August 18, 2010
Presented at The Arts Center,
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College
Good morning! There are plenty of seats available in and around. Please begin to make your way to chairs that are available to you. There is plenty of room around.
It is wonderful to see everyone here today. People always ask - I suppose it is part of our agrarian roots - they ask, “Well, how are you enjoying your summer vacation?” Right? And we have to just smile because it takes too long to explain that we don’t shutdown during the summer. We’re all still here and life goes on here at the university, and that this summer we experienced a record high enrollment, about 19%. Well, the applause goes to you because you had to counsel each one, register each one, and to help guide each one towards parking spaces. So, muchisimas gracias.
Welcome back to the beginning of a new academic year and back to your home.
I hope that you took advantage of the health screenings offered by our Nursing Department and the fitness evaluations the REK Center is doing. I know it’s a tough reality check to have to face your body fat index early in the morning; I mean that’s tough anytime. But hopefully you’re inspired to continue the campaign of “Get Moving”: get exercising, and take care of yourself, so that we may take care of those around us.
This year we are adding a new layer to our campus wellness program by kicking off the year as a tobacco free campus. This is an initiative that many of you know has been affirmed by the Staff Senate and the Academic Senate. It’s also had the support of student leaders, who are serving on our information campaign committee to help reach out to our students.
Quitting smoking is a very difficult thing. Even people who really want to quit have a tough time. But our campus community believes this is the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it.
This summer, Professor John Cook, who holds Difficult Dialogs sessions, held one on the issue of smoking and a tobacco-free campus this summer. During the session a student stood up to share with the group that he was not a smoker and, until two days earlier, he really didn’t have an opinion for, or against, the tobacco-free campus policy. That changed, he recounted, the previous week in July when he spent the night in the emergency room with one of his friends. She was 20 years old and was in the emergency room as a result of a smoking-related illness. The young man said that his friends had thought they were too young for smoking to hurt them, but now he had come to understand that it could affect everybody. He also now believed that if the policy will help our students at least limit their smoking, then he was100 percent behind it.
But to some, a healthier lifestyle might still be too abstract. So here is a way to fight the recession: quit smoking. A person who quits a pack-a-week habit will save $1,842 in the course of a year. You can put into your retirement plan, and, you see, you will live longer so you can actually use the retirement plan. If you have a pack-a-day habit, you could save $3,720 in a year. And by the way, also forgo the costs of a serious illness that has no real monetary value except to those around you that have to experience it.
Later on this morning we will honor some of our colleagues for earning up to 35 years of service at our university. I remember when I first started in this work, I kept thinking, “You’re not going to develop relationships. You’re just going to keep a professional distance between you and everyone else. That’s how it has to be.” Well, that doesn’t work. Of course you develop relationships, and we spend more time with each other here, often, than with our own families at home. So, what we are trying to do in this case is try to take care of each other’s family, our family here at work as well. So, help us as we honor our 35 year service awardees. Let’s try to all make it to 35. And one way we do that is to quit smoking.
I knew you were waiting to see if I could ever bring it back in! I almost lost it there, but luckily it came back.
Last week the Brownsville Economic Development Council hosted Governor Rick Perry on our campus, and although our economy has not rebounded as we would all have liked, the Governor repeated the phrase we have heard all over the state, “Thank God we live in Texas… and not California.” He said that several times. It could be Arizona, too, Dr. Artibise. He made the right choice at the right time to come from Arizona to Texas. Whether you hear it from Governor Perry or from Representative Rene Oliveira, who is chairman of the state’s Ways and Means Committee, the words are no longer theoretical, “Texas is in dire straits.” It took us many years to get into this deficit, and both agree that it will likely be many years to get us out of this deficit.
Last year in anticipation of tough times, we began, with your help, cost containment and resource generation strategies. My thanks to all of you who helped everyday by reducing M&O accounts, reducing travel, turning off lights - a very simple thing that has saved us thousands of dollars - and copying documents on both sides of a piece of paper. Now when I get a piece of paper, what I immediately want to do is turn it over to make sure that we didn’t violate our policy because it is that important, and it does save some money along the way. Individually, they were each very small, incremental steps, but when combined they had significant impact.
Some of our quickest wins were in the computer and printer savings. Our IT folks worked with departments to simply analyze the type of computers that were needed and how much life existing computers still had left in them.
To date, we’ve cut our computer costs in half from $1.2 million in previous years to $600,000 this last year. The Applied Business Technology Department, for example, changed their request that they had submitted from 48 new computers to only 22, allowing $20,867 to be available for other critical area needs. Campus-wide, 73 percent of desktop computer purchases have become the standard model recommended instead of all the different variations. The average cost is down $147 over previous years for a savings of about $82,000. So again, those very small, incremental steps, when added together, create great response.
By networking people to printers… now, I was telling Angela as we were looking at that phrase last night - networking people to computer printers - a few years ago we would not have known what that meant. How do you network people to computer printers? Of course in offices, now, we are all trying to do that. You get one printer and we all network to that printer. By doing this, the Business Administration Department saved $5,538, and the Academic Affairs division saved $5,771.
Taking the time to think very strategically about our purchases and how we do our business is paying off. The Provost, though, added another piece to that process. He talked about cost containment, but then he said that we also need to think smarter about how to generate resources; that was the second part of the task that you all had this last year.
Today in the newspaper, as a matter of fact, there was a wonderful story about a $1.2 million grant that we have received for student support services. We’ve been reorganizing the way we go after research dollars, beginning with creating a new division of research last year. And then we found this wonderful fellow just hanging around campus, Dr. Luis Colóm, and we asked him if he would serve as our Vice President for Research.
I am happy to announce that last year we were awarded 16 new grants for a total of almost $8 million, an impressive $4.5 million gain in just one year alone. Congratulations, Dr. Colóm. He, however, is still looking for an office, so if anybody has any recommendations, please guide the man.
The new grants for research funding are in Gravitational Wave Astronomy, in mathematics, several projects in environmental science and computer science, in biological science and one grant that will fund positions for undergraduates to work with professors on university research projects.
We have had many people working on getting our university programs out into the community. Irv Downing and his team that focuses on economic development and community services, the Office of Graduate Studies, the Business and Student Affairs Divisions and our academic departments have been thinking very innovatively about the needs of our community.
Let me give you a couple of examples. The College of Education developed new fast-track cohorts offering master’s degrees in science, mathematics and bilingual education to public school teachers in Donna, in Spring Branch, TX - you heard right - and other outlying Valley cities. Sometimes it’s easier for teachers to have one cohort group formed in their school, and they all decide on working on their master’s in mathematics or bilingual education. So this process says, “Here is the package, and here’s how we can provide it to you. You can stay in your school. We’ll have somebody come to you so you can earn your way towards a master’s degree.”
At the other end of the spectrum, at BISD, we are collaborating to offer high school seniors programs so they can immediately get into the workplace in jobs ranging from Certified Nurse Assistants to Real Estate agents.
In total, there were 354 students – both at the graduate and undergraduate levels - enrolled in these outreach programs that generated tuition of almost $150,000. This is a good beginning. There is much more opportunity that we can tap into if we reach out into the community. So, thank you Irv and the staff. I know many people from Student Affairs were involved in that, as well as Academic Affairs and all the departments that have to provide the courses. Thank you to all.
We’ve been hearing from our State leaders that Texas has a $19 billion deficit. The Texas State Constitution prohibits the legislature from running a deficit budget. Last year, the Texas budget was balanced in great part by federal stimulus dollars injected into our state coffers. So as much as we complained about all that terrible spending at the federal level, we took great advantage of it as a State, and that’s what we used to balance our budget in the State of Texas last year.
The fact is, for all practical purposes, that money is now gone. There are no new federal dollars that will be injected into the state budget to balance it.
So the outcome is a bit bleak with revenues continuing to plummet in the State of Texas, the sales tax, for example, and costs of services continue to rise.
Mid spring of this year, we were told to return 5 percent of our state appropriations. Now just to give you an idea, I was at a meeting the other day when somebody said, “It could get really bad. They could be asking us to return money to them.” It already has in higher education, that’s my point. It happened to us already last spring. We were asked to return 5 percent of what we were due to operate in this past year. For us that meant that almost $2 million, and that’s why that exercise in cost containment was not only theoretical, but applied immediately. So it shaved off spending and returned it to the State in order for the State to remain in the black.
A few months later, we received another request from the State. This time they asked that we reduce our budgets for next year by another 5 percent, we don’t try to recoup the 5 percent that we had just lost, and we cut it again by another 5 percent. Now, we’re hearing that we may be asked to reduce our budget by another 5 percent. That would mean that in a period of unprecedented student growth, we are being asked to do more work with less and less. Today, just 30 percent of our total budget comes from state appropriations. Some universities are saying, “We are no longer State supported, we are State assisted.” Because when 30 percent of your total revenue, only, comes from the State, you begin to wonder who the boss is and who’s not.
In California - remember: “Thank God we live in Texas” – if we were in California it could have been worse. The state handled a more serious deficit in another way. They simply limited enrollment. I talked to college presidents when I was there this summer, and in some cases, the State would simply send them a letter saying, “You may only enroll so many students this year. You may not enroll one more than that.” Can you imagine that here with all the momentum of building a university, and having people in line at your door waiting to come in, and having to tell them, “I’m sorry, the State has limited us to this many.” In some cases they limited them to the enrollment they currently had; in other cases they asked them to decrease the enrollment they currently had.
So while we have made admirable progress with our cost-containment and with our resource generation initiatives, the task is not over. We must continue to work smarter and leaner to continue to provide the excellence in teaching and learning that our community deserves. Still more ways to save dollars must be surfaced. We don’t want to turn students away when they need us the most.
The fact that we had an enrollment increase this summer was no accident. It really occurred for three reasons. First is the economy is very bad, and whenever the economy gets bad, people go back to school. People think, “If I had just finished my degree, I could get a better job.” Or, “If I get another degree, I could get a better job.” It certainly feels that you’re moving forward if you are going to school, instead of sitting at home trying to find a job.
The second reason I think people came this summer was because of the new Pell Grant requirement. About 62 percent of our students are on Pell. Pell dollars had only been able to be used, and correct me Financial Aid folks if I misstep here in real time, they were only able to be used in the fall and spring semesters. This last year, for the very first time, Congress said, “You may use your Pell during the summer months.” This is a wonderful thing. Well the word got out and so students immediately applied as soon as you got the word out to them to come back and use their Pell as scholarship dollars or grant dollars to come back and continue their education.
That was the second reason. The first was the economy and the second was Pell. And then the third is that they want to be here. One of the ladies in my office was talking to her daughter about where she’d like to go away to school, and she said that they were driving by the campus and she said, “You know, mother, I wish UT Brownsville weren’t in Brownsville.” And she said, “I don’t understand, sweetheart.” She said, “Because I really want to go away to school, I wish I could go away to UT Brownsville.” That’s a lovely compliment, isn’t it? That was Angela’s daughter. I hope you don’t mind me saying now that I already have, Angela? But that’s a sentiment also. People are here because they want to be here; because when they come, you open doors for them, and you try to accommodate them; and because of all the work that you do to support them when they get here.
So it is very difficult at a time when the community has kind of woken up to this gem that sits here right before them, where they don’t have to go away to get it, to close our doors. Our job is going to be to try very hard, in spite of the decreases in real revenue, to do our work and continue to provide those services to our students.
In case this whole notion of, “How bad is it in the rest of the country? Maybe the Governor is exaggerating. Maybe our State representative is exaggerating. Maybe I’m exaggerating.” Someone sent me this wonderful graphic of what unemployment has done in the nation over the last few years.
Take a look at the progression of the unemployment picture in our state.
What you are going to see here is the shading changes of the lighter to the darker. As it changes from the lighter to the darker, you have more and more unemployment in these states. So if you see the key on the bottom right-hand side, you see the lighter numbers are one percent unemployment, two percent unemployment. Look at the dates at the top. They’re taking you through August… September of ‘08, and the numbers as they’re rising in the United States. It’s happening everywhere. It is real. It is here in Texas, but it is even more serious elsewhere. So our job is to do the very best we can during a very, very tough time. There has never been a more critical time for us to produce college graduates who are prepared to meet these kinds of challenges that they are going to face.
There has never been a more critical time for us to succeed in our work of producing college graduates who are well prepared for the challenges they will face.
Yet, at the national level, America has fallen from first to twelfth in college graduation rates for young adults in a single generation among developed countries.
While nearly eight in ten new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education degree by the end of this decade, only 42 percent of young adults in the United States have earned a bachelor’s degree. Doesn’t sound so bad, right, 42 percent? Well think about what’s happening with everyone else who can’t apply for those jobs because they don’t have the credentials.
But that’s nationally. What percentage of young adults don’t have more than high school training in Texas? Only 27 percent of young adults in our state have earned a bachelor’s degree. Texas ranks 40th in the nation. What about Cameron County? Remember, nation-wide, 42 percent of adults have earned a bachelor’s degree. In the State, 27 percent of young adults have earned a bachelor’s degree. In Cameron County, only 13 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree. So, we have our work set-out for us.
We must double the percentage of college graduates from 13 to 27 percent just to catch up with the State of Texas… so that the State can catch up with the United States… so the United States can catch up with the other developing countries in the world.
A few years ago, I had the great honor of visiting Egypt. While there, I traveled to a city named Alexandrina, the site of the ancient library of the world. There are wonderful stories of this library. As boats would come in, and as ships would come in to the ports of Alexandrina, people would board the ship - let’s say that Father Mathew is the captain of the ship. He’s just come into the port, and I’d board the ship and say, “Father Mathew, do you have any manuscripts that you might lend us so that we might copy them and put in the archives of the library of Alexandrina?” It was a very popular port, with everyone coming in from the Mediterranean to the port of Alexandrina. So Father Mathew would say, “What a great idea! Sure, I’ll lend you my manuscripts.” While he was in port, offloading shipments and loading on new shipments, they would be copying the manuscripts, allegedly to put them in their archives. In fact, they returned the copies to Father Mathew. Hmm… even then there were pirates. So they kept the originals in the Alexandrina library. That is one way that they built one of the most wonderful libraries of the world. That library was eventually destroyed by Napoleon one time, and by fires and earthquakes. All of those archives that were extraordinarily rich and valuable soon became dispersed. Some were hidden, others entombed. Egypt decided a few years ago that they would try to recreate the world’s greatest library. So they hired a man named Ismail Serageldin.
Ismail Serageldin, holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Cairo University and master’' degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has received 26 honorary doctorates. He was at the World Bank - a wheeler and dealer, world-wide, in economic events, and he was referred to as the most intelligent man to ever leave Egypt… aside from the King, who stayed in Egypt. He served as an international expert then returned to Egypt to try to recreate the library, the greatest library in the world.
When I arrived in Egypt, he had done that. He rebuilt a library, a brand new one. He began to collect archives, again. You can get on to the website and you can see the archives that you can access yourself even from your home in Brownsville, TX, to see what they have in this library. I was just amazed that someone would take on the task. Imagine me assigning that task to any of you. “I would like you to recreate the world’s greatest library.” And so I asked him, “How did you do this? This is such a mammoth undertaking.” As I sat and watched him speak and thought of the extraordinary task before him, of recreating what was once world’s greatest library, I wondered how a person accepts such a challenge. So I simply asked him. He responded, “Drip, drip, drip.” And I thought, ‘This is the most intelligent man that ever left Egypt?’ I said, “I don’t understand, sir.” And he said, “The Grand Canyon, your own Grand Canyon in the United States, was made with one drip at a time.” Just as the Grand Canyon was forged one drop of water at a time, so shall we recreate this library; one person, one book, one day at time.”We don’t do our important work in a mammoth way, even though it is mammoth work. We do it one drip at a time.
Last week, I visited with students. Not 17,000, but with about 100: our Scorpion Scholars and our Challenge for Excellence Scholars.
These are the students that every school wants. They’ve done all the right things. They’ve taken all the tough courses. They come right out of high school. They go through the admissions process. They went through orientation. They wore the t-shirts. They learned the alma mater. They did everything, right, Mari? They’re here. They’re ready. They’re excited.
Well, one young lady that I met was named Alexandrina… now you know where the connection is, right? I know it’s a reach, but…. One of the new Scorpion Scholars, Alexandrina, is not only the first person in her family to come to college, but she was the first in her family to graduate from high school. And I thought, ‘Isn’t it some kind of poetic justice to be named after the city where the greatest library in the world, not was once, but has now been recreated?’ Alexandrina then attended Med Tech because she wanted to be a doctor. After the loss of a child in her family when she was very young, she decided at that moment that her mission in life was to study hard, go off to be a physician, and come back to serve her community. She had many choices of where to attend college, but chose our University because of the full scholarship she received as a top 10 percent graduate, and as you know, we scholarship them.
This young lady is very bright and has a clear goal. What she will need from us is the very best preparation we can give her that will serve to launch her to medical school. She will need mentorship and professional grooming. We need to teach her how this whole place works.
We cannot change the world. We can change our students, though, one student at a time, and we can help alter their world. Not ours, but theirs, by the opportunities we give them. We cannot change our students’ background, the preparation they’ve received or the fact that they likely to be the first in their families to attend college. Yet we do have the power to change each one of their individual worlds through our work at this University. Much like Ismael recreated the library in Alexandrina, one student at a time. We have Alexandrina here with us today, and like her, we have thousands of those students. The trick for us will be how we impact not one, not a hundred at a luncheon, not two or three hundred in special programs, but how can we scale-up some the best programs that we discovered work here to impact our students and build our own library.
We have become focused on “access;” access meaning flinging open those doors. Well first we had to build buildings with doors. So we built buildings, we had to buy land, we built a campus. We had to find the best faculty we could to come and join our work.
A couple of weeks ago, we had visiting our campus, State Representative Scott Hochberg, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Appropriations for Education. He was here to find out what we were doing about our low graduation rates. He was also here to learn how this partnership works.
What I told him was a story of the partnership. So, allow me to replay some of those events for you this morning. Remember that just about 19 years ago, we were a junior college, a very fine, little junior college, and we were growing at double-digit rates. Not the 19 percent of this year, but we were growing at 11 percent, 12 percent, 13 percent some semesters. We were very happy being a nice community college. We had built some buildings, restored some of the historical buildings, started a baseball team - little things. Everything was kind of a “little thing.”
Then we started to read the job projections for the next century, and job projections set us back because they said, “It’s not going to be enough for students to get just an associate degree or a certificate. That’s a good launching pad, but the jobs of the new century require more. They require higher critical thinking skills. They require bachelor’s degrees.” We said, “Well then what are we doing here? We’re only offering the certificate and the associate degree. While that’s very good, only 17 percent of students are transferring to universities at the very best community college in the nation. That causes a huge gap between what we say we are doing to open the doors for our students to accomplish and what they’re actually able to accomplish.”
And so we decided we need to build a university, and we had better build it here, not elsewhere. We don’t want to have to transport our students and have them go outside of their communities because, guess what, they’re not going to be able to do that. They have families, they have jobs and it will almost be a miracle in each family if we can just get them to this campus. So we decided to go to the UT System and ask them to build a university here. After a bit of negotiation they said, “Great idea! We wish we would have thought of it ourselves.” So we started a university in 1991. We started brick by brick, drip by drip, student by student, building a university and our campus.
We created a new model to eliminate the barriers between degrees. We created the new model to provide efficiency in the administrative structures. We created the new model to take advantage of the very best characteristics of community colleges: open admissions, a nurturing environment, the ability to test yourself our at multiple skill levels: at the associate, the certificate, at the baccalaureate, and yes, at the master’s and the doctorate degree level — and we would build it right here on top of this community college.
So we got it accredited. We made it through the legislature, both the House and the Senate. The Governor came to our campus to sign the bill. And then we began to grow it. We grew from 49 to 460 acres. We did master planning. We planted trees, lots and lots of trees that now provide shade. We have been busy adding more than 75 new degree programs at all of those levels. We have been busy searching for and attracting expert and experienced new faculty and staff to grow programs in architecture, biomedical studies, chemistry and environmental sciences, forensics, nursing, psychology and translation. We have been conducting internationally-recognized research in physics and in the biological sciences.
We have been busy growing a nascent athletic program from competition at the junior college level to the NAIA to compete and win nationally in soccer, volleyball, baseball and golf. And, competing in international chess tournaments and coming in second in the most competitive tournament this year and having our Brownsville teams featured on national television
This is what we’ve done, I told Hochberg.
And then I took out our Closing the Gap map that we had used because the Texas Higher Education Board said, “You’ve got to get Hispanics, and in your community, predominantly Hispanics into school, you’ve got to get them into colleges.” They set out a target for student participation. How many students do you have in colleges in your area?
You see the green line. That’s where Texas was overall in terms of their participation rate. Then we wanted to measure ourselves against Texas overall, and then we wanted to measure ourselves against Texas Hispanics. So look what happened in Cameron County. We not only met the Texas Hispanic target they had set for us, we exceeded it, and now we have met the overall Texas target.
Then where is the disconnect? Because I just said that we needed to double the number of students with bachelor’s degrees? Here’s the difference: This is getting them in; the other is getting them though and out.
So the second target that the Coordinating Board set was moving through your university and colleges and actually getting them out. In order to do that, we had to increase the number of degrees. More associate degrees, certificates. We had to increase all of those. So here you see where we were in each of those programs. In certificate degrees, in associate degrees, look at the baccalaureate degree growth within this period of time. Look at the number of options that students have today that they didn’t have just a few years ago. And of course you see the master’s degrees. So we added degree programs. Now students are here. They’re participating. They have nice buildings to do that in. We’ve added the degrees. There’s lots of faculty here.
And so did we, in fact, increase our degree production? Absolutely. Every year over the last 20 years, we’ve increased, as a matter of fact, over the last 10 years we have doubled our degree output. Do you know how many students we had last year? Ok, let’s see who knows the answer. You have to wake up to answer the question. Who knows how many graduates we had in winter and in spring of last year? Give me a guess. Como? 1700. Higher. Pardon? No fair, Ronnie. Why does Ronnie know? Because he had to count them, he had to line them up, and he had to seat them at graduation. 2200 students! Imagine the impact. That’s graduates, that’s not just participation.
Success: That’s the second goal we’re reaching for with the Coordinating Board. How many are you actually getting in, installing, and getting through the process? “Crossing the Finish Line” is the name of a wonderful book that’s just come out recently about how to get students to cross that finish line.
Well what did we learn about the students who made it to Commencement?
- A successful student comes to us college-ready. Well that’s no big surprise, right? They know how to study. They’ve been doing it for a while. They know their math, they know their reading, and they know how to write.
- The successful student attends college right after graduating from high school. They don’t wait around. They don’t get into debt, buy a car, get married or have a baby. They come to us straight out of high school.
- The successful student attends full-time - not part-time, not three-quarters of the time, full-time, maintains a solid GPA, doesn’t drop an excessive number of classes, oops, getting a little harder here, and if they work, they seek a job on-campus and work no more than 20 hours per week. How many students here work less than 20 hours per week?
- The successful student gets connected and engaged through a job or through student activities.
- The successful student doesn’t stop out one semester, and then decide to come back or worse, does not come back at all.
That has become the focus of our work: to get more and more of our students into that successful student model.
Last year this month, in terms of getting students college-ready, we celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the TSC Endowment Program that was specifically aimed at this issue of guiding students, beginning in 7th grade, toward the more rigorous courses. We said if you take the tougher courses and make A’s and B’s in those courses, you’ll earn scholarship dollars for college. More than 13,000 students have received scholarships through that program.
Every year we continue to apply for federal dollars to support a myriad of outreach programs in everything from upward bound, upward bound math and science, veteran’s upward bound. These programs have worked, too, one drip at a time, or one student at a time. Fifty students here or 150 students there, and those programs have worked.
We started our own Math and Science Academy for 11th and 12th graders and partnered with BISD to establish an Early College High School.
We’ve been focusing on preparing better teachers to work in our area schools. And every year we graduate some of the best prepared teachers in Texas that pass their state boards at impressive rates.
We’ve also been experimenting with different ways to teach them, those that despite our best efforts in college preparation, still come to us in need of developmental education.
In developmental education, we’ve tried computer assisted instruction, we’ve tried smaller classes, we’ve tried more experienced teachers, and most recently we’ve tried linked courses.
Of the entering freshman, 40% require some type of remediation. Of those, 82% need remediation in math.
What about trying getting them in immediately after high school? We established an Office for New Student Relations. “Maybe if we just get them to campus on tours,” someone said, “Maybe that’ll make all the difference. They just haven’t been to your campus. Invite them for a tour. That’ll make all the difference.” Carlo Tamayo and his staff have thousands of students on our campus every year in tours.
We re-aligned our scholarship programs to entice students to come to us directly after high school. We said, “You get a scholarship if you come to us right out of high school.” Get it? Go directly to “go,” don’t stop, come here right away. We restructured orientation and now require it for all of incoming freshmen, and we test and provide financial aid information in the high schools. We try to capture them before they go away for the summer.
What about trying to get students to attend full-time like the successful student model says they should? We designed an incentive program that installed flat-rate tuition for students to take 15 or more credit hours a semester. They pay no more than if they were taking 15.
What about maintaining a grade point average? In 2007, we installed more rigorous SAP guidelines. We said that we are going to help you achieve a 2.0 GPA and complete 70 percent of your credit hours every semester. We took a big hit, so did many students. We lost more than 3,000 over those years because SAP spun them out.
If students must work, one of the descriptors on the successful student model says, make sure you create jobs for them on campus. In addition to the hundreds of jobs that we already had through the federal work study program, we created a new Student Employment Initiative program. Students were asked to meet even more rigorous standards, maintain a 2.75 GPA and attend school full-time. In return the students would get paid at a higher wage, work a maximum of 20 hours on campus and most importantly, get to know a professor, get connected and engaged with campus life.
We applied for and received AmeriCorps positions for more students than ever before
We expanded our athletics program dramatically, tripled the number of student organizations for students to get engaged in, converted a hotel into student housing, created a Center for Civic Engagement that recruits students as fellows to work with the community and incorporated service learning as part of the curricula for many of our classes.
And all of that has been a wonderful effort and we yet still have a significant problem at this university.
How do we keep students from stopping out?
I can’t tell you how many students I meet working in the community that tell me, “I’m a student at your university.” I tell them, “That’s wonderful! What are you taking?” They answer, “Well, I’ve stopped out for a while. I’ve got to make some money, or I’ve got to pay some bills. I had a sickness in my family.” Research clearly tells us that every time a student ‘stops out’ they dramatically reduce their probability of graduating on time or ever.
But in spite of our best efforts so far, we still have students that come to us not college-ready; that fail once, twice and three development courses; then finally pass developmental courses and then fail their freshman courses; that work off-campus and more than 20 hours a week; that don’t connect and engage in campus activities or with professors; that don’t take advantage of our student learning center and our advising center and that leave us after their freshman year in debt and with no credential in hand to repay the debt.
So last year, we said ok, basta! We’ve tried the shotgun approach, now let’s spend a year studying what happens on this campus specifically, not elsewhere, when the student first arrives. We had a program with more than 100 people studying it, and it was called Foundations of Excellence: the FOE Program. I keep wanting to call it other things that’s why they’re thrilled that I looked down at my notes.
The FOE Program said, “Let’s study what happens to our students when they get here.”
Without filter, regardless of what we discover, we can’t sugarcoat it, we’ve got to pull away all that we find. We want to look at all of our processes and procedures just as a freshman student might experience them for the first time. We looked for where students were falling through the cracks; where we are losing them. Because in spite of our best efforts… here’s another question for you: How many of our students do we lose as freshman in one year, their freshman year? A guess? Percent, I’m sorry, percent. Higher or lower than 50 percent? We don’t lose 100 percent. How many do we lose? Forty percent. It used to be 50 percent; we’re now only losing 40 percent... only 40 percent.
So in last year’s class of entering freshman, of about 2,000 new students, we lost 800 students. That’s a lot of students that self-selected to come here. They thought they were prepared, that had the temerity to come and register, go through orientation and get advised, and go through all the problems and all the things that you took them through … applying for financial aid. And somehow, still they were not successful when they got here.
One of the greatest predictors of college success is socio-economic level. Let’s say Alma and I are two students. We both studied in high school. We’re both prepared, equally prepared; we made the same grade on everything. We’re ready to go. But Alma comes from a very wealthy family, and I come from a poor family. The likelihood that both of us will graduate is very slim. Alma, from the wealthy family, has a three- or sometimes four-times more likelihood than I do to graduate from college. We prepared. We took all the tough courses. But life intervenes. It means life’s tough, and that means that I’m going to have to make some decisions that Alma won’t have to make about what we don’t do in the family this year if I’m going to stay in college.
Sixty five percent of our freshmen have a family income of less than $25,000. So that’s the hardest student to get in and the hardest student to get out. Most are first-generation in their families to go to college. Most work more than 20 hours a week off campus. Most still live at home and don’t participate in campus activities. Most don’t connect with a professor outside of class or get an opportunity to work in a lab. But all of them have one great advantage and that is that most of them will change their lives dramatically if they succeed.
Just one graduate that finishes her teaching degree immediately doubles the family’s income, that’s a dramatic impact. And more importantly, that student flings open the door for the next one in her family to go to college as well. For that reason and because this university is the most powerful economic engine of this region, we must succeed with more and more students every year.
For that reason, we have gathered this last year the very best staff and faculty we could find. We’ve asked for your help to discover innovative new ways to take the developmental student and bring them up to speed, to keep students from stopping out, and to reduce the time to graduation.
As a result, we have been studying more than 36 recommendations that surfaced from their work. Some were fairly simple to solve and so we did right away, others were more difficult, and still others require additional dollars to bring up to scale. The Student Employment Initiative Program that put students to work has been powerful. Students work, they have a higher GPA, they take more hours, but we don’t have enough money to hire every student who needs a job on campus.
During the fall semester, we will begin to implement some these recommendations. You’ll hear about several new timely graduation initiatives that try to include converting current dollars into new and innovative work-study programs; we’re going to look at trying to expand flat-rate tuition from only 15 hours and above to perhaps 12 hours and above. And you’ll also hear about some re-organization to streamline the student’s first year experience.
Remember what I told you about Pell earlier, about how it is now available in the summers? I forgot to mention one thing. That’s that the law that said only the first summer can you get free admissions under summer Pell, but after that, in order to get Pell during the summer, you had to have completed 24 credit hours during the school year. Thank you, federal government, because that’s a successful student model, isn’t it? Take more hours and complete them, and guess what, you can get out of here in four years with a bachelor’s degree. So that marketing effort needs to come next. Students need to know that that Pell for summer is not going to be available to them unless during the fall semester and during the spring semester unless they complete 24 credit hours. They can do it; that’s 12 hours a semester. That’s a little bit less than one and a little bit more in the other. They can do that.
We keep what’s working, like the pilot project that paired a developmental reading course with a college level government course. That course was developed right here on this campus and was recognized by the National Center for Academic Transformation. We have to scale it up.
But we also must admit what’s not working. Like many other universities and colleges across the nation that continue to seek answers to how to do this work better. So you’ll hear about new proposals for modular, competency based courses to allow students to progress at a faster pace not constrained by the traditional 15 week semester.
Our goal will to be move students through our college prep curricula in a maximum of one year. Let me say that again. Our goal will be to move students through our developmental or remedial courses in one year, having had 12 years to prepare already, right? We’re going to give them one more. One more. Not two more. Not three more. One more.
We have chosen this community to build our university in because it needed us so badly. We’ve done a great job, and we can take a lot of pride, and now we must succeed.
It’s almost over, I promise you. There’s not more lecturing. I just had to tell you that this is very difficult - to try to figure out how to take it to the next level here. It’s a pivotal point for us. Construction is almost over. We have just a few construction projects remaining. The Oliveira Library is opening up already. That was the last of all that series of bond projects, and the last big construction project is the Biomedical Research and Health Professions Building, and that’ll be open by next year. It’s time to focus not on construction. It’s time now to focus on student success - crossing the finish line. So I had to go all the way through that to get us to this point. That’s why this is so important for our community. We’ve opened the doors, now we get them in, graduate not at just twice as much as they’ve done before, but perhaps at four times what they’ve done before.
None of this could happen without the service that you have provided us over the years and we’d like to honor that service today.
So, I’d like to welcome the new people who are joining us. They’re going to stand up, and you’re going to applaud very excitedly when I introduce them because we are very excited to have new strength, and new expertise, and new experience join us.
The first person we’re going to applaud for is the Director for Web Communications, Mark Baggesen. Where is Mark? Mark, please stand. Stay standing, Mark, I’m going to talk about you for a minute.
Mr. Baggesen is working to help us create a strategic and user-friendly web experience for our own campus community, as well as the global community of constituents who visit our website daily. He comes to us from the Dallas area where he has worked in website development and maintenance, e-marketing, web analytics, and strategic online partnerships. He has more than 25 years of corporate experience with 15 of those in creating web solutions.
He is going to make us the hottest looking website place in the nation! Thank you, Mark , for being here; we really appreciate it.
Todd Lowery is not a new face on campus, but he was named our new Athletic Director last March. Mr. Lowery, will you please stand….
Mr. Lowry joined our university 18 months ago as the Women’s Head Volleyball Coach. Last season he led our volleyball team to one of the most successful seasons in our history, ranking ninth in the regular season and qualifying for the NAIA Volleyball National Championship.
We thank you, dear sir, for joining our work. We’re glad that you found us and that you are finally here. Thank you, Mr. Lowery.
Jesse Gomez became our Director of Human Resources on June 1st. Mr. Gomez, will you please stand….
Mr. Gomez brings to us more than 28 years of experience in the public sector, including fourteen years in higher education management positions. Most recently, he served as director of Human Resources for Angelo State University where he was responsible for directing and managing all human resource functions and programs. Jesse received his undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management from St. Mary’s University, and we are so very happy to have you with us. Thank you, sir, for joining our important work.
Angel Mendez joined us two months ago as our new Director of Dual Enrollment. That is 5,000 of those 17,000 students we talk about, actually I think it’s closer to 18,000 that we’ll end up with this semester, but 5,000 of those are in dual enrollment classes.
Previously, Mr. Mendez served as Curriculum Director for Texas State Technical College, where he streamlined academic program options, oversaw the college’s dual enrollment program and developed and implemented a postsecondary advisement center for the students. He holds a master’s degree in education and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Welcome, Mr. Mendez, thank you for being with us.
Dr. Carol Radle has served as our new Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs for one month. She will lead the financial efforts in that division.
Dr. Radle brings great experience to us with 13 years in higher education and 15 years in the private sector. She most recently served as the Assistant Dean for Finance and Information Center comes at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Her expertise in budget management has allowed her to work in key financial areas such as budget development and maintenance, revenue and expense projections, capital budgets and multi-year financial planning. Welcome, Dr. Radle.
Dr. Alla Paroiatnikova joined us two days ago as Executive Director of Global Engagement. She previously served as the Director of Office of International Outreach at Southern Utah University for the last seven years.
She holds a Ph.D. from Moscow State University in International Journalism. At the Moscow State Journalism and Literacy Institute, she served as a Professor and Department Chair for 25 years before relocating to the United States. Dr. Allah began her career in this country at the United Nations working both in New York and Vienna.
We look forward to her leadership in the Office of Global Engagement where she will help us develop a strong international component for our students’ educational experience. Welcome to our work, we’re very glad to have you with us.
Another familiar face on campus, Ms. Shamina Davis will officially begin her tenure as Director for our Center for Civic Engagement on September 1st.
She has been a part of our university community for 22 years, serving first as a Medical Laboratory Technology Program instructor, then Program Director. She joined the faculty of our Bachelor of Applied Technology program in 2004 and later become Interim Director of both the BAT and the BAAS programs.
Ms. Davis earned her bachelor’s degree in medical technology from UT Pan American and her master’s degree in occupational training and development from Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
A member of the health care community by trade, Ms. Davis has been involved in service learning as both a student and a faculty member before she even knew that was what it was called. She looks forward to expanding service learning at our university and becoming a true resource to faculty and staff.
Our thanks to Kathy Bussert-Webb For all her good work, especially in preparing our submission for the Carnegie Foundation’s classification for community engagement.
Dr. Goldsmith is our newest employee. In fact, he’s not quite here yet. He will begin as our Chief Information Officer, overseeing the Information Technology Services Division, on September 1st.
Dr. Goldsmith most recently served as the Senior Advisor to the Executive Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs for Information Technology for The University of Texas System. He managed the creation of shared data centers in Ft. Worth, Austin and Houston to provide co-location, hosting and shared services for UT institutions. He was instrumental in analyzing state and federal legislation that would impact the use of technology in higher education. He also worked UT institutions on identity management issues. Before joining the Executive Vice Chancellor’s office, Dr. Goldsmith served as Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for the UT System.
Please welcome Dr. Goldsmith to our work when he arrives in the next couple of weeks.
Will all of you who are new to campus or who have received a promotion since this January, please stand so that we might also welcome you to our work?
This morning I’d like to honor someone who is retiring, who is not here, and that is Janie Gracia. Janie cannot be with us this morning. Wednesday is one of her regular health appointment mornings, yet we could not let her retirement pass without honoring this very devoted employee.
Janie began working at Texas Southmost College as a work study student in the 1980’s, now this is quite a while ago, with our professor, George Truan, who was then Chairman of the Art Department. So you see, sometimes work studies stay, and stay, and stay. So, Janie started working with George Truan and then with Jean Eckhoff. There Janie learned from the very best people about how to treat people graciously, how everyone deserves a chance and how important this college is to the lives of every student that comes our way. She also learned to find beauty in the simplest of things around her; in the native plants in the small courtyard outside of the Art Building and in the flowers that she was sent to carefully cut and display for guests.
On June 1, 1984, Janie began her first permanent position at the college as an administrative secretary in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. I had the privilege of being the dean of Arts and Sciences at the time… both of us too young and too inexperienced by most accounts. So Janie was tasked with helping me become a ‘real’ dean, as she would say.
If I would come out of my office and stand with Janie in the reception area, people would think that I wasn’t the dean. She would say, “Go back into your office, sit behind your desk, and try to look important.”
Aside from the personal tutelage that I received under her watchful eye, it was there that she also began her own career as master archivist of the college’s unofficial history and our preeminent goodwill ambassador. She knew all of the characters that flowed in and around the college and everyone seemed to know her. From time to time, an orchid would appear on her desk - not for me, but for Janie - having been cut for her by a biology professor that many of you know, Alfred Richardson, who appreciated her love of people and of orchids. Another day, a box of chocolates would appear on her desk from a thankful student that she had helped through the maze of our small bureaucracy.
Janie handled it all: phone calls, problems with paychecks that weren’t out on time, in those days we handed them out at the Dean’s office, if you can imagine… some of you remember. She scheduled all classes on campus and knew where every professor was ‘supposed’ to be at any one time. Throughout all of this, she also continued her own studies in history. She came to adore her professors and they, of course, came to respect and love her as well.
In 1986, Janie and I moved to a new office just across the breezeway in Gorgas. I became President and she my assistant. While both of our jobs changed dramatically, Janie always maintained her composure, her good nature, and her kind and generous ways. Ours has been a long journey together. But we have not been alone. Along the way, Janie has gathered hundreds of colleagues and friends who love and care for her deeply. You are each among them. In December 2002, she earned her bachelor’s degree in history and walked across the stage in Jacob Brown Auditorium with all of us sharing in her pride for the achievement.
For years Janie has suffered from the debilitating effects of diabetes. Over the past year her health needs have become greater, causing her to choose medical retirement in order to devote the proper time tending to her health. Although she has had setbacks, she has never given up. Throughout this process, and you can those around her, she maintains a strength that is impenetrable. It is a good will, a laughter, a sense of humor, especially about Wayne Moore. Janie loves us to speak badly about Wayne. She has lost her voice… literally, she has lost her voice, and she talks to us in a variety of other ways, over the computer and in her heart.
At home she stays in touch with us through email – often sending just the right words at the right time to make us smile. I urge you to keep in touch with her, send her an email or a text. Share with her the daily life that we continue to enjoy here.
Janie tells us that she has loved nothing more “Than making a contribution to this great community university.”
So Janie, felicidades and congratulations on a very well deserved retirement!
Retiring after three years of service is Ms. Judy Burst. During her tenure here, Ms. Burst served as Lecturer in Communication for the College of Liberal Arts. Prior to joining us, she served as the Assistant Director of Information for the Rio Grande State Center, where she was awarded the Distinguished Employee Award. Following her ten year career there, she was a Lecturer at Texas State Technical College. Judy, we are glad that you chose to join our work.
Retiring after 14 years of service is Dr. John Roby. Dr. Robey began his faculty career as an Instructor at the Instituto Electronico de Ingles in Venezuela. He served as an Assistant Professor of Political Science for the University of Mississippi and the University of Georgia before joining our university.
For the past 14 years he has served as a Professor of Political Science teaching American Politics, Public Administration, State- Local Government and Public Policy Analysis for UTB/TSC. He has published more than 42 essays and articles, has written countless book reviews and is the author of three books. He has been an active participant in his professional organizations, serving as a presenter and moderator at 70 conferences.
Dr. Roby has been a dedicated mentor and advisor to our students and student interns. For all of your contributions to our students and to the profession, we thank you.
Mr. Ronald Lane served as Associate Master Technical Instructor at UTB/TSC for the last 20 years. He holds a MA in Sociology, Political Science and History from Western Illinois University. Before joining UTB/TSC, Mr. Lane worked as faculty for Spoon River College and Southeastern Community College. During his faculty years at UTB/TSC he also served as Interim Chair for the Government Division of the Social Science Department for the College of Liberal Arts.
Mr. Joseph Jamar is retiring after 24 years of service as an Assistant Professor of English and Speech at our University.
Mr. Jamar began his teaching career in Louisiana and Arkansas before joining the Peace Corps to teach in Africa. He then owned and operated a private school in Florida before moving to the Rio Grande Valley and eventually joining the University. In addition to his faculty service, Mr. Jamar has designed courses for the UTB/TSC Honors Program for the Young Scholars Program. He has also held two art exhibitions through the Patron of the Arts and the UTB/TSC Art Club.
Mr. Jamar, we wish you well in your retirement.
It is during the toughest times that we cannot allow ourselves to remain stationary. We have to ask ourselves, ‘how do we move ahead?’
Or as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him."
With more than $150 million in construction nearing an end, it may feel like we’re finishing an era. Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of if we’ve finished our work together. It is during times like these, these very challenging times that we must focus on what’s really important, peel of those things that are ancillary and focus on our target.
This year, we are going to focus on the future. We’re going to recreate the Futures Commission. They were wonderful at helping us look forward to where we should be.
In order to do all that work, we need leadership throughout the organization. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time, and finally, we get to start a leadership program that will help faculty and staff self-select to be part of that group that will take us forward.
One of the cornerstones great organizations share is having a plan for sustained leadership. There was a book that came out a few years ago called Good to Great and it was talking about what the difference is between good companies and great companies. When I saw that book I thought, “I’d better find out because I want to be in a great company.” I went through the book trying to compare what we do here to the great companies. One of the things that is important about a great company is that it doesn’t depend on one leader; it’s got sustained leadership way into the organization. Everybody is a leader in their own department. Everybody is a leader in their own area. Everybody helps the organization move forward. When Chrysler was under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, you used to see Lee Iacocca everywhere, on commercials, we all thought we were safe because Lee Iacocca was with Chrysler and he was there. Iacocca left Chrysler, like everyone does in leadership positions. Whether in departments, in deanships, in vice presidencies, but the university has got to be beyond any one of us, and so in order to pass the torch on there has to be people to receive the torch at the other end.
So we’ve been talking about how can we begin, in a more systemized and deliberate manner, build a leadership talent, the leadership that we need in order to receive that torch. The program that we’ve designed, staff designed, named Leadership, Education and Development-Staff program or LEADS, was developed by a committee of staff members recommended by the Provost. This group has worked over the semester with Dr. Terry Garrett, a Provost Fellow and now chair of the government department.
I had the honor of meeting with the members of the committee this week, and I was very impressed with their commitment to our campus and their willingness to think strategically about the future of our campus. I thank them for their diligent and thoughtful work to produce a program that has great potential for our university.
Would the committee members that helped form the core of what LEADS is, please stand to be recognized? Thank you for your leadership and it was wonderful meeting with you.
It is a nine-month program that will include up to 20 staff members. Soon we will send out an announcement with a link to the application and details of the curriculum. I hope that you will consider applying. We need new leaders in our community university
It is a great honor to work in a place that is changing lives each day. Part of the responsibility of that honor is to stay engaged, ourselves. We need to be role models to our community and participate in our local government, in local elections, in whatever way is most comfortable for you
Father Armand Matthew has been our campus voting champion for many years now, and he continues his goal of getting 100% of eligible voters on campus to vote on November 2nd.
Throughout the Spring the Project 100% committee will be looking for help in the three components of their plan: voter registration, voter education, and a get-out-the-vote campaign. So now it’s time to crank it up again. Some people still haven’t been registered. A lot of people still haven’t voted. A lot of people need to get engaged in the community who are not yet engaged. Thanks to all of you who are. We appreciate you’re the benefit and the privilege from you. We’re asking you to help us get 100%, that’s a high goal Father Mathew, 100% voting on this campus for the November 2nd election.
We have spent talking most of the morning about how to help our students become successful. I’d like to end by inviting you to take part in a brand new tradition we are installing this year.
One of the observations from the FOE Steering Committee is that we must begin as a campus to help students early on to see themselves as university graduates. This effort begins in Scorpiontation, and next week, we are adding Freshman Convocation.
Freshman Convocation will provide the first ceremonial “bookend” of their college experience, joining the concluding “bookend” of commencement. Especially on a campus that has traditionally been a commuter campus, we expect this program to give students a sense of connectedness to the campus that could be missed if students are left to find their own way to engage with people across campus.
I invite all of you to attend the ceremony. For anyone who owns your own commencement regalia, I seek your participation in a processional so that students can be inspired and, therefore, aspire to one day wear their own version of the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral regalia.
The ceremony will take place on Friday, August 27, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Student Union Lawn. We are planning for about 900 of our first year students and 150 members of the faculty and staff in full regalia to participate in the program. We would love to exceed that expectation.