Five Highlights From President Fenves’ Fall 2018 State of the University Address

As the fall 2018 semester gets underway, President Greg Fenves gave the annual State of the University Address on Thursday, marking his fourth year as president of The University of Texas at Austin. In his speech, Fenves reflected on what his years as president have been like and his hopes for the future, outlining the university’s priorities for the coming year.

Below, we’ve rounded up five key moments. Read the full transcript here.

“The purpose of our university is to unlock potential. We offer opportunities to talented students from all walks of life. And with every student who comes to UT, and then graduates, we fulfill our purpose.” 

Fenves discussed UT’s commitment to student success, access, and upward mobility. He noted that by 2017, UT’s four-year graduation rate increased by about 15 percentage points overall, and by 17 points for Hispanic students and 20 points for African-American students.

He also said UT needs to be more financially possible, highlighting the Texas Advance Commitment, a program launched in the spring. It enables first-year UT students with family incomes of up to $100,000, who have financial need, to receive guaranteed aid and students with family incomes of up to $30,000 receive, at a minimum, aid to completely cover their full tuition costs.

“Our responsibility to UT students starts with access, then moves to graduation, but it doesn’t end with graduation. It continues with upward mobility and our students’ ability to achieve the American Dream.”

UT has introduced College to Career—an initiative that will provide increased support for students so they can explore a broad range of career paths and opportunities. And in 2019, the university will build a new, university-wide center for students called the Center for Career Exploration and Development.

“We know there aren’t such clear lines separating the arts, humanities and sciences. The world is increasingly multidisciplinary. UT must be too.”

UT established the Bridging Barriers grand challenge program in January. Its first project, Planet Texas 2050, which initiated its first challenge this past January, brought together around 100 researchers from different universities to address the scientific, economic, and social issues that face generations of Texans to come. Fenves announced the second Bridging Barriers challenge, called Whole Communities—Whole Health. He said faculty from across the university will work together to explore ways to foster the healthy development of children and families struggling with adversity.

“At UT, education and research have always been our primary focus, but in recent years, we have also greatly accelerated our health care mission.”

Fenves noted the importance of the Dell Medical School and its recent growth. There are now three classes of students at Dell Med and nearly 300 residents and fellows. It now has its own clinics, at UT Health Austin. And recently, Dell Med earned a planning grant for the redesign of the Austin State Hospital as the cornerstone for person-centered mental health care across Central Texas.

“It has become clear to me that there is one overarching aspiration that reflects the ethos of our university, and that is to be the best. To be the best public research university in the nation.”

To close, Fenves summarized the university’s three priorities. First, is to improve access, student success, and upward mobility. Second, strengthen the commitment to faculty and graduate students. And third, serve the state of Texas and beyond.


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