Dr. Blandina Cardenas, dean for the College of Education at The University of Texas at San Antonio, visited with faculty members and students during an open forum May 5 at The University of Texas-Pan American Student Union Theatre. Cardenas is one of six finalists for the UTPA presidency.
Cardenas is the fourth candidate to participate in an all-day visit to the UT Pan American campus where she had the opportunity to meet with the deans of all six UTPA colleges, the faculty and staff senates, local media and community leaders.
Born and raised in Del Rio, Texas, Cardenas attended a school district where there was little opportunity for educational success. Because of this, she has made it a priority to provide educational opportunities to all students and to expand their productivity through technology.
"When I thought about the mission in my life and that there were huge numbers of students in my world who were not getting educated, there was a powerful sense of urgency," she said. "An urgency to expand those educational opportunities. Not just to get kids to the college door, but to get out and graduate from doctoral programs."
Cardenas - who has served as the chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Educational Testing Service and as director of the Southwest Center on Values, Achievement and Community in Education - said the UT Pan American and the area that it serves is in a unique position to strive for excellence.
"The ecology in which this University founds itself is an exciting place. There is a sense of pride; a sense of expanded expectations; 'a can do' attitude that can take this part of the world to new heights," Cardenas said. "If I am the best person to pull people together - the legislature, the Board of Regents, the business community, the students, the faculty - so that we can make urgent advances in this quest, then I hope I become the president of this institution."
Faculty, staff and students were able to hear about Cardenas' view on particular issues during the question and answer session. Cardenas, like the previous candidates who have already visited the University, was asked about her stand on research, growth and accountability.
She explained that as an administrator it is important to provide support and resources needed for faculty to conduct research and acquire funds for research-based projects.
"I think what is crucial is the mindset that you are going to support faculty in all the ways that you are smart enough to know how to support them," she said.
When asked about accountability, Cardenas said if an employee is going to be held accountable, he/she must have support from a system that provides the resources needed to accomplish their tasks or duties.
"A system has to be accountable," she said. "A system designs the opportunities, the resources that a person needs to carry out their job."
Cardenas was also asked about her views on the use of technology at the university level.
"The fundamental point is that in this century, learning and productivity where it is at the university level or in the workplace, is about the acquisition, management, integration, evaluation and creation of information," she said. "And technology is the tool which allows for that acquisition of massive amounts of information whether it is in the sciences or in education."
Cardenas has been a member of the board of the American Association of Higher Education and a leader of numerous state and local organizations in education, voting rights, public service, leadership development and children's concerns.
She is a former teacher of both the pre-school and high school levels. Cardenas received a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and a doctorate in education administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.