Aerial view of TAMU

President's Monthly Update: April 2023

M. Katherine Banks

April 17, 2023

President banks greeting people


The core values of this university, its rich traditions and unique culture make Texas A&M one of a kind. They also bring generations of Aggies together. Last weekend, I was honored to participate in Family Weekend, a cherished tradition that began in 1919 shortly after World War I. Thousands of parents, friends and family members were welcomed to campus where they enjoyed activities including the Corps of Cadets Unit Awards and Family Weekend Review, Aggie Baseball and Men’s Tennis, a concert in Aggie Park, the Maroon & White Football Game and more. We celebrated Aggie Ring Day when 6,000 Aggies received their Aggie Ring, one of the most anticipated and coveted traditions for our students. We announced our 2023-24 Parent of the Year, Melissa Wilkinson, mother of Gabriella Romano ’24. This activity-filled weekend offered quality time for our students to enjoy with their friends and family, and for our campus to roll out the maroon carpet to share the Aggie Spirit with visitors. In addition to this celebration, we have many exciting updates on university initiatives to share:

Aggie Way Scholarship Initiative

We are committed to expanding access and providing opportunities for qualified students to receive a transformative education. That is why we pledged to raise $100 million more in scholarship funds over the next four years through the Aggie Way Scholarship Initiative. Announcement of the scholarship campaign was made this weekend as part of the Maroon & White Game. You can read more about the Aggie Way Scholarship Initiative in Texas A&M Today.

Strengthening our South Texas Commitment

On April 10, Chancellor Sharp and I announced the appointment of Manny Vela as vice president and chief operating officer of the Higher Education Center at McAllen, effective May 15. Mr. Vela will focus on complementing existing leadership in three primary areas: operations/infrastructure with the goal of doubling McAllen enrollment in the next five years; the Colonias Program which focuses on improving quality of life along the Texas-Mexico border; and university collaboration with South Texas communities and other Texas A&M System entities in the region. We are excited to have him join the existing leadership team in McAllen and at the university. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Mr. Vela most recently served as president and CEO of the Valley Baptist Health System.

Progress on Filling Key Academic Leadership Roles

The search committee for Texas A&M’s next provost, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer completed first-round interviews. Five candidates have been invited to participate in second-round interviews this month, including open forums, presentations and Q&A sessions for each candidate via Zoom and in-person. Details on these visits can be found on the Executive Searches website.

In the fall, we will launch three national dean searches for the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Architecture, and School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts. Nominations for the search committees will be requested in late August.

Design Progress on the Aplin Center

Last summer, we announced that former student Arch “Beaver” Aplin III — one of the university’s most successful entrepreneurs — is contributing $50 million toward establishing an academic center that will serve as an immersive learning laboratory for students. The Aplin Center is progressing quickly toward construction slated to begin this summer. Houston-based Hines has been selected as the real estate services firm to facilitate this project. Pickard Chilton and DLR Group, two premier architectural design firms known for their innovative ideas, will lead the design of the state-of-the-art facility. Landscape architects Design Workshop will transform the eight acres which is currently a parking lot into an inviting green space. Located at the corner of Wellborn and John Kimbrough, this facility will provide students with an unprecedented opportunity to experience the intersection of research, education and innovation across multiple areas of study.

Museum and Library Complex Committee Launch

The Museum and Library Complex Committee's planning phase is underway. The committee meets regularly to explore options for creating an advanced museum and library complex on West Campus to tell our story, exhibiting treasures in natural history, art, science, agriculture and prized collections from the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. More information will be forthcoming as plans develop.

Mental Health Resources in Texas A&M Mobile App

Led by the Student Government Association and Aggies Reaching Aggies, Student Mental Health & Suicide Awareness Week reached thousands of students, faculty and staff through activities designed to inform and empower Aggies in helping one another. Resources and services are now available within the Texas A&M mobile app. Categorized by employees, students and visitors, I encourage you to download (through the App Store or Google Play) and utilize this resource to support our Aggie community.

Continued Engagement with Faculty Leaders

In the past month, I have met with the executive committees of the Council of Principal Investigators and Distinguished Professors. I continue to interact with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and look forward to engagement with the newly formed Senior Faculty Advisory Committee. Additionally, over the next few months, the university will explore ways to expand Open Educational Resources (OER) across campus based on recommendations from a faculty committee. I encourage all faculty to review the committee’s report and provide feedback by 5 p.m. on April 24. I applaud faculty committee efforts to reduce the cost of textbooks for our students. 

Transformational Teaching Conference – May 3-4

Faculty are encouraged to join this year’s Transformational Teaching and Learning Conference May 3-4. The theme of this year’s conference is “Relevance, Opportunity and Influence” and marks the 40th anniversary of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Find out more by visiting the conference website.

University Awards Ceremony

Each spring we recognize exceptional faculty, staff and students for excellence and outstanding service. In past years, The Association of Former Students, the Office of the Provost, Faculty Affairs, and the Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness each hosted individual award presentation ceremonies. On April 24, we are bringing these groups together for a new tradition, one comprehensive celebration for our university-level awardees. Recipients and their invited guests will gather at the Bethancourt Ballroom in the Memorial Student Center to enjoy lunch and celebrate their achievements. A list of all honorees is available on our website. The greater campus community is invited to watch the ceremony via livestream. I hope you will join me in congratulating our 2023 honorees.

Coffee + Conversation with University Leaders

Our next Coffee + Conversation event will be held on Wednesday, April 19, at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries in the Memorial Student Center. This will be a casual come-and-go event from 8:45-10 a.m. I encourage you to attend and also take the opportunity to view the special exhibition on display from faculty within the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts.

Looking Ahead

As we prepare for commencement and the end of another successful academic year, we will soon pause to remember our fallen Aggies at Muster. On Friday, Aggies here in College Station and all over the world will honor and celebrate the lives of loved ones lost over the past year. I believe that Muster is one of the most moving and meaningful of all Aggie traditions. It’s a powerful reminder of the Aggie Spirit and the deep sense of community that exists at Texas A&M. I am honored to be part of this solemn tradition once again and look forward to seeing you at Muster as we join together as an Aggie family.

Thank you, and Gig ’em!

M. Katherine Banks
President, Texas A&M University