Commencement 2013 Saturday evening

This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced its decision in the case of Fisher vs. the University of Texas at Austin, which had been remanded to the Fifth Circuit by the Supreme Court last summer. In a 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit found in favor of UT Austin. I am very gratified that the Court’s ruling recognizes the constitutionality of the University’s admission policy under the Supreme Court’s recent guidance.

In its decision, the majority wrote, “It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.” The court continued, “This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities.”

We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students. This ruling ensures that our campus, our state, and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events, and in all aspects of campus life.

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I’m delighted to inform you that I will be serving as president of The University of Texas at Austin through the 2014-2015 academic year and the coming legislative session, after which I will return to teaching and my faculty position in the Law School.

I am deeply grateful to Chairman Foster and Chancellor Cigarroa for their leadership of The University of Texas System and for working together on this plan. It is truly in the best interest of the university, our students, faculty, staff and alumni. It will allow me to continue to build on our student success initiatives, complete our $3 billion capital campaign, and bring the Dell Medical School closer to reality over the next year while ensuring a smooth transition to my successor. It will also allow me to work with elected officials in the 84th Texas Legislature.

Most of all, I want to thank all of you for your tireless support of our university. Serving as president of The University of Texas at Austin has been the highest honor of my life. Even more, the friendship and support of alumni and friends has been a great blessing for me, Kim, and our family.

Thank you and Hook ’em!

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One of UT Austin’s premier research units is the Texas Advanced Computing Center. I’m proud to announce that Dan C. Stanzione Jr. has been named executive director of TACC. Dan has served as deputy director since June 2009 and assumed his new post July 1.

UT Austin has become a global leader in supercomputing thanks to TACC and the research it supports. Under Dan’s leadership, I believe our computers will become even more powerful and our research even more world-changing.

Dan is the principal investigator for several leading projects including a multimillion-dollar National Science Foundation grant to deploy and support TACC’s Stampede supercomputer over four years. In Stampede’s first year of operation, 3,500 researchers nationwide used it to further their science and engineering research projects. He is also principle investigator of TACC’s upcoming Wrangler system, a supercomputer designed specifically for data-focused applications.

Dan will preside over the construction of a new office facility adjacent to the research complex at the Pickle Research Campus in North Austin. This facility will allow TACC to expand its visualization capabilities and provide new spaces for training, collaboration, and public events.

Dan earned three degrees from Clemson University, where he later directed the supercomputing laboratory and served as an assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering. He previously served as the founding director of the Fulton High Performance Computing Initiative at Arizona State University and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Fellow in the NSF’s Division of Graduate Education.

I’m looking forward to watching TACC’s growth under Dan’s leadership.

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One little-known benefit of the Longhorn Network to the University is the opportunity for our students to work as interns at the network. The recent success of many interns suggests we have tapped into a valuable feeder system for the ESPN family of networks.

Since the ESPN-run network launched, the experience gained at LHN has helped eight students get entry-level positions inside the ESPN family. Ten others have gone on to secure full-time positions in video production, marketing, sports journalism, and business operations at companies such as NBC, the Texas Rangers, and Yeti.

I’m proud of the Longhorn Network and all it has brought to the University, from its great sports and academic programming to its financial support for numerous faculty chairs. And we’re just getting started.

Hook ’em Horns,

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June 10, 2014

Two Tonys for Longhorns

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Robert Schenkkan, BA’75, and Kevin Adams, BFA ’84

Longhorns are celebrating the two alumni who won Tony Awards on Sunday.

Robert Schenkkan won for Best Play of the Year for “All the Way,” his play about LBJ starring Bryan Cranston. Schenkkan, who lives in Seattle, has been commissioned to write a sequel, which will be “The Great Society.” In 1992, Robert won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his work “The Kentucky Cycle.” Robert was a Plan II student who graduated with a B.A. in drama in 1975.

Kevin Adams, B.F.A. ’84, won for Best Lighting Design for a Musical for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” This is Kevin’s fourth Tony Award.

The Longhorn Family is proud of these two Texas Exes who have reached the pinnacle of their profession.

What starts here changes the world.

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Photo: UT Athletics

I know you all join me in congratulating the Longhorn baseball team and five-time Coach of the Year Augie Garrido for advancing to the College World Series. The Horns booked their ticket to Omaha with a sweep of the University of Houston over the weekend. Their season now stands at 43-19.

The Horns will face UC Irvine this Saturday, June 14, at 2 p.m. I’m proud of these young men.

Hook ’em Horns!

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Wood, Sharon 2013

 

I am delighted to announce that Sharon Wood — a distinguished engineering professor who has served as interim dean of our Cockrell School since October — is now the Cockrell School’s ninth dean. Sharon joins a select group of scholars to have led the school since T.U. Taylor taught our first engineering class in 1888. I am proud that she is the first female dean of this school, just as she was the first female department head within the Cockrell School. Sharon is a national expert in the performance of concrete structures during earthquakes.

The Cockrell School is ranked No. 10 in the nation, and best in Texas, by U.S. News & World Report. Sharon will lead its 270 faculty members and more than 7,500 students and oversee annual research expenditures exceeding $150 million. Leading the imminent construction of the Engineering Education and Research Center, which will elevate the Cockrell School even further, will be among her most important activities.

Sharon received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and her master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also served on the faculty for 10 years. She joined the Cockrell School faculty in 1996.

I look forward to seeing the new heights the Cockrell School of Engineering will attain because of Dean Wood’s leadership.

What starts here changes the world.

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I’d like to share with you my op-ed published Wednesday in the Houston Chronicle:

“The new Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin has moved ahead with great speed over the past two years. Because of the headlines this has generated, Texans now are beginning to associate UT Austin with health care. In reality, however, the university has been deeply involved in this field for a long time. Our professional colleges and schools have long trained students and done research in medical and related fields like nursing since 1960, social work since 1950, and pharmacy since 1927.”

To read the op-ed, please visit:
http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Powers-New-medical-school-just-adds-to-UT-s-5507914.php

I’m proud of the work UT has done over many decades in the area of health and medicine, and I’m excited for the new era that our Dell Medical School will bring.

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On Saturday night, the UT family sent the Class of 2014 off in Texas style. Featuring world-class speakers, music, and fireworks, it was an evening our newest 8,686 Texas Exes will never forget.

Commencement 2014 Saturday evening, May 17, 2014

Our keynote speaker was Distinguished Alumnus and commander of U.S. Special Operations, Admiral William McRaven, BJ ’77. In a no-nonsense and very engaging speech that catalogued the hardships and lessons of Navy SEAL training, he told our graduates:

“Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up – if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world – for the better.”

I invite you to listen to Admiral McRaven’s full speech, watch a video of the incredible fireworks display from the Tower, and take a look at some great photos and social media posts from this, the high point of the year. As alumnus Francisco Loredo tweeted, “I seriously doubt anyone does commencement like it’s done at @UT Austin #HookEm.”

Commencement 2014 fireworks by Marsha

To our graduates, congratulations on this momentous achievement. Please stay in touch and stay involved in the life of your alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. We are proud of you. Now go change the world.

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Students in UT’s University Leadership Network. Photo by Bill McCullough, a 1986 Plan II graduate, for The New York Times. Read about the photo shoot.

 

If you read only one article about UT Austin this year, please read yesterday’s New York Times Magazine cover story about our efforts to increase student success and graduation.

Titled “Who gets to graduate?” the story, which runs nearly 8,500 words, is a deep dive and a fascinating look inside the efforts of David Laude, our senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, to increase student success. The piece also looks at the work of one of David’s collaborators, David Yeager, a UT assistant professor in psychology, and profiles one of our freshmen, Vanessa Brewer of Mesquite.

Paul Tough, a Times contributing writer and the author of How Children Succeed, spent months reporting this story from Austin. He writes:

“What Laude and Yeager are helping to demonstrate is that with the right support, both academic and psychological, these students can actually graduate at high rates from an elite university like the University of Texas. Which is exactly why the giant educational experiment now taking place there has meaning well beyond the Austin campus.”

Tough concludes:

“To [reverse the trend of educational stratification] will take some sustained work, on a national level, on a number of fronts. But a big part of the solution lies at colleges like the University of Texas at Austin, selective but not superelite, that are able to perform, on a large scale, what used to be a central mission — arguably the central mission — of American universities: to take large numbers of highly motivated working-class teenagers and give them the tools they need to become successful professionals. The U.T. experiment reminds us that that process isn’t easy; it never has been. But it also reminds us that it is possible.”

This related article on the writing of the story is also worth your time.

What starts here changes the world.

 

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