UT regents ready to hire Karbhari to lead Arlington school

Posted Monday, Mar. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints



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There is not likely to be a decision affecting the University of Texas at Arlington made during the next decade that will be more important than the one UT System regents are expected to make today.

The nine regents have scheduled a special 10 a.m. telephone meeting to discuss hiring Vistasp M. Karbhari to succeed James Spaniolo as UT Arlington's president. The regents last month named Karbhari the sole finalist for the job. Should today's vote go as expected, Karbhari must maintain the great momentum Spaniolo brought to UT Arlington's growth in student numbers, academic standing, research, fundraising, facility additions, community relationships, campus life -- in short, its virtual rebirth since he became president in 2004.

Karbhari, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, emerged from an extensive selection process that began after Spaniolo said in June that he was ready to retire .

With a Ph.D. in engineering and extensive academic credentials, Karbhari has won the confidence of the regents and key UT Arlington officials that he is the one to pick up the reins and lead UT Arlington forward, including reaching the many goals required to achieve designation as a Tier One research institution. In Texas, only the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University in Houston have Tier One status.

Karbhari also has a reputation of engagement with students in his role in Alabama. During his recent visits to UT Arlington, he has been both charming and respectful of the challenge ahead.

His qualifications are clear, his personality apparently fit to the role, and his engineering research background a needed strength for furthering UT Arlington's research ambitions. He's a seasoned administrator.

The university will need Karbhari's undivided attention, particularly during his first year. There is still reason to question his ability to set aside the pressures of a lawsuit filed against him by families of two people killed in a 2010 shooting on the Alabama campus. There have been repeated assurances that he can.

Finally, Karbhari will step into a fast-moving Texas political environment that is putting pressure on public universities to perform and influencing the way some of them operate. He'll have to be fast on his feet to stay ahead in that game.

If he's hired, he must waste no time in getting to work.

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