UT Tyler’s President Michael Tidwell Launches New Community Plan

The University of Texas at Tyler is launching a new community plan that will help create a connected East Texas and drive academic and economic success for the region. President Michael Tidwell, in partnership with UT Tyler’s Office of Community Engagement, plans to reach out to 100 individual communities in East Texas to share resources and knowledge. This program creates partnerships with Palestine, Longview, Rusk and Jacksonville institutions to work together for one focus: East Texas.

UT Tyler has introduced this initiative as a new phase in Tidwell’s five-year strategic plan to collaborate with local governments, schools and businesses.

“The University of Texas at Tyler is committed to working with communities to build a better future for students and a stronger, more vibrant region for all East Texans,’’ said Tidwell in a press release. “The 100 Communities initiative will allow the University to connect with each community and identify ways in which we can work together to move our region forward.’’

Tidwell has big plans to improve UT Tyler’s image, including following his four-pillar success plan and community outreach.

UT Tyler is the only UT System institution in East Texas, and Tidwell believes it should be a university that leads educational and economic status in this region.

“Learning happens best in community,” President of the Mentoring Alliance Kevin East said.

Community learning has been a priority for UT Tyler with their current outreach programs, such as the K-12 Literacy center on campus, the Kidz Science Safari at the Discovery Science Center, the Small Business Development Center on the Longview campus, and Educational Programming which trains superintendents, principals and school counselors. East urges that through community participation, the region can achieve great goals.

Tidwell said he wants to make UT Tyler a “university-based community.” In other words, UT Tyler can become successful by participating in engagement programs around the city of Tyler.

“Really, we’re just scratching the surface with what we have,” Director of Community Engagement Brittany Childs said. Childs expressed her excitement to move forward with this partnership to create new ideas.

Tidwell presented a four-pillar plan to make UT Tyler the image and primary economic driver of East Texas, and he ensures that by following this four-step strategy, it can lead to a successful start.

Student Success leads the four-pillar plan, and Tidwell emphasizes the importance of students receiving the appropriate skill set for graduation and smoothly transitioning to their chosen career. Next, he plans on having more student and community engagement through on-campus activities as well as the building of the Patriot Plaza, a grassy quad in the center of campus that will be complete in the Fall 2019 semester. This plaza will encourage surrounding communities to visit campus and interact with attending students, faculty and staff.

UT Tyler will be hosting the first faculty conference on campus, fulfilling Tidwell’s third pillar, Research and Scholarship. The East Texas Research Conference will present research specifically about East Texas. The faculty attendees will come from Texas College, UT Health Sciences Center at Tyler, East Texas Baptist University, Stephen F. Austin State University and Texas A&M University-Commerce.

These three pillars and the 100 Communities plan all center around the fourth pillar, community engagement.

“Our hope is to continue the impact, the influence and the connectivity of the university,” Tidwell said.

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