The Budget, McRaven, SXSW & Rick Perry
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has encouraged his chamber’s budget writer to dip into the so-called “Rainy Day Fund” to address the state’s budget challenges. This week House Appropriations Chair Rep. John Zerwas filed House Bill 2 that would access $1.4 billion from the fund. “I believe this is a better option than leaving $12 billion sitting in the bank while making deep cuts to higher education and significantly increasing health care premiums on retired teachers,” said Straus. “Our approach keeps spending low but also recognizes some very important priorities and some very real obligations.”
In other budget news this week, Gov. Abbott’s “signature higher education project, which aims to lure top researchers to Texas universities, is at risk of being defunded by the Legislature.” The Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), for which Abbott had requested $40 million, was not funded in either the House or Senate budgets. The initial round of funds to launch the program came from the closure of Gov. Perry’s “Emerging Technology Fund” and was used to hire 11 top faculty to our state’s institutions. Abbott is fighting for the funding, and will host a reception at the Governor’s mansion this week to feature some of the researchers GURI has attracted.
This week, UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven announced an end to plans to expand the System into Houston. The land purchase had been the subject of much consternation from the Houston delegation of the Texas Legislature, and had become a distraction from other priorities the System and its campuses were focused on this Session. In a letter to McRaven, Board Chairman Paul Foster said of the move, “Your actions as a strong servant leader to direct full attention to helping each of our presidents succeed, and your willingness to recalibrate and adjust priorities, are very much appreciated.”
From March 10-19, tens of thousands of people will descend on Austin for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival. Our state’s flagship institutions will bring their best and brightest to the interactive showcase to participate in what has become one of the world’s top venues for breakthrough innovation and technology. UT at SXSW will feature two days of panels, parties and exhibitions that will highlight the research, innovation and thought leadership of UT's faculty, students and programs. Texas A&M is joining SXSW for the first time and will host Texas A&M House to showcase art, science and technology from the school’s leading minds.
This week the Senate voted to confirm former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. The Department has an important role to play in doling out federal R&D dollars, which could benefit Texas institutions if Perry were to steer projects toward his home state. The Department “runs the national laboratories, sets appliance standards, hands out loans and grants for basic research and early stage energy technologies from carbon capture and storage to battery technology” according to a Washington Post story on the confirmation.
Week of March 5, 2017
"Break a few molds"
It’s graduation season for many institutions of higher education across the state. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from recent commencements. Texas A&M commissioned 138 Corps of Cadets members – the most from a graduating class in three decades – as Army officers at its commencement this year. UT Austin Distinguished Alum and Director of the Defense Health Agency, Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, M.D. led her alma mater’s commencement telling graduates “it is okay to break a few molds.” Jason Jenkins, a Texas Tech Outstanding Alumni winner and Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs for the Miami Dolphins, encouraged Tech graduates to effect change in the “changing political and social climates” they are about to enter. The University of Houston released this video with highlights of its commencement featuring Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who admonished students to “live their life in such a way that whatever you receive from this university, your parents, from others, that you find a way to share it with someone else.”Continue reading
“Curiosity is an indicator of the quality of a civilization”
The Academy of Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) recently released a video that highlights the state’s role as a research and innovation powerhouse and explains more about the organization, which was founded in 2004. “TAMEST is the single most important organization to drive research in the state of Texas,” Chancellor McRaven says in the video. “It’s an intellectual engine for the state of Texas,” says Dr. Peter J. Hotez from the Baylor College of Medicine. “Curiosity is an indicator of the quality of a civilization,” said Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, former astronaut and professor at Texas A&M University. “Discovery is about answering specific questions, but also improving our quality of life.”Continue reading