Archive for October, 2011
I spent much of last week in Washington D.C. and New York and was proud of the University at every turn.
Wednesday was especially gratifying and hinted at the range of who we are as an institution. In Washington, I attended a breakfast press conference for the new UT Energy Poll, a project of the McCombs School. Wayne Hoyer, chair of our Marketing Department, Ray Orbach, director of our Energy Institute, and McCombs School dean Tom Gilligan did a great job of explaining the significance of this initiative. The poll will survey the public’s attitudes about energy consumption, pricing, development, and regulation each October and April. There were lots of good questions, not just from the media but from energy industry leaders, congressional aides, and our own faculty. You can read more about it in USA Today.
That evening in New York City, I joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dr. Don Carleton, director of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, Vice President Greg Vincent, and our own Distinguished Alumna, mezzo-soprano Barbara Conrad, for a screening at Lincoln Center of the Briscoe Center-produced documentary on Barbara “When I Rise.” We were also joined by Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, which helped fund the project, as well as a number of AT&T executives.
When the end credits had rolled, the curtain rose on Barbara, who performed four beautiful selections.
Every member of the UT family should see “When I Rise,” which documents a critically important chapter in our story as a university and the contributions Barbara and her supporters made to our progress as an institution and a state.
In a single day, UT demonstrated its leadership in energy research and its enormous progress in social justice and the arts on the national stage. It was a proud day to be a Longhorn.
Hook ’em Horns,
Part of being a great university is being a good neighbor, helping solve problems and support the community in which you live. I’m happy to report that Monday night, UT hosted Fire Relief: The Concert for Central Texas at our Erwin Special Events Center. Through the combined efforts of the organizers and the artists, we were able to raise more than half a million dollars for charities supporting the victims of the catastrophic Bastrop County fires that began on Labor Day. The concert bill was a Who’s Who of Texas music, including Willie Nelson, The Dixie Chicks, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Eric Johnson, and Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel.
Today, I had the pleasure of presenting the Austin Community Foundation with a check for $725,000. At UT, we like to say that what starts here changes the world. The world starts at our doorstep, and that’s as important a place as any to make a difference.
(Photo of check presentation by Marsha Miller/UT Austin. Photo of Willie Nelson and Ray Benson by Roy Mata/Erwin Center)
Hook ’em Horns,
I want to share with you an impressive new video that celebrates the immense impact the campaign is already having on our students, faculty, and campus. It also celebrates your generosity. The video makes it clear that now, more than ever, the world needs Texas. I hope it’s yet another reason for you to take pride in your university. Share it with your friends.
Thanks for watching, and for your continued support of UT.
Hook ’em Horns,
One of our partners in exploring and promoting best practices in higher education is the Lumina Foundation. This summer in Indianapolis, I participated in a conference on productivity in higher education sponsored by the foundation, and video of the panel on which I spoke is now available.
I thought some of you might be interested in hearing my commentary on current challenges in higher education. Edited down to the questions and only my comments, it runs about 30 minutes.
If you’re suffering from the Great Texas Drought of 2011 (and chances are good you are) I hope you got a little rain recently; we got about two inches last weekend on campus.
Hook ’em Horns,
On Thursday morning, I participated in a panel discussion about the growth of Austin at a Leadership Austin breakfast. Joining me on the panel were Senator Kirk Watson and Jesus Garza of the Seton Family of Hospitals. Our wide-ranging conversation addressed major concerns around Austin’s growth.
As I explained during this panel, in my view, Austin is not faced with a huge number of things we must accomplish to move forward as a community; we have three or four major issues that will require hard work and political will.
Smart transportation planning is not only key to the quality of life in the region but affects all manner of other things, like housing prices. We’re nothing without the environment, so protecting it and planning for growth, especially with regard to our water quality and supply is crucial. We must invest in education, both statewide k-12 and higher ed. And not least, we need to see to the quality and availability of health care.
The enormous expertise of the UT Austin faculty will inform our community’s decisions in every one of these areas as UT and Austin move into the future together. And nowhere more than at the intersection of education and health care.
As I said in my State of the University Address last month, we are moving ever closer to developing a medical school at UT Austin. There are myriad details yet to be worked out, but we are poised to tackle this region-transforming project. Our strengths in natural sciences and engineering, nursing and pharmacy, social work, business, economics, and many other areas make us the natural home for Texas’ next great medical school and teaching hospital. It will take foresight and perseverance, but I believe we can and we will create a UT Austin medical school.
On a completely different note, this is a special weekend for Longhorns everywhere as we face down our archrivals OU at the Cotton Bowl. I’m on my way to Dallas with the team today and hope to visit with many of you there. Our Horns are looking great. So let’s be safe, have fun, and beat those Sooners!