Vistasp Karbhari, who was named the new president of the University of Texas at Arlington on Tuesday, said that he has no plans to dramatically alter the institution's current course.
Outgoing President "Jim Spaniolo has built a tremendous foundation for the university," Karbhari said. "I look forward to continuing that trajectory. More than anything else, I'm going to draw on the excellence that UT-Arlington already has."
UT-Arlington has gained particular recognition for expanding its online offerings, the revenues from which have allowed the university to keep its tuition steady for at least the next year. "The university has a tremendous reputation for looking at innovation in terms of delivering education," Karbhari said. "It really serves as a model for a 21st century urban university."
The institution is classified by the state as an "emerging research" university, meaning it's in the hunt to be one of Texas' next "tier one" universities. The actual definition of "tier one" is a bit fluid.
"To me, tier one doesn't mean any specific numbers," Karbhari said. "It's being acknowledged as among the very best in the nation or among the best internationally."
The selection process in which Karbhari — previously the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Alabama in Huntsville — prevailed was clouded by confusion.
When he was named the sole finalist, not all of the University of Texas System regents were aware that he is a defendant in a pending lawsuit stemming from a 2010 tragedy on the Huntsville campus, in which a faculty member opened fire and killed three colleagues at a department meeting.
The regents had a special meeting to revisit the selection, and ultimately stuck with Karbhari.
“We are fortunate to have a leader of Dr. Karbhari’s caliber take over the reins of UT-Arlington, and we know he is the perfect fit to make sure excellence, accessibility and affordability remain top priorities at UT-Arlington,” Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System regents, said in a statement. “Dr. Karbhari has impressed us from the moment we met him, and he has our complete confidence."
Karbhari said he did not expect the episode to affect his transition into his new post. "I don't think that's a big deal," he said. "I think the regents had some questions. They looked at the questions and we’re where we are today."
His first day on the job in Arlington will be June 1.