UT’s 132nd Commencement: A Time to Celebrate

Commencement 2013 Saturday evening

As UT Austin’s 132nd Commencement approaches this weekend, I want to send my sincere congratulations to our graduates and their families. Graduating from The University of Texas is a tremendous achievement and a profound milestone in your lives. I’m proud of every one of you.

I’d like to share a few statistics about our graduates this year you might find interesting:

  • • Some 9,007 degrees will be awarded this weekend to a total of 8,667 graduates. The majority are women, who outnumber men by more than 200.
    • We will award 6,104 bachelor’s degrees, 2,042 master’s degrees, and 861 doctoral degrees.
    • Harris (Houston), Travis (Austin), and Dallas counties sent the most students to this year’s graduating class.
    • California, Illinois, and New York are the top contributors of out-of-state students.
    • China, India, and Korea are the top contributors of foreign students.
    • There are eight degree candidates under the age of 20 and 10 over the age of 60.
    • Our College of Liberal Arts has the most graduates of any of our 17 colleges and schools.
    • The most popular major in the Class of 2015 is Business Administration.

Again, my warmest congratulations to all of our graduates. I hope to see you all at our University-wide Commencement Ceremony on the Main Mall Saturday night at 8 p.m. This year’s keynote speaker will be Darren Walker, an inspirational UT alumnus and president of the Ford Foundation.

What starts here changes the world.

Bill Powers signature

Commencement inspires

Commencement 2012

On Saturday night, nearly 8,000 Longhorns graduated from The University of Texas and joined the worldwide family of Texas Exes. It is without a doubt the highlight of the year for anyone involved in the daily life of the University, and we treat it as such — with a symphony and chorale, inspirational speakers, and fireworks.

I want to congratulate every UT graduate and share with you three student stories I highlighted Saturday night:

Nathalie Kalombo graduated with degrees in government and political communication, and a minor in Spanish. She was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and her family overcame great adversity and made tremendous sacrifices on their way to life in America. Her experience with an oppressive state fueled Nathalie’s passion for democracy, and she hopes to one day be a communication director for a presidential campaign. Having just completed UT’s Archer Fellowship in Washington, she is well on her way. Whether she’s volunteering in student government or in her community, she’s inspired us with her passion for what we too often take for granted — human rights and true democracy.

Cooper Neely graduated with a degree in dance. But that’s not what he expected. Cooper grew up in the North Texas town of Throckmorton, population 900, and came to UT to get an anthropology degree. He’d always enjoyed dancing, but his only teacher had been YouTube. Then he enrolled in a theater class, and his professor and fellow students noticed his extraordinary talent right away. He switched his major to dance and soon became one of the department’s leading performers. Cooper is now off to study at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. It might never have happened if that small-town kid hadn’t come to UT and been open to new possibilities.

Luciano Martinez III graduated with a degree in mathematics. As a freshman from the Rio Grande Valley, Luciano was a walk-on for the Longhorn football scout team, and although he only played one down in his time on the team, he always took it on himself to pump up the crowd from the sidelines. Also as a freshman, he joined UTeach, the nationally recognized math and science teacher-training program. This year, while finishing his degree, Luciano taught geometry four hours a day, five days a week to sophomores at McCallum High School. He’s now considering several teaching positions, but wherever he lands after graduation, he knows what he wants to do. “I want to teach kids math,” he says, “and coach my defensive line.”

These students and so many more remind me of why I chose to make education my life’s work.

Finally, I’d like to thank Secretary Robert Gates for his inspiring remarks and everyone who works so hard each May to make commencement a memory to last a lifetime.

Hook ’em Horns!




Photo by Marsha Miller

Task force makes recommendations on graduation rates


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/

Bill's Signature