Fall Convocation 2016

Making Texas State Stronger, Safer and More Strategic
President Denise M. Trauth
Strahan Coliseum
August 26, 2016
9 a.m.

Good morning!

I hope your summer was reinvigorating and that you are fully charged as we begin the new academic year. 2015-16 was another remarkable year and we reached some amazing milestones. I look forward to giving you a recap and then sharing with you what is on the horizon for Texas State.

But first, as has been our tradition at convocation, I’d like to focus on recognizing our many outstanding faculty and staff, as it is their commitment to excellence that helps set our pace for strong growth and academic achievement.

Your efforts truly make this a wonderful university.


Each year, the Board of Regents honors professors whose performance and contributions to the educational community have been exemplary.

Texas State is proud that another one of our professors was named Regents’ Professor by The Texas State University System Board of Regents last November.

The 2015 recipient becomes Texas State’s eleventh professor to be recognized with this award, and only the 23rd in the entire system to be so honored.

Our newest Regents’ Professor is Donald Olson, University Distinguished Professor and professor of physics, who could not be with us today.

The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation selected 10 professors from the State of Texas who have made a special impact on their students and the community.

I am pleased to announce that among this year’s recipients of the Piper Professor Award is our 22nd Piper Professor:

Debra Feakes, Interim Chair of and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

This morning, we are recognizing two University Distinguished Professors whose careers in teaching, research, and service have been outstanding and recognized at the state, national, and international levels.

Please help me congratulate our new University Distinguished Professors:

Dennis Dunn, Director of the Center for International Studies and professor in the Department of History; and Dittmar Hahn, Chair of and professor in the Department of Biology.

For their years of outstanding teaching, research, and service at Texas State, three retired faculty members have been named Distinguished Professors Emeriti, and we recognize them today. Our honorees are:

Robert Larsen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography; Glenn Longley, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology; and Miles Wilson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English.

This year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching go to three individuals who are passionate about their fields and convey that excitement to their students.

Please join me in honoring:

Russell Lang, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Barry Aidman, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology; and Kaitlin Hopkins, senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

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:

Alexander Kornienko, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Melissa Martinez, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology.

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:

Lyn Litchke, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance; Daris Word Hale, senior lecturer in the School of Music.

Each year, we recognize one faculty member with the Presidential Seminar Award.

Recipients then share their research or creative activity with their peers.

The 2016 honoree is being recognized for his superlative research, scholarship, and current contributions to his discipline.

The next Presidential Seminar will be presented by Sean Horan, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies.

Andrae Turner, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, will help make our next presentation. Each year the Alumni Association recognizes an outstanding teacher with its Teaching Award of Honor.

Today’s honoree is chair of and professor in the Clinical Laboratory Science program. He has received numerous scholarship and service awards, and has been an active leader in state and national organizations. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Rodney Rohde.

Our Faculty Senate chooses from among its colleagues recipients of the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Awards.

I would like Michel Conroy, Chair of the Faculty Senate and professor in the School of Art and Design to come forward to present this year’s award. The 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 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 these Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Awards to:

Debra Feakes, Interim Chair of and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Susan Morey, Chair of and professor in the Department of Mathematics; and Shirley Ogletree, professor in the Department of Psychology.

Today we also honor two faculty members, one staff member, and a team for dedication to the pursuit and celebration of diversity.

Recipients of the Excellence in Diversity Award are:

Brandon Luciani Beck, lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Gloria Martinez, associate professor in the Department of Sociology; and Clint-Michael Reneau, director of the Office of Disability Services.

And for our team award we are honoring Project SUPERB in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology.

The department’s team honorees are:

Cynthia Plotts, professor; Jon Lasser, professor, and Desiree Vega, assistant professor, who could not be with us today; and Maria De Jesus Sanchez, grant senior secretary.

Now, we want to introduce this year’s winners of the Mariel M. Muir Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Each year we honor a faculty member and a staff member for mentoring our students and employees.

We are proud to recognize this morning Patti Giuffre, professor in the Department of Sociology, and Skyller Walkes, associate director in the Office of Disability Services.

We want to include in our introductions this morning the 2016 Employee of the Year. She was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate Melissa Hyatt, associate university registrar.

Let’s give all of these outstanding faculty and staff members one more round of applause.


The personal highlight of my summer was traveling to France with John, our daughters, and their husbands and two of our grandchildren.

We spent a week in Paris and then a week in the South of France. The first week was filled with exploring – the Louvre, the Eifel Tower, a late-night cruise on the Seine, and shopping, shopping, shopping.

The second week was more laid back. Our home base was a chateau in the village of Aragon, built in the 16th century but refurbished with modern amenities.

From there we visited small villages, wineries, convents and monasteries, and the sun and skin-filled beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.

As wonderful as summer was, it is so good to welcome you back, and to be among colleagues.

Just as faculty must create fresh syllabi and organize their classes, other areas of the university community also are preparing in their own way for the new school year.

For example, our grounds crews are busy grooming the university landscape.

Food service staff are transitioning into the transformed Jones Dining Center, which includes a new dining room just for faculty and staff.

And, our IT department is upgrading the university’s wireless capabilities to give us faster and more extensive connectivity.


The summer of 2016 was full of surprises, unexpected outcomes and tragedies.

The NFL season got off to a rocky start when the league had to cancel its annual Hall of Fame game because of poor field conditions.

The Rio Olympics -- despite some ominous health hazards that were reported prior to the games – generally ended well for the United States, with our country finishing with 121 medals.

We had two national political conventions, both of which had their share of awkward moments and unpredicted drama, and now an ongoing campaign equally filled with awkward moments and unpredicted drama.

And we saw the resurrection of a 1990s-era video game into a wildly popular mobile app – Pokémon Go – that has invaded nearly every public and non-public space on the planet.

In a minute I will update you on some of the university’s activities of the past year, but first I want to share some thoughts about the series of tragic events over the summer that have been a source of continuing concern.

So much pain and anguish has been caused by this seemingly unending cycle of violent acts in our country and abroad.

I mentioned that we took a family trip to France this summer. On Bastille Day -- July 14 -- we were in the South of France when a horrific attack left 84 people dead in Nice, including the father of one of our students. It was a very unnerving experience to be in France at that time.

These violent incidents, regardless of where they occur, touch our university community. And our response to them should be grounded in who we are as a university community.

Even as people at home and abroad continue to process and reflect on the tragedies of this summer, we realize that we may never fully comprehend exactly what was at the root of these horrific acts. As we seek solutions to bring about peace, I can’t help but think that we all would be better served by a stronger understanding of the issues that create such sharp societal divisions and the rancor that fuels them.

Part of our role here at Texas State is to encourage our students to think critically, not just in the classroom but in the world in which they live. America’s college campuses are places that promote free and open dialogue, that promote freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression.

We should listen to other viewpoints and demonstrate that, although our ideas may be different, we can still have civil, unfettered discourse.

So, this year we will respond in a way that is quintessentially Texas State University: we will conduct open intellectual dialogues about violence, reacting to violence, and antidotes to violence.

At the same time, we are also improving campus safety.

Preparing for this new academic year, we have spent three million dollars to enhance safety and security, including installing 150 new LED lamp posts, adding more police officers, upgrading classroom door locks, and launching an improved RAVE mobile guardian system.

This enhanced system includes monitoring and emergency alert features that will improve the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. The RAVE system enables direct, immediate connection to campus security, provides timely crime-tip reporting, and includes a check-in feature for users’ added safety.

Much of this is a backdrop to the state’s new Campus Carry law that went into effect on August 1.

This new legislation allows licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns into public university buildings, with some exceptions.

I know that this has been a controversial topic, but in our effort to comply with this new law, we assembled a task force, had a very robust phase of gathering input and feedback, and then thoughtfully came up with a policy that we believe maintains safety to the highest degree possible while still adhering to the law.

Over the next year, we will continue to take feedback and review how this policy serves the university.

In fact, we have an online survey on the university’s Campus Carry website and we encourage everyone in our community to let us know what they think and how we might make adjustments to the policy. And then next summer we will undertake a holistic review of our policy and determine if we need to make changes to it.


During the political season that culminated in the two national conventions, higher education took more than one beating. So, I want to share with you some interesting details of a recent report that helps provide important context about higher education in America.

In a study conducted by Gallup, researchers found that there is a solid belief among Americans that our country’s strongest brand abroad is U.S. higher education. Seventy-six percent of Americans believe people in other countries have a positive opinion about U.S. colleges and universities, with 35 percent being very positive.

What is particularly interesting about this survey is that no other American institution came close to higher education. Tied for second were the U.S. economy and the president, each of which 9 percent of Americans characterized as “very positive,” and the U.S. military came in fourth at 8 percent. Again, higher education was viewed as “very positive” by 35 percent.

This speaks very favorably about our country’s academic institutions, and each of you has helped create that positive perception and the actual experience behind the perception. It is a wonderful testament to you – our faculty and staff – that the work you do here has a profound impact on the fortunes of Texas State graduates who go on to become productive citizens and who contribute to the vitality of this state and nation.

If you’ve driven northbound along Interstate 35 in San Marcos in the last few months you may have seen one of our billboards, which includes an image of the university and the words “Dream School.” That is an apt descriptor for the university because prospective students make Texas State their first choice. And we not only bring students in, we also graduate them.

Just two weeks ago we graduated 1,800 students and in the calendar year 2016 we will produce roughly 7,500 graduates. And these graduates are going into the world with the added good fortune of having been a part of a university with a rising research profile.

One of the most important things that happened last year was the university’s being reclassified as an “R2: Doctoral University – Higher Research Activity” in the Carnegie Classification, the gold standard for describing and categorizing higher education in the United States.

This new designation not only reflects growth in our Ph.D. programs, but in our funded research, which grew from $9.8 million in 2005 to nearly $48 million in 10 years.

The grants Texas State received for research in the past year were outstanding.

Consider a few of them:

Five million dollars from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to our Texas School Safety Center to help curb tobacco use among youth.

A 5-year, $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the School of Family and Consumer Sciences to study and promote family and parenting skills.

Three million dollars from the Office of the Governor to our ALERRT center to conduct research about and training of law enforcement officers.

One and a half million dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense to our Physics Department to develop new materials for applications in the private sector and for national security.

One million dollars from NASA to our LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research to conduct research on how to train teachers in the STEM fields.

Nine hundred thousand dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to our Department of Communication Studies to research and address problems associated with substance abuse and HIV and Hepatitis C risk behaviors in young adults.

We received $356,000 from the National Institutes of Health in our Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for molecular research.

One hundred thirty-three thousand dollars in grants from the Ed Rachal Foundation and the Governor’s Office to our Forensic Anthropology Center to help identify the remains of migrants.

One hundred thousand dollars from Google to our Department of Computer Science for eye-tracking technology research.

Ninety-two thousand dollars from King Aerospace to the Department of Computer Information Systems and Quantitative Methods to develop a new information management system for aviation applications.

And $25,000 from the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance to our Department of Physical Therapy to develop strategies to increase physical activity among adults with osteoarthritis.

This kind of externally funded research fueled our re-designation by Carnegie to an R2, which helps the university attract the brightest students and innovative faculty. And, in turn, those students and faculty produce remarkable outcomes.

Consider these accomplishments during the last year:

Texas State graduated nearly 400 students with degrees in the health professions in the spring of 2016, including 112 nurses, 99 percent of whom will get jobs in their chosen fields within six months.

We remain among the country’s largest producers of teachers each year.

Our performing arts programs continue to be stellar, with Dance, Musical Theatre, Opera, and Theatre all achieving top 10 rankings.

Our Department of English ranked in the top 20 out of 498 U.S. universities in the number of graduating master’s students.

The Center for Professional Sales in the McCoy College is one of only 38 in the country that is a member of the University Sales Center Alliance.

Our Liberal Arts faculty sponsored a record number of study abroad programs, which included South America, Europe and Asia.

Our School of Social Work’s online master’s program was named one of the top 10 most affordable in the nation.

We had six of our faculty members become Fulbright Scholars, the most in one year in recent memory.

We had more than a dozen student-led innovation and research teams participate in the inaugural South by Southwest Innovation Lab.

The Peace Corps named Texas State the nation’s 10th highest producer of volunteers from a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

Our student-led sales and entrepreneurial team, Enactus, finished in the top eight out of 500 teams nationally.

Our multidisciplinary Nano T. R. A. program, which investigates social, health, safety and environmental issues associated with nanotechnology, was named one of the top 25 in the country by the National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering Ethics and Society; and

Five of our athletics teams -- Women’s Cross Country, Women’s Golf, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball – scored perfect one-thousands on their latest Academic Progress Rates, or APR, which is the metric the NCAA uses to determine academic achievement among student-athletes in Division 1.

Overall, our athletics teams scored a 973 on the APR, which is 43 points higher than the minimum required by the NCAA for eligibility to play in the post-season.

And as well as our Department of Athletics did academically, our teams also had noteworthy accomplishments in their respective fields of play:

Our Women’s Golf and Men’s Indoor Track and Field teams won conference championships.

Our Softball team was awarded an at-large spot in the NCAA post season tournament.

We had six All-American selections in Track and Field.

And we opened a new practice facility at Plum Creek for our women’s and men’s golf teams.


In addition to our academic and athletic accomplishments over the past year, I am happy to report we reached some new highs in fundraising as well.

In fact, our growth in endowments for scholarships, faculty positions and new programs could be properly characterized as outstanding.

We added about $3.9 million in gifts for 17 new endowed scholarships, an endowed chair, and four new endowed university programs.

We also distributed about $2.7 million in endowed scholarships to more than 800 students.

Another compelling aspect of our fundraising efforts is that in our family campaign this year, we had a 67 percent participation rate – our highest ever. Compare that to 2013, when we had a 44 percent participation rate.

There may be no greater indicator of confidence than when the very people who work at an organization continue to invest in it.

In this vein, I’m pleased to announce that Step Up for State -- our inaugural day of giving -- will begin September 21st and last for 1,899 minutes, or about 32 hours.

This day and one-third will raise funds for a wide range of projects. I know we will see great participation rates.

We also had a number of noteworthy gifts in the past year, including a $3.1 million gift from the St. David’s Foundation to fund two new master’s programs in the St. David’s School of Nursing;

Two and a half million dollars in a planned gift from soon-to-be-named Distinguished Alumnus Ron Mitchell for scholarships;

A $2.1 million gift-in-kind from Ingram Readymix to help build Ingram Hall;

Two million dollars in a planned gift from Bill and Loma Hobson for education scholarships;

A $1.57 million gift-in-kind from Distinguished Alumni Drs. Jerry and Linda Fields to help us purchase a building for our applied anthropology program;

One million dollars in a planned gift from Distinguished Alum Bob Grogan and his wife, Lela, for the Wittliff Collections;

And we also had a gift from two of our newest Heroes, Dan Diepenhorst and his late wife, Cindee, who gave a $1 million gift to support athletic scholarships.

Furthermore, we had our most successful one-day fundraiser at our Lonesome Dove gala in Fort Worth, which netted the university more than $1 million. The proceeds of that event went to the Wittliff Collections to support collection development, such as the acquisition of the papers of Sandra Cisneros, which we announced earlier this year.

Our alumni have been among our most ardent supporters, and I’m also pleased to report that our alumni ranks have swollen significantly. We now have just under 174,000 living alumni across the United States, and our Alumni Association membership has grown 45 percent in just three years.

So what does all this mean?

The main takeaway here is that our alumni, donors, and other supporters of the university are engaged as never before.

It isn’t a coincidence that our research activities have increased substantially, that philanthropic gifts are up significantly, that enrollment continues to climb, that we are adding degree programs in high-demand disciplines, and that Texas State continues to be recognized for our accomplishments.

The point here – and indeed the central theme of this address today – is that we have reaped what we have sown through a very deliberative planning process, and a lot of hard work from every corner of the university.

Planning is key for us because our growing programs and shrinking space are inextricably linked.

By the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s own reckoning, Texas State has a space deficiency of about 1.4 million square feet, which is the size of both San Marcos outlet malls combined. Because space is at a premium for the university, Texas State’s construction program must be thoughtful and deliberative.

We also know Texas continues to grow rapidly, and that a very large sector of that growth is represented by poor families. That means there will be a greater influx of poorer students into higher education.

Because there are seven other public schools in Texas that are Emerging Research Universities aspiring to become top-tier institutions, we are competing for the best and brightest students and faculty, many of whom are being courted by universities with greater resources to offer scholarships or endowed chairs and professorships.

And we must address these challenges at a time when state funding to public universities in Texas and across the country continues to diminish.

In fact, 45 of the 50 states have experienced a drop in per-pupil funding from state sources since 2008.

Since that year, state funding on a per-full-time-student basis in Texas has decreased 19 percent.

So how do we maximize our efforts to ensure we are efficient and forward-thinking in this climate of decreasing state funding and increasing numbers of poor students?

We are in a unique position this year as we are simultaneously planning for our future in three different ways: we are working on a strategic plan, the centerpiece of which is our academic plan; updating our campus master plan – the plan for our built campuses; and preparing for our next major capital campaign.

Syncing these planning processes allows us to have a more integrated approach to how we achieve our goals.

Our strategic plan first addresses our academic programming needs over the next six years and then we ask the other divisions to determine how they will proceed in light of academic and other goals. Since the master plan is our 10-year roadmap for facilities and infrastructure, one can easily see how beneficial it is to be formulating these two plans at the same time.

Additionally, we are in the very early planning stage for our next capital campaign, the goals of which will be based on needs expressed in our strategic and master plans. So, these three simultaneous planning processes allow us to be more efficient and keep us sharply focused on carrying out the mission of the university.

In fact, we can point to several projects right over the horizon that came about through very careful planning.

We are constructing two new buildings that will help us add students and degree programs in areas that are crucial to Texas’ workforce: engineering, science, and the health professions. The engineering and science building -- Ingram Hall -- is being built along Comanche Road, and the new Health Professions Building is being constructed on our Round Rock Campus. Both will be completed in 2018.

The new Health Professions Building will allow us to relocate our communication disorders, physical therapy, and respiratory care programs to the Round Rock Campus and expand enrollment in those units by 33 percent. It also puts us a step closer to locating all of our College of Health Professions programs in Round Rock.

Similarly, Ingram Hall will allow us to expand engineering programs, increase research opportunities in biology, enhance student success programming, and respond to classroom needs for mathematics.

We have completed our second expansion in less than four years at the highly successful STAR Park, where we expect to add more tech clients and continue to bring exciting opportunities to our students and faculty.

The companies operating at this research and commercialization park have invested $1.2 million in research with Texas State over the past two years and have raised more than $27 million through equity investments and strategic alliances.

Beyond STAR Park, we have plans to update some of our major core facilities, such as Alkek Library, the LBJ Student Center and Strahan Coliseum, so that we can create better learning, meeting, and event spaces for our students and visitors.

Our updated library will include specialized spaces to support our students, and those improvements include a variety of applications, such as geographic information systems, virtual and augmented reality, 3D visualization and printing, video editing, and gaming.

To make space for all these special areas and to create more space for our special collections at the Wittliff, we are building a 20,000-square-foot Archives and Research Center at STAR Park to be completed next summer. This repository will allow us to move many books and other resource materials that rarely get checked out.

And our academic planning also has been carefully thought out so that we are creating greater opportunities for our students to prepare for all the challenges of the 21st century.

This fall we launch two new degree programs: a bachelor’s degree in digital media innovation and mass communication, and a masters in sustainability studies. We also have plans to add a Ph.D. in computer science to start in 2017, and one in applied anthropology to start in 2018.

And, as I indicated earlier, we have on the horizon two master’s degrees in nursing, one in nursing health care leadership starting in 2017; and the other in family psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner to begin in 2018.

Additionally, we plan to launch a master’s degree in respiratory care, which will start in 2017; and bachelor’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering and civil and environmental engineering technology, both to start in 2019.

So as you can see, we believe we are moving methodically to create and enhance opportunities that give our students access to careers that will make them an important part of Texas’ future.


As I said earlier, we have over 170,000 living alumni who are making their mark every day. And just to let you know how far flung the Texas State net extends, let me share a personal experience with you.

During our family trip to France this summer, we were on a train platform in Toulouse with our luggage, including my prominently emblazoned Texas State carry-on, when a young man approached me.

In American English he told me that I looked familiar and asked if I worked at Texas State.

When I said I did, he asked if I was the president.

Here I was meeting an alum of Texas State on a train platform in France.

Now you may think that this chance meeting was unusual. But as I begin my fifteenth year as your president, I can tell you that’s not the case.

Many of you have heard me talk about meeting the father of an alum in a bistro in Reims, France; and sitting in an aisle seat on an airplane leaving Washington, D.C., when the mother of an alum walks by and says her son is a Bobcat.

I have met alums at the airport in the Bahamas and on a private beach in south Florida.

I swear, Texas State alumni are everywhere.

They are everywhere and they are successful because of you -- the wonderful people that make up Texas State.

There is no question in my mind that we have the faculty and staff in place to ensure the continued success of our students.

We have a wonderful community of inspiring people who everyday make our university better.

And I am infinitely pleased that we are working together to improve it even more.

Thank you for everything that you do to make Texas State the special place that it is.

Have a great year!

Thank you.