Archive for December, 2010
As we face these challenging times, I want to thank every member of the UT family for what you do to support our University. Have a safe and peaceful holiday season.
We have an important year ahead, and I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Kim and I wish you all the best for the holidays!
It’s been about a year since we launched the faculty-staff Ideas of Texas website. The student-alumni version came along about three months later. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the site is a way for anyone in the UT family to contribute an idea to improve the University. The UT community is then able to vote, comment, and rate the idea. The ideas are then evaluated by the appropriate UT department or operating unit.
We’ve received more than 500 ideas, and of those, we have approved more than 35 and have already implemented 10.
One of the most highly rated ideas proposed UT establish an ombudsperson for our staff. Students and faculty already have such a program, and I am pleased to announce that we have appointed a search committee that will begin the hiring process later this month. I support the idea of having a staff ombudsperson for the same reasons that the University provides an ombudsperson to serve our students and faculty—it helps resolve conflict.
Another idea contributor proposed that UT establish a way to recognize our student employees and I’m pleased to report that we have. Earlier this month, the Office of Human Resource Services and the Texas Exes announced UT’s first Student Employee of the Year Award. Departments can nominate student employees through January 28. The winner will receive $500 and be honored at the President’s Student Leadership Awards in April 2011.
Many of the ideas submitted focus on expanding our green initiatives, such as the suggestion that we retrofit solar panels on campus buildings where practical. In fact, we are testing solar panel installations on the roof of the Manor Garage and on a ground installation out at the Pickle Research Campus. A solar-thermal array has also been included on the roof of the new Norman Hackerman Building.
As you walk around campus, you may notice that there are native plant gardens cropping up all over the 40 Acres. This was a popular idea on the Ideas of Texas site, and new native plant landscaping is visible on both sides of 24th Street east of Whitis, on the esplanade of East 23rd Street near Royal-Memorial Stadium, and most recently, on the terrace east of the Main Building. The latter includes sensory gardens featuring plants chosen for their smell and textures for the benefit of those with impaired vision. UT’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center served as a consultant to the project.
I want to thank all visitors and contributors to the Ideas of Texas. If you’d like to read more about our approved ideas, click here.
I appreciate your efforts to improve our University. Keep your ideas coming.
Before every legislative session in Texas, UT Austin co-hosts the Pre-Session Legislative Conference. The event serves as an orientation for newly elected members and is also sponsored by the Offices of the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House. Last Friday I attended the conference, which has been organized by the LBJ School of Public Affairs since 1970.
I thought you might be interested in the remarks of the keynote speaker, Richard Fisher, who is president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He gave a talk on what makes the Texas economy exceptional and on the factors that could jeopardize our future economic prosperity. His message has much in common with many of the themes I have conveyed in my five years as president of UT Austin.
“You have a lot on your plate as new legislators,” said Fisher. “Don’t lose track of this simple, unalterable, indisputable, critical fact: We have done well so far; our economy is mighty. But to stay ahead of the curve and compete in tomorrow’s global marketplace, Texas must do better in educating its population….
“My plea is that each of you make it one of your principal goals to make Texas an educational powerhouse. High-value-added, job-creating businesses that are world beaters will not move their top executives to Texas unless they can send their children and grandchildren to top schools and universities….
“Whatever our ethnicity or origin, Texans are a race of risk takers. We have from the very start defied conventional wisdom. We must now take risks, defy conventional wisdom and turn around our education system. Our economic future depends upon it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Our actions today must go beyond getting through the challenges of this year and the next. We must continue to build an educational system—from kindergarten through higher education—that will “safeguard and nourish our prosperity and that of our children and our children’s children.”
Richard Fisher’s full remarks are available on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.