UT Scored Three Top Rankings This Week


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Not that Longhorns are the bragging type, but pardon us while we pat ourselves on the back for a moment: The university seems to be on a bit of a hot streak when it comes to the rankings game.

Last week, the World University Rankings slotted us at 29th out of all universities on the planet. That’s a hard one to top, but then three more accolades came in this week. Get the skinny on them below.

  • According to Hollywood Reporter, UT has the 10th-best film school in the country. Reputation factored heavily into the results, which were based on a survey of 2,300 industry insiders. The magazine also called out UT for having the “starriest alumni,” which will come as no surprise to Matthew McConaughy and Wes Anderson fans. And ours is the only film school outside of California to send students to Hollywood for a semester.
  • Money‘s annual ranking of the best values in public colleges included UT at no. 17. The methodology of this ranking considered factors like graduation rates, cost of attendance, how much debt students are left with, and average salaries after graduation. According to the survey, young Longhorns earn $50,400 on average.
  • UT is the 19th-best value in the United States, at least in Forbes book. The business magazine’s annual Top Colleges rankings factored in everything from student satisfaction and academic success to grad rates and even how many graduates win Oscars and Nobel prizes.

Photo by Thomas Bougher.




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Adm. William H. McRaven Will Be UT’s Next Chancellor


Adm. William McRaven Will Be UT's Next Chancellor

Adm. William McRaven, BJ ’77, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, was named sole finalist for the position of Chancellor of the UT System at a meeting of the UT System Board of Regents Tuesday evening. Regents met by phone to discuss their choice to succeed current chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who announced his resignation earlier this year. In his new position, McRaven will serve as the chief administrative officer of the System, which is currently composed of nine universities and six health institutions, though UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American are poised to be folded into the new UT-Rio Grande Valley.

After a half-hour phone call, the regents voted unanimously to approve McRaven as the sole finalist for the position.

Texas Exes president Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison welcomed the announcement, calling McRaven “a superb choice to be the next chancellor of the University of Texas System.”

“He has an impeccable reputation rising to the highest levels of the U.S. Navy; managing large operations and budgets,” Hutchison, LLB ’67, BA ’92, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, said in a statement Tuesday. “That he is a UT alumnus and a Texas Exes Life Member is icing on the cake!”

McRaven was widely rumored to be the top finalist in recent weeks, though Dallas Federal Reserve chief Richard Fisher was also mentioned. Last Friday, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) announced that McRaven would be stepping down from its helm, adding more fuel to fire of speculation around his candidacy.

No stranger to running large, complex agencies, McRaven has been at the head of USSOCOM since 2011. In his previous role as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, he directed Operation Neptune Spear, the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. His long and distinguished military career began at UT, where he was a member of UT’s Naval ROTC unit.

In May, McRaven served as the university’s commencement speaker, cautioning grads to make their beds in a speech that went viral after the Texas Exes posted it on YouTube.

“In [Navy] SEAL training there is a bell,” he said. “A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims … If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”

Cigarroa, whose tenure at the top of the System has seen the establishment of a new university in his native Rio Grande Valley, as well as two medical schools in Austin and the Valley, will return to his first career as a pediatric surgeon. Earlier this year, Cigarroa told reporters that his resignation was not related to ongoing tensions between UT-Austin and some members of the UT System board.

Those tensions were at least partially defused this month, when UT-Austin president Bill Powers came to an agreement with Cigarroa to step down at the end of next year’s legislative session. Cigarroa has previously encouraged Powers to step down earlier, and many believed Powers would be fired by regents before the 11th-hour deal was made.

The new chancellor will join a number of new UT officials in 2015. Aside from new men’s athletics director Steve Patterson, BBA ’80, JD ’84, and head football coach Charlie Strong (who has implemented some military-like discipline lately), McRaven will join a new UT-Austin president and director of admissions—all while shepherding the newest System institutions and monitoring the as-yet undetermined fate of regent Wallace Hall.

“McRaven is a nationally and internationally respected leader and a true American hero,” regents chairman Paul Foster said in a statement released shortly after the vote. “His decades-long experience in proven strategic leadership, teamwork, vision, decision making, discipline, and working directly with national and world leaders make him an excellent choice—among a pool of extraordinarily distinguished candidates–to guide the UT System into its next chapter of greatness.”

Photo by Marsha Miller.


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World University Rankings Put UT at 29th



We’re No. 29!

OK, so 29th may not initially sound like the most impressive number for a school that likes to pride itself on being No. 1, but being named the 29th-best university on the planet really isn’t too shabby. That’s the accolade UT snagged last week when the latest numbers from the Center for World University Rankings were released.

The rankings evaluate schools across eight criteria, from quality of education (which determines the bulk of the ranking) and alumni employment to patents and publications. Only 21 other American universities came out ahead of UT, and the only other Texas school to crack the top 100 was the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Last year, UT came in at 27th in the same ranking, and we were 25th in 2012.

Photo by Amyn Kassam.



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Takeaways From Charlie Strong’s Big 12 Media Day


Takeaways From Charlie Strong’s First Big 12 Media Day

The wait is over: David Ash will take snaps with the Longhorns’ first team offense when fall camp opens in August. Coach Charlie Strong, speaking at UT’s Big 12 media day Tuesday, named Ash, who received full medical clearance on Monday, to the No. 1 spot. In an ambiguous quote, Strong said that sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who appeared in five games for the Horns last season and was seemingly in the running to start this season when Ash went down with a foot fracture in April, “will be given the opportunity to compete” for the backup spot with freshman Jerrod Heard.

Appearing with four Longhorn players at his side—center Dominic Espinosa, defensive end Cedric Reed, cornerback Quandre Diggs, and running back Malcolm Brown—Strong didn’t make any other major announcements beyond his starting QB, though he did have some notable quotes.

He praised his predecessor Mack Brown, saying, “I’m following an icon in Coach Brown. The foundation has been laid, now it’s up to us to build on that foundation.” When asked a question about racial factors pertaining to his new position at Texas, Strong said, “There’s tall shoulders that I stand on,” acknowledging those who have paved his way to UT. “It’s been a great opportunity. But it’s because of a lot of hard work from other people also.”

Strong addressed the hubbub from mid-April, when he told a Fort Worth crowd that UT would not win the national championship this year. According to the coach, this was during “phase two” of his plan, which occurred during spring practices. Downplaying this “controversial” statement, he said that this was very early in his five-phase process, and that, “We’re not as bad as we used to be.”

Strong also spoke about one of his motivational tactics. The Longhorn symbol on the locker-room floor will be roped off on every day except gameday, when players can gather around it. The obvious symbolism, which Strong has addressed in other ways previously, is that you earn your stripes in practice.

Diggs had some strong words of his own at media day, calling this year’s team and regime “New Texas.” The senior described previous Texas teams he’d been on as rostered with some players who didn’t have their hearts in it.

“That’s something that I’ve always sensed since I’ve been here: We had guys that just didn’t love football,” Diggs said on Tuesday. “If you don’t love football, you don’t need to be a part of this university or a part of this team.”

Diggs even wants to take a proactive approach, on a seek-and-destroy mission of sorts from inside the locker room, identifying and nixing players who aren’t in it for the right reasons (re: to win games).

“Heck, if it was up to me and Coach Strong asked me, I’d help him weed guys out,” Diggs said.

38 days until kickoff.

Image courtesy UT Athletics



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Kevin Durant Wins Big at ESPY Awards



Former Longhorn basketball star Kevin Durant was honored twice during Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, winning both the “Best NBA Player” and “Best Male Athlete” awards.

Durant, who currently plays small forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is the current 2014 NBA regular season MVP and led his team on a thrilling semifinal run, beating out first Memphis and then the Los Angeles Clippers before losing in six games to eventual champions, the San Antonio Spurs.

Durant’s wins unseat reigning winner LeBron James, who won both awards for the past two years. San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard won “Best Championship Performance” for his MVP-winning performance in the NBA Finals, which James also won last year and the year before, meaning King James’ rule—at least at the ESPYs—is seemingly finished.

The otherwise light-hearted ceremony, which saw host Drake bust out his comedy chops by doing impressions of boxer Manny Pacquiao and starting fake beef with Clippers forward Blake Griffin, was punctuated by heartfelt speeches by rookie linebacker Michael Sam and ESPN personality Stuart Scott. Sam won the Arthur Ashe award for becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL, and Scott won the Jimmy V Award honoring his seven-year fight against cancer.

Drake had a shout-out for KD during a performance of his song “Worst Behavior,” changing a line to “real talent doesn’t always win championships like real music doesn’t always win Grammys,” and comparing the Thunder playoff loss to rapper Macklemore’s Grammy win over favorite Kendrick Lamar.

Photo courtesy Associated Press via Inquirer Sports


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Court Sides 2-1 With UT in Fisher Case



In a 2-1 decision Tuesday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court upheld an earlier ruling that UT did not violate the 14th Amendment by refusing admission to Abigail Fisher.

The Fisher case, which challenges universities’ use of race in admissions, has been wending its way through the courts for the last six years. Fisher, who is white, sued the university after she was denied admission in 2008; she graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012 and now works as a financial analyst in Austin. Last June, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, which left staff at universities around the country wondering how their admissions policies could soon change. Today’s ruling means that they won’t have to change—at least for the moment.

“We are persuaded that holistic review is a necessary complement to the Top Ten Percent Plan,” wrote Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham in the majority opinion, “enabling it to operate without reducing itself to a cover for a quota system; that in doing so, its limited use of race is narrowly tailored to this role—as small a part as possible for the plan to succeed.”

Higginbotham added, “This interest [of achieving diversity] is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities.”

Circuit judge Emilio Garza wrote the dissenting opinion, in which he argued that UT’s stated goal of achieving a “critical mass” of diversity within its student body is too vague.

“Because the University has not defined its diversity goal in any meaningful way—instead, reflexively reciting the term ‘critical mass’—it is altogether impossible to determine whether its use of racial classifications is narrowly tailored,” Garza wrote.

In a statement, UT President Bill Powers said he was pleased with the decision.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s ruling recognizing the constitutionality of the University’s admissions policy under the Supreme Court’s recent guidance,” Powers said. “We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students.”

Less than an hour after the ruling was released, Fisher and her legal team had already vowed to appeal. “It is disappointing that the judges hearing my case are not following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer. I remain committed to continuing this lawsuit even if it means we appeal to the Supreme Court once again,” Fisher said in a statement.

Editor’s note: The Texas Exes takes no position on the use of race in admissions.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court Court Ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas Case by The Texas Exes


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Report: McRaven a Candidate for UT Chancellor


Admiral William McRaven to Deliver Commencement Speech

Paul Burka over at Texas Monthly is reporting (although he doesn’t name his source or sources, and he doesn’t say how good the information is) that the UT System regents have narrowed down the candidate pool for the next chancellor to Richard Fisher and Adm. William McRaven, BJ ’77, Life Member.

Fisher leads the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; McRaven is commander of U.S. Special Operations command, a Navy SEAL, and a Distinguished Alumnus of UT-Austin. He led the operation that resulted in killing Osama bin Laden. He also gave an unbelievable commencement speech at UT’s graduation this year that has been viewed more than 2 million times. His advice for graduates derived from his SEAL training.

Fisher is not a UT grad. He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford.

A spokeswoman for the UT System declined to comment on the report, saying candidate names are confidential.

Both men would represent departures from a pronounced trend in Texas higher education toward former politicians becoming chancellors. Either man would be replacing Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, who announced his resignation earlier this year. Cigarroa intends to return to transplant surgery in San Antonio once a new chancellor is found.

Contributing reporting by Chris O’Connell. File photo of William McRaven.


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Mack Brown Set to Join ESPN as a College Football Analyst


Orange County News - January 04, 2010

Mack Brown may no longer be on the sidelines of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a part of college football.

Chip Brown, radio sports analyst and writer for, first broke the news in June that Mack has signed a deal with ESPN to be a college football studio analyst, but the rumor went unconfirmed by both Brown and the university. Now, however,’s Gil Brandt has confirmed via Twitter that Brown himself has said he and longtime ESPN host John Saunders will be a part of the network’s college football coverage this fall on ABC.

Brown, who turns 63 in August, coached the Longhorns for 16 seasons, from 1998 through last season. As the Longhorns’ coach, he held a 158-45 record, with 15 bowl wins, two Big 12 titles, and one BCS National Championship. With his candid personality, media savvy, and deep knowledge of the game both on and off the field, Brown has long been thought to end up as a television analyst following his coaching career, which seems to be all but over.

There was speculation that Brown could step in for former Notre Dame and South Carolina coach-slash-tongue-twisting analyst Lou Holtz, who—despite ESPN’s denials—announced his plan to retire after the upcoming 2014 season, but those rumors seem to be quashed in light of Brandt’s tweet, as Brown’s position with the network will be different from Holtz’s.

Hopefully with Mack in the studio, we’ll be gifted with more videos like this one. Texas style, baby!

Photo by MICHAEL GOULDING,THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER (Credit Image: © The Orange County Register/


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Kedra Ishop Resigns, Says Unrelated to Admissions Investigation


Four Questions for Kedra Ishop

Kedra Ishop, vice provost and admissions director at UT, will step down on July 15 to become the associate vice president of enrollment management at the University of Michigan. Ishop, BA ’97, MEd ’00, PhD ’08, Life Member, says that the move was in the works prior to news regarding the UT System’s launch of a full-scale external investigation into admissions at UT-Austin.

“All this began before any of that, before the announcement,” Ishop says. “It was not part of it. Most important was making the right decision in what I’ve been doing for my career.”

Ishop would not comment on the private meeting regent Wallace Hall proposed with Ishop months ago during his inquiry into the admissions process, or on the UT regent controversy in general. Hall has been under investigation for the better part of a year by the Texas Legislature on the subject of massive, unprecedented document requests, and if they violated state or federal statues. Hall maintains he has simply been fulfilling his duties as a regent.

Ishop’s role will be broader at Michigan than than it is at UT, as Ishop will oversee several units. The new gig, she says, represents a promotion.

“It’s a very bittersweet moment for me—I wasn’t looking to leave the institution,” Ishop says. “Sometimes great opportunities come knocking. Anyone learns that as you prepare yourself to lead, you sometimes get knocked in head by a tremendous opportunity—that’s what I have at UM— and you notice and you listen. I’m excited about the position and the opportunity that Michigan presents. At this is point in time it’s the right decision for myself and my family to take advantage of it.”

Ishop is proud of her time at the University of Texas, noting the dynamic relationship between the institution, the state of Texas, and its constituents as being unique to the school.

“There’s a lot of things [I'm most proud of],” Ishop says. “It’s being a part of transforming the admissions process from one that when I entered over 20 years ago was in a different time and place to being a part of transforming admissions with holistic review. Not just professionally, but also being part of this team and all of us taking ourselves across this in a short amount of time. It’s hard to see from the outside how transformative it is.”

Ishop also says that any adversity she or the admissions office have faced at UT helped prepare her for her new role at Michigan, one that is set to begin on September 1.

“Michigan would not have been interested in me,” Ishop says, “without the preparation I’ve had at UT, and I’m extremely proud of the experience I’ve had here at the university.”

That experience is deeply important to Ishop, an alumna who received three degrees from UT and has mixed emotions about leaving the university despite her new opportunity at Michigan.

“Texas is my home. Always was, and always will be.”

Photo courtesy Lucy Ledesma.


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Student Pleads Guilty to Supporting Terrorists


Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.55.26 PMUT senior Rahatul Ashikim Khan pleaded guilty today in an Austin court to charges of providing material support to terrorists.

Khan, 23, was arrested at his Round Rock home last month. Authorities allege that he tried to recruit potential terrorists in an online chat room from 2011-12. Also charged with the same offense, and arrested as part of the same operation, was Austin man Michael Todd Wolfe, 23, who allegedly planned to travel to Syria for a suicide mission with an Al-Qaeda affiliate. Wolfe pleaded guilty last Friday.

According to the criminal complaint against Khan, in the chat room he referred to himself as a jihadi, discussed training and weapons, and indicated he was trying to recruit others to join his cause.

Khan could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.




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