Letter from the Executive Director: Speaking Up

This January, elected officials from across the state will once again climb the Capitol steps and begin the important work of the 87th Legislative Session. With a new year beginning and that familiar chill in the air, it may feel like the start of the last session, and the one before that. But the challenges facing our lawmakers after a year like 2020 are unlike anything we’ve seen before. 

With resources being so stretched, the battle of the budget will be big. And we will once again see a debate about the value of public higher education become frontpage news. But I’ll try to cut through the noise: An investment in UT Austin is an investment in rebuilding Texas.  

As the world was shutting down and uncertainty was the order of the day, Jason McClellan, an associate professor of molecular biosciences, was dutifully reporting to his lab on an eerily quiet campus. As news broke in November that a vaccine would soon hit the market, we partly had McClellan and his team to thank for their work in mapping the virus’ spike protein.  

And it’s not just the research that improves the lives of everyone in our state; with the highest four-year graduation rate in Texas among public institutions, UT is producing adaptive educators, forward-thinking business owners, and community leaders, who will go on to solve the next crisis. It’s a massive skilled workforce. A first-class university like ours isn’t just about handing out degrees; it’s about powering the economy—and improving quality of life across the board.  

This session, our UT Advocates will be asking the legislature to invest in a better future by maintaining current formula funding levels and support for UT Austin’s budgetary special items. To understand what qualifies as “special item” and why they matter so much, read the Alcalde’s preview, “Back in Session.”

As the session heats up, the collective voice of alumni living around the world will matter greatly—as it always has in the history of our state. I hope you will stay informed and engaged as events unfold at the Capitol. Your degree, like mine, may have been printed and framed in an entirely different era. Your college memories may sometimes feel worlds away. But UT Austin, the place that changed your life forever, needs you now.  

Hook ’em, 

Chuck Harris
BBA ’86, Life Member

[Photo of front of Texas Capitol by Matt Wright-Steel]


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