AUSTIN, Texas — Gregory L. Fenves was formally inaugurated as the 29th president of The University of Texas at Austin today. He also delivered his first-ever State of the University address, in which he laid out his vision to build on the university’s excellence by more effectively merging its research and teaching missions and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and research.
“The challenges facing our world are large. The issues confronting society are complex. And the stakes are high,” Fenves told students, faculty members, alumni, state leaders and other supporters moments after being formally inaugurated and presented the presidential symbols of office.
“And where will we find answers? At places like The University of Texas at Austin. Universities are the incubators of our future where we assemble the most talented people to solve the toughest problems.”
In promoting the value of public research universities — and of UT Austin — Fenves explained that the campus must build on its long-term goals of cultivating excellence and operating efficiently with a new goal of being more effective. To accomplish this, it will pursue faculty research and scholarship that effectively help develop new knowledge and solutions and contribute to the university’s mission of changing the world.
Fenves also reiterated UT Austin’s commitment to recruiting, developing and retaining top faculty members who will conduct groundbreaking research and inspire and mentor UT students.
“The purpose of a UT education should be to use knowledge and skills for developing sophisticated understanding and wisdom, to be creative, to be innovative, to be ethical and to lead,” Fenves said. “Students must be motivated for learning their entire lives.”
Specific goals toward reaching this visions include:
- Launch a faculty-driven process to identify strategic research priorities and build more partnerships on campus and off campus, uniting faculty members from different colleges and disciplines.
- Integrate research and undergraduate education more closely, ensuring that classroom lessons are linked to discoveries in the lab and studio, whether in the arts, humanities or sciences, and that all students have multiple chances to participate in research and discovery.
- Continue to foster the development of the Dell Medical School as a new model for medical education and health care. The school will welcome its first class of students next summer and has already begun to develop research collaborations on campus and partnerships in the Travis County community.
Fenves, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, was a faculty member and department chair for more than 20 years at the University of California-Berkeley before returning in 2008 to UT Austin, where he had been an assistant professor earlier in his career. He served as dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering from 2008 until 2013 and then held the position of executive vice president and provost of the university before becoming president June 3.
Since then, he has begun to make his mark on campus even before this week’s formal inauguration, reaching decisions about the Main Mall statuary; preparing for a new law allowing guns on campus; and appointing interim Men’s Athletics Director Mike Perrin, while meeting with students, faculty members and alumni to lay out his vision for the future.