Special Reports

Vistasp Karbhari: ‘None of our journeys follow a standard form’

Vistasp Karbhari, the son of a civil engineer in India, went to eight different schools until the family decided to settle down while he was in high school.

After he graduated in India with a master’s degree in civil engineering, he came to the U.S. to pursue a doctorate. Then his career was marked by recruitments to the faculties of several universities until the most recent — Karbhari became president of the University of Texas at Arlington in 2013.

“I had great mentors in India and here. People spent time and effort they didn’t have to,” Karbhari, 55, said. “They could have said, ‘You’re not from here, we don’t want to spend time with you.’ But they did. It’s been a great journey and it’s due to all of them.”

His time in the U.S. has not been perfect.

“Can I say I was discriminated again? Yes. But I also was given great opportunities from the same people that I would not have had otherwise. You take the good with the bad and at the end of the day, it turns out to be what you’ve made of that opportunity.”

Every immigrant story is different, he said.

“None of our journeys follow a standard form … We all come with a different background, we all come with different expectations, but we all have one thing in mind and that’s what makes the United States such a great place — that if you work hard, if you do all the things that you’re supposed to do and you aspire to be one of the best, this is a country that welcomes that.”

Another reason he has stayed in the U.S.: love.

“I am married to a wonderful woman. That’s one of the reasons why I stayed on. I would have gone back had I not fallen in love. I didn’t marry her until after I got my green card, so that there was no inkling that one was being done for the other.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it were not for her.”

They don’t have children, but “we have 56,000 children, if you will,” he says referring to the UT-Arlington student body.

“We have a level of discourse on this campus that is enviable,” he says. “They are not at each others’ throats, they have civil conversations and they are learning from each other — and I think that’s the future. They have the future in their hands.”