of our alumni go out into the world and accomplish great things.  I take pride in knowing that this institution was part of their success.

A few hundred of our alumni will be gathered on campus this weekend for our annual Alumni & Friends Awards Gala.  It’s a sold out event. I am looking forward to seeing so many of those who call this university their alma mater.

Our alumni may have attended this university in the past, but they are also a critical part of our future.  They are the legacy of this institution, the ones who will preserve the spirit of UT Tyler for years to come.  We have a special environment here, and it just shows in the number of former students who are dedicated to becoming successful and to supporting this university.

To those who are among our alumni, your success can be a stepping stone and an inspiration for those who follow you out of this institution.  I encourage you to remain involved, because by staying in touch you can make valuable connections as well as make a difference to those just starting their professional careers.

At the gala on Saturday, we will honor three alumni who embody this university’s spirit of excellence.

Our Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to those who have distinguished themselves in their professional achievements, contributions to society and support of the university.

Go into the worldDistinguished Alumna Dawn Franks earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from UT Tyler in 1979 and 1989, respectively.  She currently serves as the executive director of the Ben and Maytee Fisch Foundation.  Dawn is a genuine advocate for this university and for philanthropy in this community.  In addition to working with a variety of organizations to help them secure funding, she also provides countless hours of support and coaching to area non-profits.

Distinguished Alumnus David L. King earned a master of business administration from UT Tyler in 1983.  He serves as president of CB&I Engineered Products – a global technology, engineering and construction organization, which as part of the global CB&I organization has more than 50,000 employees worldwide.  He has 40 years of experience in the arena of technology, engineering, procurement, design, fabrication and construction of energy-related projects.

This year’s Distinguished Young Alumnus is Michael Wysocki.  After earning a bachelor of science in political science from UT Tyler in 2003, he later became a family law litigator/partner with the McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson and Downing LLP Family Law Practice in Dallas.  He has been listed several times as a Texas Rising Star, an annual listing for the top young attorneys in Texas. He is also the youngest associate in his firm’s history to be named partner.

As you can see, we have some truly successful individuals among our alumni.  Each of those being honored, and each of our thousands of alumni, is part of a growing force that has weight both here in Tyler and in the areas beyond.  Without their support of this institution, much of what we do would not be possible.

UT Tyler Debate – a Tradition of Excellence

My favorite part of speaking to outside audiences is bragging about our high-performing students. Over the past few years, the UT Tyler Debate Team has given me plenty to talk about. Our debaters have been a force on the national level, placing among the country’s top teams year after year. I am proud of what they have accomplished. Congratulations!

We will all be cheering them on in March as the group competes in two national events. The seven students and Dr. Chuck Walts will be traveling to Flagstaff, Arizona, for back-to-back tournaments starting March 15.  The first tournament, the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE), is by invitation only. The winner of that event, Dr. Walts tells us, is seen as the top debate team in the country.

Immediately following the NPTE is the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) tournament. That tournament also contains some of the best teams in the nation.

Dr. Walts says this is the best season the team has ever had. In particular, the special dedication and outstanding performance of sophomore political science major Kaitlyn Bull of Powderly and freshman social sciences major Sam Cook of Flint have contributed to this year’s high national ranking.

Bull and Cook placed second overall at a recent tournament held in San Diego, California, that is considered one of the premiere events in parliamentary debate. They are currently ranked 16th in the nation by the NPTE. Another UT Tyler pair, Dallas Flick and Carver Hodgkiss, is ranked 41st.

In addition, Bull also received an award for being one of the top five speakers at the tournament, which showcases some of the best debaters in the country.

In other posts, I have talked about the importance of being able to speak well. UT Tyler’s top tier debate team is a perfect example of how development of strong communication skills is something we do.

I have no doubt that these students will succeed in life. I wish them the best of luck in Arizona.

In addition, since the current group is made up of one junior, two sophomores and one freshman, I look forward to seeing what they accomplish next year.

Pursuing Excellence as a University Man or Woman – a Note to Students – Part 3

In the world of business, many of the characteristics we have discussed in this series fall under the label “soft skills.” That term can be roughly defined as the personality traits that characterize a person’s ability to interact with others. I want to detail from a career perspective just how important is it to develop these skills.

  • The need for soft skills is vital enough that the lack of them in recent college graduates has garnered articles in publications such as Time, Businessweek and Forbes.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor has a web page dedicated to aiding workers in soft skill development. It’s aimed at young people transitioning into the workforce.
  • In fact, in a November article on Time’s business website, 60 percent of employers said they could not find applicants with the necessary communication and interpersonal skills.
  • A second survey, by staffing company Adecco, was quoted in the same Time article as stating “44 percent of (employers) cited soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration as the area with the biggest gap.”

Your ability to communicate with others and to perform tasks in a group environment – skills you often practice in the classroom – will have a real-world impact on your professional life.

Becoming a university graduate is truly a goal few accomplish. Only 18 percent of Texas adults have a university degree, 16 percent in the Tyler area. You have the potential to make a real difference in the world. As we discussed in my last two posts, your success will come just as much from developing depth of character as it does from excelling in the classroom.

True university men and women understand the importance of excelling beyond your GPA. If you dedicate yourself to acquiring the skills I have discussed in this series, you will find yourself pursuing an excellence of character that will be vital to your success.

Never quit on a project, learn all you can, and always grow in wisdom, knowledge and skills.  Do those things and you’ll not only have a successful career, but you’ll make a difference in the world.

You will be a true university man or woman.

Pursuing Excellence as a University Man or Woman – A Note to Students – Part 2

Dr. Rodney H. Mabry

Dr. Rodney H. Mabry

In my last post I gave a list of characteristics that a University Man or Woman should display. I will admit it was a long list. Developing the qualities necessary to be a successful individual is not easy. It takes perseverance, dedication and time.

What I want to tell you today is that the effort is worth it. Many of you are already well along on the road to becoming university men and women—and that means something.

Believe it or not, here at UT Tyler we work to equip you with both the knowledge you need for your job field and the skills you need to be able to succeed in the workplace and in society.  All you need to do is remember that some of the tasks you may not enjoy often teach you the most important skills.

1. Write, write, write, write.  The ability to communicate on paper is essential in every job.

  • Yes, I did say every job.  If you are an engineer, you will still need to write reports.  If you are a nurse, you will need to be able to write updates on a patient’s condition.  If you are in education, you will write regular emails to parents, principals, district administrators and other audiences.
  • No matter what your job description is, writing will be a part of it.  So learn to write concisely, descriptively, and with as few errors as possible.
  • Don’t just rely on autocorrect or spell check.  We’ve all seen what funny errors can result from letting a computer do your writing for you.  There are whole websites dedicated to those errors.  Don’t end up on one of them.

2. Learn to shake a hand and discuss your ideas.  If you are that person in class who is always in the middle of a discussion with the professor, congratulations.  You will probably be supervising many of your quieter classmates someday.

  • Learning when to talk and when to listen will hone your communication skills and make you a vital employee.
  • In fact, in a November article in Forbes, author Dan Schawbel said when his company interviewed employers about traits they look for when hiring students, 98 percent said “communication skills.”
  • So learn to speak to others, build strong presentations, and share your thoughts orally and in the written word.
  • Warren Buffet once said to a group of business students that communication skills increase an employee’s value by 50 percent.

Your word is your bond quote

3. Develop a strong work ethic.  Your word is your bond.  If an employer can trust youto be there every day at 8 a.m. and work diligently until 5, you’ve got a much better chance of having a future with that company.  And even if you don’t want to stay in that job, still keep that ethic.  You never know when you will need the bridge you didn’t burn.

4. Develop the four cardinal virtues.  The idea of four main virtues is not new.  The Greek philosophers—Socrates to Plato to Aristotle—as well as many philosophers since have spoken about the importance of developing the following traits:

  • Temperance – which means self-control, moderation, the ability to abstain from things that distract you from your main goal
  • Courage – Endurance, the ability to confront fear, uncertainly and intimidation.  We are all afraid at times.  Just don’t let it get the best of you and you will do fine.
  • Practical wisdom, also called prudence – The ability to assess the consequences of your actions and act appropriately.
  • Justice – the idea that we all get exactly what we earn, and that we should all fight to make sure we all earn our keep.

Dedicate yourself to these goals, and you will be well on your way toward being a true university man or woman.

 

Pursuing Excellence as a University Man or Woman – a Note to Students – Part 1

I have recently been telling audiences that UT Tyler shines because it turns out well-educated graduates who are “university women and men.”  By that term, I mean that our graduates have important soft skills, productive attributes and positive values to go along with first-rate knowledge of their academic disciplines.

At UT Tyler, we pride ourselves in giving you the best knowledge base possible and in holding you to higher-than-average standards.  By doing so, we help enable you to have successful careers and to be productive for yourself, your families and society.

However, a work credential—a certain degree that says you can be an engineer, accountant, nurse, teacher—is NOT the only thing employers want, maybe not even the most important thing.

Numerous employer surveys show the primary reason some recent graduates cannot find employment or advance in their careers is not because they failed to learn the subject matter, but because they did not learn the skills that have nothing to do with a degree plan.  Those other things are every bit as important as what is in the classroom.

I want to tell you what those other skills and characteristics are, in hopes that you will use your university years to develop them.

2University man for blogThe obvious first attribute is that you are a knowledgeable person.  You have professional knowledge that will enable you to build successful careers.  You are here to learn to be accountants, educators, artists, musicians, engineers and nurses and to do great work.  Notice, I didn’t say to get a “job.”  A university man or woman doesn’t want a job. They want to work.  In addition, you have what is known as liberal knowledge—or broader cultural knowledge—that allows you to work with others and connect ideas in order to adapt and solve problems.

In addition to that most important characteristic, I think the following skills are essential to both academic and career success:

1. A university man or woman can think analytically.  They think things though logically,critically and robustly, bringing all their knowledge to bear in a focused and thoughtful way with an eye to getting to the essence of a matter and find solutions.

2. A university man or woman can communicate effectively.  High levels of both written and oral communication are the most critically needed skills—and the most lacking in applicants—for most positions.  Learn to write.  Doing so helps train your brain and gives you orderly thinking skills.

3. A university man or woman exercises sound judgment.  Judgment is the ability to weigh facts and arguments and to evaluate alternative outcomes and their consequences as part of a good decision-making process.  Haven’t you known people or certain friends who could take information and ideas—even regarding where a group should go to eat—and make better-than-average judgment calls?

4. A university man or woman pursues excellence.  He or she subscribes to the adage:  “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well!”  A university man or woman gives anything his best effort.

University man quote box for blog

5. A university man or woman loves to persevere.  They are willing to give anything theydecide to do “the old college try.”  Even more to the point, they do not quit.

  • “No,” “never” and “that can’t be done” are not in their vocabulary.
  • When challenges come, a university man or woman will find a way to say, “Yes, that can be done, if you do it this way.”

6. A university man or woman is honorable, which includes so many attributes.  University men and women:

  • Care about others.
  • Are civil and cordial with each other in all matters of discussion, debate and interaction.
  • Honor all bargains, even those sealed with a handshake.
  • Tell the truth and never cheat—and help others do the same.

7. A university man or woman has courage and will:

  • Take prudent, well-calculated risks in order to achieve the unachievable.
  • Stand up for what they believe is right and fair.
  • Stand up for those who have a smaller voice, or no voice at all.
  • Tell others (with appropriate tact) when they believe those others are incorrect.

8. A university man or women is a leader.

    • They are informed—they read and listen.
    • They are willing and able to make decisions that consider available information and the views of others.
    • They can prioritize—know the difference between what is important and what can be left for another time.
    • They are engines of action that can persuade others to follow and get a task done.
    • When necessary, they are agents of change.

University man Quote 2

9. They have soft skills—the needed communication and interpersonal skills to perform in a professional environment.  A university man or woman can carry on a conversation (in the workplace and with clients) and have dinner easily with co-workers and the supervisor.woman knows how to:

  • Be on time; be prepared; work hard; and do the very best he or she can.
  • Write cogently and succinctly.
  • Really listen.
  • Be a team player (can get along in, and make productive use of, small groups).
  • Shake hands and look someone in the eye—at the same time.

That is a big list, I know. In future blog entries, I will talk about how students can work to develop these skills.

Changing the Community through the Fisch College of Pharmacy

Research shows that pharmacies are common sources for important medical information.  Consider that for a moment.  We rely on our pharmacy for everything from flu shots to advice about drug interactions.  There is a wealth of knowledge stored behind that counter in the minds of professional pharmacists.

I am proud to say that, in just a few years, many of the pharmacists helping East Texas patients will have been educated right here in Tyler.

Earlier this year, after years of groundwork, the 83rd Texas Legislature approved a proposal to establish a self-sustaining college of pharmacy at The University of Texas at Tyler in collaboration with UT Health Northeast.  In August, the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted unanimously to make it official.

This is one of several early renderings of the first structure for the Fisch College of Pharmacy.

This is a conceptual rendering of the first building in the Fisch College of Pharmacy.

The new college will be named the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy, acknowledging a generous, multi-year gift for start-up operations and endowment from the Ben and Maytee Fisch Foundation.  We have already hired a founding dean, engaged architects to design its new home and begun preparations for the national accrediting process, which will begin in January.   With favorable winds, we expect to admit the first class of students to the Fisch College in 2015.

That new home will be much larger, nicer and more functional than originally planned, as a result of a large multi-year commitment for the building from the Brookshire Grocery Company (BGC).  Acknowledging their generous help, the building will be named for the company’s founder.  It will be known as  W. T. Brookshire Hall.

Establishing the Fisch College, aside from admitting lower division students for the first time in the fall of 1998, is the largest single change in the UT Tyler landscape in my 15 years as the University’s president.

For most of the past decade, we have been resolute in our goal to one day establish a college of pharmacy, and thus take advantage of—and add to—the medical focus of Tyler.  So, the UT Tyler family is especially delighted to be moving forward with such a significant project.

We are able to bring this new program to Tyler because of the support of so many of you.  Our elected officials, led by Senator Kevin Eltife, carried the day in the Legislature.  Major companies, led by Brookshire’s leaders Chairman Brad Brookshire and President Rick Rayford, provided significant support and brought other key parties to the table.  The same was true of our major hospital systems and the Tyler Chamber of Commerce, led by Tom Mullins.  And, it is very important to say that UT System—including former Chairman Gene Powell and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa—went far beyond basic support for establishing this new pharmacy college in East Texas.  All of these supporters were solid, and sometimes fierce, advocates.  We thank one and all.

This is the site plan for the new college. The facility will be located next to the Robert R. Muntz Library.

This is the site plan for the new college. The facility will be located next to the Robert R. Muntz Library.

With this project, we are bringing something to the community that will, in many important ways, positively affect UT Tyler and improve the quality of life in East Texas.

First, the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy is a partnership between UT Tyler and UT Health Northeast.  UT Tyler will work primarily on the instructional side, although its faculty and students will undertake research projects that contain a learning component.  UT Health Northeast will undertake major pharmaceutical research projects that involve sophisticated equipment and the special research capabilities of its faculty.  In addition to the treasured potential for developing new drugs, our pharmacy students will have the very valuable benefit of assisting the Tyler health science center in its research.

Secondly, the Fisch College will bring a good number of additional students to UT Tyler and will be a major economic driver for the region.  Fisch College will, by year four, have some 400 students in the program along with 40 new faculty and staff members. Those new students and new high-paying professional jobs will, in turn, bring other new jobs and new consumers into the local economy.

Furthermore, because of the addition of the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy, UT Tyler will experience a substantial increase in enrollment in pre-pharmacy science courses.  The University will be able to build further its already strong reputation in chemistry and biology.

Third, this new college of pharmacy will provide an opportunity for East Texas students to have local access to the education they need.  Only seven other Texas universities offer a pharmacy program, the closest one in Fort Worth.  When area students cannot find a seat in those institutions, they look elsewhere.  According to data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 571 Texas residents attended pharmacy school in a state other than Texas in 2012 and paid an average private or out-of-state tuition far exceeding $30,000 annually.

This is the conceptual view of Brookshire Hall as seen from across Harvey Lake.

This is the conceptual view of Brookshire Hall as seen from across Harvey Lake.

Our goal is to give deserving East Texas men and women who want a career in pharmacy the opportunity to prepare for it right here in East Texas.  There is a strong need for pharmacists in Tyler and communities across our region.  We are pleased to be able to help students find quality employment in such a high-demand, high-paying field.

At UT Tyler, we take pride in our commitment to innovation.  The Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy will be a strong example of that originality.  The pharmacy program will be self-sustaining.  That is, the college will operate without state funding, using only tuition and philanthropic gifts instead.  This outside-the-box approach will allow us to build a quality program without placing an additional burden on state taxpayers or current UT Tyler students in other academic programs.

One of the best parts of being involved in higher education is seeing the difference we make in the lives of students.  In a few years, when I am standing in front of a counter talking to a pharmacist with a UT Tyler lapel pin on his or her jacket, I will be proud to know that this community came together in a unique way to make the education of such successful individuals possible.

 

Remembering Convocation

Dr. Rodney H. Mabry

At the beginning of each fall semester, my staff and I present Convocation to the University faculty.  It is a great time to reconnect with our coworkers after the summer and an opportunity to help define our goals for the year.

This year’s Convocation was a little different.  We enjoy being innovative, and Convocation 2013 was a great example of how we are willing to think differently in order to meet the demands of a situation.  Our goal was to develop a program that was interactive and different from what we have presented in years past.

We are halfway through the semester and so far this has been a great academic year.  Innovation and dedication to student success are vital in making this university succeed.  I am sharing the video and speech from this year’s Convocation to remind us that we should keep striving to think outside the box throughout the year.

PATSS and the Importance of Engaged Learning

Change is difficult.  It’s complex, contentious, and time-consuming — but often very rewarding.

In general, higher education has been responsible for many of the world’s new ideas. However, in the vital area of transferring knowledge to new generations, we as an industry have avoided change.

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Since the time of Socrates in a Greek amphitheater, with adoring students crowded around, the idea of lecture-based teaching has stood the test of time.  But the world is changing.  Widely available new technology now makes it possible to change how we teach while increasing learning and lowering costs.

We live in a society where we talk to friends and family across the world in real time using a cell phone and a wireless data connection.  We shop online, play games with our grandchildren in other states, read books that are stored in the cloud, and keep in touch through social media.

This year’s traditional-age freshmen have never lived without cell phones and barely recall a time before Google.  Today’s students expect and demand information at the touch of a finger.  However, in a world where an almost infinite number of sources (reliable and not) are available on any subject, students still need guidance and encouragement from professors who are able to teach on a flexible schedule using the latest technology. Consequently, our teaching methodology must change, too.  It must change not only to take advantage of the added effectiveness and reduced costs of using new technology, but also because technologically savvy students demand it.

They want to have their professors’ lectures available on YouTube and Vimeo.   They want those lectures to come in natural lengths to fit different topics or concepts, not only in 50-minute blocks.  They want to be able to view material day or night, start and stop a lecture, rewind it, and even view parts of it again.

They want to be directed to the explanations available online from other world-renowned experts.  They want to be able to discuss the material with their classmates online, seek help on unclear items and offer help when they believe they understand.

This quick, and surprisingly deep, interaction with other learners (always monitored by professors and graduate students for accuracy) is particularly important to today’s students.  It is a powerful way to learn.

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Finally, students still want class meetings, but not only to hear professors lecture.  Instead, they want to interact with the professors and their classmates in a variety of ways that enable them to answer questions, apply the material and solve problems.  They want to be fully engaged in the learning process.

I am proud to say that at UT Tyler we are moving rapidly beyond the stale classroom lecture to fully engaged learning by implementing an exciting new project.  One of our newest projects, PATSS (Patriots Applying Technology for Success and Savings), allows us to join our students in the technology-based environment they inhabit and use every day.

This fall, our first PATSS classes are being taught across campus. Like many of the initiatives in education these days, PATSS is designed to help us maximize our resources.  That’s the “savings” part.  But it is the “success” part that is truly exciting.

To gain both major benefits – student success and resource savings, not to mention greater student satisfaction – we are “flipping” our classes and fully engaging our students in their own learning process.  In what we are calling Hyflex classes, students learn the material online and take quizzes online.  During class, they discuss.  They participate in activities where the material is used.  They engage with each other in groups.  In short, they apply the material.

UT Tyler offers a web resource specifically geared toward students looking for online options.

UT Tyler offers a web resource specifically geared toward students looking for online options.

Studies of real classroom data show that this learning process is better.  Students learn more per unit of time and retain it longer.  Using technology this way to engage students extends the range of professors and lowers costs.  And students are more satisfied with their learning given the greater interaction with others and given the much greater flexibility and control each student has over the timing of their learning efforts.

Nobel Laureate Dr. Carl Wieman confirms these results in his work on how students learn more physics in “flipped” classes that also use project-based learning to engage students.  He found that more students will succeed in gatekeeper courses such as calculus, chemistry and physics, lowering the withdrawal and failure rates in these tough courses.  Prof. Wieman came to UT Tyler at the beginning of the semester to talk to us as part of our long-running Distinguished Lecture Series.  His studies on learning were certainly an important inspiration for the PATSS project.

We expect that this engaged learning process will be good for our faculty as well.  With this model, after the initial extra work to change teaching styles, faculty will actually save time and be able to do more of what they love – teach – while enjoying it more.

In the fall of 2013, more than 750 students were enrolled in the PATSS project.  So far, the response from those students has been very positive.

Here at UT Tyler, we know the world is changing.  And we are working to embrace and lead that change with it.  We believe in innovation, and PATSS is just one example of how thinking beyond the usual will help us better meet the needs of our students.