Highlights From President Fenves’ Third State of the University Speech

Wrapping up the end of his second year as president of The University of Texas and marking the start of a new semester, Greg Fenves gave his third State of the University Address on Tuesday. Since Fenves’ speech last fall, the university has dealt with the second on-campus homicide within roughly a year, faced continued controversy over campus-carry and the removal of Confederate statues, and cared for students affected by Hurricane Harvey.

With the mantra that “our deepest purpose as a university is to unlock potential,” Fenves launched into a brief but broad speech that touched on what UT has in store for this coming year. Below, we’ve rounded up five key moments. Read the full transcript here.

“American universities are the great engine of upward mobility. 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.”

Fenves cited a statistic that finds that in the last 50 years, a child’s prospect of earning more than their parents has fallen from 90 percent to 50 percent. As an example of the university’s commitment to increasing its role as “an engine of upward mobility,” Fenves used the story of Vallery Valle, a freshman from the Rio Grande Valley. She’s a student who comes from a hard-working, low-income family whose goal was always to attend UT—a dream made possible through the scholarship she received from the Texas Exes’ Rio Grande Valley Scholars Program.

“It is a fact, that many middle-income Texas families don’t qualify for much federal or state financial aid.”

Fenves said the university will commit recurring funding to provide additional financial aid for low- and middle-income students with the objective of improving access to UT. He said the funds will come from AUF funding increased by the Board of Regents.

“The first job a student takes after undergraduate or graduate study has an enormous impact on their later career development. It will probably be the first job of several.”

Fenves announced UT’s new College to Career initiative designed to prepare students for careers after graduation, made possible through the additional AUF funding. The program will offer mentorship and help place students in their first jobs.

“A mere five years after the citizens of Travis County voted to approve local taxpayer funding for Dell Med, we will now have both a medical school and clinical care programs serving the people of Austin and Travis County.”

Fenves also announced that the Dell Medical School is launching UT Health Austin, a new medical group practice delivering direct patient care by Dell Med Faculty. It will take place at the school’s Health Transformation Building, which opens later this fall.

“Our purpose as a research university can only be fulfilled by having the best faculty to drive education and discovery.”

Fenves said he has decided to substantially increase permanent funding for the university’s faculty investment initiative, though no set figures were given. He said the focus will be recruitment, retention, and the addition of new positions across campus.

Photo by Marsha Miller

 

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