First UTPA presidential finalist visits campus
By Melissa Vasquez, Senior Editor
Posted: 05/03/2004
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Dr. Lois Muir, one of six finalists for the presidency of The University of Texas-Pan American, was the first finalist to visit the campus Monday, April 26 and meet with a select group of campus representatives as part of the presidential search process.

Muir, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at The University of Montana, endured a long day of meetings with deans, Staff and Faculty Senates and student and community leaders.

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Dr. Lois Muir, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at The University of Montana and one of six UTPA presidential finalists, addressed faculty, staff and students at an Open Forum April 26 at the Student Union Theater.
During her visit, Muir also had the opportunity to tour the campus and participate in an Open Forum at the Student Union Theater. During the forum, the UTPA community had an opportunity to take part in the presidential selection process by asking questions and filling out evaluation forms on each visiting candidate.

The evaluation forms will be sealed and delivered to The University of Texas System Board of Regents for its review.

Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and chair of search committees for the UT System, has publicly assured the University community that the regents do read the evaluations and take them into serious consideration.

Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said it is important that members of the University community participate in the forums because their voices do count in the process.

“I think it is very important to attend the forums because it shows the candidates how interested all of us are in our University and its future. This is one of the most important decisions that will be made about our University in the next several years. So it is important for us to be a part of that,” Edwards said.

Every candidate will follow the same campus interview schedule upon their arrival. The Board of Regents had originally named seven finalists on April 19, however, due to personal reasons Dr. Herman Lujan, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at California State University-Los Angeles, formally withdrew his name from consideration April 22.

Muir addressed questions about her goals and vision for UTPA if named president.

“I’m a great believer that the talent and creativity that we have at a university needs to be used to a maximum as we chart our future,” Muir said. “To do anything else would be a waste of that talent and that has been a part of my operation as administrator.”

Muir is the first woman to be named provost/vice president at UM. She is also a psychologist, and a former administrator and faculty member at Kent State University, Kennesaw State University and the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Muir said she was drawn to UTPA because of its students and faculty accomplishments as well as the diverse cultural differences in the area due to its close proximity to Mexico. She has a continuing interest in diverse cultures, which took her to Malaysia in 1986 as a Visiting Professor for Indiana University’s program in Shah Alam and two years later she traveled around the world with her family. In 1993, she also worked with the tribal college in South Dakota.

“All the things that I saw that attracted me initially, I hear other things that tell me we are in an even better position to move forward and develop into a University of choice, not just for the people of this region, but for Texas and beyond because of the focus on quality,” Muir said.

While in Montana, Muir said UM has increased the number of tenure-track faculty, undergraduate research, support for online instruction, increased level of support for graduate students and increased scholarship support for undergraduate students.

During the forum, Muir talked about online instruction and its importance to the University. She said online instruction is necessary because students are changing and are more comfortable learning in front of a computer screen in today’s world. Also, online instruction gives students more access and opportunities to a higher education.

“I think it (online instruction) is a frontier of discovery and excitement. I think we need to see what unfolds and try and make it the best quality we can make it,” Muir said.

Muir also discussed fundraising opportunities and efforts for the University and what it takes to raise the money needed to support scholarships, programs, research and faculty.

“I believe private fundraising is critical for universities now. We need to excite these people (donors) to care about us because there are a lot of people that want to help us. If we can put in front of them something they can be passionate about, I absolutely believe that people will give to what they care about,” Muir said.

If named UTPA president, Muir said she would create new doctoral programs and increase research funding and the revenue-base for the University.

“I don’t mean to be crass about money, but we do need the money to move things forward, so I would be actively involved in how to increase the revenue base at this University,” she said.

At UM, Muir also serves as university provost for the four campuses of The University of Montana. She holds a doctoral degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, a master’s in family and child development from Auburn University and a bachelor’s in psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

“I think the future for UT Pan American is bright and I would love to be a part of that future.”