Mariachi music accompanied the warm welcome given to the newest faculty members at The University of Texas-Pan American's kick off Aug. 20 of a New Faculty Support Program instituted for the first time this 2007-2008 academic year.
Seventy full-time, tenure and tenure-track faculty who are new this fall to UTPA attended the program's opening reception and an academic orientation the following day. The year-long initiative was designed to help incoming faculty adjust to their new academic and community environments at UTPA, where full-time faculty will now number 676.
"You are joining the institution at a wonderful time. This is a transformational stage in the life of The University of Texas-Pan American - from an institution that was primarily dedicated toward teaching to one that is now moving into the research area with expanding doctoral programs. This University is on the move," Sale said.
The program will include one-on-one peer mentoring support from experienced faculty in the new faculty member's discipline as well as the development of a professional growth plan and information sessions on topics ranging from grant development to effective presentation and publication of research results. The 10 scheduled luncheon session series and two workshops will begin Sept. 6, 2007 and end with a banquet celebration May 2, 2008.
"As a component of the University's strategic direction, the program supports an environment where faculty are able to thrive and innovate in teaching and research," Sale said.
At a daylong academic orientation Aug. 21, Dr. Ala Qubbaj, provost fellow and the program's director, outlined the new program's features and goals and introduced representatives of various divisions and departments across campus.
"We developed this program to ease and support the new faculty's transition to UTPA and the Valley in as many ways as possible. We want to help our new faculty get off to a good start, facilitate their personal and professional growth, and eventually see them succeed," Qubbaj said. "The feedback to the peer mentoring support and to the program as whole has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging."
Department chairs joined the new faculty for the orientation luncheon where they heard from McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge, who described the economic status of the U.S.-Mexico border region and the opportunities for and challenges to its future growth.
The event also featured the story of Michelle Castillo, a Rio Grande Valley student, whose migrant family upbringing has been chronicled since age 16 in articles by The Christian Science Monitor. A single mother at 19, Castillo went on to graduate, while traveling to Illinois twice each year, with an education degree from UTPA in 2007.
Castillo described to new faculty the challenges in teaching "non-traditional" first-generation college students, who have families and often work full-time, and how University support programs and understanding professors can make a difference in those students achieving their educational goals.
"I really enjoyed the reception with the warm welcome, good food, and the music. I found the orientation not only very useful but also excellently organized," said Caruntu, who spent the past four years at the University of Toledo as an associate faculty member.
Dr. Timothy Mottet, who will fill the prestigious Henry W. and Margaret Hauser Endowed Chair in Communication in the College of Arts and Humanities, said he was drawn to UTPA, after spending the past 10 years as a Texas State University faculty member, for many reasons, including its academic leadership from the President to the department chairs. As a new professor of communication studies at the University, Mottet said the two initial program events provided him and other new faculty with a great jumpstart to the semester.
"First, we received the tools needed to begin the semester. Second the various speakers and programs allowed us to take new perspectives in terms of better understanding our students and their needs. Third, the program allowed us to see our faculty role as one of educational leaders who are responsible for affecting change in our communities. Finally, the program created community - I feel cared for and that is reassuring," he said.
For more information on the New Faculty Support Program, contact Qubbaj at 956/381-2111 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.