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Progress, Pride and Challenge

President Denise Trauth
August 23, 2011

 
Thank you, Gene, and good morning to all of you.

I hope you are eager to begin a new academic year, whether it is your first here, or your 50th, as it is for Bobby Patton in Health and Human Performance. Glenn Joy in Philosophy is beginning his 47th fall semester with us, John Edgell in Mathematics his 46th. But Kirstie Adams in Family and Consumer Sciences, Susan Ricks in Nursing and Hunter Close in Physics are all new to us. This is their first semester at Texas State.

Regardless of whether it is your first or your 50th, welcome to a new year. If you were gone during the summer, you missed the groundbreaking for the Performing Arts Center. You missed the championship runs of the softball and baseball teams and the national title for the Students in Free Enterprise. And if you were not in Texas at all, you were lucky because you missed some really hot, dry days.

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We begin this new year with a salute to some of our colleagues by honoring them for their outstanding teaching, research, service, mentoring and dedication to diversity.

Jim Brown, 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 professor in the School of Music, an accomplished musician herself and supervisor of student teachers. She has obviously left a lasting impression on her former students. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Mary Ellen Cavitt.

Each year we present presidential awards for outstanding teaching, research and creative activities and service. This year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching go to two individuals who are passionate about their fields and convey that excitement to their students. Please join me in honoring Donald Olson, professor of physics, and Jason Kwak, associate professor of music.

We also are honoring two faculty members this morning for their scholarly activities. Both have made significant contributions to their disciplines and to the intellectual life of the university. They are examples of Texas State’s commitment to research, scholarship and creative activity as part of the teaching and learning experience. We are pleased to present the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities to Benjamin Zhan, professor of geography, and Luyi Sun, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

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 Debra Feakes, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Sindy Chapa, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication.

Each year, we recognize one faculty member with the Presidential Seminar Award. Recipients then share their research or creative activity with their peers. The 2011-12 honoree is being recognized for his superlative research, scholarship and current contributions to his discipline. The next Presidential Seminar will be presented by Gary Beall, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Our Faculty Senate chooses two or three colleagues to receive the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Awards. I would like Debra Feakes, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to come forward to assist in presenting these awards.

Everette Swinney Award recipients are chosen on the basis of their dedication to the teaching profession, their influence on the lives of students and their contributions to the university as a whole. They have combined their commitment to teaching with strong records of creative achievement, service and mentoring both peers and students. These awards are named for a beloved retired faculty member and longtime chair of the Faculty Senate. With great pleasure, we present the Everette Swinney Award to Kathleen Fite, professor of curriculum and instruction; Steven Furney, University Distinguished Professor of health and human performance; and Kent Reilly, professor of anthropology.

Last fall two of our professors were named Regents’ Professors by the Board of Regents of our system. They were the fifth and sixth from Texas State and among only 13 in the history of the award in the entire System. They were honored at a board meeting in November and a reception on campus in March. John Baccus, professor of biology, and David Butler, professor of geography, would you please stand?

I am also pleased to share with you that at its meeting last Friday, the Board of Regents named two more Regents’ Professors – the 14th and 15th for the system. One of these is from Texas State. Our seventh Regents’ Professor is Frank de la Teja, professor of history. Frank, this is your day.

For the second year, we are recognizing as University Distinguished Professors two tenured professors whose careers in teaching, research and service have been exemplary and recognized at the state, national and international levels. Please help me congratulate our new University Distinguished Professors – Frank de la Teja, professor of history, and Robert Gorman, professor of political science.

For their years of outstanding teaching, creative work and service at Texas State, four retired faculty members have been named Distinguished Professors Emeriti, and we recognize them today. Our honorees are:
Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History;
Patrick Cassidy, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry;
John Chatfield, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics; and
Richard Wade Wheeler, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology.

Today we also honor one faculty and one staff member for their dedication to the pursuit and celebration of diversity. Recipients of the Excellence in Diversity Award are Susan Stewart, an officer with the University Police Department, and Federico Subervi, professor of journalism and mass communication.

We want to include in our introductions this morning the 2011 Employee of the Year. He was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate Martin Zavala, administrative assistant in Health and Human Performance.

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 this morning Cheryl McWilliams Lee with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Janet Hale, senior lecturer of finance and economics.

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One of the wonderful things about this summer was that John and I had the opportunity to spend some time with our grandchildren. Our youngest, Brandon, is 8 years old. He was born two months after we arrived at Texas State. He attended and cried loudly throughout my investiture the following February. So, for all of his life we have been at Texas State.

This summer his parents rented an RV and took him and his sister on a road trip through the western United States. They stopped at several state capitals and then looped south and east to visit us in San Marcos. Having seen the capitals of several states and heard about their governors before he got to Texas, this subject was clearly on Brandon’s mind, as was Texas State, an institution he has heard about since his earliest childhood. He apparently got very confused when his parents as they were driving told him that they were in Texas and near Texas State – the institution at which I was president. He was perplexed because he had confused Texas State with the State of Texas and had learned on the trip that states had governors, not presidents. Well, I explained to him that I was the president but didn’t ever want to be the governor, although the governor apparently did want to be president. I think the poor child is still confused!

I can hardly believe it, but this is the 10th time that you – at least many of you – and I have begun a fall semester together. When I gave the convocation talk in August 2002 as the new president of Southwest Texas State University, I told you how excited I was to be here, and I still am. Ten years has not dampened that excitement; in fact, the more I work for the university, the dearer and more impressive it becomes to me.

Part of the excitement 10 years ago was with the new facilities we were opening – Bobcat Village, the End Zone Complex and San Marcos Hall – and we were preparing to break ground for San Jacinto Hall and the Student Health Center.

And in 2002 I was looking forward to my first round with the Texas Legislature. I had done my homework. The state was facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit, and we were planning how to handle large budget cuts. As Yogi Berra says, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

This year, after the rhetoric faded away and we analyzed the results of the legislative session, Texas State University had taken a cut in State appropriations of almost $17 million annually. We took the first cut of $7 million in the 2010-11 academic year, and we will take the second cut of $10 million in this year. That’s a $17 million annual and continuing cut in our budget.

Seventeen million dollars is so much money that most of us have a hard time realizing what it could fund at our university. So let me put a face on it. With $17 million, we could hire 174 new faculty members, paying them our average faculty salary and covering all benefits. 174 new faculty. Seventeen million dollars would allow us to quadruple the number of academic advisors we have, or increase the size of the police department eight times, or increase the size of the Registrar’s Office 20 times.

That’s a lot of money. But we are better off than many other Texas universities – for at least two reasons. First is our enrollment growth. We saw the state budget deficit coming and planned for it. We “banked” our growth, and because of that, we will not be in the hole in the new fiscal year. As you know, we had no raises or new positions last year. But we also had no layoffs and no furloughs. I am happy to announce that we will have raises this year. We have a 3 percent merit pool available for raises that will take effect in your November 1 paychecks. The work that needs to be done to make the raise possible is already under way.

Another reason for our relatively good financial position is our efficiency. Texas State can stretch a dollar about as far as it can be stretched. We are excellent stewards of the state’s investment in us. The money that we get from the State of Texas – our funding per semester credit hour – is 33rd out of the 35 public universities in Texas. Comparing our expenditures per undergraduate to 50 peer universities across the nation – universities like Colorado State and the universities of Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma and Oregon, as well as Texas Tech, Houston and North Texas – compared to those 50 peer universities, our expenditures are 51st, lower than all of them. Since 2001-02, we have reduced administrative costs from 13.1 to 9.3 percent. And we use our space as well as we use our funding. We are one of four universities receiving the highest possible score for classroom and lab utilization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

But remember, even with these low expenses, we have the fifth highest graduation rate among the 35 public universities in Texas. That’s remarkable.

In spite of the desperate headlines about higher education in the national and state press, the last academic year was a good one for Texas State. It was certainly a good year for our construction contractors. Have you ever seen so many construction sites?

The site of the much-needed and much-anticipated Undergraduate Academic Center is dominating the middle of campus, just south of Evans. You can’t miss the purple walls! It will house the departments of Political Science, Psychology and Sociology and will be the site of our new PACE Center, which will unite freshman support services in one place.

That massive structure at the corner of Sessom and Comanche is the North Campus Housing Complex (that’s the pink and green one) that will be home to 612 students when it’s finished.

We removed Falls Residence Hall this spring to make room for the Performing Arts Center that will be a magnificent venue for our music, theatre and dance students. We removed most of Comanche Hills Apartments to build offices for Housing and Residence Life. The Center for Research and Commercialization is going up at the corner of Hunter Road and McCarty Lane, and will be a valuable small business incubator. The new track stadium was completed this summer. And the North Side Complex at Bobcat Stadium is beginning to take shape. Altogether, $321 million in construction is in some stage of development.

We will watch these campus-changing structures progress during this coming academic year and be ready next academic year to dedicate the Undergraduate Academic Center, the Housing offices, the North Campus Housing Complex, the North Side Complex at Bobcat Stadium and the Center for Research and Commercialization. We will have to stock up on maroon and gold ribbon in fall 2012 for all those building dedications!

One of these construction projects is associated with the major news last year that Texas State is joining the Western Athletic Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision. During our home football games, we will watch progress on the North Side Complex, which will expand seating in Bobcat Stadium to almost 30,000 and provide room for a fan shop, concessions, elevators, restrooms, visitor locker rooms and a Strutters Gallery. We will open that expansion in 2012 with a game against Texas Tech. We do not yet know what our first Western Athletic Conference competition will be – probably soccer – but we want to make a major celebration of it when it happens. We opened this year’s soccer season last Friday against Prairie View A&M and won; we open our volleyball season this Friday at the University of Alabama tournament and our football season against Texas Tech in Lubbock on September 3.

The successful completion of our SACS reaffirmation was a major accomplishment of the last academic year. The positive feedback we received from the review committee confirms our dedication to excellence, and I thank you for your part in that process.

I am proud of all that we have accomplished on the university strategic plan this past year, and I am enthusiastic as we develop our plan that will cover 2012 through 2017. Beginning last fall, the university community had the opportunity to provide feedback for that plan. The mission statement review reflected our confidence in our current mission statement, and no changes were made. This past spring I encouraged all of you to provide feedback on the university goals that we will adopt for the new plan. A preliminary committee reviewed your feedback and suggested changes. The President’s Cabinet then finalized the goals for 2012 through 2017 at its summer retreat. Although the focus of our goals remains largely unchanged, the new goals reflect a broader vision for what Texas State can accomplish in the upcoming plan.

You will have the opportunity this fall to provide feedback on initiatives to achieve those goals. Your contributions to that process will make our plan one that we all own.

One of the areas where you will be asked to provide feedback is in our internationalization work. Last year, the Internationalization Task Force provided a number of recommendations. President’s Cabinet considered this report in detail, and the Council of Academic Deans met three times to discuss this report and formulate three specific goals and a number of sub-points in response to these recommendations. After reviewing these recommendations and the deans’ response, Dr. Bourgeois asked Presidential Fellow Ani Yazedjian to accept a half-time assignment in the coming year to help lead our implementation of several new approaches. I am pleased to report that Dr. Yazedjia has already begun her work on several activities designed to support our current and incoming international students, and I look forward to many positive accomplishments in the years to come.

A massive undertaking that is currently being completed and has involved many of our staff and faculty this past year is our new Banner student information system. This project has involved many extra hours on the part of our hard-working staff, particularly the ones in the offices of Admissions, Registrar, Financial Aid and Technology Resources. This project frames the final piece of a seven-year process to modernize all of our core business systems on campus. In addition to Banner these projects have included the SAP Finance and HR system, our TRACS learning management system and our library system. We will continue to improve our business processes and instructional support services through the use of these technology investments.

A different kind of benefit to the whole campus is our tobacco-free policy that went into effect August 1. Our decision to become a tobacco-free university is based on the scientific evidence regarding the harmful effects and health risks of tobacco. We also conducted a survey last year that indicated that 67 percent of students and 75 percent of faculty and staff supported the idea of making Texas State a smoke-free institution, both in San Marcos and Round Rock.

Texas State University is making good progress on our goal of moving into the tier of the state’s Emerging Research Universities. This tier includes Texas Tech, North Texas, Houston, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso, and UT-Dallas. When you compare us to these seven universities, we are the third largest, we have the fourth highest freshman retention rate, and we have the third highest graduation rate. The initial criteria for placement as an Emerging Research University were doctoral degree production and research expenditures. We would be ranked eighth among the current tier in doctoral degree production, but our numbers are rising quickly, given that we awarded our first Ph.D. in May 2000.

And for three years in a row we have jumped over one of the seven Emerging Research Universities in research expenditures. During the last academic year, we reached new highs in both restricted research – on which the Emerging Research University figures are based – and overall funded research. In the last five years, we have increased our restricted research over 100 percent and our overall funded research 50 percent. In only five years.

In Texas, tied to the amount of research expenditures is another appropriation called the Research Development Fund. A university gets part of this fund based on the amount of restricted research it generates. The Research Development Fund was cut this biennium from $80 million to $57 million. Even with that cut, Texas State University increased its allocation by 15 percent. All of the Emerging Research Universities took a cut in this fund distribution. But we not only didn’t take a cut, our share increased because of the growth in our research enterprise.

We set another enrollment record last fall and will do that again this fall. We are expecting about 34,000 students. Thirty-five percent of our student body was ethnic minority last year, and we expect that to be about the same this fall. We reached our goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution – an HSI – last fall, two years ahead of our goal. Only four of the 10 largest universities in Texas are currently HSIs, and Texas State is the largest one of those.

We all know that the 34-thousand number is not the most important one. Many others like our graduation rate are of greater consequence. I want to add a new one to the numbers we consider very important. This fall 95 percent of our 4,600 freshmen will live in our residence halls. This percentage has risen from 80 percent, where it was in the 1990s, and 90 percent, where it was five years ago. Ninety-five percent is an important number because it tells us that increasingly young people come to us wanting the whole rich residential experience that is uniquely Texas State.

Our students are now enrolled in 97 undergraduate fields, 88 master’s degrees and nine doctoral fields. This fall we are adding two more doctoral programs – a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. in developmental education.

As we begin our new year, we welcome four new deans and a new provost. We conducted searches to fill those positions but in some cases found the best person for the job right here on campus. One of those we found on campus is Provost Gene Bourgeois, who came to us in 1990 as an assistant professor of history. Since then he has chaired the Department of History, directed the Honors Program and helped found the Residential Colleges. Most recently he was associate provost, in charge of budget and personnel for Academic Affairs.

Also on campus was Stan Carpenter, now dean of the College of Education after serving as interim dean and chair of the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education and School Psychology, and Michael Hennessy, now dean of the College of Liberal Arts after serving as chair of the Department of English. We welcomed back to campus Tim Mottet as dean of Fine Arts and Communication, and new to us is Dann Brown, as dean of the University College.

We also conducted searches for and hired 50 new faculty. When we are not able to add faculty positions, we sometimes forget that we still are adding new people.

The new dean of the University College, Dann Brown, is also director of the PACE Center. You will recall that the PACE Center – an acronym for Personalized Academic and Career Exploration Center – came out of our SACS reaffirmation process, a process that now requires development of a Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, that will improve student learning. PACE is our QEP.

PACE will bring together freshman advising, career planning, and mentoring into one place. Here we can help our students match their career interests with their abilities and guide them in finding out what it takes to achieve the results they want. This will be a terrific service to our students and should help us with retention.

Another retention effort that will be launched this fall is our “We Are Bobcats” campaign through Student Affairs. This campaign articulates five behaviors that we expect our students to emulate so that they can stay with us through graduation and be successful citizens after they leave us. The behaviors are “We are academically successful,” “We care,” “We are healthy,” “We are responsible,” and “We are proud,” and each has two or three sentences explaining what the behavior means. For instance, the “We are academically successful” behavior means that “We go to class,” “We are prepared,” and “We follow the honor code.” You will see posters and other marketing of the messages around campus this fall, and we would appreciate your helping us reinforce them. We have emphasized them at summer orientations and Paws Preview already. Frankly, when Student Affairs came up with this idea, even they thought it might be too trite – too corny – for students to embrace. But student focus groups convinced them otherwise. Students liked the idea of being held to a high bar; knowing that they are expected to meet a high standard made them prouder to be Bobcats. And we believe it is the responsible thing to let students know plainly what is expected of them. Please help us do that.

Bobcat pride is also the focus of our capital campaign – the Pride in Action campaign – that we will launch publicly in October. The silent phase of the campaign began in 2006, and during these five years, we have been making friends, cultivating donors, and raising money. The final campaign goal will be announced at the public launch on October 14. The money we are raising will support the five pillars of the campaign – Academic Excellence, the Performing Arts Center, the Library, Athletics and Alumni/Annual Fund – and 72 percent of the funds so far have been raised for Academic Excellence.

We will ask you – our faculty and staff – to support the university through the Family Campaign. For the duration of Pride in Action, the Family Campaign will replace our annual Reach for the Stars solicitation of faculty and staff. Unless you designate your contributions to go elsewhere, the Family Campaign donations will support scholarships for our students. Texas State must have attractive merit scholarships comparable to our peer institutions to remain competitive with them for the best students. You will be hearing more about the campaign as it progresses.

Back in August 2002 when I gave my first convocation speech, I said that when I first looked at the university, I knew “what most people know about it… that it’s an old and distinguished school founded on teacher training.” But what I didn’t know then – and couldn’t know – was what the people and the campus culture are like. My ideal of a place to be president would be where “the people who are the university sincerely care about the university, a place where the people share a vision for the institution….” To my delight, I found that place.

It was apparent to me then – as it is now – that the people who are the university love it, they like one another, and they are willing and eager to work together to make it “one of the preeminent higher education institutions in the nation.” Because of this, I am sure that our Family Campaign will be a success.

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The beginning of each academic year is exciting and challenging. This one more challenging than most because the state has reduced our funding by $17 million annually. But we will manage this cut strategically because of our determination to make this a better university. So let me conclude with a story and a piece of advice.

Those of you who have seen John and me together at events off campus when I’m on the program may have noted that often he is carrying my purse. Frankly, this is such a common occurrence that John just naturally picks up the purse and puts it on his shoulder.

Last spring Bobcat Bonanza – a fundraiser for athletics – was held in the Fields West Side Complex. As John and I were leaving, we got onto the large, crowded elevator. The doors closed and we saw that our baseball coach, Ty Harrington, was in the crowd. On his shoulder was his wife’s purse. The elevator was full of people who were chatting. Ty sheepishly started explaining to everyone why he was carrying a purse.

My husband – never one to miss the opportunity for levity – cut in loudly on Ty’s explanation with “Ty, for God’s sake, quit apologizing. You know what, coach? You need to just WOMAN UP!” For a moment there was dead silence on the elevator, and then everyone broke out laughing.

So that is my closing advice today. We all need to “woman-up” and face what will be a tough financial year with a shared determination to keep moving our university on its upward trajectory.
Thank you.