Archive for September, 2011
With El Paso high school students
Wednesday I traveled to El Paso to open UT Austin’s newest admissions center. With admissions centers from Longview to El Paso (as well as counselors from the Valley to the Panhandle), it feels like we truly have our arms around the state of Texas.
It was great to see the students, parents, Texas Exes, and University supporters come together to celebrate this opening. To continue to be Texas’ top public research university, we need the best students from every part of our state. Far west Texas represents a very important region for us. Congratulations to Michael Talamantes, the center’s founding director.
There are two prepositional phrases in our name: “of Texas” and “at Austin.” We are first and foremost “of Texas” – all of Texas. And although we’ve recruited in El Paso for a long time, it feels good to have a permanent presence there ensuring we get good information about the University to El Paso’s brightest students and their parents.
Hook ’em Horns,
Opening the El Paso Admissions Center
With Corinne Chacon of the office of State Sen. Jose R. Rodriguez, and my wife, Kim
This past weekend, the Forty Acres was host to the first Texas Tribune Festival, where more than 1,300 attendees interacted with 100 Texas thought leaders on panels in four broad areas: public and higher education, energy and the environment, race and immigration, and health and human services. My own discussion with Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith about higher education was well attended and led to lots of insightful audience questions.
I asked government junior Huey Fischer of Rockport, who attended most of the education and race and immigration panels, to share some of his thoughts about the festival:
I had a great time interacting with attendees and the panelists. The topics were intriguing and the speakers represented diverse political backgrounds. If an audience member had a question, they had a very good chance at getting an answer because many panels were small and intimate. After each session, the speakers were very approachable and willing to continue to share their ideas.
I got to meet some very nifty folks and get photos with them: congressmen and state representatives, a former ambassador, and a university president. I even met Bevo (who happened to be on Speedway near the festival, but was not a panelist).
I enjoyed riding in and learning about the Chevy Volts that served as shuttles between venues. The food trucks were a fun experience in themselves. It was also a very effective networking experience. Many of the attendees were not students but rather folks who were working in government, business, and education. I met lobbyists, reporters, legislative staffers, and school officials.
Huey’s experience demonstrates why we partnered with the Texas Tribune for this event. I hope it was the first of many.
Hook ‘em Horns,
Photo: Jeff Heimsath for The Texas Tribune
On Thursday I was out at UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus to help announce a major award from the National Science Foundation. TACC has received a $27.5 million grant to commence work in partnership with Dell and Intel to build the next generation supercomputer “Stampede” for open-science research. The NSF is expected to invest $50 million over four years in this landmark project. Congratulations to TACC director Jay Boisseau and his entire team at TACC!
For those of you who would like to hear more about this project, here’s a short video of Jay discussing Stampede.
This grant solidifies UT’s role as one of the world’s supercomputing hubs. Although the advanced computing that these systems enable is a scientific and engineering feat in itself, the true significance of this project can be found in the expansion of knowledge and innovation that this computational power makes possible. It would be much faster to list the areas that advanced computing does not affect than to try and list every one that it does. Advanced computing aids our design of everything from vehicles to new medical technologies and helps us better predict weather patterns, the effects of natural disasters, and climate change. Stampede will enable research on more than 1,000 projects across the nation and across disciplines, promoting collaboration and problem solving at UT and beyond.
This project exemplifies the TACC motto: UT is “Powering Discoveries that Change the World.”
One of the essential roles of a university is to provide a forum for new and competing ideas and facilitate public discourse. This weekend, Sept. 24-25, our campus will be the site of the first Texas Tribune Festival, featuring more than 100 Texas thought leaders in four broad policy areas: energy and environment, public and higher education, health and human services, and race and immigration. I look forward to welcoming the festival to the 40 Acres and will participate, along with UT Regent Alex Cranberg, in a panel discussion of productivity in higher education.
Among dozens of others, the festival’s speakers will include U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, Ambassador Tony Garza, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, former secretary of education Margaret Spellings, and T. Boone Pickens.
Details about the admissions discount for UT students, faculty, and staff are available online.
You can read more about the festival here.
Hook ’em Horns,
Wednesday afternoon, I delivered my annual State of the University Address on campus. If you weren’t able to be there it’s now available online.
If you’d rather read it, the full text is available on my web page.
The State of the University Address is also an occasion to take stock of some of the outstanding achievements of our faculty, staff, and students. This 11-minute video highlights some of the many honors that have made me so proud of our campus this year. As I said in my speech Wednesday, I’ve never been so proud to be a Longhorn, and these folks are a big reason why.
Hope to see some of you in Pasadena this weekend at the game.
Happy Birthday, UT, and Hook ‘em Horns!
We remember September 11th not out of a desire to relive the sadness and anger of that time but to commemorate the good we saw in its aftermath — the acts of heroism, the compassion, the expressions of worldwide solidarity. Like all large institutions, The University of Texas was affected deeply by this tragedy. For us these effects range from our own operational security, to our academic life and contributions to national policy conversations, to our many alumni who have sacrificed in the wars precipitated by 9/11. On this solemn anniversary, we join with the nation in honoring the fallen.
Below is a list of ways September 11 will be marked on our campus today and throughout the weekend.
Friday, Sept. 9
• Flag lowering: An ROTC unit will lower the flags on the Main Mall at 9 a.m. Flags on the Main Mall will remain at half-staff and will be lighted overnight through the weekend. Other campus flags will be at half-staff.
• Remembrance activity: In the aftermath of 9/11, thousands of students gathered at the Tower to mourn together. This year, people are encouraged to return to the Tower to leave notes of remembrance. Paper will be provided for those interested in writing their individual perspectives and memories of 9/11. The notes will be collected in baskets at the location and deposited in the official University Archives at the Briscoe Center for American History in Sid Richardson Hall.
• Commemorative carillon concert: At noon, listen for a special musical performance by Tower Carillonneur Tom Anderson.
• Panel discussion: From 1:30-3 p.m. the LBJ School will host a panel discussion titled, “Conversation 9/11: A Decade After, Looking Forward” in the Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences Building (ACE), Avaya Auditorium 2.302. The event is free and open to the public. Current students are encouraged to attend.
Saturday, Sept. 10
• Moment of silence: There will be a moment of silence requested during the Texas football pregame against Brigham Young University at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Sunday, Sept. 11
• Darkened Tower: From midnight Saturday, Sept. 10 until sunrise Sunday, Sept. 11 and again from dusk Sunday until Monday morning, Sept. 12, the Tower will be darkened in memory of the events of 9/11.
• Flag display: Ten years ago, the university paid tribute to those whose lives were lost on 9/11 by displaying the U.S. flag on the front of the Main Building. In observance of the 10th anniversary, the American flag will once again be displayed at the heart of the University’s campus.
• Performance event: Watch “september play” a 9/11 memorial theater production developed by Courtney Sale, an M.F.A. candidate in the Department of Theatre and Dance, at 8 p.m. in the Anna Hiss Gymnasium. Admission is free, but space is limited. Read “A day to remember,” a story about “september play.”
Less than 30 miles from the 40 Acres, Central Texans are continuing to face wildfires. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people who have suffered losses and the firefighters and volunteers aiding in the relief efforts.
For those UT staff and faculty members displaced by the fires, UT is providing paid emergency leave. Details are posted on the UT Human Resource Services website. Affected UT students should contact the UT Office of the Dean of Students for assistance.
The American Red Cross of Central Texas is one of the best resources available if you’d like to find out how you can help. I know UT students, faculty, and staff will be working together in the coming days to do all they can to assist our community.
At UT Austin, we’re working every day to improve the student experience and our academic outcomes.
I have created a task force, which convened in July, to work on increasing our graduation rates. As I said in my May speech on the future of the public research university, raising our four-year graduation rate is one of the most effective ways we can lower costs for Texas families and increase capacity at UT.
This effort is consistent with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence Action Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents on August 25. The framework addresses student success, faculty productivity, higher education costs, and many other factors.
I want to call your attention to some related comparative data taken from a study conducted by UT Austin sociology professor and associate dean Marc Musick:
- UT Austin’s six-year graduation rate of 81% is 13th out of 120 American public research universities.
- We rank 10th out of those 120 universities in the percentage of students graduating for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.
- We are 2nd in the number of faculty employed for every taxpayer and tuition dollar received.
Based on these objective measures, UT Austin is near the top in efficiency among the nation’s public universities.
Of course there is much room for improvement. Our four-year graduation rate of 53% is not good enough. Michigan and Berkeley graduate about 70% of their undergraduates in four years. We must identify and remove the obstacles to timely graduation at UT Austin.
Public research universities must be good stewards of the public trust—and public resources. I am committed to making UT Austin an even more efficient university.
Hook ‘em Horns,