From Vision to Reality: Building New Universities & New Projects by Design

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At a very early stage in his career, Dr. Arias honed a unique skill he didn't see coming or that of becoming a brand new university planner as well as founder of several new entities. Said differently, Arias was an undergraduate in attendance helping build-out UC San Diego in the early 1970s when Camp Mattew's U.S. Marine Base was closing down and the university was building-up. Both as an undergraduate and graduate student he became heavily involved in the build-out of the university, virtually everything they did was somehow "branding". Whether it be the formation of the university's first program board, accreditation visits/reports, hiring new faculty, establishing new degree programs, everything had to be started from scratch. This was especially the case because the long-term vision for UC San Diego was the Cambridge-Oxford academic design or to establish a number of separate colleges under the guise of one university with it's own provost. Things were not smooth in the rapid build out however as it didn't take long for Dr. Arias to realize that there were very few faculty of color being hired and as a direct result the activist side of him rose up (what he learned at UC San Diego during tumultuous protest years), kicked in, and soon, he was leading protests against the very systems he helped plan, as he put it "It was simply the right thing to do." He didn't take his unique opportunity lightly however as he developed a paradigm for looking at each new university project as an opportunity to served educationally under-served, low-income and minority populations, by design.

As an undergraduate, Arias worked his way through college serving as a computer programmer for the School Finance Reform Project housed at San Diego State University. It was in this setting that he not only learned the broader picture of the numbers of minorities in the various school district in the State of California and how they were budgeted. In so doing, he learned computer coding: Fortran, Basic and Pascal programming. He also became an expert in the Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences.

Arias also had close ties to the Western Behavior Sciences Institute in La Jolla, CA, not only because his father (in his capacity as a survey analyst) introduced him to the institute at an early age, but also because it gave him the opportunity to establish scholarly rapport with the world-class thinkers both in-residence and affiliated with the institute. Many of the intellectuals associated at the institute were professors at UC San Diego. This is where Arias became interested in the field of social psychology through Carl Rogers (On Being Human) and Phillip Zimbardo (The Prison Experiment). It was a vibrant time to be a student and activist, plus the Chicano Movement was in full swing just the same. He also became a student of Herbert Marcuse (On Dimensional Man) who in his capacity as a post-modern Marxist caused positive friction in the formation of UC San Diego's first Department of Philosophy.

It's no wonder Arias turned down Dr. Julian Samora's (professor of sociology) offer to mentor him as a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame as Arias had a rich and vital intellectual setting both at WBSI and UC San Diego.

Once Arias passed his orals, he did however accept a tenure-track faculty position at Notre Dame and headed to South Bend, ID from San Diego, CA. On his way he stopped in Denver, CO, only to find that in the build-out of the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) 2,500 Chicanos had been displaced and forced to move away from their homes (most of them "shack like" but paid for )and move into much higher rent districts, just like what he had experience when his family (grandmother) had been relocated in Barrio Logan when they built the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.
Auraria Higher Education Center, Denver, CO
Armando Arias, Ph.D., Founding Planning Faculty

To be continued.....

Dr. Arias was called by the Governor's Office for the State of Texas by then democratic governor Ann Richards to help start a number of brand new universities for the Texas A&M University System. He did so by first helping transform Texas A&I University to Texas A&M University - Kingsville in his capacity as the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Moreover, due to his unique expertise, he was called to start universities for Texas A&M throughout the state but especially along the U.S. - Mexico border. Soon thereafter he was recruited as a consultant for start-ups for the University of Texas System as well as Governor Ann Richards had "Blown up the old boy budget" as she put it and were expanding educational opportunities throughout the State of Texas.

Dr. Arias realized that more administrators of color were needed to run the new universities, so he took it upon himself to successfully propose the Texas A&M University System Chancellor's Administrative Program aimed at training minority professors to become administrators.
Original languageAmerican English
Media of outputOnline
StatePublished - Jun 1 1993


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

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