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.


Is a College Degree Still Worth It?

Studies continue to show that a college degree is a good investment.  In an article published just last month by the United States Census Bureau, researchers calculated — once again — that workers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of one million dollars more over the course of their careers than those with only a high school diploma. These additional earnings more than cover the costs of completing a degree.

The advantages of a college degree don’t stop at higher salaries.  A recent Pew Research Center study showed that college graduates suffer less when the economy takes a down turn.  For example, in March 2010, the unemployment rate of college graduates was 5 percent while those without a bachelor’s degree faced an 11 percent unemployment rate.  This unemployment rate gap has persisted for many decades and through multiple ups and downs of the economy.

Preparing students for gainful employment upon graduation is an area in which UT Tyler excels.  Our nursing graduates boast a 95 percent pass rate on the state licensing exam, while our nurse practitioners earn an even better pass rate at 100 percent.  Our education graduates are highly successful, too, with a 94 percent pass rate on the teacher certification exam.  Perhaps because of these stellar performances, 90 percent of UT Tyler graduates have jobs or have been accepted to graduate school before they graduate — even in the current tough economy.

The higher education community has much to be proud of.  We are providing students the skills and credentials necessary to give them the best opportunity to succeed.  I invite anyone who feels differently to come visit UT Tyler and see our great university at work.