Fenves Charts Vision to Unlock UT Austin’s Potential in State of the University Address

AUSTIN, Texas – Stating that “for UT to lead, we must be bold,” President Gregory L. Fenves outlined major new initiatives to promote students’ upward economic mobility, increase experiential learning opportunities on campus and recruit and retain top faculty members.

In his annual State of the University address delivered to the university community, Fenves said the new initiatives reinforce “our deepest purpose as a university — to unlock potential.” He committed new, recurring funding from the Available University Fund (AUF) for three initiatives:

  • Providing financial aid for low- and middle-income students, with the specific goal of improving access to UT and helping students renew the American dream.
  • Launching a new “College to Career” program that will emphasize mentorship, place students in jobs and help new graduates launch their careers.
  • Investing in the next phase of the faculty investment initiative to increase salary competitiveness, add positions in key areas and ensure that UT’s salaries and facilities allow it to attract the best global talent.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents allocated an additional $24 million in AUF money to UT Austin earlier this year that will be used to fund these initiatives.

Discussing the university’s duty to provide opportunity, Fenves noted that UT and other public universities have traditionally been major drivers of upward mobility — the idea that during the course of people’s lives, they can earn more than their parents did. But data show upward mobility has decreased across American society in recent decades.

“I believe that now is the time for the nation to rededicate itself to strengthening these great engines of upward mobility — public universities like UT,” said Fenves.

To give more students access to a UT education, the university has already dramatically increased its four-year graduation rate. This has allowed UT to admit a thousand more freshmen than it did just five years ago, said Fenves.

This new investment in financial aid will also increase access, while the investment in faculty salaries and support will elevate the university’s impact in research and education.

“After years of falling behind our peers” in the competition for top faculty talent, UT will increase funding for faculty recruiting and retention, said Fenves.

Since becoming president in 2015, Fenves has committed UT to a goal of improving health care. In support of that goal, this year he unveiled UT Health Austin, Dell Medical School’s new medical group practice delivering direct patient care by Dell Med faculty members.

“A mere five years after the citizens of Travis County voted to approve local taxpayer funding for Dell Med — and three years after the school was founded — we will now have both a medical school — attracting many of the best students — and clinical care programs serving the people of Austin and Travis County,” said Fenves.

Throughout the speech, Fenves emphasized UT’s role in unlocking the potential of students, the faculty and the state as a whole.

“At The University of Texas, we continually strive to reach our own potential, and we do that by unlocking the potential of all who come here to teach, work and learn,” he said. “That’s how we rise to the heights we are capable of …. and live up to those six words that define us — what starts here changes the world.”