Dear University of the West Community:
I am very honored to serve as the new President at the University of the West and especially humbled to serve and uphold the mission of a learning institution that blends the very best of Eastern and Western educational philosophies to enrich the lives of our students and the community.
My tenure at UW comes as California approaches nearly four months of shelter -in-place. I believe the Mission of UW speaks loudly to what humanity needs during this moment of crisis. This pandemic and social upheaval in America require that we care for ourselves and one another with mindfulness, compassion and empathy. Our commitment to community wellness, social justice, and equity simply cannot be realized without these values.
The unforeseen pandemic required all of us to suddenly adapt to the new normal by teaching, learning, working and meeting remotely. Under the visionary leadership of Interim President, Dr. Sally Chou, the UW community pulled together to support the students who depend on our guidance and reassurance and the delivery of their academic needs. The UW website became a hub for students and community to navigate resources remotely, and the weekly messages from Dr. Chou kept the campus community connected and informed.
I want to express my gratitude to the faculty, staff, administration and Board of Trustees for your dedication and flexibility during this challenging time. I also want to acknowledge and thank the facility and custodial crews for cleaning and disinfecting the campus areas and equipment. The security staff for keeping the campus safe. Your behind-the-scenes work is vital for the health and safety of everyone on campus.
A bit about myself — I come to you with more than thirty years of experience in higher education at the community college and state university level, first as a classroom educator and academic counselor, and then in multiple administrative roles, including department chair, dean, and vice president. In each of these capacities, the through-line has been to prioritize student needs, respect and support faculty and staff, cultivate community partnerships and strive for institutional effectiveness. I recognize that each of these commitments feeds into and bolsters the other.
Merging the best of Eastern and Western philosophies has been central to my personal and professional development. I came to this country as a boat refugee from South Vietnam. I grew up witnessing human suffering and despair due to the destruction of war. I understand the quest to become American and the struggle of being an immigrant, minority in this country. Like many of our students, it took me years to navigate both cultures. At times, I questioned my ethnic identity and my destiny as I maneuvered through adulthood. But these experiences have strengthened my emotional wellbeing and religious faith. A Liberal Arts education rooted in Asian American Studies and Multi-Cultural Education led me to a path in which I am proud to be firmly rooted in my own traditions and culture, but at the same time embrace American values and customs. My life goal is to open more doors to students who also want to shape their destiny through education.
Out of crisis, comes opportunity. One thing I know is that this pandemic experience and the call for Black Lives Matter provide an opportunity for all of us to grow as a community of educators and practitioners. As your president, I intend to do my part by leading a transparent administration. My priorities are to foreground student success, support our excellent faculty and staff, increase enrollment, and work with our donors to ensure we have adequate resources.
I look forward to getting to know you better, and to our combined efforts to uphold institutional excellence through our collective effort to care for our diverse students and communities, an effort rooted in our University of the West’s Mission.
In the meanwhile, have a wonder Summer! Stay healthy and safe!
Minh-Hoa Ta, Ed.D.