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Thursday, August 14, 2008

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Regents to Recognize Teaching Excellence, Incentivize Commercialization

$15 Million Programs to Augment Other UT System Initiatives

AUSTIN – In a continued effort to enhance excellence at University of Texas System institutions and contribute to the Texas economy, the UT System Board of Regents today (Aug. 14) set aside $15 million to incentivize outstanding teaching and commercialization efforts.

The action was taken following discussions among the System’s presidents, System leadership and Regents concerning the importance of ensuring outstanding faculty performance in the classroom and the critical role research and technology transfer play in the economic development of Texas.

Accordingly, the Board voted to amend the Fiscal Year 2009 operating budget to include the additional $15 million toward those endeavors.

“As regents, we recognize our responsibility to help foster excellence at UT institutions, and we truly believe an investment in these types of initiatives will strengthen our commitment to that duty,” Regents’ Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr., said.

One program will set aside a total of $10 million to recognize outstanding teaching faculty at all UT System academic institutions, thereby encouraging even greater commitments to teaching in the future.  The second program allocates $5 million for a center aimed at research commercialization and technology transfer at the System’s flagship institution, UT Austin.

The teaching program will distribute money over five years, beginning with the fall 2009 academic year, in the following increments:

  • $1 million annually at UT Austin
  • $1 million annually at the other eight System academic institutions

The other initiative will distribute $1 million annually over five years for exceptional commercialization and technology transfer activities at UT Austin.

Details of the initiatives will be developed by the UT System’s Office of Academic Affairs. Additional information, including the source of funds for these initiatives, is included in the Board Motion.

“We expect these programs to encourage outstanding pedagogy and research efforts that transform the educational experience for our students and sharpen our competitive edge in the arenas of science and technology,” said David B. Prior, UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The programs are the latest in a series of initiatives launched by the UT System which aim to foster innovative approaches to teaching, research and commercialization endeavors at all 15 UT institutions.

In 2007, the System established the annual Chancellor’s Innovations in Education Awards – $5,000 prizes which recognize faculty who demonstrate teaching excellence; and the Chancellor’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Awards, which reward outstanding individual and collaborative accomplishments in research and innovation. Prizes in that category can reach $15,000. 

In 2005, the Chancellor’s Health Fellows program was established to enhance faculty collaborations and achievements, and other communications projects, among the health and academic campuses.  That same year, the Innovations in Health Science Education program was created to recognize innovation and achievement in undergraduate or graduate health science education.  The top prize for that program is $7,500.

Also in 2007, the UT System initiated the $2 million Texas Ignition Fund (TIF), which recognizes extraordinary research discovery. TIF grants of up to $50,000 are used to help move inventions from the laboratory along the path to commercial use.

And in 2004, the System launched the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program, which created a multimillion dollar fund to recruit and retain top-flight researchers to UT institutions. Researchers recruited and/or retained under the program have generated more than $200 million in sponsored research at UT institutions.

“These new initiatives illustrate our system’s unwavering commitment to elevate the scholastic environment at our institutions and to remain on the cutting edge of research technology,” said UT System Interim Chancellor Dr. Kenneth I. Shine.

The University of Texas System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.5 billion (FY 2009) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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