Aerial view of TAMU

Faculty Forum


April 6, 2016

Wonderful to be here

  • Very special place
  • What we do and how we do it matters, is important
  • Unique
  • Honor to be your colleague
  • Thank you
  • The welcome
  • Sharing time, thoughts, energy with me


Spent much of the first year listening – All the usual questions:

  • What is going well?
  • What do we do well?
  • What challenges?
  • What opportunities?

But at A&M, an additional set of questions is important:

  • Who are we?
  • What principles guide us?
  • What makes us unique?
  • Why do we matter?
  • What defines us?

As scholars, as teachers, as creators and lovers of knowledge, how do we want to contribute to our world and how do we use our platforms within this university as individuals, and as a collective, to influence the future, our world? Their world. Our students’ world.

Not important questions at many universities – they do what most universities have done for thousands of years. They educate young people by providing them information and do research that, at least one hopes, advance the frontiers of knowledge.

  1. All very good.
    1. And we do that, and do it well, to be sure
  2. But A&M seems different somehow
  3. To really understand it and, therefore, to plan for it, one must think about answers to those additional questions:
    1. What underlying principle and values animate and inform our  work?
    2. What makes our work unique?
    3. Why do we matter?
  1. Not sure I fully understand, but I have some impressions and thoughts
  2. Serve as my basis for my thinking about next steps for the university
    1. How we bolster and support what is important about the university
    2. How we build on our strengths and continue on this startling trajectory on which you all have put the university
    3. These ideas, perceptions, views will grow and develop over the years, as it does in all of you, but these are my current thoughts and vision for the university
      • They will evolve, but this is where I am today.


What sets us apart?

  1. The self-conscious intentionality of our work, coupled with the commitment to excellence, integrity, service. Communicated in everything we do with each other, with students, with outside world.
    1. Articulation takes various forms
      • service
      • leadership
      • making a difference
      • changing the world
      • making the world a better place
      • the Grand Global Challenges
  1. It is an institutional ethic of A&M to live lives of meaning and impact; to build a better tomorrow, together. It is an issues driven approach to all we do. It is a clear vision and steadfast commitment to transformational learning, discovery and impact. It makes us a vanguard of change
    • Students and faculty arrive here wanting to make a difference; once on campus, that inclination is channeled into something actionable, memorable
      • We produce scholarship of great moment and impact and students who are not only scholars but citizens of substance.
  1. At heart, it seems to me a desire to do work that actually can make the lives of people, communities, of nations, of the world a better place and to get that work into the lives of real people. Dare I say “love”? Not a word we often associate with universities, or with workplace, but it seems applicable here. But what is wrong with keeping love at the forefront of our vision? So much of the news, the political and social rhetoric, international affairs these days seem to derive from a place of anger, even hate.

    But we are all especially fortunate. We get to choose to work in fields we genuinely love, and here at A&M, we do that work with an almost unique perspective, love of our community, love of our nation, love of the world, love of our students. And a desire to translate our love into action and to make the world a better place.

    I have said it before, but I would like to reiterate: what sets this university apart is a desire to fearlessly translate that passion for learning and discovery into the world, a world that desperately needs what we have to offer.
    1. Not just rhetorical, it is consequential
    2. It guides and informs so much of what I see on campus

So where does that lead me, in light of the great academic

  • Strengths of A&M
  • the Challenges
  • the Needs of the world

It is around answers to that I want to share thoughts about

  • Areas we can emphasize
  • Ways we can support

Start with the faculty.

  1. It always starts and ends with the faculty. Let me organize my thoughts around our 3-fold mission.
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Service
  1. Redefine:
  • Learning-not just teaching


  • Passion for imparting knowledge and connecting students to meaningful opportunities
  • Developing intellectually transformative experiences
  • Helping to shape well-rounded students that are engineered to problem solve and encouraged to leave the world better than they found it
  • Discovery-not just research


  • Love for respective fields for study
  • Creation and dissemination of knowledge that will improve lives and chart meaningful, measurable impact
  • Texas A&M’s moniker as one of the top academic and research universities in the nation has been forged by impactful scholarship and practical, purpose driven research.
  • Impact-not just service


  • Profound appreciation for the unique role that educational institutions play, as a driver of positive change through the way we impart knowledge and the values underlying that knowledge.
  • We have, the attention of interested minds, and if we stay true to our efforts with love in our hearts, our impact will be felt, and indeed carried forward.
  1. Key is that underlying goal
  • Impact
  • Change
  • Transformation
  1. Runs through everything
  • All interactions with students
  • Research
    • Focus of virtually everything
  1. We have opportunity and perspective; come here every day and create knowledge with potential to communicate to students with fresh passions and visions for THEIR WORLD, who take our interactions here and do something. They are making their world, the world we’ve given them and turning it into the world they want it to be. The world becomes clearer, safer, smarter, healthier, and hopefully a little cooler.
  • One student at a time
  • One class at a time
  • One research project at a time

And the evidence of your success in doing that is palpable.

  1. In survey of business leaders worldwide of top institutions from where they recruit, NYT survey 8th among all publics, # 1 in Texas. WSJ: #2 in country, behind Penn state, Money Magazine: # 6 public
  2. And trained well, highest salaries in Texas.
  3. Most competitive entry classes in history.
  4.  # 2 public for national merit scholars.
  5. Diverse-25% are 1st generation, 23% underrepresented minorities
  6. Improved graduation rates. Among best in Texas, best for minorities.
  7. Kept tuition low-among best return on investment for all. Best overall return on investment for minorities. Debt is well below national average and declining, both percent who graduate with debt and total amount of debt.
  8. Significant hiring-9% increase in faculty. Superb hirings, Nobel laureates, national academy members, prize winners, nationally recognized scholars to join great faculty.
  9. Continue to increase in external research funding
    • 4% increase last year for alone in flat national market
    • $866 million

In short, this is an amazing place, you are amazing.

-   Great strengths

So, how do we build on that? How do we make the future event better than the past?

  • Share my thoughts after lots of conversations with so many of you, much study, thought, analysis


  • Can’t pretend that challenges don’t still exist.
  1. We are not funded as well as many of our peers.
  2. And while we are finding ways to enhance significantly some of our funding streams, we will never have unlimited resources to do whatever we want.
    • Must be efficient, to be sure, but even more, must be strategic.
    • Ernest Rutherford-UK Physics Institute – “We didn’t have the money so we had to think.”
  3. Funding streams will be different.
    • Must ensure that our sources of funding don’t distort our core missions and values.
  4. Debate about value and therefore need for support of higher-ed isn’t going away.
  5. Some essential costs are accelerating at an alarming rate (e.g., technology)
    • Technology
      1. Technology can change how and what we research
      2. How our students learn
  • How and what we teach
  1. Demographics of our student body are changing, so approaches to education, backgrounds, nature of preparation all might be different.

So we must be:

  1. Very strategic – keep eye focused on excellence
  2. Eye focused always on excellence
  3. Honest and open about what we are doing and why
  4. Very collaborative in decision-making
  5. Deepen our collaborative research and teaching
  6. Embracing of technology
  7. Innovative
  8. Prepared for new kinds of partnerships

Let me share some initial areas of emphasis to continue us on our path, and the kind of support we are beginning to put into those areas.

Starts with Faculty

  1. First, we must grow our faculty
  2. Need for growth-expansion
    • We have grown in terms of student body, without enough attention to commensurate growth of faculty
  • Past 5 years
    • 16% growth of students
    • 9% faculty
    • 3% staff
  • Need to grow faculty
  • Need for some growth in support staff, especially those who are “mission critical” and necessary to achieve the goals we articulate.

And not a bad time to put resources into growth:

  • We have significant advantages we can exploit as we have
  • Increasing awareness of quality of school, especially faculty. People want to work with you, to be part of this
  • Work on important consequential issues
  • Work across borders, intellectual, disciplinary, geographic
  • Work to have impact
    • All very attractive, need to capitalize on that

Have had some growth

  • Able to put $55.5 M to colleges (enrollment growth, faculty hiring, start-ups, faculty retention)-9% growth of faculty
  • In addition to that on-going money, investing one time money

Start ups

  • 3 years – over $100 M in start-ups from CRI-strong cooperative relationship with system (e.g., additional $32 million in AMF funds over past few years)
  • 2 years-$5 million from central


  • $17 million of matching money to increase numbers of endowed chairs and professorships
    • Just the beginning-will continue to be major focus going forward
      • Encourage hiring and support professors who are here
    • $2 million for targeted hiring, especially expanding diversity

Also need to support faculty that is here as well– to focus on great faculty we have here.

  1. Salaries that fulfill promise you can have a lifelong career here. $22 million for merit, 3% fully funded centrally this year. Allows colleges to use resources to invest in college specific initiatives and excellence as defined by the colleges.
  2. Creating a University Scholars Fund for younger, more recently tenured professors to provide research and other support
    • Not just hiring stars, want to support, nurture stars already here
    • Initial investment of around $8 million over next few years to start this program
    • Expand, revamp SRS
  3. Support targeted research initiatives-interdisciplinary efforts organized around significant issues
  4. Cross disciplinary work
  5. Generally speaking, working across disciplinary boundaries at A&M is not as difficult as at some institutions with which I am familiar. But for all the reasons we all well understand, we need to work constantly to make it even easier.
    • We need to ensure that by design, A&M is an innovator of interdisciplinary programming, made to develop meaningful solutions that span physical space, industry sectors, and ingrained ways of thinking.
  • We need to examine any barriers-budgetary, structural, or other-that make this more difficult than it should be, either generically or in individual areas.
  1. We need to increase information flows so people who think this could enhance their work can more easily connect
  2. Expand available resources to support the effective and efficient expansion of this kind of work.
  3. Create institutional arrangements that support, facilitate, enhance, and accelerate this work.
    • Collaborative
    • Coalesce pre-existing strength
    • Fundamental to supportive of work of many, including those not directly involved in initiative
      • For example-large data set-analytics
      • $2 million
    • Many working in these areas
    • Central to many disciplines and projects now
    • Help enhance collaboration, support development, expansion, application
    • Additional millions for other initiatives of this sort
    • These initiatives derive from expressions of interest and organization from the faculty
      • Going forward, we must create more systematic ways whereby faculty can develop proposals of this sort and present them for consideration for funding
      • Goal will be to create opportunity for faculty to work more closely together, across disciplines, to enhance work in areas of significant consequence and importance
      • Provide initial support to jump start these enhanced collaborations with an eye to them becoming self-sustaining and self-supporting over time.

Other kinds of support also essential

  • Buildings, labs, classrooms, etc.
  • $353, include $252 of PUF funds for various academic facilities
  • $20 million for deferred maintenance and renovation of various academic and research spaces
  • As an aside, revise campus master plan-better accommodate how we interact-students with faculty, faculty with each other
  • $7 M for IT support for new data center to support teaching and research
  • Will put additional support for IT resources for research

Also know how critical strong graduate students are to all you do.

  • $ 3 million for graduate student support to help attract and support the very best graduate students
  • Area of real focus in campaign

Learning is also critical to our mission

  • Generally speaking, do that exceptionally well
    • But always room for improvement, two areas of emphasis


  • Need to think about impact of technology on way students come to us, how they engage information, acquire it, process it, organize it, find it
    • Different because of the impact of technology
      • Need to work on that
  • What we want to accomplish with our students may not have changed for a thousand years but how we do it is ever evolving because their ways of learning, the educational processes, expansively defined, are changing, perhaps now more rapidly than ever
  • But tools at our disposal also changing again with a speed that hard to calculate
    • We can do things and do them in ways that potentially enhance dramatically the effectiveness of our teaching and learning
      • I believe there is always a critical component of individual, personal interaction, that is critical to genuine, meaningful learning. I don’t believe that has changed.
      • But I think technology might allow us to get to those points more quickly, more effectively and with a broader range of students
      • Will put resources into centers that can help professors use these technologies to enhance the effectiveness of their teaching

High-Impact, Transformative Learning Experience

  • As a Tier I elite research university, I also believe we can and should offer all students opportunities for high-impact, transformative learning experiences.
    • We do much, much, more than merely convey information
      • We transform minds
    • I believe we must offer these kinds of educational experiences to every student who walks across campus
      • Not every student at every college in America requires that or is equipped to benefit from that
      • But our students are prepared and will require it, given what we expect them to do and accomplish in the world
      • This will be an area of major focus over the coming years.
        • How to identify these kinds of high-impact experiences
        • How to evaluate their impact
        • How to communicate to our students their availability and the necessity of their engaging these experiences
        • How to expand
      • A great deal already occurs here
        • Examples-research with professors, capstone projects, structured experimental learning, entrepreneurship/innovation
      • Over $6.5 M in on-going money, starting even at height of recession to do that
      • Can see and measure the impact of that investment already
      • Focus on problem-solving or put differently, using their disciplinary learning to do things that have impact
      • Work in cross-disciplinary teams, learning to understand and capitalize on contributions others make to problem solving
      • Draw together various strands of disciplinary training into a constructed conceptual framework
      • learn to think innovatively in context of discipline
    • I could go on, but facilitating each of our colleges to create even more these programs and then creating a support platform that will help connect students (and faculty) in these educational experiences is another example of myriad ways in which we hope to provide support for the development and expansion of even more of these high impact, transformational learning experiences.
    • This year, an additional $2 M initial investment to accelerate this process of expanding these kinds of educational experiences, but, equally important, to make resources available to faculty to engage this kind of educational experience, as well as, to make teaching, more effective, efficient, and more impactful through the use of technology.

Additional areas of Emphasis, building on what is already strong–but animates all we are doing:

  1. Diversity, Inclusion
    1. Moral and Ethical Imperative
    2. Professionally and practically imperative
      • Must educate the young people of the State and Nation
        • Must give them the best, most supportive educational environment possible
        • 25 % are 1st generation
        • 23% are underrepresented minorities
      • Must also prepare them for the world into which we are launching them – a diverse world – must be able to work with people from all backgrounds, to get the best out of everyone, to understand them, to engage them
      • Our work also frequently requires this understanding as well
        • Hard to think of any of the grand global challenges we are addressing in various ways that don’t have a significant socio-economic overlay
          • water
          • energy
          • democratic participation
          • health care
          • food security
          • education
          • wealth distribution
          • sustainability
          • etc.
      • We make more inroads into really understanding and addressing topics surrounding all those issues when we consider the socio economic dimension of those as well
      • Have invested in our diversity plan and rewarded effective accomplishments in this area when supported by appropriate benchmarking data (hiring retention, progress to promotion, classes, etc.)
      • But must do more
      • So for both moral and deeply professional reasons, we need to ensure this remains a top priority for our institution as we move forward

Overarching area of emphasis to enhance all of this-Communication

  1. Communication
    1. Internal
      • More effective internal communication to ensure transparency; and
      • To create more inclusive decision making processes throughout the university
    2. External
      • Work done here is exceptional and important
      • Educational opportunities are unparalleled
      • Need to get word out more effectively
        • Project our professors even more on a national stage
        • Tell our story better – who we are, why we matter
        • Why? Attracts resources to allow us to do our job even better
          1. Prospective faculty hires have more interest
          2. Grant proposals float to the top for consideration
          3. All sorts of organizations, private and public increase interest in partnerships with us on matters of shared interest
          4. Prospective students and parents better understand why this presents them with unique educational opportunities
          5. Philanthropic individuals and foundations see better the attractions and benefits of a partnership with us


  • Are investing resources and will invest even more
  • Many of you have already interacted with our communications team
  • More in the future – are hiring a senior communications leader to head up this effort for us

How do we do all? Where do the resources come from?

  1. Must be conscious of limitations
    • (We are funded at rates significantly below many of our peer institutions.) And our basic, historic source of funding – state funding and tuition – won’t change dramatically in the foreseeable future.
  2. Let me briefly highlight our work in relationship to various funding streams.
  1. State Funding
    1. Do not see dramatic increases on the horizon
    2. Might change if economy changes (e.g., oil?), but not in near future
      • BUT
        • We are getting our share (and more?)
        • Will continue to work on that
        • Will enjoy some success in specially targeted funds
          • Governor’s University Research Initiative
          • Some capital projects
          • Some special initiatives
  1. Federal Funding
    1. Flat for research, but work to increase total
    2. Will work to secure increasing percentage of funding that is available (e.g., agencies, NIH)
    3. Special Projects
      • Deep water drilling
  1. Monetize underperforming assets to invest in core academic priorities
  2. Alternate revenue streams related to critical initiatives-(e.g., educational outreach (Do good, do well))
  3. Partnerships
    1. Must think more creatively
    2. Other universities, and colleges, research institutes, etc.
      • (We are an attractive partner and entities coming to us for exactly the right reasons.)
    3. Corporations
      • research
      • internships
      • collaborative capstone projects
      • even use as teachers
      • But w/o distorting core missions and values
  1. Philanthropy
    1. Lead by Example
      1. Expansive Campaign (up with UCLA, Michigan, UW)
      2. Extremely Successful so far
      3. Fundraising is world changing
        • Critical to our future success
          • our plans
          • our capacity to deliver on those plans
          • our communication

Many, many exciting things going on

Listed twelve areas of particular emphasis, with, what I hope is obvious, real intention of supporting in a serious way.

These will be significant, I think, and broadly important to the university.

Much more to be done-we are just getting started together

  1. Our vision must be constantly evolving with an eye to need, opportunity and transformation, but with a deep commitment, always, to our core missions, and our core value
  2. All must be involved in continuing to develop and realize that vision

We will only continue on this extraordinary trajectory if we are all involved in the process, in creating and executing that vision.

I may be your president, but that only means I preside.

This is a collective in the very best sense of the word, and a very good one at that.

We need the best of all you do, to continue to make this university everything it can possible be.

In conclusion, I know I have outlined an ambitious agenda.

  • It is ambitious, even daunting
  • But we are already deeply invested in success in many of these areas because
  • We are fearless
  • And we work from a place of real passion, indeed , of love

I am moved by our history, deeply impressed by our present, and confident of our extraordinary future, a future I am honored to share with all of you.

Thank you.