UT Austin 2016 State of the University Address

UT Austin 2016 State of the University Address

October 20, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Good afternoon. My name is Jody Jensen.
I’m a professor in kinesiology and health education in the College of Education.
It is my service this year, as chair of the Faculty Council, that gives me the
honor of introducing President Gregory L. Fenves, the 29th president of the
University of Texas. I welcome you to the president’s State of the University
address, and I invite you to remain after his talk. There will be a reception
in the lobby following his talk so that you might visit with him. A year ago,
President Fenves delivered his inaugural address. Events and
accomplishments of the past year have already showcased his vision,
highlighted his strength of leadership, and tapped the depths of his compassion.
His first year was busy; Dell Medical School has welcomed it’s inaugural class,
a venture that he guided as Provost, as the institution leader, Doctor Fenves
was challenged with walking the difficult path of guiding the University
into compliance with SB 11, while being personally opposed to guns on
campus. He continued the work of his predecessors in prioritizing a
holistic approach to admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme
Court, and he spoke for all of us in expressing the pain and devastation
of a campus shaken by the violent loss of life of Haruka Weiser. He spoke
for many of us as well in the tower garden rededication ceremony,
commemorating the 50th anniversary of the August first, 1966, shooting
tragedy on campus. And in that, reminded us all that our character as
individuals, and as a community, is strengthened by overcoming loss and
adversity. So many events seem to overshadow the President’s educational
agenda, yet he found ways to move forward on this as well. President Fenves
has long been an advocate for the redesign of undergraduate education.
Research is not to be the exclusive domain of the graduate student, and
Doctor Fenves has charged the faculty with enriching the undergraduate
experience of intellectual inquiry through the process of research. He holds
high our obligation as a flagship university to be a world leader in
cutting-edge research, new technologies, cultural understanding, and social
leadership. To this end, he has prioritized enhancing our research
infrastructure, and placed emphasis on recruiting, and supporting the leaders
in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, and the arts, so that we may
mentor and empower the thought- leaders of future generations. This is
a brief, and incomplete litany, of the past single year, President Fenves’
first year as President. With you I look forward to his address today has he
continues to articulate his vision for the university. It has been my pleasure to
work with President Fenves, as a partner in shared faculty governance, and to
follow his leadership as a faculty member of the University of Texas.
Please welcome, President Greg Fenves. (applause)>>Well thank you Jody, for your
generous introduction. It’s been my honor to work with you and the Faculty Council
during my first year as President. We’ve already achieved much together,
the Council and the 3000 faculty you represent, are at the center of our shared
aspirations for the University of Texas At Austin. I’m pleased to be joined by
leaders with whom I serve the University. The Chancellor, Bill McRaven,
(applause) The Chairman of the UT System Board of
Regents, Paul Foster, (more applause)
and Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Now, we also have our outstanding deans
and vice presidents. In recent months, the university has welcomed three new deans,
and five new vice presidents who bring a diverse range of experience and
expertise, as we usher in a new era for UT. And I’m glad to see so many staff
members, and thank you for being here. This wonderful event today would not
have happened without you, nor would any of our other accomplishments.
Your dedication, day and night, make this vast campus dynamic, beautiful, and safe,
and I appreciate all that you do. And I see some students here. I welcome you.
Each of you brings unique talents to UT, along with the commitment, ambition,
and curiosity inside and outside of the classroom. Many Longhorn alumni are here
also, and from traveling across Texas, the nation, and the world, I’ve seen
first-hand the love, and the loyalty that alumni have for the Forty Acres. Texas
Exes is our fervent ambassadors for this great university. As a community, we
have a commitment to respect one another, and value different ideas. I am proud of
our students, our faculty, and our staff, as we have met many challenges by
listening to, and learning from, one another, even on campus carry, where
many passionately disagree, we have had an open and constructive debate where all
voices were heard. I thank you for that. As we begin the new year, there’s
tremendous optimism, especially for Longhorn football. I am very proud
of our coach, Charlie Strong, his staff, and the student athletes, not
because of their huge wins over UTEP and Notre Dame, but because Longhorn
football is dedicated to winning the right way,
(applause) and I told Coach Strong, I look forward
to returning to Cal this weekend. 140 years ago, the people of Texas laid
out their will in the state constitution, that this be a university of the first
class. We are the flagship University of Texas, with a proud history. UT’s
alumni, research, scholarship, and service, have contributed to enormous
progress. From the shale revolution that redefined energy production, to
the technology innovations that launched the high-tech industry in Central Texas,
to the cultural treasures of our priceless collections that attract scholars from
around the world, our university and our people have served as the
intellectual center of Texas. UT’s impact on Texas is unparalleled. We
receive the most federal research funds of any Texas university. In 2016,
we will graduate more than 10,000 students with Bachelors’ Degrees,
the highest number in the university’s history, and this August, we welcomed
87 hundred freshman into the class of 2020, another record for UT. The
University of Texas has no match within our state, and few peers beyond our
borders. Just look at some of our recent achievements: UT researchers
have engineered an FDA-approved drug to treat, and prevent anthrax,
NSF granted 30 million dollars to develop Stampede 2, keeping the Texas Advanced
Computing Center at the forefront of scientific and engineering computation.
A liberal arts professor’s scholarship has led to an important exhibit,
chronicling racial tensions along the US-Mexico border a century ago, that
provides vital lessons for today. UT researchers helped solve the cold case
of Lucy, shedding new light on human evolution, concluding that Lucy spent
time in a tree, and died falling from its branches, and just this past Sunday
as Jody mentioned, the Dell Medical School bestowed white coats on the 50
medical students in the inaugural class of the first new medical school at an AAU
university in nearly 50 years. These are just a few examples of the
relentless pursuit of possibility as we unleash the enormous potential of students
and scholars to change the world. But even the best can do better. Governor
Greg Abbott, a tremendous supporter of higher education who will be recognized
next month as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Texas, said about our
university, great is not good enough. My purpose today is to chart a path
where the University of Texas sets the standard among public universities in
education and research. To reach that goal, we must prepare students to be
successful leaders, conduct research with unprecedented global impact and
influence, transform the healthcare system, and nurture a campus culture
where every voice is heard and valued. America is a nation that believes
opportunity is the right of everyone, regardless of income, race, ethnicity,
or origin. High-quality education is the gateway to opportunity, and our
unique role at the University of Texas is to educate the leaders of tomorrow.
A UT education allows the sons and daughters of sales clerks, and factory
workers, to one day own the store, run the plant, build the next generation
of businesses, or lead in a profession or the arts. For students to obtain
such an outstanding education, it must be accessible, and affordable,
no matter their personal and family circumstances. College affordability
is a shared responsibility of the university and the state. We know that
a degree from the University of Texas is one of the best values in America, in
terms of cost, quality, and benefit. We are dedicated to keeping UT
affordable and accessible. UT students from families with annual income under
60 thousand dollars, which is more than the median family income in Texas,
typically pay no tuition after grants and scholarships. Yet many other families
struggle to pay tuition, and often do not qualify for state or federal grants,
so I am announcing today, an additional commitment of 15 million dollars in
financial aid, over the next two years for students from middle-income
families. (applause) For families with incomes starting at 60
thousand dollars, their students will be eligible for these new grants beginning
in the fall of 2017, and I look forward to working with the Texas legislature
to continue to provide financial aid for students for whom college education
would otherwise be out of reach. Now once students arrive on the Forty
Acres, we want them to succeed. Thanks to the dedication of many of you here
today, UT is a national leader in new strategies and tools to help all students
not only graduate, but graduate on time. At UT, more students from every
socioeconomic category are staying in school longer than ever before.
In a state where half the students who enter college don’t graduate,
we can be proud that at UT more than 80 percent of our students
finish their degrees here, and for the first time, more than 60% of
the class of 2016 graduated in four years, a giant step to 70
percent of students earning bachelor’s degrees in four years. We not only
want more students to graduate on time, but to participate in innovative
degree programs that reflect both the timeless nature of knowledge, and the
fast-changing pace of the world. By 2021, we want the majority of our
students to enroll in degree programs at UT that incorporate the most effective
approaches to classroom instruction, leverage the potential of technology to
enhance learning, and focus more time and resources on the unique learning
experiences that distinguish undergraduate education at a leading research
university. In January, we launched Project 2021, led by psychology professor
Jamie Pennebaker, to support faculty, the departments, and the colleges, in
developing bold curriculum redesigns. As just one example, the government
department in the LBJ school have already developed a course in the Innovations
for Peace and Development lab, where students have their credits broken into
an hour each for classroom learning, research, and internships. Students in
this course have won prestigious research awards, presented at international
conferences, conducted field work in Africa, and Asia, and begun careers at the
White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Federal Reserve Bank. Our
commitment to education, which begins even before our students enroll, must
continue as they prepare for the workforce, so I am announcing today that
we will expand our career services for new graduates and recent alumni. The
goal will be to connect UT students with internship, job, and alumni network
opportunities that both develop, and benefit from their unique talents. Now the
strength of the university depends on our excellent and diverse faculty. UT has a
truly distinguished, and dedicated faculty, who inspire students, who conduct
groundbreaking research and scholarship, and who spur innovation. In my inaugural
speech last year, I said that the toughest questions facing humanity and the world
cross the boundaries of existing knowledge, and that we must take an
interdisciplinary approach to address them. Achieving excellence in the
disciplines means we must collaborate across disciplines. Breakthroughs happen
when we break down the silos of knowledge, and we are doing that now. We are on the
cusp of unleashing our potential in many fields: developing new sciences, advancing
our understanding of societies and culture, gaining new insights from
history, literature, and the arts, and nurturing thoughtful and ethical leaders.
The Dell Medical School is an excellent example, in many ways, of crossing
disciplines. For example, the Texas Health Catalyst launched last year,
draws support from the Schools of Engineering, Medicine, Natural Sciences,
Pharmacy, and the Office of Technology Commercialization, to accelerate
translational research for value-based health products. We are also crossing
disciplines through the creation of what we call pop-up collaborations. These
bring together experts in different fields, to address specific challenges
in a short time-frame. We’ve already established pop-up collaborations to
better understand individual and population variations in biology,
medicine, and society, to study the impact of discrimination in
creating health disparities, and to build a digital humanity’s ecosystem
for research in the liberal arts. To move us forward, Provost Maurie
McInnis and Vice President for Research Dan Jaffe are creating a new
initiative for faculty and researchers to collaborate on answers to the touch
questions. We call it Bridging Barriers. This interdisciplinary effort will be
driven by our faculty and research scientists, who will tackle some of the
hardest questions in the natural and human-made worlds, and the world
of ideas. UT scholars will develop areas of study through proposals, in-
depth interviews, and small group discussions to generate the ideas. And to
support Bridging Barriers and advance our research mission, we will make
substantial investments by adding 50 new faculty positions over the next
several years. That spirit of discovery recognizes no borders. As the flagship
university of Texas, we must have a global vision. This year, I led a
delegation of more than 40, including faculty, researchers, and deans, to a
familiar place from my youth- Mexico City. In the 1960s, I spent several
summers there, when my father taught engineering courses at UNAM- Universidad
Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. That early experience expanded my
horizons, and helped me appreciate that while cultures may be different, there are
connections across them. For example, our delegation in Mexico City saw a 16th
century book preserved at the National Archives. It was handwritten, by the
Office of the King of Spain, and it contains the King’s instructions to
colonists for exploring the upper reaches of Northern Mexico, what is now Texas.
And just as that quest for knowledge transcends these borders, so do the
obstacles posed by health, economic, inequity, energy, and water needs,
and in justice. The University of Texas is uniquely positioned to be a global
leader in addressing those challenges, and I was struck by our pervasive
influence when I traveled to Asia in June. In Shanghai, I met dozens of UT
students- dozens of UT students studying at partner universities, and doing
internships with companies in China. These Longhorns have a global perspective,
and are prepared to lead in any region in the world. Why is this important?
T. S. Eliot, some of who’s papers are here in the Harry Ransom Center said, “We shall
not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where
we started, and to know the place for the first time.” By collaborating with
partners in Latin America, in Asia, in Europe, and around the globe, we will
strengthen who we are and what we aspire to be: a university dedicated to
knowledge and discovery throughout the world. Yes we have ambitious goals, from
transforming our curriculum, to accelerating new knowledge, to improving
healthcare, achieving these goals will require support from policy-makers, our
benefactors, industry partners, and alumni. And on the campus, we must be
willing to make hard choices, spend resources wisely, and be accountable to
the taxpayers of Texas, and to the parents and students who pay tuition. So this
year, I will work closely with our Senior Vice President and Financial Officer
Darrel Bazzel, the Provost, and campus leaders, to spend our resources even
more effectively to educate our students, and advance our academic mission. Excellence depends on fostering a
culture on campus that includes all students, and that has diversity and
inclusion as top priorities, and let me say that again. Diversity and inclusion
will always be among my top priorities. The essence of a UT education lies in
learning in a community where every student knows they belong, where their
voice is heard, and where their experience is valued. A great university must push
us to examine beliefs, even those we hold closely. The songwriter Ani DiFranco
said, “I know there is strength in the differences between us, I know there is
comfort where we overlap,” and we strive everyday to promote a culture that
welcomes the differences, and the expression of those differences, while
nurturing the commonalities that bond us together. And we have been recognized
as a national leader, just one of 10 American universities honored as a
Diversity Champion by Insight into Diversity magazine. The University of
Texas won a crucial victory when the United States Supreme Court upheld our
admissions policies, after eight years of litigation. What were we defending?
It is this. We educate our students for leadership in a complex and interconnected
world. Preparing leaders means providing the opportunity to learn with and from a
wide range of people, to be exposed to diversity in it’s many forms, race and
ethnicity, thought and religious beliefs, and different family backgrounds and
life stories. We will not rest with a single Supreme Court ruling. Vice
President for Diversity and Community Engagement Greg Vincent, and Vice
President for Student Affairs Soncia Reagins-Lilly, this summer, began
developing a campus-wide diversity action plan. Collaborating with them, and
with our students, we will complete and implement the action plan. It will clearly
define the needs for improving diversity and inclusion, identify the shortcomings,
and chart a course for advancing our values. We will examine ongoing efforts
to increase inclusion for underrepresented and traditionally under-served members of
the university, and develop new ways to improve success for students, our faculty,
and staff from all backgrounds. From recruiting diverse students more
effectively, to responding to hate incidents more quickly, to ensuring
that underserved students have access to appropriate counseling,
transportation, and other services, we must take action. (applause) Diversity cannot just be measured in
numbers, but in ensuring every student has access to all aspects of high-quality
college education, both on and off the campus. While we have made progress
in overcoming the legacy of past injustices, our efforts must not wane as
a society, or as university. It is the unique role of a university to illuminate
past chapters of our story, and to inform the present, and to guide us in the
future. Our students and graduates will lead the way, and I was reminded of that
last December, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, under the inscription,
“Equal Justice Under Law,” I watched Crystal Nora, an outstanding student
award-winner, speak with conviction about her experience at UT. We are not only
educating individuals, we are preparing leaders like Crystal, who will make an
indelible imprint on the world. We see this in business, film, media, and the
arts, and in the Longhorn sprinters, shot-putters, swimmers, and one
outstanding jump-shooter who achieved Olympic gold in Rio. We see it
in the form of new ideas, including an app designed by Texas alumnus that enables
people to go on virtual treasure hunts around the world, Pokemon Go. (laughter) The journey at the University of Texas
is limitless, when we foster a climate that brings out the best of every one
of those students. And another responsibility we must meet, is for every
student, faculty member, and staff member to feel safe on this campus.
We experienced a tragedy earlier this year, one of our students fell victim to
a senseless crime, Haruka Weiser. Her death shook the foundation of
everything we expect: a campus where any family can send their loved one
without fear of harm. Haruka spent much of her short time in this building,
and she was preparing for a performance on this stage the evening she was killed.
In her memory, we have joined with the Weiser family to create a campaign,
Walk With Me, that empowers students to look out for one another. And as I said in
a message last month, we will improve campus safety and security, we will be
hiring additional police officers and guards, upgrading the lighting and video
monitoring on campus, improving building access controls, and engage
with the community to address concerns about transient individuals on, and
around the campus. We will also strengthen our education, and Title IX programs, to
put a stop to sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. Unfortunately, UT is not
immune from this grave national problem. We must recognize the problem, and make
this a university where we do everything we can to prevent sexual assault,
harassment, and misconduct, where everyone is empowered to report it,
and where survivors are confident that the university takes them seriously,
investigates expeditiously, has due process, and disciplines offenders,
whether they are students, faculty, or staff. We can reach our goals
when we are joined by our common values and aspirations. I ask each of you
to come with me on this journey, as we elevate the University of Texas at
Austin’s role as a world leader in research and education. Some will measure
excellence in terms of rankings, and dollars. They are important, but the
ultimate measure of success is preparing leaders, transforming society, and
creating a better world. We are limited only by the scope of our vision, and
the Texas-size of our ambitions. We are the flagship university for the
world’s 12th largest economy. We are uniquely positioned by the blessings of
our scale, our resources, and our pioneering spirit to drive change, and
accelerate the pace of progress. When we invest in our people, when
we break down the barriers, when we pursue knowledge, when we
invigorate our culture with a shared purpose, we will chart a bold course,
and a legacy of achievement that exceeds the most glorious days.
Now is the time for us to work together, through a commitment to scholarship
and discovery, to solve the great challenges, to reach new heights, and
to change the world. Thank you, and hook-em horns. (applause)