Until a permanent president is named for The University of Texas-Pan American, Dr. Charles A. Sorber will take on the role as its interim leader starting Feb. 16 and plans to stay the course with UTPA's mission of becoming the premier learner-centered research institution in the state and continue expanding the educational opportunities for underrepresented groups in higher education.
"We are going to coin this phrase - 'Maintain the momentum,'" Sorber said. "There has been a lot of progress made at UT Pan American in the last four, five years and that is the kind of thing that my job will be - to keep that going to the best of my abilities."
His responsibilities will be exactly that of a permanent president, which include the day-to-day business of the institution - teaching, research and service. He is a former president of The University of Texas-Permian Basin and former interim president of The University of Texas at Arlington.
Sorber will hold the interim chief position while a national search is conducted for a permanent successor to former president Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, who retired from the UTPA presidency Jan. 30.
"The transition will go just as smoothly as it possibly can go. My sense is the campus and its role within the community won't miss a beat. We are going to maintain our involvement with the community and maintain the momentum as far as the progress of so many things that have been positive in the last several years. The community will have every reason to continue to be proud of the institution and its role within the community," he said.
As far as what part he will play in the upcoming UTPA presidential national search, Sorber said it will be minimal.
"My role is supportive in nature," he said. "I will not be a member of that (search) committee and until such time that the committee selects finalists I will probably have little involvement, except to make sure they are treated well when on campus and that they have all of the support they need from the campus community when on campus."
From his experience of serving as an interim president, Sorber estimates the search for the next UTPA president should be completed by January 2010.
He has held a variety of roles within the UT System - academician, researcher, and administrator - since joining in 1975. He has served as vice chancellor for special engineering programs in the UT System; interim director of student financial services at The University of Texas at Austin; director of The University of Texas at San Antonio's Center for Applied Research and Technology; and associate dean of UT Austin's College of Engineering. In addition, Sorber was named dean of the School of Engineering at The University of Pittsburgh in 1986.
Sorber, who is no stranger to the Rio Grande Valley and an admirer of the local citrus, the Ruby Red grapefruit, said he and his wife, Linda, are looking forward to the new post and meeting with the university students, faculty, staff, and South Texas community.
"We have a beautiful campus and it is one that all the (UT System) Regents should be very proud of. The potential for the campus is to continue to grow and evolve into a main player in the region, which it has already done - bringing the highest quality of higher education to the Rio Grande Valley," Sorber said.
Before starting his career in academics, Sorber served in the U.S. Army and on his last tour of duty after receiving his doctorate he was a unit commander for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command where he did a substantial amount of research in civilian applications.
Sorber, who holds the title of professor emeritus in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering, said he often finds the role of an engineer and administrator sometimes overlap.
"In engineering you are taught from the earliest days how to solve problems and quite frankly academic administration is solving problems, not troubleshooting. There are problems every day. I mean there are problems right now that we are facing with the budget that are going to be major problems," he said. "So I think I can use some of my engineering skills to help solve those problems or at least provide some direction to folks who may not have the same skills as I do on campus. So the team will hopefully blend their various talents to come up with the best solutions that we can find."
Sorber earned three degrees in engineering including bachelor's and master's degrees in sanitary engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and a doctoral degree in civil engineering from UT Austin. He is a member of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, has been active in the American Association for Engineering Education, and is a former president of the Water Environment Federation.