President David E. Daniel

October 2014

 

Coping with the Challenges of Success

Neither a calendar nor cooling temperatures are necessary to cue me to the changing of the seasons. I know it is fall at UT Dallas by the number of students perched in every possible study spot on campus. It's clear as I make my way through hallways and common areas that there's high demand for space to support collaboration on class projects and study sessions.

The University has added study areas throughout campus in response to enrollment growth.

This is no surprise: We enrolled more than 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students this fall — up 9 percent from a year ago, part of a 35 percent rise in five years.

The University's steady growth is remarkable given that an overwhelming number of public and private colleges across the U.S. increasingly struggle to maintain enrollment levels. About 85 percent of higher education leaders polled nationwide said they are either "very" or "somewhat" concerned about maintaining enrollment, according to the third annual Higher Education Outlook Survey by the audit firm KPMG LLP.

By contrast, UT Dallas is among the fastest-growing universities in Texas. Our plan has been to increase the size of our student body about 5 percent per year. But we've exceeded that. Over the past four years, our growth rate has been greater than twice that of any other major public university in Texas, while the average SAT scores for our freshmen continue to be among the highest statewide.

Our current challenges and issues here revolve around coping thoughtfully with this success. For example, we anticipated students' needs this fall by adding more group seating and individual study carrels throughout campus. The Eugene McDermott Library will soon go 24/7, 362 days a year, operating around the clock to accommodate students.

Enrollment growth equals faculty growth. Tenured and tenure-track faculty numbers have grown 5.1 percent since fall 2013, mostly in high-demand programs such as business, computer science and engineering.

Campus infrastructure has expanded to meet demands. UT Dallas just opened its largest residence hall, a new dining hall and a second recreation center, as well as a second covered parking structure and an addition to the Naveen Jindal School of Management. Construction continues on a new bioengineering and sciences building and improvements to the north campus mall.

Why grow? Not just for the sake of being bigger. UT Dallas is scaling up to compete effectively among the best public universities in America. At the rate we're growing, we'll reach the critical mass needed to compete with the best within just a few years. And as we grow, we work to preserve our focus on academic excellence and the innovative spirit and personality of UT Dallas. We are unlike older universities in some ways, and better for it, unbound by tradition, and free to choose the path that best promotes our institutional strategy.

Our remarkable upward trajectory in so many areas — increasingly rare in higher education today — illustrates that UT Dallas is positioned to become one of the nation's premier public research universities. And all signs indicate we're well on our way to creating the future we envision.

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About This Newsletter

The President's Viewpoint is a periodic newsletter distributed to a select group of alumni, friends, faculty and staff. It comes from the desk of Dr. David E. Daniel, president of The University of Texas at Dallas, and provides the ultimate insider’s view on the news and concerns of the University.