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'The Pride of Texas State University'

President Denise M. Trauth
August 22, 2012

Thank you, Gene, and good morning to all of you.  Here we are again beginning a new academic year, and we have so much to be proud of.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of our College of Health Professions. And we are preparing to celebrate next year the 50th anniversary of having African American students at Texas State.

We will have our largest student body ever this fall and our massive building campaign is showing very positive progress. I’ll get to that later, but first I want to recognize the outstanding accomplishments that you have made over the past year, for it is you who truly make this an amazing university.
 
We begin this new academic year with a salute to some of our colleagues by honoring them for their outstanding teaching, research, service, mentoring, and dedication to diversity.
 
Justin Edmondson, a past 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 an assistant professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. Her research focuses on consumer behavior and sustainability and she has obviously left a lasting impression on her former students. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Jiyun Kang.
 
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 Debra Monroe, professor of English, and Susan Beebe , senior lecturer in the Department of English.
 
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 Dittmar Hahn, professor of biology,
and Russell Lang , assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.
 
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 Michel Conroy, professor in the School of Art and Design, and Marion Bennett, assistant professor in the department of counseling, leadership, adult education, and school psychology.
 
Each year, we recognize one faculty member with the Presidential Seminar Award.
Recipients then share their research or creative activity with their peers. The 2012-13 honoree is being recognized for his superlative research, scholarship, and current contributions to his discipline. The next Presidential Seminar will be presented by Randall Reid, professor in the School of Art and Design.
 
Our Faculty Senate chooses two or three colleagues to receive the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Awards. I would like Barbara Melzer, chair of the Faculty Senate and professor in the department of physical therapy, 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 Mary Ellen Cavitt, professor in the School of Music; and Steve Furney, university distinguished professor in the department of health and human performance. I would like to note that this marks the second year in a row for Steve to receive this award. And, Steve earlier this year became our 19 th Piper Professor.
 
This morning, 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 – Robert McLean, professor of biology, and
Paula Williamson, professor of biology.
 
For their years of outstanding teaching, creative work, and service at Texas State, six retired faculty members have been named Distinguished Professors Emeriti, and we recognize them today. Our honorees are:
  • Judith Karen Brown, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Social Work;
  • Ann Marie Ellis, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Sociology;
  • Donald Hazlewood, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics;
  • Edgar Laird, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English;
  • James Pohl, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History; and
  • Joseph Koke, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology, who was not able to be with us today.
 
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: Joseph Piazza, training specialist in Facilities Management; and Laurie Fluker, associate professor of journalism and mass communication, who couldn’t be with us today.
 
We want to include in our introductions this morning the 2012 Employee of the Year.
He was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate Marcus Hendry, facility coordinator in the Department of 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 Curtis Schafer, Director of Career Services; and Linette Watkins, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who was not able to be with us today. Let’s give all of these outstanding faculty and staff one more round of applause.
*           *          *
I’m sure many of you watched this summer’s Olympics and were proud of the American athletes and their accomplishments.  Another thing I witnessed this summer is how Americans seem to be comfortable inventing new words.
 
Our English faculty members call these new words “neologisms.”  I’m more ambivalent about these neologisms than I am about our Olympic Stars.
 
For example, we are familiar with the American tendency to add Z-I-N-G to any noun or adjective and turn it into a verb. I know that I routinely say we are internationalizing our curriculum. 
 
But this summer on a financial news show I heard a new one that made me wince: Optionalizing.
 
That one is even hard to say. 
 
But it tripped off the tongue of a Wall Street news reporter when he was describing the unusual behavior of the CFO of financially troubled Best Buy. 
 
And I quote, “He is optionalizing here.” 
 
That was supposed to mean that he was preserving his options.
 
All this neologizing makes me very uncomfortable.
 
Another new word that is emerging in financial reporting is cautionness. I’m not sure if that is spelled with one “n” or two but then this word probably never gets written down.
 
No question that the U.S. economy is still shaky, so investors want to be very cautious. 
Or act with cautionness.
 
How cautionness differs from “caution” escapes me.
 
By far, my favorite new word is one I heard on 60 Minutes this summer. For several years now, we have been adding up to the end of nouns to make them into verbs. 
 
For example, lawyering-up is common parlance for hiring a defense attorney. 
 
The context for the one I learned this summer was a story about two brothers who simultaneously served in the Marines and were stationed in Afghanistan. This is an arrangement not usually allowed, but these guys convinced their parents and then the authorities to let them serve together. 
 
The 60 Minutes interviewer asked them if they gave all the grisly facts about their deployment to their mother.  The two brothers first smiled at each other and then one said, “No, we churched it up for her.”
 
As I present my convocation remarks today, I am doing so in the context of a difficult economy and in an increasingly uncivil political environment.
 
Therefore, we need to act with cautionness as we optionalize how we will expand our university. And although I have harsh things to say about the budget cuts we have taken, I churched-up my remarks so as to prevent even bigger budget cuts in the future.
 
I think it is fitting that each year we begin convocation by recognizing our many outstanding faculty and staff because, after all, their collective efforts help define who we are as an institution.
 
Certainly the bricks and mortar that make up our new or renovated facilities are important, as are the various technology improvements that allow our faculty, staff, and students to perform their work more efficiently.
 
But this university has excelled primarily because of the extraordinary effort you put into your work day in and day out. One of the great accomplishments of the last year was the completion of the university’s 2012 to 2017 Strategic Plan. This is the blueprint we develop and update regularly to guide our growth.
 
Or to make sure we optionalize our growth.
 
It has been through this process that during the past year we added our 12 th doctoral program, our third MFA, and our 87th master’s program. And people throughout Texas and elsewhere certainly are aware of the excellent institution that we have here, because our growth continues to outpace that of most other universities throughout the state.
 
This year we expect our student enrollment to tip around the 35,000 mark for the first time ever, moving us closer to becoming the fourth-largest institution in the state.
The increase almost assuredly will bring us up a few spots from our current perch as the nation’s 34 th -largest university.
 
This rapid growth is reflected in the seemingly ubiquitous construction taking place across this university. This year, we have 26 construction projects totaling 585 million dollars in development, under way or just completed. Among the new or upgraded facilities we will have this fall are:
  • the Undergraduate Academic Center;
  • the new STAR Park, which is our own small-business incubator aimed at nano-materials research and commercialization;
  • a North Campus Housing Complex;
  • a Housing and Residential Life Office building;
  • and a renovated Lampasas Hall.
 
And in 2 weeks we will open the Bobcat Stadium North Side Complex, which will nearly double the capacity to about 30,000 seats for this football season. And we’ll likely test that capacity at our first home game of the season, when Texas Tech comes to town.
 
There are other major projects already under way that will be completed in 2013 and 2014.
Among them: 
  • Renovations at Commons and Brogdon Halls;
  • A new Performing Arts Center, which also will be a new gateway and offer awe-inspiring vistas to the campus along University Drive;
  • A garage to go along with the Performing Arts Center.
  • And a new West Campus Residence Hall.
 
All of this growth is wonderful – and very necessary. But to be perfectly frank, the growth comes with its challenges. Texas State already is among the most space-deficient universities in the state. We are among the three fastest growing universities in Texas. And we are among the top performing universities in terms of classroom and lab space utilization as determined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
 
You could say we are the picture of efficiency.
 
We rank low among the public universities in Texas in the amount of general revenue we receive per semester credit hour; our administrative costs are very low; and yet we have the fifth-highest graduation rate among all public universities in the state. You may have heard me point to these facts before, but I reference them again because our current economic climate compels me to do so.
 
As our state and nation continue to climb their way out of a years-long economic downturn, I am convinced that the cues we will receive from Washington D.C. and Austin will be very similar:
 
Expect fewer dollars.
 
And do more with less.
 
Unfortunately, there is no way to church that up.
 
The last two-year cycle was difficult for many higher education institutions across Texas, and Texas State certainly was no exception. We know that, due to budget cuts we took in the last legislative session, for the budget year that begins September 1, we will have 24 million dollars less from the State of Texas than what we had back in 2010.
 
That’s right.
 
Twenty-four million dollars less.
 
Counting what we lost in fiscal 2012 alone, we could’ve added 174 faculty positions, or quadrupled the number of academic advisors we currently have.
 
And we were considered one of the fortunate institutions.
 
Thanks to our enrollment growth and the fact that we planned for the state’s fiscal downturn, we were able to avert some of the misfortune that other universities were forced to endure. It is a testament to our good stewardship that we avoided layoffs – and that we were able to offer 3 percent merit raises to employees during that term. This year, we will be offering 2 percent merit raises at a time when other universities will be freezing salaries or scaling back.
 
We still don’t know exactly what the state’s financial outlook will be for the next two years, but the leadership at the state Capitol is telling us to be fiscally cautious – to act with cautiounness, if you will. In the meantime, we know we have an important responsibility.
 
As I mentioned earlier, we expect to have in the neighborhood of 35,000 students, and we expect to remain on a relatively high trajectory for growth over the ensuing years. Over the last 10 years, we’ve grown 45 percent while the average growth rate over the same period for all state universities was 32 percent.
 
We must continue to provide the quality education we are known for – and do it in a way that is affordable and accessible to the state’s growing population. You see, Texas is changing demographically.  The state’s minority population, particularly its Hispanic population, is growing quickly and is becoming younger.
 
And as a group, we know that Hispanics historically have been underrepresented in the higher education ranks. With Latinos accounting for a larger portion of the state’s youngest demographic, it is clear that Texas must be prepared to educate a greater proportion of that segment if we are to ensure the economic vitality of this state.
 
In 2004, when we developed our strategic plan for 2004 to 2009, we set a goal for achieving Hispanic-Serving Institution status by fall 2012. In fall 2010 we achieved that classification -- two years early. The HSI designation is awarded to institutions whose Hispanic undergraduate enrollment exceeds 25 percent.
 
It’s important because it demonstrates the university is committed to ensuring a diverse student population and because it puts Texas State in a position to receive grants aimed at producing overall excellence at our university. So far, the university has received a half-dozen grants worth more than 9.6 million dollars because of the HSI designation.
 
Those grants help with student access and success, which is critical to our mission of helping drive the Texas economy. We also know that we do a good job of retaining our minority students. In fact, our retention rates for Hispanics (about 77 percent) and African Americans (about 89 percent) rival those of some of the state’s top performing universities in that category.
 
That’s very important.
 
Because for Texas to have a robust, 21 st-century workforce – one that increasingly relies on technology and innovation – the state must produce more college graduates. And we need many more graduates than our state currently is producing. That means we must do more to increase our students’ chances of becoming successful college graduates. Fortunately, we are poised to do just that.
 
And it is something we take very seriously.
 
This summer we launched our Personalized Academic and Career Exploration – or PACE – Center. This initiative marks the university’s most intensive effort ever aimed at producing successful results for our incoming students. PACE brings together freshman advising, career planning, and mentoring into one place. The center will help our students match their career interests with their abilities. Then it will guide them in determining what it takes to achieve the results they want.
 
By the second day of an incoming freshman’s orientation session this summer at Texas State, he or she participated in a one-on-one session with an academic advisor in a private office.
And throughout the course of the academic year, the student’s progress will be monitored closely so that support can be offered before a student suffers any academic setbacks.
 
It takes a significant amount of resources to perform this service meaningfully, but it shows that we are committed to serving our students as individuals. We believe that this customized, personalized service enriches the student experience at Texas State, and greatly enhances the prospects that our first-time students will graduate in a timely fashion.
 
Besides enrollment and student services, there is another significant area of growth for the university: Research. Perhaps our biggest shot in the arm came earlier this year, when we were designated as one of the state’s Emerging Research Universities. With this designation, we now qualify for state funds that match private donations on a sliding scale. That allows us to leverage contributions to our research activities.
 
However, there are seven other emerging research universities competing with us for those state funds: the University of Houston; Texas Tech; North Texas; and four UT institutions: in Arlington, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio.
 
One of the main reasons we achieved this new status is because our research portfolio has grown significantly over the years. In 2011, our research expenditures grew to 33.4 million dollars, more than three-and-a-half times what they were in 2005. And the number of doctoral students grew to 404 in 2011, up from 268 just a year earlier.
 
We now also are in a position to provide greater opportunities for our students after our new STAR Park, or small-business incubator, opens this fall on a 38-acre site at the intersection of McCarty Lane and Hunter Road. The 7 million dollar, 20,000-square-foot first building in our research park will provide start-ups with critical lab space so that partnerships can be forged between private enterprises and the university.
 
Moreover, this effort will expand research opportunities for our faculty and students and boost the local economy. I know I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about research. And many of you know that this institution historically has been committed to the undergraduate experience.
But I want to emphasize that these are not mutually exclusive goals.
 
By expanding our research capabilities we effectively are becoming more of the university that our undergraduates want us to be. As you may know, our competitors for freshmen include UT Austin, Texas A&M and Texas Tech – all schools with dynamic undergraduate populations and significant research productivity.
 
We know that one of the reasons some of those top students choose to go to these other schools is that we do not offer them competitive merit scholarships. Over the years, we’ve made that a growing priority. In fact, that has been a major priority for the “Pride in Action” campaign.
 
When we launched the campaign in 2006, we offered 127 merit scholarship awards to high-achieving students. That year, we set a goal that we would be able to offer close to twice that amount by 2014. Well, I am pleased to tell you that this year we offered more than 350 merit-based scholarships to students, almost tripling what we offered in 2006.
 
These scholarship recipients represent some of the brightest students around, and help us attract top-flight faculty, which makes us even stronger. Some of these students are with us today along with several student ambassadors to assist with this function.
 
Another goal of the capital campaign is to increase significantly the number of endowed chairs and professorships. When we started planning a fundraising campaign in 2004, the university had a little more than 7 million dollars in endowed and non-endowed accounts that funded chairs and professorships. The Emmett and Miriam McCoy gift added 9 million dollars to that figure.
 
Today, the university holds more than 29 million dollars in support of these chairs and professorships – more than quadrupling what we had in 2004. It is heartening to see the value our donors place on academic excellence. They know as we do that this type of philanthropic support is a critical building block for ensuring our success as a top national university.
 
We embarked on the quiet phase of our campaign, “Pride in Action”, in 2006. We identified five “Pillars” that we sought to improve upon: Academic Excellence, Athletics, the Performing Arts Center, the Library, and Alumni Relations.
 
We knew our goal to raise 110 million dollars was bold, but we also knew it was an important goal in order to take this university to the next level. Last October, we launched the public phase of this campaign, and we have been delighted with the level of commitment from our donors and their exuberance over the transformation of this university.
 
We also were elated with the results of our “Family” Campaign, in which we experienced the highest level of participation ever from our faculty and staff. Many of the donors who helped make this happen are right here in this arena. These donors are members of the Pillar Society – those individuals or organizations who have contributed 100,000 dollars or more to the university. We also have with us a number of our Heroes – those that have given 1 million dollars or more.
 
The Heroes are featured on our banners here and on the concourse. I would like to ask the members of the Pillar Society and the Heroes to please stand and allow us to express our gratitude to you.
 
All of you represented here today and many others who have contributed to our campaign should be proud to be part of the Texas State University success story. Pride means different things for different people at Texas State. For alumni, it may be memories of student experiences that forever changed their lives.
 
For faculty, it could be seeing firsthand why good research means great teaching. And for our community, pride means learning opportunities that train our next generation to improve our world.  As President of Texas State, the long list of accomplishments we have achieved together makes me very proud.
 
That’s why I am thrilled to announce that we not only reached our goal of 110 million dollars – we exceeded it by more than 15 million dollars.
 
My thanks to the Bobcat Marching Band for helping us celebrate! Many of you can attest to the fact that I don’t normally wear a T-shirt at Convocation – but it is a special day, and this is a special T-shirt. It’s important to commemorate special days.
 
And because I don’t want to be the only one at Convocation in a T-shirt, you’ll each receive one as you exit the arena onto the concourse. You’ll notice the students who are helping us today are wearing these PRIDE T-shirts. Before you wear your shirt, I hope you will take a moment to think about what makes you proud of Texas State University.
 
I imagine there will be as many reasons as the number of people who fill this room.
Now, we have one more surprise in store.  Please join me outside for the unveiling of our “Pride in Action” campaign banner. Thank you for your kind attention.