Celebrating Our Successes, Imagining Our Future
State of the University Address - President Richard C. Benson
October 13, 2016
Good afternoon everybody. It’s a real pleasure to be here. I want to welcome our students, faculty, staff, alumni and many friends of the University. I really appreciate your coming today as your presence is further evidence of your commitment to the University and to what we’re working to accomplish.
Since my arrival this summer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of you, and in the coming months we'll be talking much more. As some of you know, I like to get away from my desk for at least a few minutes each day and walk around the campus. I have to say that at the moment it's awfully hard to find a spare 15 minutes, but my assistant, Kim Goodfriend, is finding ways to accommodate my outings. Thank you, Kim.
During these walks I see the energy of this dynamic campus. I talk to students and faculty on their way to class, I check out pop-up student events and chat with staff members making their rounds. It’s during these conversations that I have learned about our people, our culture, our dreams and sometimes our challenges. These experiences have provided perspective that shapes my thinking as we prepare to sculpt the next era together at UT Dallas.
Today we celebrate what you all have accomplished this year. You'll see that our latest results show progress, which furthers the great strides that have been made at this University during the last 15 years. And as we consider our upward trajectory in a variety of categories, I am in awe of the work that has been done in such a short period of time, and of the leadership provided by Dr. David Daniel and of Dr. Hobson Wildenthal. Thanks also to the deans, department heads, vice presidents and other UT Dallas administrators who have helped guide our progress.
We have all come together at an exciting time in UT Dallas history. We are closing in on our 50th anniversary, a time when we will build upon our legacy of not only embracing change, but being defined by change. We all expect continued transformation in the next few years because it is a way of life here. There is an assumption of innovation and improvement. This ethic is the polar opposite of, “This is how we've always done it.” It is our secret to creating a reality 15 years from now that will exceed expectations.
As we imagine that future, let us now assess where we begin.
Let’s start with enrollment. I think this is what is most noticed from afar; it certainly was noticed by me before I came to work here or even knew that I would work here. Our enrollment is up 9 percent just in the last year. We’re approaching 27,000. This is up by 40 percent in five years, 80 percent in a decade and it greatly surpasses even the very aggressive goals that we laid out in 2013’s strategic plan. Going forward I think we can expect to increase enrollment about 5 percent a year. So we’ll reach 30,000 quite soon, and we'll see where it goes after that.
This set of pie charts shows you how the gender and ethnicity of our undergraduate student body have changed over the last 10 years. So you see 2006 on the left and 2016 on the right. Our student body has grown more diverse in 10 years, but not uniformly so. There are areas that have grown rapidly or diversified and others which have resisted that diversification. The number of Hispanic students is up. The number of Asian-American students is up. The percentage of African-Americans is pretty close to what it was 10 years ago, and I will admit that this frustrates me. We have very good people working on this, beginning with Vice President George Fair. We will work hard and find ways in which we can further diversify the undergraduate student body at UT Dallas.
The next slide shows our graduate population, and again you can compare 2006 to 2016. The thing that really jumps off the page is how many international students we have in the graduate student body today compared to 10 years ago. Within the set of U.S. citizens, the relative breakout has not changed very much. Some of those percentages are the same, though maybe the Anglo portion is a little bit smaller than it would’ve been in 2006. As I look at that, it's good. I really value our international students. They add color and character and they make life fun for a campus like ours. It’s nice that here, in the middle of the U.S., we have such an international community among us. I want to make sure that people are inspired to apply to UT Dallas in the first place, so we need to look hard at our graduate programs and make sure that they are attracting master's and doctoral students.
If you look at the male/female breakout, we’re more male than female. And we seem to be getting even more so. As we go forward, I want that to not be the case. I’d like to see the University be a lot closer to 50/50 going forward. Speaking as a long-serving engineering educator, I'm mindful of the fact that my profession isn't helping much. We’ve tended to be about 25 percent female. As our engineering population has grown, it has challenged us to achieve some of the gender diversity that we would like to see in our campus. So that gives you a sense of how things have changed, or maybe not changed, in a 10-year period.
This next chart shows that full-time students are substantially greater than part-time. Our staff, faculty and students know that, but I think a lot of our friends here in the Metroplex probably don't know that. I think they still look upon us as a commuter school, a place that’s empty during the day, full in the evening. Nothing could be further from the truth. We still have many students who drive to campus, and we have any number of courses that are offered in the evening. But in fact this has become a robust, very pleasant residential campus, and most of our students — the vast majority — are full-time students.
You see the graduate/undergraduate breakout is about one-third graduate students, two-thirds undergrads. I actually like it that way. I think that's about right. A lot of universities will have a smaller graduate piece compared to the undergraduate and in many cases they are trying to grow it. I think one-third graduate students, two-thirds undergrads fits pretty well for us.
This chart shows the majors of our incoming freshmen. The pie chart on the left reveals that we are kind of a STEM school, right? Science, technology, engineering and math. I guess it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. ECS is the largest, and Natural Science and Mathematics is in the number two spot. The Jindal School of Management has 16 percent, BBS has 10 percent, and then all other majors are 17 percent. So you see the emphasis on engineering, the sciences and management.
If you look over at the right you see the most popular majors, and you see a strong emphasis. But look at the bottom. You see healthcare studies. That’s a very new program. And it’s attracting a lot of interest. I think it aligns very well with the things we want to do in medicine as we go forward. I also like that other gray bar — Arts and Technology. And you can see I put a little sign there, “You Are Here.” You are here, in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.
You know I love the arts. I should point out my wife, Leslie, is here today. We both love the arts. There are some very fine STEM schools in this country, and I just came from one. And UT Dallas is a fine STEM school. We are going to do ourselves a world of good by putting the “A” for arts into STEM and creating a STEAM school. And we've already started. I am thinking about how we do become a STEAM school. I'm going to need a bit more time to figure out the "how" of it, but the motivation is there. If you’re a visitor and it’s your first time in the ATEC building, walk around afterward. You’ll get a sense of the creativity at UT Dallas. I think it’s going to be a hallmark for us going forward.
The next graph shows graduation rates. You see in the orange bars the graduation rates for incoming freshmen four years out. It wasn't too good some years back. Only one-third would graduate within four years. Today it’s over half. If you look at the six-year numbers, it was a little over half. And now it's a little over two-thirds. So we're getting better.
So of the freshmen, all those freshmen who joined us this fall, this is sort of a projection looking forward. I'd like to see these bars be higher. But I’ve also learned that this is about as good as it gets in the state of Texas. These numbers are very close to UT Austin and to Texas A&M. So we are hanging in there with some of the most prestigious, finest schools in this state. These numbers are good and they compare very favorably to the rest of the public universities in Texas.
I asked if we could track some of the students who left UT Dallas, and it turns out we can. We can track students who left for another Texas university. The little white caps at the top are those students who started here, left us, but then graduated from some other, probably larger, public university in the state of Texas. So again, the retention rates go higher still; and if we could track the ones who went out of state and graduated, they would go higher still. So we’re actually doing rather well, but it certainly is an area where we can focus.
This slide — before they were students — tells you a little bit about the specs of our students as they come to us, generally out of high school. If you read across the top row, you see the freshman class rising from 1,788 to 3,227. Trust me, that’s a staggeringly rapid increase in the size of the freshman class. What you don't see changing is the rather stellar SAT and ACT scores. So you see them running across, SAT 1260, you see ACT pretty steady at 28. These are very, very good numbers. This is a strong entering class that recently came in.
The bottom row, which shows National Merit Scholars, is also very impressive. I think we have the largest cohort of National Merit Scholars in Texas, and I would love to see the university that has more overall.
Degrees awarded by year is also interesting. I should point out that I’ve been doing a lot of homework. In fact, some of it started before I had this job. I was trying to figure out what’s going on at UT Dallas. I’ve enjoyed working toward this presentation because it allowed me to solidify a lot of that knowledge. Here's another thing that's awfully interesting: you see that we’re now awarding more master’s degrees than bachelor’s degrees. That’s interesting. There aren’t many universities that could point to that. I think a lot of this is being driven by the Jindal School, which has some very large, very attractive and very successful master’s programs.
The smallest bar is the number of PhD students. I'll be frank, it’s too small. It should be higher. So to my faculty colleagues, let’s get to work on this one. I would like to see our doctoral students grow. I must add that this is not a zero-sum game. I don’t mean to take anything away from the master’s programs or the undergraduate degree programs. We’ve been in such rapid growth, it’s hard to even imagine a zero-sum game at UT Dallas.
But there’s another reason I would like to see those numbers go up. The 200 threshold is rather significant for something called the National Research University Fund, or NRUF. And we need to get our numbers up to that 200 level to be eligible for a nice infusion of funds from the state that will support our graduate enterprise. And we’re so close. We’re running around 190. We might as well just get it up and over that 200 bar and keep it going.
Here's the graduation rates for master's and doctoral students. The master’s degree percentages are pretty good. They weren’t so good 10 years ago, but we’re pushing 90 percent right now. That is good.
The percentage of PhD graduates is a little over 50 percent. This concerns me. I was surprised when I saw this. I thought it would’ve been a lot higher. I will be the first to admit that getting a PhD is a very hard thing to do. You come in, you're looking at four or five, six years of work, you have to do original research, truly original research. It is not an easy thing. But I hoped that more than half of our entering doctoral students would’ve found their way to completion of their doctoral studies. So this is another area that we have to look at.
And not to throw around that same acronym, but NRUF has a category that requires a higher graduation rate for PhDs. It's 58 percent. Let’s make sure we bring in students who can do the work and that we give them the mentoring they need to be successful in those studies.
Here’s enrollment of graduate students by school. We have a lot of graduate students. I've already spoken about my desire to see more doctoral students. I'll be the first to admit that not every college treats graduate studies the same way. Some will put a very large emphasis on master’s degrees, while others will put a greater emphasis on doctoral studies. Overall, I hope we can lean a little be more to doctoral research.
So here's a pie chart that looks familiar. This time it is the ethnicity and gender of our tenured and tenure-track faculty. So there are a couple things to note. One is that our student body is vastly more diverse than our faculty. And I’m pretty sure it’d be true for staff. That needs to improve. We also have substantially more male professors than we do female professors. I would like to see that get a lot closer to what we have in the student body. So we have work to do. It concerns me that it hasn't changed much in 10 years. Clearly this is a thorny problem. Having worked at some other good places, I can tell you this is a tough problem just about everywhere. No one seems to have figured out the easy way to solve this. I think there’s only hard ways to solve it. We’re going to have to dedicate ourselves to trying to find those solutions.
Let me tell you a little bit more about our research. This graph has a lot of interesting things you can glean from it. If you go across the bottom bar, the white bars, that is federally funded research. So these are the traditional grants, contracts and grants, that you might see from places like NSF and NIH and the like. Green is further dedicated to research — restricted research, if you will. That could come from the state, it could come from industry, it could come from other sources and it augments the federally funded amount by a little bit.
The total bar, the total orange bar, represents those funds that we brought in from someplace else and then tossed in some of our own money. So you can see that we’re putting in a lot of our own money. I don't think it was wrong. It has allowed us to make progress and to actually enter into that top tier research category. I think you all know that we passed the Carnegie R-1 this year, which was based largely by the size of our research portfolios. So this is a very wise investment. If I were to point out areas that we might want to focus on going forward, let’s try to get the white and the green bars a little bit taller and bring in more of somebody else's money to fund our research.
It’s also a very important metric to show that the work we are doing is valued by other people. I’ve often spoken about this. We of course want to work at the highest quality but we also want to do work that’s meaningful. And even though it may seem crass to say it, if someone was willing to pay for it, well then, that’s some measure that is meaningful. If no one is willing to pay for it, or if they would rather pay someone else to do it, well that tells you something, too. Again, this is an area where we should be focusing over the next couple years.
This is a breakout of our research expenditure. The largest part of the money that we spend is money that we put in from other sources. You see the federal direct, you see industrial direct, gifts and others.
The blue, that’s the overhead. That’s an important piece of pie because the blue comes from the orange, if you will, or maybe the orange and the gray. And that overhead that comes in is very valuable to us because those are fungible dollars. They are dollars that we can use to help give a startup package to a faculty member or to employ more teaching assistants than we otherwise could afford, or to buy some new lab equipment, or to keep our facilities in good shape. So whatever the opposite of a vicious cycle is, it’s a virtuous cycle. As we can build the externally funded research here lots of good things will happen to us.
You’ve seen enough charts and bars and that kind of stuff. We're not done yet, but I’m going to show more faces now.
It's the people who make this place great. I can’t possibly touch on all the good things that are happening and continue to happen at UT Dallas, but let me highlight just a few. The Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards were given just about a month or so ago. I got to attend that, that was very nice. In fact, I sat next to McClain Watson who you see there. He’s with JSOM and he was recognized for his skilled teaching, but also because he focuses on students’ lives after college and he stresses the importance of projecting confidence and warmth, trustworthiness and a strong work ethic.
The next person is Kim Knight out of ATEC. She was recognized for her work with new media and digital technologies. She also is focused on student lives after graduation. She wants them to be educated citizens in our democratic society.
Then you see Ryan McMahan, who has a joint appointment with ECS and ATEC. He received the Provost’s Award in recognition of his excellence in mentoring undergraduate researchers. He said he was inspired by an experience that he had at Virginia Tech, and I’m pretty sure Doug Ballman was his advisor. So there’s one of our young colleagues paying it forward. Very nice to see.
So let’s come here to the 2016 President’s Teaching Excellence Awards. You see Denise Paquette Boots from EPPS. She received praise for her interesting criminology classes and her interest in students’ successes long after completing their courses. Do you detect a trend here with some of our best teachers?
Dr. Patel, an alumnus in NSM, was honored for his skill and clarity in teaching calculus — not an easy thing to do — and for his one-on-one guidance of students outside of class sessions.
And Emily Herzig, who’s a teaching assistant, also NSM, was recognized for her work in teaching precalculus and applied calculus and she was recognized for her flexibility to accommodate different kinds of learners.
I made reference to NRUF earlier. The state of Texas in many ways has put up some money to help elevate research universities. The National Research University Fund is a very important thing. I can tell you quite truthfully that when I was on the outside looking in I was very envious. I knew that I was in competition with schools like UT Dallas that had a running start. There was a real advantage.
Becoming NRUF eligible proves that we have, in fact, emerged, that we have become a national research university. And we have just about made it. You have to hit a number of metrics for a two-year period. You have to have restricted research over and above $45 million. We’ve actually done that for the last two years. Then you have to do any four of the next set of six things. You have to have a high-quality freshman class. I won't get into the stats; we blow that one away. You have to have high-quality faculty. Again, we do that. ARL is referring to the holdings for our libraries or if you have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. We have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. At least $400 million in the endowment. We missed it by just the smallest amount in 2015, but we made it in 2016.
If we had that one last checkmark to the right, we would now be eligible for NRUF out of the state of Texas, and I believe that’s around $9 million. It is a significant amount that we can again invest into that next wave of research.
You don’t see checks for at least 200 PhDs. I already showed you the charts. We’re very close. We should get up and over that very soon.
We have high-quality graduate programs. If you remember the retention numbers for PhDs, we fell short there, which is why we didn't get the checkmark in those categories. But we only need four out of the six; so at the end of this fiscal year we will have done it for two successive years, which is required. So we will then transition into an NRUF university in Texas.
Back to some notable achievements. Our students every year compete for and win a great many prestigious research grants. On this page are three accomplished women, each of whom received an NSF research fellowship. My faculty colleagues know how wonderful this is. They are paid for by NSF. These students are really smart and these fellowships are very competitive. NSF fellows represent the cream of the crop, people who are leaving their undergraduate studies and then launching into their graduate studies. We have produced two and gained one, which is a pretty nice thing.
Arden Wells is a geosciences graduate and a McDermott Scholar. This is one talented young lady. She’s now pursuing her PhD at Stanford in Earth systems science.
Next to her is her roommate, Melanie Maurer, a biomedical engineering graduate and another McDermott Scholar. She also received the fellowship grant for the German Academic Exchange Service and a Goldwater Scholarship. She's now studying bioengineering at Cornell.
Maria Casteñada did her undergraduate work in chemistry at Tulsa. She’s now here studying cancer metastasis and relapse in our own Department of Chemistry. We are very fortunate that she chose UTD for her graduate studies.
In 2009, Texas established the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to help move the state to the forefront of cancer research. These grants, even though they’re local to Texas, are highly competitive. They have a review panel very similar to what goes on in NSF. To get some of these awards is a hard thing. We don't have a medical school, so for us to compete in the CPRIT world is a tough thing to do. But you see there are six current UTD researchers who among them have nine CPRIT grants, totaling over $5 million. They’re doing work on cancer from all different angles —from the biology of cancer cells to drug delivery systems and to new imaging technology. So Drs. Ahn, Vidyasagar, Zheng, Lee, Zhang and Qin epitomized the importance of medical research at UT Dallas.
Here are the FY16 Young Investigator Awards. Here on the first page are the seven who picked up NSF CAREER Awards — very, very competitive, very prestigious awards. To have seven in a year is a big deal. So let me commend Malik, Busso, Hassanipour, Lin, Rodrigues, Cardenas and McMahan.
It’s not just NSF. We have an AFOSR Young Investigator award to professor Lunjin Chen; NIH K Awards to Drs. Kenneth Hoyt and Michael Burton; and an Alzheimer’s Association New Investigator Award to professor Karen Rodrigue. Very accomplished Young Scholars.
I want to commend our staff. You are essential to every function of this University. We honor your commitments with the Care Awards twice a year.
I'm going to do something that I did when I met with the Staff Council back in September.
[President Benson removes his Comet Card from his wallet.]
This is my Comet Card. It’s got my face. And it’s got my name. And in between it says, “staff.” I think of myself as staff. To my fellow staff members, thank you. Thank you for everything you do.
Office of Information Technology. This is really important. I think you all want to be able to read your email in the morning, you want to get on whatever webpage, you want to be able to share data, you want it to be secure, you don't want some bad hacker making a mess of things.
We have very good people working hard on our behalf. If you think of all the portfolios at this university, there's probably not one that advances as rapidly as IT. It changes dramatically from one year to the next. It's all that our friends can do in IT to keep up, and they do it well. They work really hard.
I can tell you as a bit of personal philosophy, which I hope I might advance, that at my last two universities I’ve wanted us to be on the so-called uncomfortable leading edge of pedagogical technology. This is a STEM-oriented school. We should do it. We should make the most of pedagogical technology that allows us to reach different students, nontraditional students, to teach in newer and better ways. That takes investment.
So we'll have to think about ways in which we can make sure that our IT and computing infrastructure allow us to really be at the forefront in these areas. We also need to make sure we take good care of all those day-to-day things that we're trying to do. So thanks to all the good folks working in IT.
This is something I was pleasantly surprised to discover when I got here. We have a real commitment to sustainability. We’ve achieved some very nice awards, including having two monarch waystations. I think I’m going to have to find them and maybe go take a picture or two.
I have thought long and hard about new construction over the last couple of years. It’s always nice when you get LEED certification — silver, gold and platinum. And we have a platinum building — the Student Services Building. And that is a really hard thing to do. I’m told it is the platinum building in the UT System. It's nice that UT Dallas is out in front on that. We have one that is gold — the Bioengineering and Sciences Building — and several others that are silver — the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, Residence Hall West and the Naveen Jindal School of Management addition.
Let's take a little fly through memory lane. I’m going to keep it to 2007 and forward.
There’s the “mermaid building” that was put up in 2007. That’s a fantastic facility.
In 2009, we added the Student Union Dining Hall and the very first residence hall.
As we move forward, we have more infrastructure. You see the Founders Building renovation, the Student Services Building, which I just referenced, and the Science Learning Center.
As we come to 2010, this is the landscaping — those beautiful pools, the Trellis area. It’s just gorgeous. During a recent weekend, I met with some prospective students and I said to them something no prior UT Dallas president could say at the start of their service: “Welcome to our beautiful campus.” And it really is. And in fact it’s half the reason why I like going for walks during the middle of the day. It’s just fun. And I see people at all hours of the day, which is very nice. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys who like to play guitar outside. It’s a very welcoming, very inviting place.
Let's keep going. So there's our Visitor Center and here's another residence hall in 2012.
Here’s another residence hall.
And in 2013, we added another residence hall, the first parking structure, new athletics fields and the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.
You see the Jindal School addition, you see the dining hall, Residence Hall West. Parking Structure III. We didn't do the parking structures in numerical order. I'm still trying to figure out why. I think it's to trick the new people like me.
In 2015, you see the North Mall renovation. And you see renovated parking lots, which might seem pretty pedestrian, but parking can be the biggest issue on any campus. You see the Synergy Park area that we lease, which is proving to be very valuable to us.
And we come up to 2016, and BSB. I actually got to attend that dedication. It was a lovely event. You see Northside, which just opened at the start of this semester.
This fall, we are just about done with the Callier Center addition, in fact it’s nearly complete. The Student Services Building addition is nearly complete.
I actually did the dedication for Parking Structure IV. I never thought I would dedicate a parking deck.
And coming soon, we have more student housing. Student Housing Phases VI and VII are going up by the athletic fields. The Brain Performance Institute is underway. We just did the ground breaking for the Engineering Building, which is going to house mostly mechanical engineering. It’s a couple years out. It will be a beautiful building, a glorious space. It’s going to have lots of classrooms, great laboratories. It’s really going to enhance our campus quite a lot.
Continuing to go forward, we had to move the cricket field so we are. You see our national champion cricket team. We have to make sure that they're taken care of. We have authorization from UT System to get to work on the Science and Math Building. It’s still in the planning stages, a lot of work to do there. And we’re going to try to get additional space in Synergy Park North.
Here are a couple of slides on philanthropy. We had a record year last year. We raised $89.1 million — $53 million is direct philanthropic giving and $36 million is from the state and the UT System through something called TRIP and UTRIP, which I’ll explain in a minute. Nevertheless, it’s very important.
The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center is an example of these funds. You see the Davidsons, Chuck and Nancy, at the groundbreaking. Just last week we signed the beam. I think you know the ritual of signing the beam. The beam gets hoisted up to the top of the building when the framing is done.
It wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t need an alumni center because we didn’t have alumni. They were all so young and so recent, and we were so new to the business of producing alumni. As we go forward and as our alumni body populates fully, that center is going to be a very important place on campus to connect them back to our current students. I’m really looking forward to that.
Here is the general growth of the endowment. You may remember that I said that it needed to get up and over $400 million, and it did.
I mentioned TRIP and UTRIP. This is another one of those fine things that came out of the state. TRIP stands for the Texas Research Incentive Program. Through TRIP, if you bring in philanthropic dollars in support of your research mission, the state will make a substantial match.
The UT System created UTRIP, which adds an additional match to that kind of money. It's a great reason why we were able to advance our research portfolio with the speed that we did. Honestly, it was blazing fast progress that we rose to the point where we became a Carnegie R-1 University so quickly.
This 85th legislative session is going to be quite critical to us. Earlier this week I was in Austin to speak about how this is a very high priority for us, for the state to continue TRIP. The picture on this slide shows then-President Daniel and Governor Perry, who is signing TRIP legislation in our NSERL building. TRIP is one of those great things that I was very envious of when I was on the outside looking in. And now that I'm on the inside, I would like to benefit just as much as the other folks.
Another important area for us is the Caruth Foundation. This is a research foundation that supports projects in public safety education and scientific and medical research with a very strong emphasis on medical research. We picked up a $2 million grant from the Caruth Foundation that supports the Texas Biomedical Device Center led by Dr. Rob Rennaker. He is doing some groundbreaking work on recovery from spinal cord injury.
Here’s another philanthropic contribution. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is helping us enhance the entrepreneurial skills of our students with $1 million over three years. Blackstone LaunchPad is a partnership with our Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Impact UTD is our crowdfunding effort. It’s a decentralized, person-to-person effort. Someone has a good idea, and other people get behind it. In just about a year and a half we’ve received gifts from 265 students, 165 faculty and staff, 130 family members, 178 alumni and 274 friends. The average gift was $126 and the dollar total was more than $142,000. As you can see, we use very modern, very novel ways to help support some of the good work that we’re doing.
In about two weeks, we’re going to dedicate the Texas Instruments Plaza, which honors our founders — Eugene McDermott, Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green.
I mentioned the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center is in the works. In addition to the Davidsons who were so generous, you can see the names of those who also contributed to this building and are helping make it a reality.
Our last capital campaign was from 2009 to 2014. You can see some of the basic numbers here. If we did not have that $273 million, we would be nowhere near making that $400 million threshold that I’ve mentioned on several occasions. The campaign was a vital component of our current success.
Of all the funds that we brought in, you would expect alumni, corporations, foundations, among others. But you wouldn’t expect such a large number of individuals. These are people who care about UT Dallas. It really starts with the founders, if you think about it. There has been a culture in this community of people who are our neighbors, who really care about what we do. If you think about our beautiful landscaping, our beautiful facilities, we are so indebted to people in our community who just care a heck of a lot about UT Dallas, which means they care about you. We are fortunate to have that kind of support.
I like to brag a bit when I go to statewide meetings that no one can touch us in chess. And we have the team to back it up. Gil Popilski, a sophomore in computer science, is a Grand Master and the reigning U.S. Open champion. It’s pretty amazing that such a talented fellow is in our midst.
We have some very good research design projects, especially in the Synergy Park North building. This team of UT Dallas students tested a number prototypes for an anchoring system for asteroids, which was funded by NASA. Now, you might think, “Why would you need to anchor on an asteroid?” Well, if you go to all that trouble — spending all that time and all that money — to send a probe to an asteroid and you want to land on it, you would hate to see that probe just bounce off or crash into the asteroid. Don’t skip the details.
Siddhartha Srivastava, a neuroscience major, did something quite amazing. He got a perfect score on the MCAT. He's heading off to medical school. Wherever he sets up shop, I want to live there.
Last fall, Naomi D’Amato was an intern at a really fascinating place — the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She went through the auspices of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
Aaron Fields is the first in his family to go to college. He was one of 12 UT Dallas G-Force Mentors who worked in Dallas, Garland and Richardson high schools as part of a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board effort to boost enrollment of underrepresented students.
During an AT&T internship, engineering student Nancy Dominguez designed a potentially life-saving device that alerts parents and police if a child is left in a hot car.
Kaylie Hartman, a psychology senior, was selected as one of only 27 national representatives to the It’s On Us National Student Advisory Committee. The purpose of It's On Us is to make sexual assault unacceptable and support victims. As you can see, Kaylie met with Vice President Joe Biden in the vice president’s house when she attended a national meeting in Washington.
Another UTDesign team took the top spot in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition. I am a long-serving ASME member. I was on the Board of Governors for a number of years. This competition is really competitive, and we’ve had back-to-back champions out of UT Dallas. These students created a device that measures how well a coating adheres to an optical lens. The sponsor was Essilor, a French company that has its American headquarters in Dallas.
This chart shows the growth of our hands-on studies. I’m an engineer, so I love what's going on at UTDesign. The program allows our industry friends, our students and our faculty to get together. The great majority of our students’ capstone design projects are industry-funded and they're growing quite rapidly. It means a lot for the students to work on a so-called real world problem. They know that their work matters to the sponsors and they get practical experience before they graduate.
I really like that we have a culture of student volunteerism. A lot of our students, at some portion during their studies, do something that benefits others. The picture that you see is one of those Alternative Spring Break Activities. This particular team of students and staff worked with Habitat for Humanity in Jackson, Mississippi, to build new buildings and renovate and repair buildings.
I have a quote from one of the participants. She said: “The number of abandoned houses were too many to count. This was an eye-opening experience for everyone. No longer were we in a place bombarded with choices of what to eat, where to shop, or where to hang out. We were living in the heart of the area we were going to serve.”
Let’s talk a little bit about our student-athletes. I love that we are Division III. We compete in the American Southwest Conference. At UT Dallas, we know our athletes because we see them in class; they are truly student-athletes. We have an array of Academic All-Americans — members from the volleyball team, men’s golf, lacrosse, men's cross-country and soccer.
Here’s men’s golf, which as a team earned the title of Academic National Champions. They had a team GPA of 3.75. And I am wondering which one of them got the 3.5 in there. He probably had to run some extra laps.
Last year, volleyball and men’s soccer won the ASC championship. And you may have noticed that right now our volleyball team is ranked No. 9 in the country. Go, Comets!
We also do a lot for our veterans. We have over 800 veterans on this campus, and about a third of them are undergraduate students. We have a lot of peer-to-peer mentoring. Newer students learn from student-veterans who have been here for a couple of years.
You’ve seen this before. Here’s our Nobel Prize winner, Aziz Sancar, who got his PhD in molecular and cell biology in 1977. He’s currently teaching at the University of North Carolina. His fundamental work was on detailing how cells continuously monitor and repair damaged DNA, and it has application to the development of new cancer treatments.
Iqra Kazi demonstrates the key characteristics of our Comet family — service to others. If you ever doubt the promise of the next generation, don't. The millennials that I meet fill me with confidence about the future that will one day be theirs. Iqra Kazi is a senior health studies major who is now applying to medical school. When she was new on campus, some older students encouraged her to pursue help with her studies through the Peer-Led Team Learning program. In the program, students join with others in study groups that are led by student leaders. She said her first leader created a fun environment for the group, made her question her thinking and engaged her in conversations about chemistry. Her trepidation fell away and new friendships grew. By the end of her freshman year, Iqra decided to apply to be a leader herself. Three years later, she supervises other team leaders. She says, “No one really teaches. We help each other. I'm proudest of those times when I see students, especially the ones who are the quietest, leave a session with the confidence that they can do the work.”
The members of the UT Dallas family who I have mentioned today, and many more all over campus, show the qualities we all aspire to demonstrate on a daily basis. They speak to the character the kinds of students and employees who are drawn here in greater and greater numbers. We do not fly as single Comets, only enamored by our own speed and brilliance. We reach out to one another, combine our energy and illuminate the path for our shared future. I’ll be talking more about that future at the inauguration in a couple weeks, on Oct.27, when we’ll be hosting many special guests to campus and sharing our vision for the future of The University of Texas at Dallas.
I have made reference to the fact that we've risen very high. I want to come back to President David Daniels really brilliantly conceived the idea of being a Tier-One university. It was brilliantly conceived, brilliantly executed. We did it. You did it. In fact, I wasn’t here. You did it. So this is a Tier-One university. We rose to Carnegie R-1 this year. We’re going to reach the NRUF funds. I almost couldn’t care less about that. If you think about the impact of the work that we ’re doing, the quality of the work, the sorts of students, faculty, and staff that we attract to this campus, this is a Tier-One university. So I know that my job going forward is to make sure that we build upon that and we just get better as that Tier-One university.