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Early in November, I attended the memorial service for Coach Darrell Royal at UT Austin’s Frank Erwin Center. A thousand friends and fans were there to pay tribute to the legendary football coach. Among many wonderful accomplishments, he will be remembered for his three national championships and the innovative wishbone offense. We also honor him because he was the first football coach in the country to hire an academic counselor and provide academic support services for student-athletes.
Even those of us who are not UT Austin alumni are enormously proud that Darrell Royal helped make the name Texas stand for integrity, courage, fairness and a competitive spirit that demands excellence in everything we do. We will always salute him for his impeccable character and honesty. He will remain a role model for generations to come.
A November to Remember
November was an incredibly busy and productive month. We continue to implement our Framework action plan while developing new initiatives that will transform the educational experience at UT institutions.
- Last week, I traveled to UT Pan American to host our third VISTA Summit. This one focused on health and what we can do to support a healthier Rio Grande Valley. The series of summits has addressed advancements in education, health and economic development in the Rio Grande Valley. UT Pan American President Robert Nelsen and UT Brownsville President Juliet Garcia also spoke at the summit, along with an impressive line-up of panelists and presenters. A key theme was preparing the next generation of health professionals in South Texas. The UT System is committed to expanding health education through a new medical school in South Texas. While students from the Valley beginning medical school in 2014 will attend their first two years of medical school at UT Health Science Center – San Antonio, they’ll be able to attend their third and fourth years in the Rio Grande Valley, graduating from the new medical school in 2018.
Photograph, left to right: Chancellor Cigarroa at Vista Summit with UT Pan American Vice President for University Advancement Veronica Gonzales, Regent Brenda Pejovich, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Ken Shine and UT Pan American President Robert Nelsen.
Photograph, left to right: Rene Capistran, President - South Texas Region SpawGlass; Rosalinda Rangel, Evaluation Specialist, Migrant Health Promotion; Dr. Rose Gowen, Physician & Brownsville City Commissioner; Dr. Belinda Reininger, Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, UT School of Public Health; Marcie Perez, Border Region Dietitian, H.E.B.
- Just before Thanksgiving, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce invited Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell and me to participate in a panel discussion on higher education and health. We were joined by UTSA President Ricardo Romo and Dr. Ken Kalkwarf, interim president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. About 100 business and education leaders gathered to listen and ask questions about the future of UTSA and UTHSC – San Antonio, and Chairman Powell and I were able to share details about a number of initiatives and investments the UT System is making at those two institutions. It is our intention to hold more gatherings throughout the State in 2013 to have a dialogue regarding The University of Texas System and how we are advancing higher education in Texas.
Moderator Joe Krier leads a discussion with Chancellor Cigarroa, UTSA President Ricardo Romo, Regents Chairman Gene Powell and UTHSC – San Antonio Interim President Kenneth Kalkwarf.
- I joined my five fellow chancellors from across Texas a few weeks ago for visits to editorial boards at the state’s largest newspapers. We were able to discuss the fact that our institutions are investments that bring the state a great return. We also talked about funding issues, the upcoming Legislative session, the mission for increased efficiency and accountability and new initiatives in higher education, such as blended and online learning.
- We were thrilled by the news that the creation of a new UT Austin medical school was approved by Travis County voters on November 6. Among many of its benefits to UT Austin and Central Texas, it will fill a critical need for more physicians in our state and provide first-rate healthcare to underserved communities.
- I want to express my sincere congratulations to UT Austin President Bill Powers for being named chair-elect of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The AAU consists of 62 of the top research-intensive universities in the U.S. and Canada. This is a huge honor for President Powers and UT Austin.
- President Kirk Calhoun and his staff at UT Health Science Center – Tyler were gracious hosts of the Board of Regents meeting in November. We held the meeting on the beautiful campus of UTHSC – Tyler. The Regents made a number of announcements and launched several initiatives that will strengthen our 15 institutions.
- The Regents added a Milestone Agreement Form for Ph.D. students and their departments. Starting in Fall 2013, students seeking a Ph.D. at UT institutions will sign tailored agreements with their departments that specify their expected graduation date and when they are to reach required academic milestones. This is an important step in ensuring that doctoral students receive their degrees in an efficient and timely manner while at the same time enhancing excellence.
- The Regents took an important step in battling alcohol and drug abuse by approving the establishment of Collegiate Recovery Centers at eight of the System’s nine academic institutions. Because UT Austin is already home to the Center for Students in Recovery and is a national leader in the growing collegiate recovery movement, it will lead the implementation of the new campus centers at the other eight academic campuses.
- The Regents approved a plan to consolidate the UT System Administration offices – currently located in five antiquated buildings – into one modern, highly efficient office building on property already owned by the UT System in downtown Austin. Cost savings are projected to average between $2 million and $8 million per year over the next three decades, and most importantly, these dollars will be redirected annually to student support programs. This important endeavor is also consistent with the Framework for Advancing Excellence.
- The Regents created three new groups to study and make recommendations to the Board on issues important to System institutions:
- The Task Force on Best Practices Regarding Affiliated Foundation Relationships will ensure that the alignment and relationships between foundations and UT System institutions are structured appropriately to serve as national models.
- The Engineering Education Task Force will identify and review key issues related to engineering programs in Texas and how we can be more responsive to student needs and workforce demands.
- The Task Force on Academic and Facility Planning for the 21st Century will work with Board of Regents' Facilities Planning and Construction Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee to review the design process for facilities and ensure that new buildings are being designed for the technology and space needs for classes in the 21st century.
- I am deeply honored that the Regents created the establishment of a scholarship endowment in my name. I am immensely pleased that the scholarship endowment will support medical students who will graduate from the new medical school in South Texas. News of the scholarship was a wonderful surprise in itself, but then I learned that senior members of my staff and individual regents had made contributions of their own, more than doubling the original amount of the endowment and bringing it to over $100,000.
Two of my esteemed colleagues are making a transition to the next stage of their careers, and I will miss them. Dr. Kenneth Shine, Executive Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs, has announced his retirement in early 2013. And Dr. Sandra Woodley, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives, has been selected as President of the University of Louisiana System, and she will also be leaving in early January. Congratulations to them both!
One of the greatest privileges I have had as Chancellor is working with Ken Shine. He is a legend in medical education and healthcare policy. His experience, intellect and drive are unsurpassed. For the past nine years, he has been tireless in his focus on building medical schools in Austin and South Texas, and they will become a reality because of his leadership and perseverance.
For the past three years, Sandy Woodley has brought her outstanding experience and strategic thinking to the UT System. When we were crafting our Framework and its action plan last year, her expertise was indispensable. She was also responsible for building the UT System Dashboard, which is a national model for extracting and analyzing institutional data to help administrators in their decision-making.
I am looking forward to connecting with you again before the holidays and sharing more news about the UT System. In the meantime, I offer my sincerest thanks to you for your friendship and support of higher education in Texas.
With gratitude and respect,
Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.