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'Pride in Our Past and Future' - Fall 2010 Convocation

President Denise Trauth
August 24, 2010 

Good morning. And welcome to Texas State University’s 108 th fall semester!
 
I hope you have had a good summer. The summer of 2010 has been good for many.
 
It was good for Spain – they won the World Cup.
 
It was good for the Miami Heat – they got LeBron James.
 
It was good for Ringo Starr – he turned 70. (Well, consider the alternative!)
 
And it was good for Texas State:
 
We broke ground on the Undergraduate Academic Center.
 
We put the finishing touches on the Nursing Building in Round Rock.
 
We bought a scanning electron microscope, an invaluable tool for our nano research.
 
We got our own iPhone app.
 
And we hosted the cameras and actors of “Friday Night Lights” while pretending to be Burleson University.
 
On a personal level, it was a good summer for John and me. One of our highlights was a trip to Las Vegas that included, among other things, attending a Cher concert. Some of you know that Cher and I have the same birth day.  However, Cher is one year older than I am, and Cher will always be one year older than I am. So I delighted in seeing this older woman arrive on the stage via a large basket that seemed to materialize out of the vaulted ceiling, go through 17 costume and wig changes that included her typically outrageous attire, and sing “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
 
It was a good summer, but is going to be an even better fall.
 
We begin this new year by showing our pride in some of those among us who have honored us with their outstanding teaching, research, service, mentoring and dedication to diversity.
 
Donna Hill from the board member of the Alumni Association will help make our first presentation. Each year the Alumni Association recognizes an outstanding teacher with its Teaching Award of Honor. Today’s honoree is a professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education. She has obviously left a lasting impression on her former students. On behalf of our alumni, we present this Teaching Award of Honor to Barbara Davis.
 
Each year we present presidential awards for outstanding teaching, for outstanding research and creative activities and for outstanding service. This year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching go to two individuals who are passionate about teaching. Please join me in honoring Kathleen Peirce, professor of English, and Gwendolyn Hustvedt, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences.
 
We also are honoring two faculty members this morning for their scholarly activities. Both have made significant contributions to their disciplines and to society in general, as well as to their students’ classroom experience. They exemplify our commitment to research, scholarship and creative activity as part of the teaching and learning experience. We are pleased to award the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities to Michael Forstner, professor of biology, and Soon Jae Lee, assistant professor of engineering technology.
 
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 are examples of our commitment to public service as a responsibility to our university, our professional fields and our community. Please join me as we honor Linda Homeyer, professor of counseling, leadership, adult education and school psychology, and David Nolan, senior lecturer of journalism and mass communication.
 
Each year, we recognize one faculty member with the Presidential Seminar Award. Recipients then share their research or creative activity with their peers. The 2010-11 Presidential Seminar will be presented by the Fields Professor of Urban and Regional Economics, James LeSage.
 
Each year our Faculty Senate chooses two or three colleagues to receive the Everette Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Awards. I would like Debra Feakes, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to come forward to assist in presenting these awards.
 
Recipients of the Everette Swinney Awards 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. With great pleasure, we present these awards to Patricia Shields, professor of political science, and Don Olson, professor of physics, could not be here.
 
The Faculty Senate named three Everette Swinney Award winners this year, and the third winner was also designated a Piper Professor last spring. He is one of four Regents Professors on campus and the first Piper designee from the College of Science. He founded and continues to direct the award-winning Mathworks program. Students who take his classes never forget him. I am delighted to present our 18 th faculty member to be named a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor – Max Warshauer, professor of mathematics.
 
New to our annual recognitions are our University Distinguished Professors. This new designation honors individuals at the rank of tenured professor whose performance in teaching, research and service has been exemplary and recognized at the state, national and international levels. Please help me congratulate
 
John Baccus from Biology, David Butler from Geography, Steven Furney from Health and Human Performance, Sharon Ugalde from Modern Languages, and Lee Williams from Communication Studies.
 
For their years of outstanding teaching and creative work at Texas State, five retired faculty have been named Distinguished Professors Emeriti, and we recognize them today. Honorees who are with us today are:
 
Byron Augustin, Distinguished Professor of Geography Emeritus; Francis Rose, Distinguished Professor of Biology Emeritus; Eric Weller, Distinguished Professor of Art and Design Emeritus; and Ryce Neal Wilson, Distinguished Professor of Art and Design Emeritus.
 
Our fifth honoree, Gregory Andrews, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, could not be here today.
 
Also new this year are one faculty and one staff member to be recognized annually for their dedication to the pursuit and the celebration of diversity. Recipients of the Excellence in Diversity Award are Jaime Chahin, dean of the College of Applied Arts, and Katherine Selber, professor of social work.
 
We want to include in our introductions this morning the 2010 Employee of the Year. She was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate Margaret Vaverek.
 
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 Jesse Silva, student development specialist in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Ken Margerison, professor of history.
* * *
We are proud of these honorees, and I hope all of you are proud to be part of this incredible university.
 
If you were here last academic year, you will agree with me that it was quite eventful. We hosted a billionaire, a game show host, a knight and an Emmy Award-winning actor, and we found ourselves mentioned in Jay Leno’s monolog and the New York Times crossword puzzle. The billionaire was T. Boone Pickens speaking at the December commencement when his grandson graduated. He told the graduates that he would trade everything he has to be sitting where they were. The actor was Powers Boothe, member of the Class of 1970, who took a trip down Memory Lane at the May commencement. The knight was Sir Ken Robinson giving one of the main Common Experience lectures, telling us about the myths of creativity and that we all have it. The game show host was Alex Trebec, host of Jeopardy, giving the Gil Grosvenor Lecture. Jay Leno’s monolog mentioned the exercise machines in our Student Recreation Center that generate electricity. And the clue for the New York Times crossword was nine-down: ‘Texas State athlete,’ with the six-letter answer, Bobcat.
 
We began a new doctoral program in criminal justice and received permission to plan two more: one in developmental education and one in materials science, engineering and commercialization.
 
Certainly one of the high points of the past academic year was the SACS reaffirmation on-site visit in March. Those visits are always stressful, and we breathed a little more easily after the site team left. I must say, however, that the whole process has worked beautifully. It required the work of hundreds of faculty and staff devoting countless hours over the last three years leading up to the electronic submission last fall, the on-site visit in the spring and the follow-through this summer. You put in the extra effort because you knew how important this reaffirmation is for us.
 
I am on the Board of Trustees of SACS’s Commission on Colleges. I have chaired and am chairing the site teams for other colleges. I have been involved in the process as a dean and as provost. I have seen dozens and dozens of SACS reports, so I know what I’m saying when I call our process one of the best I’ve ever seen. We all eagerly await the final outcome in December.
 
One of the most exciting things about this current process is the Quality Enhancement Plan. SACS now requires its institutions to develop a project that will improve student learning. We called our plan PACE for Personalized Academic and Career Exploration. The plan creates a PACE Center, a one-stop location for freshman advising, career planning and mentoring. It is a place where our first-year students can match their interests and abilities to possible work fields and find out what it takes to get where they want to go. I often say that we try to trick our students into thinking this is a small school, and our PACE Center will help us do that.
 
This new initiative will need a building, and we broke ground for that building – the Undergraduate Academic Center – in June. In addition to the PACE Center, the building will house the University College and the departments of Sociology, Political Science and Psychology. The construction site is across the walkway from Evans. We have waited and planned and hoped for this building for a long time; to see it taking shape is incredibly gratifying and a tribute to so many of you who helped with that effort. The Undergraduate Academic Center should be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2012.
 
The last academic year also saw the completion of several building projects. Tomorrow our students will occupy the addition to the Family and Consumer Sciences Building near the corner of Sessom and Academy.
 
This building addition is, of course, next to the back yard of the President’s House. New vegetation has been strategically placed to allow my husband to continue to wear whatever outlandish clothing he wishes when playing with our Doberman, Pearl!
 
We will have a rededication of this building on October 7.
 
Also new to the campus this fall is the Matthews Street Garage, which matches in design the Speck Street Garage. Neither of them look like parking garages. In fact some have termed them as examples of what could be called a “Taj-ma-garage” or “Garage-ma-jal.” The new garage will take us a step closer to our goal of stacking up our vehicles rather than spreading them over surface lots that create impervious cover.
 
Last October we opened expanded galleries and research space for the Wittliff Collections on the seventh floor of the library. The new area more than doubled the public space for exhibits, visitors, classes and tours.
 
And we dedicated a Memorial Garden last fall, a place of remembrance for all friends, faculty, staff and students of Texas State. It is in the garden area just off the Quad east of Flowers Hall.
 
The completion of one project seems to lead to the beginning of another. We currently have $443 million in capital construction projects in some phase of planning or completion. We will break ground for the north housing project in October. That cluster of three connected buildings will provide beds for 612 students, some of them replacements for the beds in Falls Hall, which will be razed in the spring to create a site for the Performing Arts Center.
 
In late spring we will clear a site and begin construction for an office building for our Department of Housing and Residence Life at the corner of Comanche and Lindsey.
 
Also in the spring, we will begin construction on our Research and Commercialization Center on university property at the corner of McCarty Lane and Hunter Road. Earlier this month we announced that the university, in partnership with the City of San Marcos, had acquired a $1.85 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support this facility.
 
This business incubator is a key component of our future doctoral program in materials science, engineering and commercialization. This program will prepare graduates who can effectively participate in research that spans multiple fields. Most institutions acknowledge the need for interdisciplinary research but fail to teach the necessary and complementary skills, including familiarity with commercialization. While Texas ranks third behind California and Massachusetts in materials and nanotechnology discovery, Texas has no doctoral programs that couple technological innovation with entrepreneurship. Our program will do that.
 
Nationwide, doctoral education is being recognized as the public good it is, as a means of increasing America’s innovation and competitiveness, and beyond that, as a means of producing the leaders who will defend our democracy and solve our big, complex problems. We are moving past the perception that Ph.D.s stay in academe; the majority do not. Texas State seeks to offer doctoral education only in the areas where we know we can do it exceptionally well. Our doctoral programs help us not only in recruiting world-class faculty and additional research dollars, but also in attracting academically talented undergraduates. We know that most top undergraduate students want to go to a university that offers doctoral programs, even though they may never enter one themselves.
 
Athletics had another excellent year in 2009-10. The Bobcats won five conference championships and placed 43 student-athletes on all-conference teams. Sixty-five Bobcats were named to the Fall Southland Conference Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll and 101 to the spring honor roll. We honored 108 student-athletes for 3.5 GPA’s in one or both semesters last year, and 40 for 4.0’s. Based on the NCAA’s data, our student-athlete Graduation Success Rate over the past four years is tied with Texas A&M for first among Texas public universities in NCAA Division I athletics.
 
Prior to the first home football game on September 11, we will break ground for the relocation of the track. We are moving the track from its current location around Jim Wacker Field to another site east of Bobcat Stadium, a necessary move before we begin the expansion of the north side complex, which will resemble the Fields west side complex.
 
We completed our second year of Cat Camp with rousing success this summer. We began Cat Camp last summer as a way of introducing new students to the proud history and tradition of the university. The camp this summer filled quickly and produced an enthusiastic group of ­­­­215 new students.
 
Cat Camp, PACE and many other initiatives are designed partly to retain students. We want students to feel so much a part of Texas State that they are eager and proud to stay through graduation. We want them to know that Texas State can give them their best career opportunities and head them in the right direction for their life’s work.
 
We are already on the road to success in that effort. Our students tell us that they would choose Texas State if they had it to do all over again. All of the public universities in the state participate in a system of accountability that produces a college portrait of each institution. One of the questions asked of seniors at these universities is “Would you attend this university if you started over again?” Ninety percent of our seniors said that, yes, they would attend Texas State if they had the choice to make again. The University of Texas and Texas A&M had responses similar to ours, but after we three no other public university in the state was even close.
 
The 90 percent who said they would choose us if starting over is only one of the statistics that makes us proud of what we are doing. Others are our retention rate and graduation rate. Our freshman retention rate last year was among the highest in the state. Our graduation rate is the fifth highest among public universities in the state as well – behind UT and A&M but close to the third and fourth, UT-Dallas and Texas Tech.
 
As far as numbers go, we are expecting another record enrollment this fall – more than 31,500, possibly 32,000. We are currently the fifth largest university in the state. In most states a fifth-place ranking would indicate that you are not a very large school. In fact, in half the states in the nation, our enrollment would make us the biggest university in the state. We are among the top 50 public universities in enrollment in the country.
 
We are also expecting a record enrollment of freshmen and a record number of Hispanic students. Last year we were very close to the demographic that makes a university a Hispanic Serving Institution – 25 percent of its undergraduates. We hope to reach that designation this fall. Only three of the 10 largest universities in Texas are currently HSIs. We will become the fourth – and the largest – HSI in Texas. “The Rising Star of Texas” is more than a slogan for us. We want to be a shining star for Texas, delivering exceptional opportunities for students of every ethnicity, and we want to be the model HSI in Texas. We are well on our way to that goal. Texas State was among four institutions cited recently for innovations in academic policies and programs that better serve Latino students. The research report was issued by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. We are No. 13 among U.S. universities in the number of bachelor’s degrees we award to Hispanics. And a couple of years ago, we were among 11 universities in the country recognized as models for graduating Hispanics.
 
All of this is to say that we have a good start on being the best HSI in Texas.
 
Another goal is coming to fruition this fall – this week in fact! We are dedicating the Nursing Building in Round Rock Thursday at 4 o’clock. The nursing faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to manage details about the building itself and to recruit the 98 junior-level students who will be the charter class. Next year we will admit another junior-level class as the current students matriculate to their senior class, so the full enrollment capacity is around 200 students. The building is truly magnificent – beautiful itself and complementary to the Avery Building, the first structure on the Round Rock campus.
 
The nursing curriculum is as state-of-the-art as the building that will house it. Students will work with 76 manikins who can do things like speak three languages, have 23 babies in one day and wag their tails (one manikin is a dog). I really don’t know what this is about! Actors will portray every ailment from heart attacks to broken limbs – there may be an opportunity there for some theatre students! The charter class began to bond during the summer by networking on Facebook, so by now they are ready and eager to get started.
 
As a campus community, we are ready and eager to get started on the public phase of our Pride in Action campaign. We have conducted a private phase since 2006. The launch of the public phase will be in Fall 2011.We will soon begin the planning and execution of the celebration surrounding that announcement. We are finalizing a comprehensive marketing and public relations strategy for the launch and continuance of the campaign. Since the beginning of the campaign in 2006 and through July 31, private contributions have totaled $88.6 million. Of this total 71 percent of the funds are designated for the Academic sector; 2 percent are designated for Alumni; 14 percent for Athletics; 3 percent for the Library, and 10 percent for the Performing Arts Center.
 
No doubt one of the events that will take much of our time and attention this academic year is the 2011 legislative session. As you may remember from an email last spring, we were instructed to cut 5 percent from our budget for the current biennium. We have done that, and now we have been instructed to draw up plans for 10 and 15 percent cuts in our 2012 and 2013 budgets.
 
Texas seems to have dodged some of the grief of its fellow states when it comes to recent budget cuts. But a $12 billion hole in the state budget two years ago was filled with stimulus money, and that money will not be there in the future. The new hole is $11 to $18 billion, depending on who does the predicting. Unlike every other state, however, Texas’ problem was not necessarily created by the recession. Texas’ budget hole is a “structural hole,” one caused by an error in projections. Two years ago the state cut property taxes in anticipation of an increase in business taxes, and the projected income did not materialize. Undoubtedly, the gap has been exacerbated by the recession, but it is not wholly the result of the recession.
 
Because of our climbing enrollments, Texas State will weather this cut more easily than many of our peer institutions. We have been able to absorb the 5 percent cut for this biennium by deferring the hiring of new staff positions designed to help with the growing workload that comes with enrollment growth and delaying needed infrastructure repair projects. We have also implemented a selective staff hiring freeze. We have not frozen faculty hiring. Also I have asked divisions to carefully scrutinize travel requests. 
 
As I said, we have been asked to plan for an additional 5-10 percent budget cut for the next biennium. At the present time, no one knows with certainty whether we will actually have to make cuts of this magnitude. We will monitor the legislative appropriations process and re-evaluate the university’s financial picture as more information is known. Enrollment growth and the potential for tuition and fee increases for 2011-2012 to be considered by the Board of Regents in November will have an impact on this as well. I deeply regret that it is not possible to fund our planned 3 percent pay raise at this time. But I want you to know that pay raises remain a very high priority when funds become available.
 
One of our cushions against troubling news out of Austin is careful planning. We have a culture of stepping up to the plate and contributing to the excellence of this university under any and all circumstances. It is because of your work that we can point to great accomplishments on our university plan, and you are to be congratulated.
 
An authentic plan always looks to the future. Toward that end, this fall we will begin thinking about goals for the 2012-2017 plan. In October you will receive an environmental scan to review so that we will be more informed about the climate in which we will create the new plan. In spring 2011 we will review our mission statement. We will begin discussing goals and outcomes for the plan in the fall of 2011. The following spring, we will align college and departmental goals with the university goals through discussions across campus. By fall 2012 we will launch a 2012-2017 plan that is thoughtful, progressive and realistic. I look forward to seeing the process unfold.
 
Our Common Experience topic of the year is sustainability. The programs throughout the year will ask us to take a look at what we do that impacts the planet – the food eat, the water we need or waste, the cars we drive, the houses we build, the air we breathe, the human potential we squander. The author of the Common Experience text will be one of our first major speakers in the fall. Colin Beavan, who wrote No Impact Man, will be here September 22. Our LBJ Distinguished Lecturer follows on October 4. That speaker is Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai from Kenya, founder of the Green Belt Movement. A second Nobel laureate, Sir Harold Kroto, whose prize was in chemistry, will talk October 15 on “Science, Society and Sustainability.” And much more is being planned to build on the sustainability theme.            
 
As we begin a new year, let’s remember that Texas State University has sustained a proud history of steady growth in prestige and success. I am often asked why growth is important. Why is it important for Texas State to increase our enrollment? Why is it important to become an HSI? Why is it important to add academic programs?
 
There are many answers, but let me give you one. This summer The College Board released some very disturbing news: The United States – once the leader in the percentage of its population who graduated from college – has fallen to 12 th place among the 36 developed nations. We are behind Canada, South Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia. And Texas is below the U.S. average.
 
A nation – or a state – reaches its peak when a critical mass of its citizens are well educated. Texas desperately needs more college graduates, and Texas State University needs to continue to be part of the reversal of this trend.
 
We will do that. We have been part of the engine of development of the state and nation since our founding. It’s what we do.
 
This is the 108th time that this university has begun a fall semester. In 1903, a hopeful president and 16 faculty members began a journey with 303 students in a brand-new citadel on a scruffy hill of cedars and oak trees. This year we continue the journey with almost 1,100 faculty members, 2,000 staff members, 32,586 students and a reputation for being one of the best universities in Texas.
 
Welcome to a great year!