AUSTIN, Texas – Describing the University of Texas at Austin as an institution uniquely positioned to drive change and set the pace of progress, President Gregory L. Fenves laid out a vision for unleashing the “enormous potential of students and scholars to change the world,” in his second annual State of the University address.
Fenves, the university’s 29th president, said his goal is to chart a path where the University of Texas sets the standard among public universities in education and research.
To reach that goal, the president unveiled new plans to
- add $15 million in financial aid for middle income families,
- hire 50 additional faculty members and
- create a diversity action plan to improve campus culture.
“When we invest in our people, when we break down barriers, when we pursue knowledge, and when we invigorate our culture with a shared purpose, we will chart a bold path to progress, and create a rich legacy of achievement that exceeds the most glorious days of our past 133 years,” Fenves said.
He plans to build on the major goals he set in his first year as president: preparing students to be successful leaders, conducting research with global impact, transforming the health care system and nurturing a campus culture where every voice is heard and valued.
To educate leaders effectively, Fenves said, a state university needs to be affordable and accessible to all. Already UT Austin students from families with annual incomes less than $60,000 a year typically pay no tuition after grants and scholarships. To help even more students, Fenves announced the $15 million for middle-income students.
“High quality education is the gateway to opportunity, and our unique role at the University of Texas is to educate the leaders of tomorrow,” said Fenves.
To bolster interdisciplinary research, Fenves unveiled a new program, Bridging Barriers, which will work with scholars across campus to incentivize cross-disciplinary work on pressing scientific, social and scholarly problems.
In support of the initiative, the university will add fifty new faculty positions in the coming years.
Stressing that diversity and inclusion are among UT Austin’s core values and top priorities, Fenves said that achieving excellence “depends on fostering a culture on campus that includes all students.” UT Austin successfully defended its admission policies before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, but the university must continue to do more, said Fenves.
In the coming weeks, he will work with Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent, Vice President for Student Affairs Soncia Reagins-Lilly and students to develop a campus-wide diversity action plan that will “clearly define our goals, identify our shortcomings and chart a course for advancing our shared values.”
Some people may measure the university’s progress toward its goals in tangible terms such as rankings and dollars, Fenves said.
“They are important,” said Fenves, “but the ultimate measure of success is preparing leaders, transforming society and creating a better world.”
A full transcript of the address is available here.