Office of the President

State of The University 2010

Slideshow Presentation (pdf)

Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining me today. UT Dallas is hitting on all cylinders, meeting or exceeding nearly all major goals. Our institution is healthy and vibrant.

Today we’ll focus on our most important goals and tasks at hand, and assess our progress. We also need to consider the financial constraints that the state budget shortfall presents, and talk about how we may further address that challenge.

Our most important goals are these:

  • Achieve excellence at a nationally competitive level. This is our essential goal. Texas urgently needs for us to become a major, Tier One research university.
  • Expand student enrollment. We must scale up to at least 21,000 students within a few years to achieve the size necessary to become a leading national research university, while further improving both quality and diversity.
  • Expand the faculty. We must scale up to at least 610 tenured or tenure-track faculty members as quickly as possible to achieve the critical mass needed to fulfill our aspirations. We must strengthen the diversity of our faculty.
  • Improve retention and graduation rates. Our graduation rate, while good, is not yet great, and we strive to be great.
  • Expand degree programs. Because of our youth, we are missing some critical degree programs that are essential to becoming a major national research university.
  • Increase research and doctoral degree production. These key metrics are part of the essential scale-up process.
  • Tell our story better. We do this because the people whose participation and support we need can seek us out only if they know about us.
  • Raise more private money. Excellence has a cost that can be borne only with the assistance of private funds.
  • Manage costs. Declining state revenues demand that we become more efficient, even as the overall budget necessary to build the institution increases.

Enrollment has grown by 18 percent in the past five years, and topped 17,000 students this fall.  Thank you, Vice President Curt Eley, as well as the enrollment management team members, and numerous others, including deans, associate deans, and student volunteers, all of whom have so ably assisted with student recruiting and new student advising and orientation.

Our freshmen class set a record this fall, with 1,377 new students, while indicators of student quality remain strong. We must continue to attract exceptionally talented students to UT Dallas. Our job is to lay claim to the academic loyalties of our state’s most talented high school seniors, to keep them in Texas and reduce the brain drain to other states. This will benefit not only UT Dallas but Texas as well.

A very important challenge for us is to strengthen our diversity within the student body and the faculty. This is a goal about which we must be assertive and dedicated in our actions today while remaining patient as results evolve over time. It’s a long march that will be made up of many steps. Strengthening our diversity isn’t only a matter of fairness or justice, which are values that our University embraces. It is a matter also of better serving our students, state and nation. The world is a very diverse place, and becoming more so, and if we are to fully empower our students to succeed in that world, we must prepare them to work with, live with, and learn from all sorts of different people. Those who can celebrate all that diverse groups of people can accomplish together will be the successful ones.

This fall, African-American students made up 5 percent of our freshman class and Hispanic students, nearly 15 percent. Both of these percentages are up from the previous year, though minimally. We can do better.

The data for undergraduate transfer students are a little better: 9 percent African-American students and nearly 18 percent Hispanic students. Both percentages are up significantly. And this increase is no accident — our Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, led by Vice President Magaly Spector, our Office of Enrollment Management, and our academic units have worked collaboratively to recruit qualified students of all backgrounds.

The newly enrolled graduate student population has increased significantly, and is distributed broadly across our academic units. The number of international students has increased. We welcome the best and brightest from throughout the world to our University and hope that many will choose to stay in our region. We must work harder to recruit qualified domestic students, and especially qualified African-American and Hispanic students to our graduate programs. Our School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences has been especially successful in awarding graduate degrees to a diverse student population, and I congratulate them for this success.

Our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate climbed this year to 85 percent. We are on track to meet or exceed our 2017 goal of an 88 percent retention rate, and ultimately to achieve a rate of 90 percent or better. This would position us competitively among the nation’s leading public research universities.

Our four- and six-year graduation rates stood at 44 percent and 62 percent, respectively, this past year. These rates are part of a steady trend of improvement.

We must continue to put our full energy and budget priority on student success, especially in the first two years of study. Offering a strong student-life experience, and continuing to improve that experience is critical to increasing retention and graduation rates.  I am very grateful for the outstanding work of Vice President Darrelene Rachavong, and the entire student services staff.

We have a record number of tenured and tenure-track faculty members — 444 as of this fall. We must continue to grow, even with the budget challenges that we face. Provost Hobson Wildenthal is striving to increase the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty members by 21 net new people in fall 2011, to 465 faculty members. We must be judicious in managing this growth, concentrating on new degree programs that demand faculty, such as mechanical engineering and bioengineering, and high-enrollment programs such as management, the sciences, mathematics, and some areas of the humanities. We must reserve some faculty slots for areas of exceptional research opportunity, such as the kinds of discovery taking place under the guidance of faculty members in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and areas that are critical to our state, such as teacher preparation. We must also be prepared to aggressively recruit individuals who can strengthen our faculty diversity and bring critical new dimensions of thought or leadership to our faculty. The Provost will have a tough job parsing out distribution of our limited faculty slots over so many important areas of opportunity, but I know that he will fulfill that responsibility wisely.

Faculty diversity remained essentially unchanged from 2009 to 2010. We must do better, and will, by more proactively recruiting qualified faculty candidates who enhance our diversity. The Provost and I stand ready to fund such hires, but to do so we need active involvement of our faculty.

Research expenditures continue their long-term growth with total expenditures this year at $85 million. We show a 60 percent increase in federal research expenditures over the past four years. This growth reflects increasing success on the national level in competing for research funding. Congratulations to our faculty for their success, and to the deans for their successful recruiting and support efforts.

And to Dr. Bruce Gnade, and the entire staff of the Office of the Vice President for Research, as well as the numerous staff members in the Office of Business Affairs who manage the research accounts: My thanks for dealing with this rapidly increasing workload efficiently and effectively.

We track research expenditures because they are an important measure of competiveness in many key areas of the research enterprise. Other indicators of research vitality, such as journal articles, books, lectures, creative works, and how well our graduates fare in the marketplace are also very important. Creating new knowledge and graduating highly skilled students are outcomes we prize.

Research growth is creating infrastructure challenges. As an example, our information resources staff, and their leader Dr. Jim Gary, are expanding our research computing capabilities. But the demands created by expanded research extend to numerous functions, including payroll, purchasing, accounting, security, and many others.

The number of doctoral students we hooded last year reached 200 for the first time — a large gain on previous years and another indicator of research vitality. We are likely to sustain a production rate of around 200 doctorates per year for several years, and then continue a gradual, long-term growth pattern.

We have made significant strides in our efforts to communicate the wonderful achievements of our students, faculty and staff. I thank Vice President Susan Rogers and everyone in our Office of Communications for their outstanding work. We had a record year in almost every regard — number of hits on our Web site, outreach marketing projects from magazines to videos, stories picked up by the media, and contacts from the press. There are more good stories about UT Dallas to tell than there are people to tell them. We need everyone’s assistance in identifying potential stories and their personal participation in working with our communications staff to get the word out.

We also had a record year for total private fund raising in fiscal year 2010, with more than $40 million in gifts and pledges. Congratulations to Vice President Aaron Conley and everyone in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

Several of our programs are among the most highly ranked in the nation. Graduate programs in Audiology as well as Speech Language and Pathology are ranked No. 4 and 12, respectively, by U.S. News and World Report, a real achievement.

We can be extremely proud of our School of Management, which is ranked among the top 50 business schools for its MBA program, a truly remarkable accomplishment considering the school’s youth. And our Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Sciences is ranked No. 4 among graduate engineering schools in Texas, trailing only UT Austin, Texas A&M, and Rice University — also a remarkable achievement considering that the Jonsson School is just 24 years old. Other programs are also very well ranked, which is impressive considering our youth and relatively small size. Congratulations to all our faculty, deans, and academic staff.

Growth in the size of our staff is a necessary and essential component of achieving institutional excellence. Our staff members make nearly everything that happens here work, and we all greatly appreciate their work. The numbers don’t make us special — it’s our people who make us special. Thank you all for your hard work and conscientious efforts in helping to build a great University.

My final topic is cost management.

While there are surely difficulties ahead, our enterprise is built to last. We’ll make it through and emerge even stronger.

It appears certain that the State of Texas will cut funding to higher education in the upcoming biennium, which begins September 1, 2011, a little less than a year from now.

While Texas has been less affected by the economic downturn than other states, there’s no escaping the impact of state funding reductions. We have one of the very best government affairs representatives in Texas, Vice President Amanda Rockow, who is hard at work. But the forces at play are largely out of our control, and we must plan accordingly.

The state reduced our general revenue appropriation 5 percent this biennium and asked us to plan for an additional 10 percent reduction next biennium, for a total of 15 percent. We do not know what the final reduction will be, come September 1 of next year. There is a very real possibility that it could be more.

We do not know how the state will handle funding of enrollment growth. The worst case for us would be for the state to lock in funding at current levels and not recalibrate for enrollment growth before making cuts. In addition, for this current period, the State Legislature used federal stimulus money to fund some recurring appropriations. These funds may not be replaced.

In summary, we anticipate major reductions in state funding for the biennium that begins September 1, 2011. Some of this reduction in state funding will be offset by increases in income from research and tuition, but those are unlikely to balance the losses.

These are guiding principles that I suggest as we plan for budget reductions:

  • Preserve and strengthen our students’ educational experience with no delay in anyone’s time to graduation, and preservation and enhancement of the quality of instruction.
  • Improve retention and graduation rates.
  • No major reduction in financial aid and continued emphasis on diversity.
  • Continue on course for Tier One:
    • Strategically expand enrollment and the size of the faculty.
    • Strategically add new degree programs.
    • Expand research.
    • Build excellence at a nationally competitive level.
  • Value the educational pipeline and teacher preparation programs that feed quality students to our institution.
  • Improve administrative efficiency in all areas of the University including business and academic processes.
  • Preserve a capacity to innovate.
  • Consider eliminating activities that do not score highly in relation to principles articulated above, that is, nice to have, but not mission-critical.
  • Develop new sources of revenue, including gifts, corporate or community support, and auxiliary services.

To quote Fortune Magazine writer Geoff Colvin, from Andrew Winston’s book Green Recovery: “It’s hard to be upbeat in a recession, but it truly is an opportunity. Marathoners and Tour de France racers will tell you that a race’s hardest parts, the uphill stages, are where the lead changes hands. ... When this recession ends, when the road levels off and the world seems full of promise once more, your position in the competitive pack will depend on how skillfully you manage right now.”

So, how do we find the best position in a race that will be difficult for all?  We must act now and look to make reductions on our own, so that we will be as nimble as possible, and capable of responding to the opportunities that will arise despite the difficult times. Toward that end, I am directing my administrative leadership team to identify an additional $4 million in cost savings this fiscal year from state-appropriated accounts, which is about 4 percent of our state funding for operations, consistent with our guiding principles. These reductions will be recurring and carry over to next fiscal year. Additional reductions may be necessary for the fiscal year beginning on September 1, 2011.

One area for consideration is consolidation of administrative operations where there is some overlap of activities. By combining such operations, we can be more efficient. There are opportunities for collaboration between academic units, as well, such as faculty members from one school teaching a critical course in another school. But first and foremost, we will examine administrative costs in our administrative and academic units and seek reductions there.

Dr. Calvin Jamison and the business affairs team have already launched several initiatives that are focused on seeking efficiencies, including the lean University initiative and a broad-based review of cost management alternatives. I am grateful for these efforts and ideas, and hope for more. Please share your suggestions and ideas with me on how we can be more efficient while preserving the quality of the most important thing that we do, which is to educate our students.

In particular, UT Dallas is going to redouble its lean University initiative, which seeks cost-saving efficiencies in administrative processes, and broaden it to a “lean and green” initiative that focuses not only on lean process but sustainability, as well.

We’re going to make a concentrated effort to reduce electricity, natural gas, and water costs by at least 10 percent. I have challenged our Information Resources team to figure out how we can turn off more computers and computer monitors when they are not in use. Unplug your cell phone rechargers, laptop rechargers, and anything else that draws power when not in use.

We need to take a careful look at everything. Does an office need four printers when one printer would draw less power and, at larger scale, operate more efficiently? When we purchase vehicles, is fuel efficiency a top priority? Do we really need so many paper copies — can’t we be more efficient by using electronic copies? Can’t we better control lighting and thermostats and save energy? Surely we can travel less, making greater use of the telecommunications tools available today. And maybe when we do travel, we can get by with fewer travelers. These lean and green steps will save money, reduce our carbon footprint, and make us better and stronger.

Let me close by telling you a couple of stories about the people of UT Dallas, and why they inspire so much pride.

First: I was walking the newly landscaped mall about 7 a.m. on the morning of the campus enhancement dedication ceremony. It was a delightful walk that would generate a smile under any circumstances. This campus now has a physical expression consistent with the exceptional quality of our students, staff, and faculty.  But I was most inspired by the sight of 100 or more people from physical plant, all working feverishly to put the final touches on the project before the ceremony. I was most respectful and proud of their obvious care for detail and their striving to make things just right. That’s what excellence is all about.

The second story is about another, different kind of team effort.

We — and by that, I mean key faculty members, deans, the provost, and the vice president for research — have successfully recruited several outstanding faculty members from our nation’s best research institutions this past year. In one instance, the president of one of these institutions was promising to go all out if that faculty member would only stay. Despite his president’s assurances, this person chose UT Dallas.

Winning that kind of battle for talent gives me great satisfaction, whether it’s a highly qualified student, an outstanding staff member, or a world-famous professor. We’re persuading more and more top quality people to come to UT Dallas, which means we’re building an even stronger foundation for sustained excellence.

And I like the way we’re succeeding: With cooperation and collaboration among key faculty members, deans, the provost, and the vice president for research, and all the people who perform support roles for such hires. The team is slightly different in each recruiting case, but it’s always an amazing team. Individual achievement is nice, but a shared victory is even more satisfying.

Despite the budget challenges we face, I have never been more confident of our future success. This is because I believe we are a great team, and that we know how to work together to achieve what really matters: the best possible experience for our students and the best possible University for our community. Thank you all for your outstanding efforts.

Updated: May 28, 2015