Breaking ground for the Engineering Education and Research Center

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With, from left, Chancellor Bill McRaven, Student Engineering Council President Anuj Kudva, and Engineering Dean Sharon Wood

Yesterday, I was honored to help break ground for our Engineering Education and Research Center. For many years this major new facility has been the dream of our engineering alumni, industry leaders throughout the state, and three successive deans: Ben Streetman, Greg Fenves, and Sharon Wood. Now it is becoming a reality.

Slated to open in 2017, the EERC will enhance our culture of innovation and transform engineering education with cross-disciplinary teaching and research. It will include:

• 430,000 square feet of open and flexible space for interactive learning and hands-on student projects
• 21st-century teaching and research labs for creating new technologies and solving real-world problems
• State-of-the-art engineering library and cafe, where students will study, collaborate and socialize
• A central location for all engineering student services, such as student life, advising and career assistance
• A new home for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Cockrell School’s largest department

My heartfelt thanks goes to the many donors and leaders who have brought us to this point. The EERC will allow our Cockrell School of Engineering to soar to even greater heights, and that will be good for all of Texas. This remarkable video offers a preview:

What starts here changes the world.
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Three UT executives stepping aside

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From left, Kevin Hegarty, Tom Gilligan, and Robert Hutchings

 

In recent days, three UT Austin executives have announced they are stepping down from their posts.

Kevin Hegarty, who has served as vice president and chief financial officer for 14 years, will become executive vice president and chief financial officer at the University of Michigan. His last day on campus will be Feb. 26, and he will begin at Michigan on April 6. Kevin has been a visionary leader, a champion of efficiency and effectiveness in our administration, and a stalwart member of my team. Mary Knight, our associate vice president for finance, will serve as interim vice president until his replacement is named.

Tom Gilligan, who has served as dean of the McCombs School of Business since 2008, will be leaving at the end of August for Stanford University to become director of the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution, and Peace. Tom has led the McCombs School to new heights, attracting top faculty and students and fostering research that is central to UT’s intellectual climate. He also has built and expanded multiple programs that support industry while challenging students and preparing them to be leaders. Rowling Hall, now under construction, will stand as Tom’s most visible legacy.

And Ambassador Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs since 2010, will step down when his current term concludes at the end of August. After taking some time off to write, Bob will return to the LBJ faculty to teach, advise, and mentor. Among his many accomplishments he has been responsible for key faculty hires and the creation of a dual degree program with the law school and an executive master’s in public leadership.

All three of these leaders have my profound thanks for their service to the University and my very best wishes for the next chapters of their distinguished careers.

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Report issued on UT Austin admissions

Today, the Board of Regents released the report of an investigation it commissioned to study whether UT Austin admissions are subject to undue outside influence.

I believe UT Austin’s admissions practices are motivated by fairness, the long-term interests of the University, and serving the public good. In response to the report by the firm Kroll & Associates, I would like to make six points:

1.   As Kroll reported, over a five-year period, my office intervened on behalf of “a relatively small” number of students. In particular, the report cited 73 applicants who normally would not have been admitted, or fewer than one in 1,000 admitted students.

2.   In every case, I acted in what I believed was the best interest of the University.

3.   Our admissions practices are fully consistent with all established laws, rules, and policies.

4.   I inherited this process, which was well known by regents, former chancellors, the Board of Regents Office, and UT System officials, many of whom, as the report notes, asked me to intervene on their behalf. This process, both prior to and during my presidency, was in the best long-term interest of the University.

5.   As the Kroll report points out, no spots at the University were saved and no one was displaced by this practice. The students in question were simply added to the incoming class.

6.   It is my observation that some similar process exists at virtually every selective university in America, and it does so because it serves the best interests of the institutions.

I am proud of our staff for the full cooperation it gave to the inquiry, as cited in the report: “The commitment, dedication, and good faith of all officials and personnel with whom we interacted were readily apparent.” The Kroll report contains many recommendations worth considering.

I thank Chancellor McRaven for his thoughtful leadership.

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Support Orange and Maroon Day

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President Powers with Dr. Mark Hussey, interim president of Texas A&M, today at a press conference kicking off Orange and Maroon Day 2015

For one special day during each legislative session, alumni volunteers from Texas’ two great flagship universities converge on the Capitol to encourage our elected representatives to support higher education in general and to support our state’s Tier-One research universities in particular. Today is “Orange & Maroon Day” at the Capitol. I look forward to joining with Texas A&M Interim President Mark Hussey and alumni leaders of both universities in getting our message to lawmakers.

UT Austin and Texas A&M combined teach more than 100,000 students, and each year 24,000 students graduate from these two schools and enter the workforce. Put simply, these young people are the future of our state — leaders in education, in business, in government, in the arts, and more. When you look at these Longhorns and Aggies, you’re looking at the future of our state and our nation. Together our two institutions have 875,000 alumni.
But of course the significance of these universities is not merely in the number of students they educate; it’s in the kind of education those students get. Texas and Texas A&M are partners because we share a model of education that is highly productive and deserves additional support. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors make up the ecosystem that produces both the kind of knowledge that moves society forward and the kind of leaders society needs.

The immediate payoff to Texas is enormous: together, UT Austin and Texas A&M attract $1.5 billion in research funding back to the Texas economy annually. But the long-term payoff is immeasurably larger because these universities produce the critical thinkers and leaders who will guide our future prosperity and civil society.
What starts here changes the world.

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Sharing a Few Student Statistics

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The statistical analysis of our student body for the fall 2014 semester is now complete, and I’d like to share a few of the highlights with you:

  • This fall, there were 51,313 students at UT Austin. This is down 1.4% from the previous fall.
  • The one-year retention rate increased from 93.6% to 94.5%. This is the highest one-year retention rate in UT’s history.
  • The average SAT score for first-time freshmen increased 42 points this year to 1914. The average ACT score increased to 29.
  • Our largest college is Natural Sciences, with 23.1% of our students. The next largest colleges are Liberal Arts (18.3%), Engineering (14.7%), Business (10.5%), and Communication (9.2%).
  • The ethnic makeup of our student body is:

46.9% White
19.2% Hispanic
16.2% Asian
4.4% Black

  • UT has 1.6% more women than men.

As our spring semester classes begin today, I welcome back our outstanding students. I’m looking forward to a great second half of the school year.

Hook ’em Horns!

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Carnegie Foundation recognizes UT Austin for community engagement

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has recognized UT Austin with its 2015 Community Engagement Classification. I’m proud of our Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and Vice President Greg Vincent for attaining this designation.

UT Austin is among 83 institutions receiving this relatively new classification for the first time, and among those, we are one of just six universities designated by Carnegie as having very high research activity.

At UT, we live out our mission of service in many ways. A few examples include:

Currently 366 institutions of higher education hold the Carnegie classification out of more than 3,000 institutions nationwide. Twelve universities in Texas hold the designation, including five in the UT System.

What starts here changes the world.

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