Interim President  discusses COVID-19, enrollment and the future in first State of the University address

UTA broadcasted its first State of the University: A Conversation with interim President Teik Lim via Facebook Live on Wednesday.

Jay Horn, Office of International Education executive director, served as the moderator. He introduced various topics such as the university’s navigation through the COVID-19 pandemic, a record-breaking number in freshman enrollment and degrees awarded, diversity on campus and what to expect for the future.

Lim took over in March as UTA’s administrative leader before being officially named as interim president May 2. He said he is focused on three goals when navigating UTA through COVID-19: ensuring students continue to learn and achieve their degrees, continuing to emphasize the university’s collective vision and enhancing external engagement to strengthen existing and future partnerships.

The university has made efforts to ensure those goals, such as promoting the widespread use of masks, minimizing campus presence and increasing testing, Lim said.

“This is indeed a true testament of our spirit of community and teamwork,” Lim said. “As Mavericks, we pulled together and we took this challenge very, very seriously.”

Lim said the logistics of transitioning from primarily in-person classes to online learning was a challenge in the new normal. The university had to rethink spaces on campus, accommodate housing residents and train faculty who were less familiar with online learning.

However, because UTA has had in-depth online capabilities and the willingness of students wanting to continue to learn, opportunities arose from these challenges, he said.

“They are really opportunities for our faculty, for our staff, for our students to learn to adapt and succeed as we launch into a new normal for higher ed,” Lim said.

In the midst of the pandemic and the transition to online learning, UTA enrolled the largest freshman class in its history this fall. Lim said pandemic or not, the university was well on track to attracting more freshmen.

UTA is affordable, located in a centralized location and offers high-quality programs with world-class faculty, he said.

“Students want what UTA has to offer,” Lim said.

The university also awarded a record-breaking number of total doctoral and master’s degrees awarded for the 2019-2020 academic year. A total of 280 doctoral degrees and 4,970 master’s degrees were awarded, according to a university news release in September.

When asked how Lim plans to keep this momentum going for the university, he said he will keep playing to its strengths.

“We're just as good as anyone in Texas at offering an accessible education that prepares our graduates for jobs,” he said.

In regards to diversity efforts on campus, Lim said he’s fully committed to the eight Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals he introduced July 9. Lim said it’s the largest committee on campus that is represented by various divisions such as Student Government and faculty and staff from different colleges.

“The committee will make recommendations to university leadership, including our deans and vice presidents, about how UTA can foster a more diverse and inclusive campus,” Lim said.

Other diversity efforts include a national launch for a new vice president for the committee overseen by former UTA President James Spaniolo. Also, an additional $25 million worth of scholarships has been designated to address student diversity and the financial concern of first-generation college students, Lim said.

Lastly, Horn asked Lim how UTA’s response to new changes has affected the university moving forward.

Lim said COVID-19 has accelerated how academics teach, learn and conduct research virtually. However, the community has been resilient in adapting and thriving during these changes.

In-person class settings could be a thing of the past, Lim said, but learning in the new normal will take many different forms as educators continue to adapt.

“I believe the future of this university is bright, and we are on a great trajectory,” Lim said.


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