Karbhari named president at UT Arlington

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Vistasp Karbhari, an administrator known for his commitment to research and hands-on approach to students, was named president of the University of Texas at Arlington Tuesday morning.

The UT System Board of Regents voted unanimously to officially appoint Karbhari as the replacement for outgoing President James Spaniolo, who announced his plans to retire last summer.

Currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Karbhari will begin his new job on June 1. The eighth president at UTA, his salary is being negotiated and will be approved at a UT System meeting before his start date.

"I’m excited," Karbhari told the Star-Telegram shortly after being hired. "It is tremendous honor."

Karbhari said he has "huge shoes" to fill in replacing Spaniolo, who is credited with elevating the Arlington campus.

"I am going to work with faculty, staff and the community to see how we can take it even higher," Karbhari said.

Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for the UT System, said Karbhari's leadership skills made him a strong candidate.

"He is a highly qualified individual," Reyes said. "He has dealt with a lot of different situations in a highly skilled way."

Reyes said Karbhari's strengths are a package that includes a focus on gaining Tier One research status for UT Arlington, a commitment to undergraduate student success and bringing more technology into higher education.

Reyes described Karbhari as "a great human being who can relate to different audiences very well."

Karbhari, 51, was named the lone finalist for the position on Feb. 21, but had to wait at least 21 days to receive the official appointment.

He spent some of that time in Arlington, meeting with community leaders, students and faculty.

During a town hall meeting at UTA Karbhari promised to bring an open-door policy to the Arlington campus.

"I have to be very accessible," said Karbhari, who was raised in Pune, India and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. "If I'm not accessible, I'm not able to listen."

At UAH, Karbhari was praised for how he took charge of the school when tornadoes struck nearby in 2011, knocking out power at the school. Karbhari made the decisions about which buildings would regain power first, postponed finals and graduation and opened the school's cafeteria to the residents of Huntsville, which was also without electricity.

"It was Vistasp's chance to shine," said Brent Wren, Alabama-Huntsville's associate provost. "... There is no handbook for how to do this."

He also had to deal with a school shooting on campus that left faculty members dead and three others wounded. Karbhari has been named in a lawsuit by the families of two deceased faculty members who say he should have known that the shooter was upset about being passed over for a permanent faculty position. He will inherit a campus that just posted a record enrollment of 33,800.

One of his jobs will be to lead UTA on its quest to join the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Rice University as Tier One research institutions in Texas.

"UT Arlington seems poised to be among the best in the nation in what it does," Karbhari said. "It's a very innovative university, and it has done a fabulous job in striking new ground in a variety of different areas."

Before going to Alabama, Karbhari, an engineer, was a top researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

Gilbert Hegemier, a distinguished professor at the school, said Karbhari was part of a core group that helped elevate the engineering program and research, including investments in the Charles Lee Powell Laboratories.

Hegemier said Karbhari's arrival will help UTA in its quest to become a Tier One university.

"I think you might get there with this guy in the lead," Hegemier said. "I think that will happen. I think you have the right guy there."

This article contains information from Star-Telegam archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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