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A Jaguar Journey
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Robert K. “Bob” Glenn has spent more than three decades in higher education, serving students throughout. He became the 10th president of the University of Houston-Victoria on Aug. 1, 2018. Prior to moving to Victoria with his wife, Laurie, he served as the 36th president of Athens State University for 10 years. Glenn also was vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services at Middle Tennessee State University (1999-2008) and dean of students at Missouri State University (1993-1999). His “A Jaguar Journey” blog is intended to provide members of the UHV faculty, staff and student body, as well as alumni and members of the community, a direct connection to what he is doing as the new UHV president. Readers are encouraged to share their views and ideas by posting to the comments section.  

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UHV, VC and VISD partner up to provide pathways for students in region

Posted By Dr. Bob Glenn, Wednesday, June 5, 2019

 

In previous posts, I have mentioned the signs of civic success from the book “Our Towns” by Deborah and James Fallows. The first sign of civic success was that “people work together on practical local possibilities rather than allowing bitter disagreements about national politics to keep them apart.” Second was that “you can pick out the local patriots.” Here is their third sign of success, which I would assert frames an opportunity for UHV and Victoria to think about our future together:

 

The phrase “public-private partnership” refers to something real. “Through the years, I had heard about ‘public-private partnerships’ but had thought of this as just another slogan. If it meant anything at all, it was probably a euphemism for sweetheart deals between big government and big business – the ‘public-private partnership’ to build the latest fighter plane, for instance. In successful towns, people can point to something specific and say, ‘This is what a partnership means.’ In Greenville, S.C., the public school system includes an ‘Elementary School of Engineering’ in a poor neighborhood. The city runs the school; local industries including GE, BMW and Michelin send in engineers to teach and supervise science fairs at the companies’ expense. In little Holland, Mich., a large family-owned scrap-recycling company works with the state correctional system to hire ex-convicts who would otherwise have trouble re-entering the work force. In Fresno, Calif., a collaboration among the city, county and state governments, the local colleges and universities, and several tech start-ups trains high school dropouts and other unemployed people in computer skills. The details vary, but the more specifically a community can explain what their public-private partnerships mean, the better.”

 

In my view, UHV has a great opportunity to partner up in our community with both the Victoria Independent School District and Victoria College. Early on in my tenure at UHV, I began meeting with VISD Superintendent Quintin Shepherd and VC President David Hinds. We now meet every month without fail to talk about partnerships.

 

Soon you will see banners going up around town that declare to Victoria that VISD, VC and UHV are “Partners in Your Education.” By that, we want to proclaim to all children in this region that there are pathways to whatever future they can imagine for themselves. We want people to know we are partners and not competitors to help our students get to that future. We want to put students in the position of choosing for themselves the path that best fits them and know that we will honor and affirm those choices. Higher education as a whole always has been bad at collaboration. Collectively, we tend to wait and see who shows up at our doors. To be successful in the future, I would assert that we need to reach back deliberately and pull students forward. We are already in conversation with VISD and VC about what we can do together. Possibilities like laboratory schools, planning innovative new curriculums, and professional development programs for teachers leap to mind.

 

UHV is fortunate that Dr. Hinds and Dr. Shepherd see the future as we do and are ready to work with us in blazing new trails. When that happens, I believe we can partner up with private entities like Caterpillar, Dow, Formosa or some of the other exceptional companies in the region to bring the public-private partnership concept to reality. I am optimistic that there will come a time when the Fallows write their next book that they will cite our partnerships in Victoria like they have done with Greenville, Holland and Fresno. There’s more to come. Stay tuned.

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Tags:  James and Deborah Fallows  public-private partnership  UHV  VC  VISD 

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Local patriots keep Victoria going

Posted By Dr. Bob Glenn, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

 

I read an article in Tuesday’s Victoria Advocate about Omar Rachid. Omar is an outgoing member of the UHV President’s Regional Advisory Board and is moving from Victoria to the Dallas area.

 

I was struck by the number of leadership positions he has held during his time here and how much of a void will be left by his departure. It reminded me of Deborah and James Fallows’ second sign of civic success mentioned in their book, “Our Towns.” Their first sign of success is that “people work together on practical local possibilities, rather than allowing bitter disagreements about national politics to keep them apart.” Here is what they have as their second sign of civic success:

 

You can pick out the local patriots. “A standard question we’d ask soon after arrival was ‘Who makes this town go?’ The range of answers varied widely. Sometimes it was a person in an official position of leadership, a mayor or city council figure. Sometimes it was a local business titan or a real estate developer. Sometimes a university president or professor, or a civic activist, or an artist or saloonkeeper or historian or radio personality. Sometimes a person with no official position but whose influence everyone felt. What mattered was that the question had an answer. In one city in Appalachia, we asked a newspaper editor that question, and he said that no one came to mind, but he would think about it overnight. In another southern city, the answer was the commanding officer at a nearby military base – but since the command rotated frequently, there was no permanent local patriot. The more quickly this question was answered, the better shape a town was in.”

 

Clearly, Omar Rachid is on the list of Victoria’s “local patriots,” and his departure will be felt by all who know him. But the good news is that Victoria is blessed with many “patriots.” I won’t even try to make a list in this forum of all the folks who deserve such a mantle. At the same time, I would love to hear from you about who the patriot is in your part of Victoria. As we look to bring more voices into the conversation about making Victoria a destination, it will be important to include these powerful voices. I hope you will take a moment to ponder the possibilities and contact me at glennrk@uhv.edu or @UHVPresident on Twitter.

 

And here I would like to make note of another great book on improving cities called “For the Love of Cities” by Peter Kageyama. One of the author’s contentions is that cities are improved by people who choose to invest themselves in the process because they love the city and because they are enabled by the city to assume leadership roles. He goes on to suggest that the city where assuming leadership is easy means there is a greater chance to make changes. It has been my experience here in Victoria that folks are open to leadership, and many newcomers have been able to step up and have an impact where it might be more difficult in other places. I see this as a great strength for Victoria.

 

I certainly am going to miss Omar and what he brought to this great city. But the question I ask myself is this: Who here will step up to assume the mantle? Who will step into this opportunity to become one of Victoria’s patriots?

Tags:  James and Deborah Fallows  local patriots  Omar Rachid  Our Towns  UHV  Victoria 

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Successful cities focus on practical problems, not national politics

Posted By Dr. Bob Glenn, Monday, February 11, 2019

 

In my last blog post, I talked about maintaining part of my focus as UHV president on helping Victoria become a “destination” in its own right as we work to make UHV a destination campus. I mentioned a book that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to join the work to make our city more livable and more attractive for newcomers. The book is “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America” by Deborah and James Fallows.

 

This journalistic duo traveled around the country looking at cities that were thriving and undergoing a resurgence. They developed a list of 10 1/2 signs of civic success. Here is what they listed as the first sign:

 

People work together on practical local possibilities rather than allowing bitter disagreements about national politics to keep them apart. “We were traveling during the run-up to the bitter midterm elections of 2014, and then while the Supreme Court was ruling on same-sex marriage and Obamacare, and then as the 2016 presidential campaign, including the Trump insurgency, was gathering steam. People knew we were visiting from Washington, and some learned, by asking, that I had once worked for a Democratic president. Given the places we were traveling, I imagine that many of the people we interviewed were Trump supporters. But it just didn’t come up. Cable TV shows often were playing in the background – most frequently Fox News – and if people had stopped to talk about the TV fare, they might have disagreed with each other and with us. Yet overwhelmingly, the focus in successful towns was not on insoluble national divisions but on practical problems a community could address. The more often national politics came into local discussions, the worse shape the town likely was to be in.”

 

There is no question that we live in contentious times. Every day our newspapers and TV news programs are crammed with examples of division. And yet, the Fallows found people across the country who could work with other people at opposite ends of the political divide to achieve success on local issues. We may not be able to agree on who should be president, but we can agree that we need a greenway along the Guadalupe River. Barbs may fly when we talk about who should be in Congress, but we all can agree that we need more and better restaurants.

 

So here is my question for this week: What needs to be done in Victoria to make it a destination? What local projects can we can agree on and focus our resources and energies toward? Again, I would invite you to contact me at glennrk@uhv.edu, and tell me the one or two projects that are important to you and that you would be ready to work on with others to solve. Next week, I will talk about what I hear, or in the absence of responses, I will talk about the projects I hope will generate some excitement. So don’t be bashful. Let me hear from you.

Tags:  destination campus  James and Deborah Fallows  national politics  UHV  Victoria 

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Creating destination campus requires destination community

Posted By Dr. Bob Glenn, Friday, February 1, 2019

 

One of the most important responsibilities of a university president is to be a leader. But it is important to remember that the duty to lead is not confined to just campus. A university and the community in which it is located are inextricably intertwined. Whatever is good for the university is good for the community. And whatever is good for the community is also good for the university.

 

Consequently, as I have contemplated my work here, I have been spending part of my time thinking about what needs to be done in Victoria in addition to what needs to be done on campus.

 

My charge from the chancellor is to make UHV a “destination campus.” While I still am trying to get a clear vision of exactly what that means, one thing is crystal clear. For UHV to be a destination, we have to have a place where potential students will be excited about spending three to four years of their lives. And that means that Victoria itself has to become more of a destination.

 

In talking with area industry leaders, I found that they face a similar struggle. They are not trying to attract college students, but they are trying to recruit young professionals to this area. Many have expressed frustration that they can get a young professional to come to this area, but more often than not, they don’t stay. Quality of life is almost always the reason they leave.

 

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that Victoria does not have the quality of life amenities to attract and retain residents. My wife and I, as new residents, have been delighted with what we have found here. But we are not young professionals or students. In my view, there is work to be done to make Victoria more vibrant. The university has a role to play in making that happen.

 

Toward that end, I have begun meeting with a small group of community leaders. We have talked about past efforts that have come and gone. And we have talked about the best way we can move forward, here and now. Naturally, this group will need to expand over time, and we need to bring more voices into the conversation. And that is the point of this post. If you care about Victoria and are willing to be a part of the discussion, please let me know. There is enough work that will need to be done on campus and in the community to keep a large cadre of committed volunteers busy for a very long time.

 

A saying that always has meant a great deal to me over the years is one by Reinhold Niebuhr. He said, “There is no greater sinner than the man who does nothing because he cannot do it all.” I fully realize that making UHV and Victoria a “destination” is an accomplishment that will not be achieved during my tenure. Work such as this takes many years to finish. But I – we – can make a good start. We can do the work that is in front of us knowing that it will lead to the desired result. I am committed to dedicating my time, efforts and resources to this work, and I will commit the university to help in the effort in every way that is prudent and appropriate. I hope that some of you who are reading this now will be willing to make the same commitment. If you are, please drop me a line at glennrk@uhv.edu. I would be delighted to bring you into the conversation.

 

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing with you more thoughts about this topic, and in particular, I want to share a book I am reading that I believe is on-point. It is called “Our Towns” by James and Deborah Fallows. You might want to check it out. More to come. 

Tags:  destination campus  destination town  James and Deborah Fallows  UHV  Victoria 

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