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Perfect ten: Fans praise the UTA Maverick Speakers Series, now in its tenth year

Downtown Arlington is full of great traditions, from the Arlington Gives! rally and concert (this year on September 14) to the South St. Art Festival (coming up October 13-15), from Light Up Arlington to the Holiday Lights Parade, and countless more. This year, one of our favorite Downtown traditions is celebrating a milestone, and we couldn’t be more excited! The UT Arlington Maverick Speakers Series is turning ten.

“The Speakers Series is the one event that you do not want to miss,” said James Ditto, UTA alumnus (’61) and longtime series attendee. “It brings great minds and talents to Arlington, gives you different perspectives, stimulates your thinking and increases your knowledge.”

James, we couldn’t say it any better ourselves. In fact, rather than trying, we asked several other faithful supporters and attendees of the Maverick Speakers Series to tell help us tell its story.

Ten years and counting

“Over the past decade,” said UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari, “the Maverick Speakers Series has brought thought leaders from around the world to UTA, inspiring our students to see the different types of contributions to society that are possible and how they can translate what they learn in the classroom to the real world. We have also garnered the support from our community for this series, and we are delighted to continue thought-provoking dialogue from some of the biggest movers and shakers of our time.”

How did the Series get its start?

“The Maverick Speaker Series,” said James D. Spaniolo, immediate past president of UT Arlington, “was sparked by the appearances on campus of such prominent thought leaders such as Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Senator Bill Bradley and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Given the success of these events, we thought an organized, annual speaker series featuring diverse, well-known individuals would engage the UT Arlington campus and the broader community. Beginning with our first speaker, Thomas Friedman, followed by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Neal de Grasse Tyson, attendance exceeded our expectations. The inaugural year started what has become a cherished and proud tradition.”

What have you enjoyed most about the Maverick Speakers Series?

“The Speakers Series is an opportunity for us to learn about the differences in our world, to celebrate our diversity and to allow others to hear a side of life that may be different from their own,” said Linda Dipert, UTA alumnus (’01). “Because of the exposure to a variety of interests, viewpoints and areas of life, I’m challenged to reevaluate my own beliefs and viewpoints.”

“It’s great to see so many different people and cultures come together to listen to their favorite speaker,” agrees Razeena Moosa, current student, Ms. UTA, and member of the UTA Ambassadors.

What’s it like behind the scenes?

As advisor to the UTA Ambassadors, Dr. Jennifer (Fox) Taylor, Assistant Director of Student Governance, plays a behind-the-scenes role with the series, supervising student volunteers who serve as hosts for each event. “Even if it’s just for a few moments, we get to see the speakers as people as well as a Supreme Court Justice or professional athlete or award-winning author. Most are very friendly and appreciate the time they get to sign autographs, shake hands and interact with the audience.”

Who’s your favorite speaker to date?

“Neil deGrasse Tyson,” said Levent Gurdemir, Director of the UTA Planetarium. “The audience was so engaged that after his 3+ hour lecture, people wondered for a brief moment why he cut his remarks too short.”

“Before the lecture, I had no idea who Jane Goodall was or what she did, but everyone --- I mean, everyone -- kept talking about her,” Razeena said. “I wanted to reach everyone else’s excitement level, so I did some research about her. Then when I listened to her speak, I could see and understand her passion.”

“Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about his life as an undocumented immigrant in the United States,” Dr. Taylor said. “His story was so raw and vulnerable. He challenged my thoughts on immigration and helped me see the potential struggles of being/feeling ‘American’ without the rights of citizenship.”

“Reza Aslan was probably my favorite Maverick Speaker,” said Jeff Burrow, UTA alumnus (’92). “Hearing the viewpoint of an expert in religion -- who also happens to be a Muslim – was a special opportunity. It’s often difficult to separate fact from fiction in the media, so to hear his unfiltered viewpoints first-hand was insightful and very interesting. That being said, my son would say that Daymond John was the best: He loves Shark Tank!”

Why is the Maverick Speakers Series important?

“The series reminds the community that UTA is a major asset, not only as an academic institution but also for enriching the cultural and intellectual reservoir,” said Donna Darovich, UTA alumna (‘71).

“It benefits the community to hear, and learn from, the experiences of successful people from all over the world,” Jeff said. “Ideas and motivation are born from the sharing of stories and information. No matter where we stand as a community, we should always strive to do better. I believe the lecture series helps us to do that both personally and collectively.”

Maverick Speakers Series

2017-18 Schedule

Lou Diamond Phillips

“An Evening with Lou Diamond Phillips”

September 7, 2017

Anousheh Ansari

“My Dream of Stars”

October 3, 2017

Roland Fryer

“Solutions to Fixing Education in America: No More Excuses”

November 2, 2017

Michael Pollan

“One Writer’s Trip: From the Garden to the Plate and Beyond”

February 20, 2018

Gretchen Carlson

“An Evening with Female Empowerment Advocate Gretchen Carlson”

March 29, 2018

Visit the Maverick Speakers Series website for ticket information and more details.

Additional events

Starting on August 31, UT Arlington will also present a Lou Diamond Phillips Film Festival in honor of the first Maverick Speaker in this year’s series, actor, director, producer and UTA alumnus (’85) Lou Diamond Phillips. Festival screenings include Filly Brown, La Bamba, Courage Under Fire and The 33.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

With a global enrollment of over 57,000 in the 2016-17 academic year, the University of Texas at Arlington is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. A Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution, UTA is cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the fifth highest undergraduate diversity index among national universities.

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About Downtown Arlington

An official State of Texas Cultural District, Downtown Arlington, Texas blends a unique mix of activities, sights, tastes and sounds that attract visitors and locals alike. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific fine and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate. Downtown Arlington brings together a plethora of cultures and inspirations with a character all its own.