“The rate of change is no longer linear—it is exponential,” Chancellor Bill McRaven said. “We must take some bold steps forward.”
During a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, McRaven laid out his strategic vision for the University of Texas System after nearly a year on the job, which includes new hiring mandates for minorities and women, UT’s expansion into Houston, and the implementation of a mandatory, system-wide leadership course.
As a former U.S. Navy admiral, McRaven drew upon his military experience to develop a plan that stressed collaboration among institutions and increased communication within the system. Military lingo seeped its way into much of the presentation, with McRaven pledging to “give the individual institutions the maximum latitude to accomplish their missions.” In order to meet the goals of the system’s mission statement, McRaven proposed several specific initiatives affecting multiple generations.
The first addressed the state’s growing population of young people creating a larger demand for higher education. Beginning with school children, the UT System will establish a literacy institute to engage with K-12 students to capitalize on every child’s potential for greatness. McRaven emphasized the importance of reaching every student. Additionally, all students in the UT System will be required to take a one-hour leadership course.
“I believe that a critical part of any person’s education is teaching them to be a leader,” McRaven said. “Remember, we’re not just educating kids; we’re preparing the future leaders of Texas.”
The chancellor also expressed a need to increase diversity among faculty and a desire to boost funding to recruit top talent.
“The quality of education in Texas is only as good as the quality of its teachers,” he said. “There is a war for talent, and we intend to win it.
His solution is a new hiring policy to ensure that qualified women and minorities be considered for every senior administrative position, dean and above. No senior position can be filled without allowing a minority candidate to be interviewed, he says. He’s also making an effort to close the gender pay gap within the next five years.
McRaven noted that seniors are the fastest-growing age group in Texas. McRaven plans to make “an unprecedented investment” similar to the scale of the Manhattan Project to study the health of the brain, in order to address the ongoing problem of Alzheimer’s disease.
McRaven outlined a vision that not only aims to improve the lives of Texans, but also to address national and global issues. To that end, the UT Network for National Security will be established across campuses to address cyber, biological, and other threats.
Lastly, the chancellor announced the system’s acquisition of 300 acres in Houston to expand the UT System footprint there. It won’t be a university campus, he said, but an “intellectual hub” to capitalize on the resources harbored by the nation’s fourth-largest city. The effort, decades in the making, will be fleshed out by a task force in the new year. Despite what he said in the presentation, McRaven later told reporters that he envisions, in time, a campus there.
“We will not only adapt to the changing world,” he said, “we will lead the change.”
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