March 2012

By the Numbers, Yet Rankings Are Only Part of Our Story

Recently, one of our undergrads who applied to several leading medical schools learned that his preference, the University of Michigan, would inform applicants of their status via email at midnight on a certain date. As he waited by his computer for the hour to arrive, a knock came on his door. Outside stood a Michigan recruiter holding a banner reading "Michigan Wants You!" This UT Dallas student was one of a handful nationwide to receive this special pitch reserved for only the most promising applicants.

No doubt UM saw in him what we saw when he was admitted to UT Dallas. The quality of our students—measured by everything from entrance test scores to service and leadership accomplishments—is one of our greatest strengths.

National Merit Scholars

Shown are 15 of the 53 freshman National Merit Scholars who make up the largest group to enroll in a single year.

What brought this story to mind was recent news of a national survey placing UT Dallas among the most selective universities in the southern United States. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, including admission rates and students' scores on entrance exams, The Business Journals ranked UT Dallas 19th among 300 universities under consideration. Rice was No. 3, UT Austin, No. 18.

Another indication of our standing arrived recently: The National Merit Scholarship Annual Report, with news that our fall 2011 freshman class included a record 53 National Merit Scholars. That is:

  • More than all other UT System institutions combined.
  • More than all other aspiring "Tier One" universities in Texas combined.
  • More than Washington (14), UCLA (34), Virginia (37), and Michigan (44). We had been trailing Caltech (36) in this measure for the past several years, but no more.

Though I enjoy measuring progress by the numbers, our story at UT Dallas is larger than statistics can convey. Our faculty members cultivate and encourage students in research. Facilities, such as the new Arts and Technology Building now under construction, encourage discovery and creativity. All these elements contribute to our ascendency as a world-class research institution whose work is validated by external organizations that award millions of dollars to the learning and research fostered here. That research funding advances what our faculty teach and what our students learn. And when those students graduate, the talent cultivated through a UT Dallas education carries them to the next level of achievement.

No single number or ranking conveys the full measure of what is undertaken here, and what the work of this University means in the individual lives it has touched. But our students' stories often come close.

“The quality of our students—measured by everything from entrance test scores to service and leadership accomplishments—is one of our greatest strengths.”

Consider Austin Swafford BS'09, a summa cum laude graduate with a degree in molecular biology. A Eugene McDermott and Goldwater scholar, Austin is now in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. He will combine two years of research in a leading diabetes laboratory at Cambridge with two years of work in an NIH immunology laboratory. In his first year, Austin has been credited with discovering a gene that confers protection against type 1 diabetes.

I am proud of rankings placing UT Dallas in the company of the best national universities. But I'm even more proud of the achievements of our students and their contributions to improving the world at large. They will create a future we can all be glad to share.

UT Dallas

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.