A New Chair

This week the UT System Board of Regents elected Sara Martinez Tucker as its new chair. Tucker, who was appointed to the Board by Gov. Abbott in 2015, was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education in the George W. Bush Administration. Chancellor McRaven predicted Tucker would be a “fabulous” chairwoman. President Fenves said in a statement that, “Chair Tucker is a Distinguished Alumna of UT Austin, a former commencement speaker and one of our most dedicated Texas Exes. As a former U.S. Under Secretary of Education, she also has a deep knowledge of higher education and understands the support that UT System institutions need to accomplish their missions.” At the meeting the Board also affirmed $4.5 million in spending for the bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, “a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.”
 
Lt. Gov Dan Patrick announced members of an interim committee focused on higher education funding. Absent from the committee? Any members of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, including the committee’s chair, Sen. Kel Seliger. The issue came up at this weekend’s Texas Tribune Festival where Seliger and other higher education leaders were on a panel to discuss higher education funding. The Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding includes Senators Hancock, Kolkhorst, Hinojosa, Campbell and Schwertner. House members have not been announced.
 
This week UT Austin announced that its four-year graduation rate had risen to 65.7 percent this year, up from 52 percent in 2012. “By raising our four-year graduation rate, UT has reduced the cost of higher education for students and families and has been able to enroll 1,000 more freshmen per year, without increasing overall enrollment,” said President Gregory L. Fenves. While it had missed an overall goal of 70 percent set under the administration of President Bill Powers, there will notable gains in minority and lower-income students. According to the Texas Tribune’sreview, “black students’ four-year graduation rates went up from 37 percent to 58 percent. The rate for Hispanic students grew from 43 percent to 60 percent.”
 
This week the U.S. Department of Education rescinded guidance on school sexual assault put in place by the Obama Administration. Secretary DeVos has said that the policy had been “unfairly skewed against those accused of assault” and had "weaponized" the Education Department to "work against schools and against students." For their part, most Texas universities queried were still reviewing the communication and have not issued any statements or changes to their policies.
 
The Houston Chronicle profiled Chancellor John Sharp in his new role as “Harvey Recovery Czar,” one he took with a mandate to “rebuild Texas ahead of schedule, under budget and with a friendly smile." Sharp estimates the role, an unpaid one that he’s undertaking while retaining his post at the Texas A&M System, will last for three years.
 
Want to smile? Watch Texas A&M professor Henry Musoma and his student, Ashton Robinson, on The Ellen Show this week. They made national news when Musoma invited single-mom, Robinson, to bring her 10-month old to class when she lost her childcare.

Week of September 24, 2017

Latest Updates

  • "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.”

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  • “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.”

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