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Community hears William Fannin at UHV's first presidential candidate forum

By ALLISON MILES
April 19, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated April 18, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.

William Fannin tells faculty members that if he becomes president of the University of Houston-Victoria, he'd expect to see significantly greater rates of student satisfaction over his first five years.

UPCOMING CANDIDATE FORUMS:

Philip Castille

2 p.m. April 26 in the UHV Multi-Purpose Room

Ray Wallace

2 p.m. April 29 in the UHV Multi-Purpose Room

Earl Yarbrough

2 p.m. May 4 in the UHV Multi-Purpose Room

There is no single answer when it comes to solving issues in higher education, William Fannin, a finalist in the University of Houston-Victoria's presidential search, said Tuesday.

"West Texas solutions will not be the solutions for Victoria," said Fannin, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. "But, as you know, in any discussions, knowing what the issues are is important. And that's what I would bring to the table."

Fannin spoke to about 50 people during a candidate forum in the University of Houston-Victoria's multi-purpose room.

Fannin's was the first of four forums that will take place through May 4. A fifth candidate, Louisiana State University Chancellor William Nunez, withdrew from the search process.

The university's reputation is one reason Fannin said he hoped to become president.

UHV is ranked high in terms of increases in baccalaureate degrees and is one of the state's fastest-growing universities, he said. It's exciting to be part of such an institution, but daunting for a presidential candidate.

"It's much easier to go out to the school that's having problems," he said to a laughing crowd. "Then you can say, 'I turned it around.' It's how do you keep that momentum going and building."

He noted previous experience with expanding to a four-year university, which brought growth to both UTPB and the region's community colleges, as well as work with non-traditional students, as other reasons he felt the role was a good fit.

All universities face challenges, such as a changing global economy, dwindling public resources and increasing information technology, but with challenge comes opportunity, Fannin said.

A fourth challenge specific to UHV is HB 2556, legislation dictating the university's possible switch to the Texas A&M University System. Fannin made no comment for or against the switchover, citing it as inappropriate as both a presidential candidate and state employee, but said there should be no winners or losers in the discussion.

"Public debate is what democracy is all about," he said. "We want free expression and free discussion for and against every issue."

Afterward, he said it's important for the community to come together to support the students, bring success and continue programs that build economic development.

During a Q-and-A session after Fannin's presentation, Mike Weston, a UHV instructional designer and master's student, noted a variation in the quality of courses he took at the university.

Course quality is something Fannin said should be under constant review and, if necessary, change. UTPB's English department, for instance, measures students' writing on seven criteria and determine courses' stronger and weaker aspects. From there, they determine how to improve.

Anna Celum, an administrative assistant with the university's advancement department, said she felt good about Fannin's presentation. With his experience with downward expansion and vision for UHV's future, she said he appeared qualified for the position.

She said she was interested to see what the other candidates had to say.

"Getting a new president is very important to us," she said. "It's a big ordeal, and I think it's important to listen to what everyone has to say."

Melody Vecera, a graphic artist in the UHV marketing department, said she attended the Tuesday meeting because she wanted to be informed on the search process and candidates.

"I feel that's the responsibility of being a good staffer," she said, explaining she also planned to attend future forums. "I have the university's best interest at heart."

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