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"Our Star Rises in Tough Times"

President Denise Trauth
August 25, 2009

Good morning.

I hope you have had a good summer. It certainly has been filled with activity – and with a certain amount of nostalgia as we celebrated the fortieth anniversary of both Woodstock and the moon landing. Forty years ago. I remember it like yesterday – the moon landing, that is. I didn’t make Woodstock. America was huddled around the TV waiting for Walter Cronkite to tell us the Eagle had landed. Makes me feel old. But even if I feel old, a new book out this summer tells me I don’t have to act old. Pamela Redmond Satran has the cure in her best-seller How Not To Act Old. I recommend it for any of you over 30. According to the author, I have to stop going to bed at 10 o’clock. That’s an old-people thing. And I’ll have to give up e-mail. Young people text and tweet; they don’t e-mail. But I did find one plus – I’m one of those women who never learned to put on eye makeup, and this turns out to be good – heavy eye makeup is old.
So I’ll take the author’s 185 recommendations and put them into a New Year’s resolution as we begin this new year together. By October I’ll be so young you won’t recognize me.
Seriously, I think all of us in higher education are prevented from acting too old because we are around thousands of vibrant, optimistic young people all the time. (And something wonderful must have been going on around the President’s House about 1:30 this morning.) We teach them, coach them, mentor them – but they teach us, too. It’s a wonderful profession, and it’s one of very few that start new every year.
We begin this new year by honoring some of those among us who have honored us with their outstanding teaching, research and service.
Jim Barney, president of the Alumni Association, will help make our first presentation. Each year the Alumni Association recognizes an outstanding teacher with its Teaching Award of Honor. Today’s honoree is a senior lecturer in English and a prolific author of books on communication. She has obviously left a lasting impression on her former students. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Susan Beebe.
Each year we present presidential awards for outstanding teaching, for outstanding research and creative activity and for outstanding service. This year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching go to two individuals whose passion for their professions is evident in the classroom. They are wonderful examples of the reason Texas State has a reputation for excellent teaching. Please join me in honoring Mary Brennan, professor of history, and Maria Alejandra Sorto, assistant professor of mathematics.
We also are honoring two faculty members this morning for their scholarly and creative activity. Both have made significant contributions to their disciplines and to society in general, as well as to their students’ classroom experience. They manifest our commitment to research, scholarship and creative activity as part of the teaching and learning adventure. We are pleased to award the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activity to James McWilliams, associate professor of history, and Marian Houser, assistant professor of communication studies.
We ask our faculty to serve, as well as to teach and conduct research. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Service is given to faculty who exemplify our commitment to public service as a responsibility to our university, our professional fields and our community. Please join me as we honor William Stone, professor of criminal justice, and Joyce Fischer, assistant professor of mathematics.
Each year, we recognize one faculty member with the Presidential Seminar Award. Recipients then share their research or creative activity with their peers. The 2009-10 Presidential Seminar will be presented by James McWilliams, associate professor of history.
Each year the Faculty Senate chooses two or three colleagues to receive the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Awards. I want to ask Debra Feakes, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to come forward to assist in giving these awards.
Recipients of the Everett Swinney Awards are chosen on the basis of their dedication to the teaching profession, their influence on the lives of students and their contribution to the university as a whole. They have combined their commitment to teaching with strong records of creative achievement, service and mentoring their peers and students. It is with sincere pleasure today that we present these awards to three people: Mary Ann Stutts, professor of marketing, Max Warshauer, Regents Professor of Mathematics, and Steven Wilson, professor of English.
For their years of outstanding teaching and creative work at Texas State, four retired faculty were named Distinguished Professors Emeriti by the Texas State University System Board of Regents in June, and we recognize them today. Our honorees are:
Barbara Hatcher , Distinguished Professor of Curriculum and Instruction Emerita;
Wilda Meixner , Distinguished Professor of Accounting Emerita;
Paula Renfro , Distinguished Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication Emerita;
and Theron Stimmel, Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus
We want to include in our introductions this morning the 2009 Employee of the Year. She was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate human resources analyst Lisa Vallejo. And we want to introduce this year’s winners of the Mariel Muir Mentoring Award. Each year we honor a faculty member and a staff member for their mentoring of our students and employees. We are proud to recognize Byron Augustin, professor of geography, and Jonnie Wilson, assistant director of multicultural student affairs.
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Welcome to another great year at Texas State University.
I do not need to tell you that much has happened in the world since we began the last academic year. I am speaking to you at a time when higher education across the country is in the throes of a financial crisis. Pick any day in the last six months – I picked August 12 – and you can read a story about at least one state making deep financial cuts. On August 12, it was Ohio and Georgia – Ohio mandating layoffs and Georgia furloughs. And furloughs, of course, mean reduction in salaries.
We are fortunate that in the midst of this crisis we have been able to give merit raises, hire faculty and staff, and continue to increase our footprint in Central Texas.
But there are many conversations occurring about the 2011 legislative session and the budget that is likely to come out of it. There is a big hole in the Texas budget – one that was plugged in the 2009 session by federal stimulus money. Even some of the state subsidy of higher education we will receive in the next two fiscal years is federal stimulus money. So 2011 could be difficult. But we will prepare for a budget cut in the next biennium and rejoice if it doesn’t occur.
All of that being said, I am very optimistic about the year ahead, and I want to take a moment this morning to tell you why.
One reason for optimism in the coming year is that we are building on a successful past year. Last year was a good one for us indeed.
First of all, we are growing – in enrollment, diversity, curriculum, and prestige – and that’s a good thing. Overall enrollment increased last fall by 3.5 percent to 29,125. We had the largest and most diverse freshman class ever. It was 7 percent larger than the year before, and one third of the students were ethnic minorities. Overall Hispanic enrollment increased by 9.5 percent and African American enrollment by 10 percent. Although it will be next month before we have exact numbers, we expect another record enrollment this fall.
Freshman classes are growing because Texas State is an increasingly popular choice among high school graduates.  Our primary competitors for undergraduate students are the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. The five most popular universities in the state – judged by the number of SAT and ACT scores received – are UT, A&M, Tech, Baylor and Texas State. We are among the five most popular.
As a result, last year we were the fifth largest university in Texas.
More important, I believe, than sheer headcount numbers are our retention and graduation rates. Not only are more freshmen coming here, but more are staying here. Our freshman retention rate last year was among the highest in the state at 77.6 percent – a full three percentage points higher than the year before. Some of you in the audience know how very difficult it is to move this number even one percentage point, much less three. Our graduation rate is the fifth highest among public universities in the state as well – behind UT and A&M but very close to the third and fourth, UT-Dallas and Texas Tech.
Our freshmen are also among the best in the state. Our percentage of freshmen ranked in the top quarter of their high school classes is 52 percent, fourth highest among the 10 largest public institutions in the state. We are also fourth in the proportion of minority freshmen in the top quarter of their classes.
We will start the 2009-10 year with at least 1,030 fulltime faculty members. We may have to add to that number because we expect another record student enrollment. Since I gave my speech at last year’s convocation, we have added 26 net new faculty positions, continuing to ease the burden of growing enrollment on our faculty.  Since 2003, we have increased the fulltime faculty by 42 percent.
We continue to add diversity to our faculty as well. More than half of the new tenure-track faculty hires are ethnic minority.
Enrollment in our graduate programs grew by 6.4 percent last year, and we expect another increase this fall. We began our mathematics education Ph.D. last fall, expecting an enrollment of 6 in that program. Instead, we enrolled 17 and expect 23 this fall. We received final approval of the Ph.D. in criminal justice from the Coordinating Board in July and will enroll 14 students this fall. The Coordinating Board has also given us preliminary approval of the Ph.D. in developmental education, and we are seeking preliminary approval of the Ph.D. in materials science and commercialization. These will be our 10th and 11th doctoral programs. This summer we received approval of our nursing program from the Texas Board of Nursing and will enroll 100 students next fall in that inaugural class.
At the master’s degree level, we need to ensure that we are offering the programs Central Texas needs. Although this is not a year when we will undertake an extensive round of university planning, we will engage in one study. Increasingly, the master’s degree is being considered the “career credential,” the degree one needs to enter into or move up in a profession. I want to be sure that Texas State offers the full range of master’s degrees that should be available at a university of our stature. Toward that end, I have asked Provost Moore to develop and implement a process through which we can identify fields where we need to add master’s programs and new concentrations in existing programs that we should be offering.
Along with our growth in academic programs has come an increase in research expenditures, a figure that is important in helping us to advance to the Emerging Research category of universities. Research expenditures along with Ph.D. graduates are the two metrics that are used to evaluate a school for Emerging Research University status. We increased our research expenditures from $10 million to $19 million in one year. That’s quite incredible. This growth is a credit to our faculty, who are writing more proposals and seeking additional grants. It’s a credit to the graduate students who are a vital link to their success. But it is also a credit to a whole list of staff members who support this culture of research – people in travel and accounts payable and central receiving and the graduate office and many more – people you might not think of when we talk about research expenditures and grants but people who are critical in making the research culture successful.
One key grant last year was the $4 million Emerging Technology Fund grant we received in November. This is an award that will propel the university into a leadership role in the developing field of multifunctional materials. The Emerging Technology Fund looks for projects that will boost the state’s national and global economic competitiveness by attracting high-tech jobs and establishing start-up companies growing out of top scientists and researchers in Texas. The Texas State grant will staff and operate a new center for the research and commercialization of materials that will make possible advances in energy generation, communication, security and health care. Information processing and high-density, light-weight information storage are applications that could reap immediate benefits – but other uses include more efficient solar power generation and entirely new approaches to computing and communication. The federal government has expressed interest in sophisticated, next-generation sensors that could be developed from this research for homeland security purposes. We are quite excited about the potential materials science holds for us.
At the other end of the spectrum, we had a good time with our Common Experience last year, as we do every year. Our theme was “Civic Responsibility and the Legacy of LBJ,” which we chose to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of our most famous alumnus. We topped off the year with the LBJ Distinguished Lecture given by the president’s daughters, Lynda Robb and Luci Johnson, moderated by Harry Middleton. That event was absolutely delightful – we packed this auditorium and our overflow room, the Alkek Teaching Theater. In addition, the lecture was broadcast by C-SPAN.
We made major progress on our Campus Master Plan. We opened the new bus loop and the beautifully designed campus entrance off North LBJ. We also began to use the realigned Tomas Rivera Drive in front of the student center. In April we officially opened the expansion of the Student Recreation Center.
And in March we began play at the new softball and baseball complexes. The new facilities might have been a good omen for those teams. Both won conference titles. In fact, this is only the third time in Southland Conference history that the same university has won both softball and baseball titles. Those titles were on top of the conference titles won by volleyball, soccer and football in the fall – the first time in Southland Conference history that the same university has won all three of those fall titles. So it was no surprise to anyone when we won the Commissioner’s Cup as the best overall sports program in the conference – the fifth time we have won the cup, which is more often than any other university. We also won the conference Women’s All-Sports trophy for the ninth time in a row.
As proud as we were of our student-athletes on the field and court, we were even more proud of them in the classroom. More Bobcats than ever before graduated in one year – 71 earned their degrees last fall, spring and summer. Those numbers included Jeff Foster of the Indiana Pacers, who completed his degree and graduated in the summer commencement. Our student-athlete graduation rate over the last four years ranks first among all public universities in Texas, and if we were in the Big 12, we would be third, barely behind the University of Colorado and Kansas State.
We also received a second million-dollar private gift for athletics. Jerry and Linda Fields, co-chairs of our Pride in Action campaign, gave the million-dollar gift after Darren Casey had given a similar amount the year before. \
And maybe the best news of all in athletics last year was the certification by the NCAA – without recommendations, which hardly ever happens. Congratulations to everyone associated with that self-study process.
The last academic year also brought the Legislature into session. And overall – considering the economic climate of the country – I think we came out pretty well. Because of our growth in enrollment, we will receive a 5 percent increase in our general revenue appropriation for the next two fiscal years, and we should receive some incentive funding on top of that. This, along with some tuition funds, allowed us to appropriate money for merit awards that average 3 percent for faculty and staff and allowed us to increase the number of faculty and staff. But as I said earlier, we will be prudent as we go into these next two years, protecting our university against the effects of a significant budget cut in 2011.
During the legislative session, many people asked me if we were an Emerging Research University. Texas State is not yet in that category, but we want to join that group. As I said, we must increase our number of Ph.D. graduates and the amount of our research expenditures in order to do so.
The Legislature authorized no new Tuition Revenue Bonds to existing universities. We had counted on TRB’s to fund the recital hall and theatre center in San Marcos, the first Health Professions Building in Round Rock and other projects. Most of those projects will be deferred, but we see the recital hall and theatre center as a priority, so we have deferred another campus project – the Derrick Hall renovation – to free up HEAF funds for the work. This money – plus $8 million from donor Patti Harrison – will allow us to build this facility.
Although we heard months of talk about tuition regulation, the session did not adopt any new rules. However, our system did. The Texas State University System adopted caps for annual increases in tuition and student fees, limiting tuition increases to no more than 5 percent a year and fees to no more than 2.5 percent a year.
In spite of our stretched resources, I believe Texas State does an amazing job with the resources we have. And that’s because of you and the outstanding work you do.
Some of the outstanding work you do will be reflected this year in our Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation. And SACS, with the accompanying QEP, will be a major part of our academic year. When I talk about SACS to some audiences, I have to explain how critical its successful completion is to our future. But I believe those of you here today know this. We began work on our SACS Compliance Certification Report in September 2007; many of you have spent hundreds of hours on researching, writing and editing our responses to the core requirements, the comprehensive standards and the federal regulations in the principles of accreditation. Our internal analysis and assessment of compliance is due to SACS on September 10. In November, an off-site committee of peers from other universities reviews our report and makes recommendations in a report that we will receive in December. We have a chance to study their recommendations before the on-site committee of peers from other universities comes on March 22 through 25 for the on-site committee visit. Please write that down: March 22-25, 2010.
An additional piece of the SACS accreditation this time is the QEP – the Quality Enhancement Plan – with which I hope you are familiar. It is a focus of our own choosing; the only guideline is that it must improve student learning. We write a plan for implementing this QEP and implement it after it is approved by SACS. Our QEP topic is “Personalized Academic and Career Exploration,” or PACE for short. It encompasses academic advising but reaches beyond that to career counseling, mentoring and support activities of many kinds.
You will hear us talk about PACE a great deal in the months to come. You will see it on banners and posters and T-shirts and e-mails. We want everyone to know what PACE is. The on-site SACS review committee will expect the campus community to know what our QEP is. If one of them stops you on the Quad in March and asks “What is your QEP?” they will expect you to say “PACE.” So if you don’t know the answer, stay off the Quad!
At the conclusion of this March visit, the on-site committee will prepare a written report noting areas of non-compliance. Of course, we hope there are no areas of non-compliance. This report, along with our response, is then forwarded to SACS’s Commission on Colleges, which announces its decision in December 2010.
I cannot over-stress the importance of this endeavor. Nothing we do this year will be more important than this, but we will be a better university after its successful conclusion.
The SACS and QEP experience is about reaching across departments and divisions for the benefit of the whole university, helping one another do our best job. Our Common Experience theme is ideal for a year in which we focus on SACS. The theme is “The Whole Mind: Crossing Boundaries of Disciplines,” and the common text is a best-seller, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. The author will be here October 21 in connection with the year’s theme, and we look forward to many speakers, performances, exhibitions and discussions that will bring fields and majors together to explore common ground.
Even though the Legislature did not give us any new Tuition Revenue Bonds in the 2009 session, construction and renovation continue across campus. Altogether, 30 projects are in some phase of design or construction for a total of $658 million.
Renovation of the seventh floor of the library will be finished this fall. Construction on the Family and Consumer Sciences addition here in San Marcos and the nursing building in Round Rock continues. Both should be complete in time to begin the fall 2010 semester. We will occupy the 956 parking spaces in the Matthews Street Garage next summer, and hope to break ground on the much-needed Undergraduate Academic Center next summer.
One of our most visible construction projects is the new west face on Bobcat Stadium. This is the first phase of construction to bring the stadium up to Football Bowl Subdivision standards and includes new stadium lights, elevators, private suites and club seating.
We invite all of you to the opening of this facility at 2 p.m. on September 5 – prior to the first football game. Details are provided on the information card you received with your programs. This is going to be a grand event, and you won’t want to miss it. September 5 is Faculty-Staff Appreciation Night at the game, and you can order discounted tickets this week.
A second phase of stadium construction will include a new track facility, and a third phase will add approximately 8,500 seats and bring capacity to more than 24,000.
Several other athletics improvements are under way in soccer and tennis. Exciting times are ahead for Bobcat athletics!
Two traditions for welcoming new students began this summer. “Cat Camp” is a new optional orientation conducted at a camp in Wimberley to introduce incoming students to Bobcat traditions and instill in them a sense of engagement and connection. The other new tradition is the Veterans Support Council designed to make the transition to college easier for our returning military personnel.
Our Pride in Action campaign continues to do remarkably well, even in light of the economic challenges we face in our nation and our world. Those challenges led us to issue a quick, short-term call for funds this spring. We called it Texas State Takes Action, and it was an effort to find money to replace the interest that our endowments ordinarily earn. Many of our students receive scholarships from these endowment earnings, and these students were in danger of losing that support. Many of you answered this call, and we raised more than $75,000 in 30 days to meet this challenge.
Since the summer of 2006, we have raised in excess of $74 million in private gifts. More than $58 million has gone to the Academic Excellence Pillar of the campaign, about half of it to endowments for scholarships and faculty chairs. Private grants to support research account for another $8 million, and $6 million was the gift from St. David’s Community Health Foundation to launch our nursing program. The Athletics Pillar has benefitted from $4.9 million of the total, and the Performing Arts Pillar from the generous $8 million gift of Patti Harrison. The Alumni Center Pillar has so far raised $1.4 million toward construction of that critical part of our Campus Master Plan, and the Library Pillar has received $l.6 million that will be used for facilities and technological improvements.
We are deeply indebted to the volunteer leadership exhibited by the campaign’s chairs and committees that guide each pillar. They have been extremely generous with their time and financial support. Bruce and Gloria Ingram head the Academic Excellence Pillar of the campaign. The Ingram name is on our School of Engineering as a tribute to their philanthropy. In the summer of 2006 they gave us $5 million to support engineering and Concrete Industry Management. At that time, we didn’t even have a School of Engineering. That year we went to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and asked for permission to establish the school. We weren’t the only Texas university to ask for a school of engineering that year, but we were the only one that received approval. I am convinced that the reason we received the approval is the $5 million gift. Engineering is expensive, but the Coordinating Board could not use that as a reason to deny our request. We had a $5 million endowment. This morning I am delighted to announce an additional $2 million gift from the Ingrams to be used for scholarships for students in the Ingram School of Engineering. We are delighted to have Bruce and Gloria with us today. [applause] Bruce and Gloria, you have our everlasting gratitude and affection.
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I attended an awards event in Austin this summer, and the keynote speaker was Ambassador Karen Hughes. In her typically witty way, she reminisced about the experiences she had during her years in the Bush White House. Because of her personal relationship with the president, it was her job to tell Mr. Bush things he probably did not want to hear. This included informing him after a given speech that he had used words that aren’t words, a practice he regularly engaged in when his mind was moving faster than his voice. The episode she related was one in which he used the compound structure “mis-underestimating.” She good-naturedly pointed out to the president that the word was either misunderstanding or underestimating but not both. 
After her speech, however, it fell to the next speaker, Betty Sue Flowers, the award recipient, in her last public appearance in Austin before going to live in New York, to actually clarify for the audience what the president was trying to say. The former director of the LBJ Library explained that what President Bush really meant was both words and she proceeded to point out that, for example, if one misunderstands the vision of an organization, then one often underestimates that organization. 
I instantly understood what Dr. Flowers was saying. I often find people who “mis-underestimate” Texas State University. Like the parents of 18 year olds who were denied admission to our university but whose credentials were good enough to get them into one or more big schools in Texas. Or the people who are shocked when see how beautiful the Avery Building on our Round Rock campus is or find out that we had 15,200 applications for our freshman class this year.
But our star continues to rise, in spite of “mis-underestimation” and in spite of tough times. Texas State University is in an excellent position to rise even further, and to continue to shock others with our progress. We are going to do that this year. It’s going to be exciting, I promise. I welcome you to another stellar year.