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Fall Convocation 2019

Celebrating Discovery, Diversity and Distinction 
President Denise M. Trauth
Strahan Arena in the University Events Center
August 20, 2019
9 a.m.

Good morning! Before I begin, we must pause to mourn the deaths of those who died in the El Paso massacre on August 3rd. As we recoil against the hate that fueled these murders, and process our outrage and sadness, let us recommit to our community here at Texas State. Let us pledge to do everything we can to manifest love and respect for each other.

We must also mourn two Texas State Heroes and dear friends: Dr. Bruce Ingram, who died last Christmas, and Dr. Bill Wittliff, who died in June. For more than 30 years, Dr. Bruce Ingram and his wife Dr. Gloria Ingram made significant investments in Texas State through their generous support of scholarships, endowments, and construction. Dr. Bill Wittliff and his wife, Dr. Sally Wittliff, founded The Wittliff Collections at Texas State in 1986 to celebrate and archive the creative spirit of Texas and the Southwest. 

Now, I’d like us to observe a moment of silence in honor of the people of El Paso who died, our two Texas State Heroes, and all in the extended Texas State community who died during the past year.              

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At the start of each academic year, we gather to reflect on the past year and look forward to what’s ahead. But before we do, I’d like to honor our truly exceptional faculty and staff. You have inspired our students, served as compassionate mentors, and conducted groundbreaking research.    

Each year, The Texas State University System Board of Regents honors professors who have achieved excellence in teaching and research, while demonstrating an unwavering dedication to their students, university, and community. This year, Texas State is proud to have another of our faculty members named a Regents’ Professor: The late Lawrence Estaville, professor in the Department of Geography. His wife Sandra Estaville is here to accept the award on his behalf.

This morning, we also are recognizing two University Distinguished 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: William Brittain, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Roseann Mandziuk, professor in the Department of Communication Studies.

For their years of outstanding teaching, research, and service at Texas State, eight retired faculty members have been named Distinguished Professors Emeriti, and we recognize them today. Our honorees here with us are: Stan Carpenter, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology; David Caverly, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Curriculum and Instruction; Frederick Day, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography; Robert Gorman, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science; and Donald Olson, Regents’ Professor and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics. Several Distinguished Professors Emeriti could not be with us today. They are: David Butler, Regents’ Professor and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography; Michael Hennessy, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English; and Linda Homeyer, Distinguished Professor Emerita 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 2019 honoree, who could not be with us today, is being recognized for his superlative scholarship and contributions to his discipline. The next Presidential Seminar will be presented by Oleg Komogortsev, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. 

We are honoring two faculty members with Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative 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. Join me in congratulating: Oleg Komogortsev, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, who as I said could not be with us today; and Michael Ippolito, assistant professor in the School of Music. 

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: Celeste Domsch, associate professor in the Department of Communication Disorders; Kaysie Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance; and Rachel Romero, senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology.

We also 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: Rebekah Fox, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies; and Krista Thomas, senior lecturer in the Department of Health and Human Performance.

Cindy Williams, 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 a senior lecturer in the Honors College who demonstrates passion and innovation in the classroom. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Ronny Haas. 

Our Faculty Senate chooses from among its colleagues recipients of the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Awards. I would like Janet Bezner, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, to come forward to present with me this year’s 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. These awards are named for a beloved deceased faculty member and longtime chair of the Faculty Senate. With great pleasure, we present these Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Awards to: Ann Burnette, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies; Rodney Rohde, professor and chair in the Clinical Laboratory Science Program; and Cindy Royal, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Today we also honor faculty and staff members for dedication to the pursuit of inclusion and diversity. Recipients of the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award are: Russell Moses, lecturer in the Department of Philosophy; and Michelle Sotolongo, student development specialist in the Honors College. 

We now want to introduce this year’s winners of the Mariel 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: Gloria Martinez, professor in the Department of Sociology; and Carol Dochen, director of the Student Learning Assistance Center. 

And now, let us honor the 2019 Employee of the Year. She was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Join me in congratulating Danielle McEwen, administrative assistant in the Department of Psychology. Let’s give all of these outstanding faculty and staff members one more round of applause.

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One of the highlights of my summer was leading a delegation from Texas State to Hong Kong and Tokyo. During these visits, we held alumni receptions, connected with industrial partners, and strengthened relationships in a very important part of the world. Our alumni reception in Tokyo was a wonder to behold: part reunion of alums who hadn’t seen each other recently; part enormous gratitude because Texas State came to them; and part pride as they traded stories about their successes upon leaving our university. This alumni reception demonstrated how far flung is the influence of Texas State and how successful we are at providing a great education for all of our students.  

So let me elaborate, because I want to begin my talk today by stressing the more than 38,000 reasons we are gathered. Of course, I am referring to our students – all of whom come to us with their own stories, dreams, ambitions, and talents. Our students thrive because of you. Thank you all for being a part of their Texas State journeys, whether they grew up in Texas or in Tokyo.

Let me share a few of the wonderful achievements of our students from the past year. A nutrition student won an Outstanding Graduate Research Award from the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior for collaborating on a federally-funded project to incorporate new technology into a program that provides food to low-income mothers. A health administration junior placed in the top three in the 2019 American College of Healthcare Executives essay competition for his work on the Integration of Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare Human Resource Management. Students studying abroad from the College of Education are working with nonprofits in the Dominican Republic to bring English language and literacy to adolescent youth living and working in the streets. A student organization in the McCoy College was selected by Microsoft as one of four U.S. university teams to participate in a Community Impact Pitch-Off competition. These students pitched a mobile app a local food bank could use to efficiently distribute food to more people. Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s most selective multidisciplinary collegiate honor society, awarded seven of our students studying liberal arts, science and engineering, and education the Love of Learning Award in 2018. This brought the total number of 2018 awardees from Texas State to eleven—the most of any university in the nation. A student in our inaugural class in the Ph.D. program in Applied Anthropology won Best Doctoral Paper at the annual International Research Conference for Graduate Students for her research on the use of bone microstructure to differentiate human from nonhuman mammals. This summer, a music education major won the tenor saxophone position with the World Youth Orchestra Project in Austria as part of one of Europe’s largest music festivals for wind and brass instruments.

I am continually impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of our students. For example, the Materials Science, Engineering, and Commercialization doctoral program combines STEM research and training with entrepreneurship to help students create groundbreaking, commercially viable products. Since 2014, the MSEC program has helped launch five interdisciplinary student-led companies, which include MBA students from the McCoy College of Business Administration, and MFA students from the College of Fine Arts and Communication. 

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I’m also very proud of our student-athletes. Athletics celebrated several Sun Belt Conference championships during the last year: the women’s regular season soccer championship; the volleyball regular season championship and Sun Belt tournament championship; the women’s indoor track and field championship; the men’s outdoor track and field championship; and the baseball regular season championship. These victories culminated in Texas State’s winning the Sun Belt Conference All-Sports Trophy, the Vic Bubas Cup, for the first time. And, in the most recent release by the NCAA of Division One Academic Progress Rate data, five of our 16 athletics teams achieved a perfect Academic Progress Rate: men’s golf, women’s golf, soccer, tennis, and softball. Their scores place them far above the national average within NCAA Division One. Two of those five teams -- women’s golf and tennis -- received Public Recognition Awards from the NCAA after they posted perfect multi-year APR scores. The tennis team has had a perfect APR for the past 14 years!

As you can see, last year was great for our students and for the faculty and staff who support them. We formed the Office of Sustainability to centralize and give visibility to the university’s existing efforts. In one of the notable sustainability achievements of last year, we planted more than 185 trees on our campuses. We also completed several major construction projects in San Marcos. We dedicated the Grady Early Building in October to serve as the new home for the Forensic Anthropology Center and the Grady Early Forensic Anthropology Laboratory. In October, we also rededicated the University Events Center and Strahan Arena after a major expansion, including the addition of 1,800 seats. In November, we dedicated Bruce and Gloria Ingram Hall, our newest engineering and science building, the largest and most ambitious academic building project in Texas State history. In the spring, we opened the Student Health Center on Thorpe Lane to expand students’ access to primary care and sports medicine, bringing our total number of university health center locations to three. In the spring, we also completed the remodeling of Encino Hall, and last month we completed renovations at Blanco Hall. And finally, the new Alumni and Future Student Welcome Center inside the LBJ Student Center celebrated its opening 10 days ago. On our Round Rock Campus, last year we opened Willow Hall, our newest health professions building. In November, we renovated the IT space in Avery Building, including the addition of a walk-up center where classroom technicians are housed. We also added food service options on the Round Rock Campus. And, the office suite formerly occupied by the Small Business Development Center in Avery Building has been remodeled to be the new home of the Student Affairs Division at Round Rock. 

These improvements demonstrate our commitment to helping our students, faculty, and staff achieve their highest potential. That commitment has garnered national accolades for our university. Earlier this month, the Princeton Review named Texas State one of the nation's best institutions for undergraduates – an honor given to only 13% of the nation’s four-year institutions. This is what the editor-in-chief of the Princeton Review said about us: “We salute Texas State for its outstanding academics and we are truly pleased to recommend it to prospective applicants searching for their personal ‘best-fit’ college.” In the spring, Forbes listed Texas State among “America's Best Midsize Employers” for 2019. That was the fourth time we topped a Forbes “Best Of” list in the past two years, having also been named on “America’s Best Employers” in 2017, “Best Employers for Women” in 2018, and “Best Employers for Diversity” in 2019.

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On any given day, faculty at Texas State are working to find solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, armed with the support of major federal, state, and private sponsors, and fueled by interdisciplinary collaboration. In the past year, Texas State received research and instructional awards that totaled more than $42 million. You – our faculty and staff – have leveraged your expertise and creativity to uncover game-changing new knowledge in your fields. In the process, you have elevated Texas State’s reputation for excellence, and research with relevance.

It’s no exaggeration to say, Texas State research has the power to save lives. Our Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center continues to serve as the national standard in active shooter training and response for law enforcement, EMS, and civilians. In addition, the National Institutes of Health funded our research exploring a potential treatment for a deadly form of brain cancer. 

Our research also brings critical health and social services to people in need. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded a project to share mental health resources with farmers in remote locations to reduce alarmingly high suicide rates among farmers. And, the state awarded our faculty a grant to use technology to better connect low-income mothers to nutrition programs and social services available to them and their children. This summer, our Department of Communication Disorders received a grant from the Parkinson Voice Project to help people with Parkinson’s disease receive quality speech treatment through our Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Round Rock Campus. The department also received funds from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to explore speech therapy methods that best serve bilingual children.

Your research also helps prepare humanity for an uncertain future. The Office of Naval Research funded a Texas State study to examine materials that could be used to develop innovative new power supplies. And, the U.S. Department of Agriculture renewed funding for our program that grows hydroponic crops in soil-free shipping containers powered by renewable energy. Toyota awarded a grant to researchers from our McCoy College of Business Administration, in partnership with the Ingram School of Engineering, to develop a computer simulation program that connects workers to smart material handling systems. 

Your expertise has the power to revolutionize our nation’s schools and classroom instruction. Our Texas School Safety Center is the statutorily designated research center for all of Texas that conducts research and provides training and technical assistance to create safe, secure, and healthy school environments. The National Science Foundation awarded Texas State grants to design a teaching tool that improves learning outcomes in math classes, and to study effective ways to teach proof-based math courses. And, we received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to explore teaching methods that help special education teachers improve student learning outcomes. In addition, our School of Journalism and Mass Communication received continued funding from the Knight Foundation to teach data analytics, digital strategy, and emerging technologies in its PhDigital Bootcamp. 

Our faculty research has the power to unlock the hidden mechanics and building blocks of life itself. The Welch Foundation funded research to synthesize an exotic form of carbon that could open new frontiers in fundamental chemistry. The National Science Foundation awarded us a grant to explore how plant genomes evolve in changing-environments. In our Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center, species and hybrids of fish are used as a model system for cancer research and studying evolutionary genetics of hybridisation. 

Your research helps society better conserve and understand our environment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has repeatedly engaged with Texas State to provide archaeological surveys, cultural resources support, and clean water initiatives at military bases nationwide. The National Science Foundation awarded Texas State a grant to lead an archaeological project in Peru, exploring the cyclic rise and fall of complex societies. 

Your research and creative activities are contributing to our movement toward access to the Texas National Research University Fund, or NRUF. Over the past year, two of our faculty members received prestigious awards that help us achieve the high quality faculty metric: an American Council of the Learned Societies Fellow in the Department of Modern Languages, and a Guggenheim Fellow in the Department of English. 

All of these awards and grants I have enumerated are spectacular achievements. There are many more -- too many to discuss this morning. I hope this litany conveys to you that Texas State research and creative expression matter, and our community is truly making a difference. 

So, now let’s go back to our students. How exciting to be a new Texas State freshman starting classes next week! Last Saturday and Sunday they moved into our residence halls. As I walked about the crowds of students and parents, I saw excitement and perhaps a little apprehension. But I assured all that we would take good care of these first-year students.

This is the largest freshman class in university history, which as of yesterday is 6,375 Bobcats strong. This marks our seventh straight record-breaking freshman class. 

Let’s consider what we know about our student body. At Texas State University, we are Texas, and we are diverse. What does that mean? Well, the majority of our students are from Texas, and most of them stay and work in Texas after graduation. In turn, we are strategic in shaping our academic programs to meet the employment needs of our state, while also preparing our students for a global workforce. 

Consider our network of support services ready to serve our new freshmen. Through our PACE Center, our incoming first year students will benefit from no fewer than five dedicated staff and faculty members positioned to help them succeed: an academic advisor, a peer mentor, an academic coach, a career counselor, and a University Seminar faculty member. This support network bolsters our strong retention and graduation rates and is yet another reason our incoming freshmen should be excited and confident as they begin their college experience. 

As the need for financial aid is increasing among high school students statewide, scholarships are critical. During the 2018-19 year, Texas State awarded over $370 million in financial aid to our students. Our fundraising efforts have helped to bring a quality education within reach of many students. Since 2015, we have raised over $131 million, including over $60 million in scholarships

We know that Texas State is an increasingly popular destination for a diverse student body. Why is this so important -- and what does it tell us about our institution’s responsibilities? Education is the great equalizer, and every student deserves the opportunity to learn and contribute to the fullest extent possible. Even beyond the clear and inherent moral duty we have to foster a diverse and inclusive environment, there are educational and cultural advantages. Inclusion and diversity contribute to institutional excellence. Our inclusion and diversity make us more effective as an academic institution, maximizing opportunities for learning and inquiry, and enriching our culture as we prepare our students for global citizenship in a diverse and interconnected society. 

Last year, Hispanic students represented nearly 50% of Texas public high school graduates, and population growth among Hispanics in Texas is expected to climb. As a Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, Texas State is uniquely positioned to serve this growing population with federally funded, high quality student support programs that boost student success. We will share more about how our students benefit from our HSI designation in the internal newsletter, TXST Connections, and the new Inclusion and Diversity website early this fall.

With a presidential election year fast approaching and campaign rhetoric heating up nationwide, I’m continuously reminded of the morning after the 2016 presidential election on the San Marcos Campus, when we discovered that white supremacist flyers had been posted. According to a June 2019 report from the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists have increased the distribution of hateful propaganda on college campuses nationwide, with 313 incidents of propaganda in the 2018-19 academic year, up from 292 the previous year. Clearly, these incidents are taking place in the context of growing racial and political tensions in our nation. 

As the President of this great university, I want to be very clear about where I stand on the issue of hate, bigotry, and intolerance. I cannot reiterate forcefully enough that I denounce white supremacy and affirm there is no place for bigotry at Texas State. As president, I will do everything in my power to ensure that we reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or political beliefs. Acts of discrimination only make me more determined to engage the entire community in efforts to stand against hatred and intolerance, to promote the unity of our whole community. 

Last summer, we hired a new Chief Diversity Officer who leads the Council on Inclusive Excellence, a working group of students, faculty, and staff. The council analyzed the results from the 2017 Campus Climate survey to develop evidence-based initiatives to strengthen our diversity and inclusion efforts. The Council also conducted a thorough analysis of the 2017 through 2023 Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. With the 2017 through 2023 University Plan mid-cycle review fast approaching, the Council’s recommendations will be used to update the Diversity and Inclusion Plan. That strategic plan focuses on long-term goals that will take time to achieve. 

However, we knew we needed to do more to evaluate our inclusivity. Especially in today’s challenging climate, we needed to assess our capacity to take immediate and effective action. So in January, our Chief Diversity Officer and the President’s Cabinet began developing a Capacity Building Action Plan that now serves as our road map. While our long-term strategic plan is our destination, the Action Plan is what we are doing now to get there. 

I’d like to share a few examples of initiatives in the Inclusion Action Plan. We are partnering with the Anti-Defamation League’s Austin office to provide training and interactive workshops for faculty and staff, starting with the President’s Cabinet and Deans. The ADL’s anti-bias training will explore the impact of stereotypes and discrimination, and practical steps we can take to foster a more inclusive learning environment. Later this fall, we will launch a Bias Response Protocol, which establishes a way for students, faculty, and staff to report non-criminal conduct perceived to be motivated by prejudice or bigotry. Reports generated by the Bias Response Protocol will help us better understand the challenges we face as a community. To maintain transparent and frequent communication about inclusion initiatives, we launched a new Inclusion and Diversity website. The website serves as a central clearinghouse for updates on inclusion initiatives, strategic plan documents, and resources for students, faculty, and staff. Last year, we augmented the Provost’s Office with the goal of ensuring that we have diverse pools of candidates for faculty positions. To assist in securing a diverse pool of applicants for staff positions, Human Resources has hired a new, full-time Recruiter, and a Talent Acquisition Partner. We have upgraded the immigration attorney position from half-time to full-time to help students with questions about immigration. We are expanding professional development opportunities and creating a new inclusion skills certificate program for faculty and staff. We will also work to continue to increase participation in the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation and Research Institute, an annual university event that helps faculty adopt a global perspective and culturally responsive communication. Protecting the Constitutional rights of our university community is of paramount importance. Free expression is a cornerstone of the academic experience, and engaging in peaceful protests can be a productive way to advocate for issues that are important to our community. That’s why we are developing several new resources to launch early this fall: a UPPS for Demonstrations on University Property, including a document containing University Rules for Student Demonstrations and Protests, and a Free Speech website with frequently asked questions about what the First Amendment does and does not protect. 

Now I’d like to turn to other actions we are taking to enhance the student experience. In early 2020, the expansion of the LBJ Student Center is due to be completed. The 51,000 square foot center will include a new main entry lobby, an additional ballroom, and new conference and meeting rooms. We are also adding new spaces for students to study and gather, including a Unity Lounge, complete with a computer lab. We hope the Unity Lounge will be a special place that makes all our students feel welcome and at home in the heart of our bustling San Marcos Campus. We also expect the Albert B. Alkek Library renovations to be complete in early 2020, including the addition of a Learning Commons, and a Starbucks coffee house. The expansion of The Wittliff Collections is expected to be complete in January, including three new galleries. The transformation of Elliott Hall from a residence hall to an office and classroom building is scheduled to be completed by the spring. Ongoing construction of a new Campus Recreation Sports Fields Complex in San Marcos is also expected to be completed in the spring. 

This semester, we begin offering recreational services on our Round Rock Campus. A new multipurpose recreation field is under construction next to Willow Hall, scheduled to open later this fall. We will offer intramural sports leagues and activities on the new recreation field, which will be secure and lit for nighttime use. In September, we will begin construction on a new full-service Recreation Center in the Avery Building, scheduled to open in spring 2020, including a new multipurpose room for group exercise classes and personal training. 

As our campuses grow and evolve, so must our University Police Department. This year, we welcomed a new Chief of Police whose vision for UPD is centered on community-oriented policing. Over the next several years, she will lead the department towards dual accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Pursuing these accreditations reflects UPD’s commitment to meeting the highest standards in campus public safety.

The safer our students, faculty, and staff feel, the more productive our learning environment will be. To that end, we convened a Safety and Security Task Force this summer with a two-fold mission – enact initiatives to enhance campus safety, and inform our community of safety measures and programs available. We are launching the TXST SAFE campaign to draw attention to safety information. 

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Following tumultuous Student Government impeachment proceedings in the spring of 2018, the Dean of Students formed a task force of students, faculty, and staff to undertake a systematic review of Student Government and its governing documents. The task force has completed its review, and during the upcoming academic year, Student Government will call for a vote on the new Constitution. 

To meet the academic needs of our students, we are launching nine new programs this fall, including a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, which will be the first of its kind in the state with an emphasis on smart infrastructure technology. We are also launching a bachelor’s in health sciences, and a bachelor’s in public health. Our new graduate degree programs include a master’s in data analytics and information systems, a master’s in marketing research and analysis, and a master’s in public health education and promotion. The minor in African American Studies also launches this semester, as well as an undergraduate minor in public health, and a graduate minor in public health education and promotion.

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We welcomed a new head football coach in November, and it generated a lot of excitement in the Bobcat family. Earlier this year, we convened a task force to make recommendations on ways to improve the overall game day experience for fans. The task force recommended significant changes to tailgating, new fan participation opportunities, and enhanced marketing campaigns. I hope to see you at Bobcat Stadium this season to cheer on the football team, and enjoy some of these new fan experiences. I also encourage you to come out to show your support for our soccer team and our volleyball team this fall.

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After more than two years of research, we announced in May that Canvas had been chosen as the university’s new learning management system. Canvas will replace TRACS and better equip us to deliver modern, technology-driven instruction. I’d like to thank the hundreds of students, faculty, and staff that tested the system and provided feedback.

As I referred to earlier, this year -- the midpoint in the six-year University Plan -- we pause to evaluate our current initiatives and incorporate new ones that support our mission as a doctoral-granting, student-centered institution dedicated to excellence and innovation in teaching, research, creative expression, and public service. Part of this mid-cycle review requires that colleges and divisions revisit their plans to determine changes and highlight priorities. This fall, I invite you to participate in this formal mid-cycle review. The on-site reaffirmation committee for SACSCOC will be on our San Marcos and Round Rock Campuses in March of 2021. The compliance narratives and attendant documentation are due in September 2020. 

Expanding undergraduate research is a priority, and that’s reflected in our ongoing SACSCOC reaffirmation work. At Texas State, we don’t see a dichotomy between teaching and research. We benefit from our legacy and foundational love of teaching. We know in a visceral way how research and teaching complement each other. The Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, developed in conjunction with our compliance report, includes goals aimed at expanding and improving undergraduate research.

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Our students, faculty, and staff on the Round Rock Campus are an integral part of the Bobcat community. As we update the University Plan, strategic planning for the Round Rock Campus will be an important part of the process. 

Our vision for Round Rock is to continue to offer quality academic programs that meet the workforce needs of Texas, and to serve as a hub of health professions research and education. To strengthen our capacity to support that vision, we are updating the campus’s leadership structure. This summer, we established a Round Rock Executive Leadership Team that represents each of the university’s divisions to facilitate communication, planning, and decision-making. I will deliver a “Welcome Back” address there on September 4th.  And then, each Vice President will host an open forum in Round Rock in early fall to share updates, gather feedback, and answer questions. 

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So far this morning I’ve shared with you who we ARE at Texas State. Now I’d like to consider, who we are becoming. 

As you know, the big overarching goal of Texas State is to become a national research university and thus eligible for the Texas-funded National Research University Fund. I regularly am asked, why it is important for us to become a research university? There are many reasons why we are on this path. The most obvious is that in 2009, the Texas Legislature realized that Texas needed more research universities. It then established two funds to support universities that were evolving from an emerging research university to a National Research University. These funds are the Texas Research Incentive Program, or TRIP, and the National Research University Fund, or NRUF. 

A reason that’s not so apparent is this: Every young person in Texas has a right to aspire to go to a great university. We know based on research done on those who apply to and then enroll at Texas State that our students want to attend a research university. So that is the path Texas State is laying out for the future -- to become a great research university, full of diverse students. There are certain metrics we must meet before we can access NRUF. Let me tell you about four of them.

Number One: In the metric that measures high quality graduate education, we consistently exceed the required five- and ten-year graduation rates for master’s and doctoral degrees. 

Number Two: A goal in our NRUF plan is to receive an invitation to join the Association of Research Libraries, or ARL. Over the past year, Alkek Library was accepted into two prestigious library associations, the Hathi Trust and the Greater Western Library Alliance, which are stepping stones to membership in the ARL. Last month, we initiated the application process by submitting our letter of interest.

Number Three: We have about $212 million in our endowments, putting us more than half-way to our goal of $400 million. Texas State has received almost $13.1 million in matching TRIP funds since our designation as an ERU, and we have $16.8 million in the queue.

Number Four: In fiscal year 2018, we reached a record high $35.6 million in restricted research expenditures. Our goal is $45 million. Since many of our grants are federally funded, the government shutdown from December through January negatively impacted our research activity. In spite of that challenge, we are still on track to have the second highest level of restricted research expenditures on record. In addition, we are tracking toward exceeding the total R&D expenditures for fiscal 2018, which is an important benchmark for Tier 1 ranking.

These metrics demonstrate our progress toward becoming a National Research University with the attendant NRUF-eligibility. 

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Securing philanthropic support to strengthen our existing world-class programs, and to launch new ones, is critical in helping us move the needle. With this in mind, we embarked on a project to identify Texas State’s Big Ideas. Big Ideas are concepts inspired by the university’s existing centers of excellence that can energize alumni and donors to invest in high impact projects. Last year we solicited visionary ideas from faculty and staff that align with areas of impact where research at Texas State addresses issues of great social and economic importance. These Big Ideas are specific strategies within larger research priority areas at Texas State and include: translating academic research to improve health care; advancing sensor technology to improve data extraction methods; using augmented and virtual reality technologies to revolutionize law enforcement training; engaging students, faculty, and the community to create, innovate, and develop an entrepreneurial mindset; and harnessing big data to address complex societal problems. I’d like to thank all our faculty and staff who contributed to this Big Ideas endeavor. 

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Our Common Experience theme last year was Innovation, and although we are embracing a new theme this year, innovation is still engrained in the Texas State culture. It fuels our research, inspires our art, and energizes our pursuit for truth. It’s fitting that this year we transition from the theme of Innovation, to the theme of Truth. We live in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern the truth. Social media accelerates the spread of falsehoods at unprecedented speed. There is a real need to equip our students to recognize the swirling inaccuracies and distortions for what they are. 

We are moving into a presidential election year – when seeking truth is all the more critical. We must search for productive, respectful ways to engage in the discourse of truth, and establish common ground. Telling the truth does matter. We owe it to our students and to each other. We must use truth as a lens in the academic inquiry process. It applies to all the questions we ask, in every field and discipline, in our classrooms, research labs, and dialogue sessions. 

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I personally count it among the greatest privileges of my life to embark on this exploration of truth with you, here at Texas State. I appreciate all that you do every day to make this community truly special. Thank you for joining me this morning and have a great academic year.