A Presidential Commission on the Role of The University of Texas at Austin in the 21st Century

Twice before, the university has established commissions to help chart its strategic course. The first was formed in 1957 and was called the Committee of 75, a reflection of the university's 75th anniversary. The second, called the Centennial Commission, was formed in 1981 as a part of a year-long celebration of the university's centennial.

In both cases, these commissions were scene-changing events that set the university on a course that allowed it to achieve national and international stature. The Committee of 75 broadened the scope of the university's mission beyond teaching to include a comprehensive research capacity. This move laid the foundation for The University of Texas at Austin's eventual classification as a Research I university and selection as a member of the American Association of Universities, the gold standard for American higher education.

The Centennial Commission built on the legacy of the previous commission by placing emphasis on competing for the best faculty talent. Numerous endowed faculty chairs and professorships were established during this period, incentives that brought and continue to bring some of the country's best faculty talent to Texas, thus adding serious intellectual capability to improve the state's economy, culture and overall quality of life.

The new commission, announced today (March 2) and yet to be formally named, will begin work next fall and its work will extend for at least one calendar year.

Similar to the previous two commissions, it will help the university make the strategic choices that will guide it over the next many years. It will be established under the president's stated goal of having The University of Texas at Austin "be a leader in expanding the model of the great public university."

Membership on the commission will go well beyond people already closely associated with the university. Rather, The University of Texas at Austin will reach into various sectors -- public education, government, the non-profit sector and industry -- to form a panel that is diverse, geographically representative and constructed to assure that the university's future is planned in full synchronization with the needs of the state. Special attention will be given to making full use of the university's intellectual assets -- its expertise, its content, its historical and cultural treasures -- by making them available and relevant in the daily lives of all Texans.

Specifically, the commission will help build an institution that:

  • concentrates and develops talent at the highest level of achievement,
  • transforms individuals for beneficial roles in society,
  • serves all of Texas and all of its population groups,
  • participates as a major center in the national fabric of research,
  • creates and develops new technology,
  • provides top-level expertise and information resources for the people, businesses and institutions of Texas,
  • extends educational opportunities and expertise by new means, including those afforded by new technology, to audiences beyond the traditional,
  • enhances the quality of life in Texas,
  • serves as a major engine for economic progress,
  • actively addresses pressing public problems of Texas and the nation,
  • and commands respect globally as a symbol of the aspirations, abilities and achievements of Texas and Texans.

President Faulkner summarized the work of the commission by saying, "There is hardly a better success story than the story about the great American public university of the 20th century. The opportunities they have presented to people as students and the opportunities they have presented to the public to amplify their skills and culture, and the opportunities they have presented to build and catalyze important economic activity are a remarkable story. But we now have an opportunity to improve further on that story of success and we will establish this commission to assure that The University of Texas at Austin is a leader in expanding the model of the great public research university. We will do this first by succeeding with the greatest distinction in the established roles of teaching and research, and then by adding a steady commitment to meeting particular practical needs of the larger society."