The second of four candidates for the presidency of The University of Texas-Pan American visited campus Friday, Sept. 18 to interview and address the University community.
Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, followed the same schedule of meetings with University deans, Staff and Faculty Senates, student and community leaders throughout the day. He also answered questions in two, hour-long open forums during the visit to campus.
"It does appear that The University of Texas-Pan American is on the move," Vargas-Aburto said. "That's exciting and that reinforces my desire to be here with you."
Vargas-Aburto received his bachelor's in physics from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), two master's degrees in physics and aerospace science and a Ph.D., also in physics and aerospace science, from the University of Michigan.
He served as a faculty member at UNAM from 1978-1984 and then was hired as assistant director for the Secretary of Education in Mexico. Vargas-Aburto then went on to Kent State University where he spent nearly 20 years serving in various roles of advancement including professor, interim assistant dean, interim assistant dean for Research, associate dean for Research and director of the program on electron beam technology. Next, he went on to serve as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Central State University in Ohio from 2003-2006. Since 2006, he has been at his current position as provost at Kutztown, which serves approximately 10,700 undergraduate and graduate students.
During the open forums Vargas-Aburto said specific areas of research are important if UTPA is going to become an engine of economic development.
"I cannot conceive of a University that is not engaged in research activities. I think it's an important element of our educational experience that we give our students," he said. "However, I think we need to make sure we do that in a controlled manner and not forget the mission of an institution. It's important to balance those activities."
He said his track record best shows his attitudes about transparency and faculty governance.
"Every institution that I've been at, I've changed the environment to make sure people understand that we need to be transparent, and that we need to take other people's opinions into account," Vargas-Aburto said. "At Kutztown we have a very fluid collegial relationship with the faculty."
He said one of the reasons he decided to move into administration was because of his concerns when he was a faculty member.
"I thought things needed to be done better and easier, so I wanted to start doing them," he said. "My guiding principles when I make decisions at an institution are if they are in the best interest of the institution and the students."
During his career, Vargas-Aburto has published numerous scholarly articles and technical reports, and presented at national and international conferences. He has a long history of professional service with many international and national organizations.
He also said enhancing relationships with institutions across the border is very important.
"I am absolutely in favor of exploring the ways we can take advantage of the location that we are in here and establish partnerships with institutions across the border and world," he said. "I understand that the name Pan American is reflective of the desire to bring together an environment that promotes that interaction and understanding of other cultures."
Vargas-Aburto noted the responsibility of the president is to energize the community.
"I believe that you are not looking for a president who's going to come in and be a hero or a savior or have the perfect answer for everything you ask," he said. "What you want is someone who is going to listen to you and be willing to engage you in conversations and who has the experience to help and implement things."
Two more candidates are set to visit the University campus next week including Dr. Waded Cruzado, executive vice president and provost for New Mexico State University, who will be at UTPA Sept. 21. The final candidate is scheduled for a visit on Sept. 23.