(Originally posted on June 17, 2016 to the ITS Website)
In May, President Fenves presented his vision and strategic priorities to The University of Texas System Board of Regents during their regularly scheduled meeting. His remarks were comprehensive and inclusive, often focusing on individual stories to exemplify the greatness of the University.
President Fenves spoke of UT Austin pursuing excellence in innovative ways, sharing the stories of two students – Kelsey Mumford, a double major in biology and nursing, and Gustavo Molinar, a double major in psychology and health and society – to demonstrate his vision for the University and how it serves the state of Texas. He talked about how their undergraduate education, and that of the other 50,000 students at UT Austin, is “infused with the types of discovery and service that are essential to the residential college experience at a research university.” Citing challenges of the past year, he reviewed what has happened since he last spoke to the Board then focused on what must be accomplished to advance UT as one of the top public universities in the nation. Here are his three broad strategies and how they are being accomplished:
Redesigning Undergraduate Education – By including research and discovery in undergraduate education and recognizing the increasing role of technology in learning, UT Austin is taking full advantage of educational opportunities to help students learn, excel, and succeed. This strategy aligns with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60X30-TX strategic plan and will help students graduate in four years prepared for successful careers. The Freshman Research Initiative for science students is demonstrating the value of experiential learning; four colleges now offer students service learning, internships, and research as part of the degree programs. Project 2021, headed by renowned psychology professor Dr. Jamie Pennebaker, will help faculty redesign courses to include experiential learning, integrate technology, and thoroughly evaluate the results. The TEXAS Extended Campus gives thousands of students across the state and around the world the opportunity to participate in UT learning experiences.
Accelerating and Enhancing Research Productivity – UT Austin aims to double sponsored research in the next 10 years by identifying funding strategies, interdisciplinary opportunities and centers of excellence. The University will refocus on technology commercialization support and invest in the research infrastructure as well as UT Austin’s world-renowned archives and collections. Beyond sponsored research, UT Austin strongly supports scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and creativity in the arts. The Faculty Investment Initiative is helping recruit and retain professors and graduate students responsible for this research as well as students from underrepresented communities to be mentored as future educators and researchers.
Transforming Health Care – The Dell Medical School’s first class of 50 high-achieving future physicians will begin their medical education this month. Over the next 18 months four buildings, including the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin, will open. Founding dean, Dr. Clay Johnston, has hired nine department chairs and center directors, an assistant dean for diversity and over 200 faculty members plus clinical affiliates from Central Texas. Building a new medical school from scratch provides the opportunity to rethink existing models for medical care and begin to explore new approaches and solutions.
In addition to these strategies, President Fenves discussed the need for an international strategy to promote UT’s work globally and attract international talent to Austin. Other important initiatives focus on entrepreneurship and efficiency. Finally, to prepare tomorrow’s leaders, UT Austin is committed to educating students in a diverse and culturally rich environment which is a vital component of excellence.
In closing, President Fenves observed his vision aligns with Chancellor McRaven’s ambitious “quantum leaps” and Gov. Abbott’s commitment to “harness our resources to elevate Texas’ higher education institutions as integral participants in our economic advancement.” Texas is a global leader in economic opportunity, innovation, creativity and discovery, and The University of Texas at Austin is committed to leading the way in achieving the governor’s goal of having five of the top 10 public research universities reside in Texas.
If you haven’t done so, read his remarks on the UT Austin website or view his remarks on the Board of Regents website. (President Fenves’ remarks begin at 10:45 am, at about 2 hours and 46 minutes on the Thursday, May 12, 2016 webcast.) There is much to be gained from his words.