Archive for February, 2012
As president of The University of Texas, I’m privileged to work in a building with character, stature, and national recognition. The Tower has become a proud symbol of the University, and this week it turns 75 years old.
The official birthday, February 27, is being marked with:
- Birthday cake served from 11:30-1 p.m. on the West Mall
- A special exhibit of Paul Cret’s architectural drawings from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on the ground floor of Battle Hall in the Alexander Architecture Archives
- A historical tour of the Main Building from 5:30-6:30 p.m., during which you can learn about the history, architecture, and symbolism of UT’s most famous edifice
- And that night, The Tower will glow, for once, in honor of itself.
My thanks to the Texas Exes’ UT Heritage Society for organizing these observances.
Hook ’em Horns!
On Thursday, I participated on a panel with three other university presidents at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Its Higher Education Working Group wanted to hear our thoughts on how higher education is affecting globalization and vice versa.
Despite the fact that our out-of-state admissions are capped by law at 10 percent, because of our size, UT Austin has one of the largest cohorts of international students in the country, 4,631. I’m proud of that because international students help make our campus the global village that a modern university should be. (China, Korea, India, and Mexico contribute the most.)
Our shrinking world also dictates that our curriculum prepares students for global life, and our core curriculum includes a global cultures requirement. Foreign languages (34 at UT), study abroad, and the collaboration of our faculty with that of foreign universities are all ways globalization affect us.
In the other direction, it’s easy to see how higher education affects globalization. A recent study showed that 27 percent of 2,500 high-ranking government officials around the world were educated in the United States. The effects of this on international relations are hard to overstate. Our Texas Exes chapters and networks in Mexico City, London, Hong Kong, New Delhi, France, Scotland, Taipei, and even Cuba, remind us of the global reach of even one university.
No matter where I go around the world, I’m always proud to represent The University of Texas at Austin.
Hook ‘em Horns,
Few actions we could take as a university would benefit students, parents, and the University itself as much as increasing our four-year graduation rate. Timely graduation means a more affordable education for students and their families and would give more students access to a University of Texas education.
Although our four-year graduation rate of 50 percent is the highest of any public university in Texas, we must aspire to more. It is no coincidence that the most prestigious universities also have the highest graduation rates, and if we want to become the best public university in America, we must target this issue.
In September, I asked Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl to head up a task force to recommend ways of increasing four-year graduation to 70 percent in the next five years. The group submitted its report this week, and I thank the members for their hard work and insightful recommendations.
In total, the task force made more than 60 recommendations. Among them:
• Requiring orientation for all incoming first-year students
• Creating an online tool to better allow students and advisors to monitor progress to a degree
• Developing more intervention programs to identify and assist students in academic jeopardy
• Identifying “bottleneck” courses where limited seats can create challenges for students pursuing a required path to graduation
• Helping students commit to a major and avoid adding a second major if requirements cannot be met within four years
• Creating flat-rate summer tuition to encourage students to take a full academic load
• Increasing tuition for students who have not graduated despite earning more than the required number of credits
Some of these, such as mandatory freshman orientation, will be implemented immediately. Others will need additional input from faculty and staff.
Raising our graduation rates by 20 points in half a decade is an audacious goal. It will require the focused effort of both administrators and students to make it happen. But I’m convinced the benefits will repay the effort many times over.
Thank you for your support in achieving this important goal.
You may read the full report at: http://www.utexas.edu/graduation-rates/
In the summer of 2010, Linda Addison and Martha Smiley — Texas Exes, prominent lawyers, and longtime UT supporters — decided to create a food product that was healthy enough for athletes and students, tasty, conveyed their Longhorn passion, and would benefit UT academics.
The result was Longhorn Bars, a UT-branded line of protein and energy bars. Twelve percent of the wholesale price is donated to UT. The tagline, “Fueling Bodies, Funding Minds,” says a lot. And UT’s track and field teams, among other athletes, are already customers. Longhorn Bars are rolling out quickly across the state, and if they aren’t in your grocery store yet, they probably will be soon.
I want to thank Linda and Martha for supporting the University in a creative and, may I say, delicious way.
Hook ’em Horns,
Monday night we held a reception to welcome UT’s newest dean, Luis Zayas of the School of Social Work. As many of you know, longtime social work dean Barbara White stepped down recently after 18 years of leadership, and a national search led us to Washington University in St. Louis, where Dr. Zayas was the founding director of the Center for Latino Family Research.
Dr. Zayas is a psychologist and social worker whose research has examined child and adolescent mental health, maternal mental health in pregnancy, and parent-child relations. He also has studied cross-cultural factors in child-rearing behavior, family functioning, psychiatric diagnosis, and alcohol use among Latino men.
I’m delighted Luis has joined the UT Austin family, and I know the school’s 43 faculty members, 800 students, and 6,000 alumni join me in wishing him success in writing the School of Social Work’s next chapter.
Many of you might not know that for 13 years, UT Austin has been taking on some of the biggest challenges in public education through the University Charter School.
In 1998 UT launched the University Charter School with 50 students in one location. Today — administered by our Division of Continuing and Innovative Education and under the leadership of Superintendent Gwyn Boyter — the school is composed of 250 faculty and staff teaching 725 students in 15 facilities from San Antonio to Waco and from Richmond, near Houston, to Mountain Home, near Kerrville. The program is financially self supporting.
The school serves primarily students who, for a variety of reasons, are not well suited to a traditional classroom. Some 96 percent are considered at risk of dropping out. While some are highly gifted and talented, up to 45 percent have special needs. Adding to the educational challenge is the fact that more than 80 percent will enter or leave the program during the school year, so although 725 are enrolled at any given time, the program touches more than 2,000 students annually. Sixty-four percent of the students are from low-income families.
The University Charter School operates in residential treatment centers, where students often demonstrate severe neurological and learning dysfunction as well as emotional or behavioral disorders.
We teach in psychiatric hospitals; a residential home for children who, for a various reasons, cannot live at home; therapeutic wilderness camps; a shelter housing families escaping domestic violence; a home for girls in crisis pregnancies; a medical facility for children who require specialized services due to brain injury or neuro-behavioral issues or medical issues; and even in two elite gymnastics programs.
There can be no more intensive, critical, and noble work than educating children, especially those who are facing an array challenges most of us will never know.
I’m proud The University of Texas is doing this important work.
What starts here changes the world.
Each year, UT students participate in a campus-wide day of service known as The Project. The Project 2012 will be held February 25, when more than 2,000 students are expected to volunteer in Austin’s Dove Springs area.
What started as a student-led, Austin-based project this year is going global with the help of Texas Exes Chapters across the country and around the world. Throughout the month of February, Texas Exes will be joining in what Executive Director Leslie Cedar is calling one of their most ambitious efforts in years. They’re dubbing the initiative Texas Exes Care About The Project and are partnering with students and with the University’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
So far, nearly 50 Texas Exes Chapters have selected and scheduled service projects that matter to their communities. The Cincinnati Chapter is hosting a month-long blood drive. The Chicago Chapter is pairing a food drive with a game-watching party Saturday when Texas basketball takes on Tech. The United Kingdom Chapter will be organizing a winter-coat drive. And the Austin County Chapter will plant trees throughout their community.
I’m proud of the tradition our students have built, and I encourage all Texas Exes to join The Project and serve your communities under the Longhorn banner. A full list of projects is at texasexes.org/care.
What starts here changes the world.