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Office of the President

State of the University Address | 2010

Welcome and thank you for coming today.

I am particularly delighted that state Rep. Joaquin Castro has taken time out of his busy schedule to introduce me.

Having grown up in San Antonio, he is a prime example of why our work here at UTSA is so important to our community — because San Antonians, like all Texans, are a proud people who can impact our world when they have access to education and exceptional opportunities.

This is the second time that I am making a formal address to our entire university community. Today, I will share some of our successes and outline how we are addressing some of our challenges as we move forward.

As I reflect on the 12 months since the last time I spoke about the state of the university, I am in awe of our momentum and the great things we are doing for the people of Texas. It wouldn’t be possible without all of us working together. Thank you to everyone for your work on behalf of the university this past year.

One of the reasons I am most proud of UTSA is that we have a remarkable faculty. Creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to our students and to the advancement of knowledge — these are the hallmarks of UTSA faculty members. This is what makes us a university that is able to be both accessible and research oriented.

One great example is Les Shephard and UTSA’s Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute. The 10-year, $50-million agreement between Texas SERI and CPS Energy positions San Antonio as a national leader in green technology research.

Dr. Shephard and his team are going to change the face of energy — not just in Texas but likely across the globe. And it is possible because CPS Energy and the city are partnering with us.

It is somewhat rare for a public utility to invest in a university and in research at this magnitude. But, our mayor saw a special opportunity to do something innovative with Dr. Shephard’s arrival in San Antonio.

Partnerships are vital to the university’s ability to offer our faculty and students the resources they need to explore innovations in other areas beyond energy. This city offers a wealth of partner organizations — to name a few: the UT Health Science Center, Southwest Research Institute, Brooks City-Base, the military—especially the Air Force and the Army Medical Department, Texas Research Park and Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.

When we team up with these other institutions, we multiply our resources so that our students and faculty have access to all the finest equipment and to some of the best expert minds in the world.

A wonderful example of a faculty and community partnership is happening in the area of medicinal chemistry. Doug Frantz, an assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Sciences, has received the 2010 Young Investigator Award from the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund.

This award includes a $450,000 prize to help further Frantz’s medicinal chemistry research program focusing on heart disease and cancer treatments. Through their generous investment, the Voelcker Fund is a strategic partner in helping find ways to treat these diseases.

Support from the Voelcker Fund also is allowing us to bring more top faculty to UTSA. Joining Dr. Frantz in the Department of Chemistry this fall is Voelcker Fellow Oleg Larionov. Dr. Larionov joins us from Harvard University, where he trained under Nobel laureate E.J. Corey.

Another area where UTSA is adding outstanding faculty is information assurance and security. We already have made a national mark in this field through the Institute for Cyber Security.

Our efforts are now expanding with ALIAS — the Advanced Laboratories for Information Assurance and Security — and another great addition in this field, Dr. Fred Chang.

Dr. Chang is the inaugural AT&T Distinguished Chair in Infrastructure Assurance and Security in the College of Business. He was recruited from UT Austin, and his 30-year technology career includes serving as director of research at the National Security Agency. He is also a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency under President Barack Obama.

The appointment of Dr. Chang solidifies that UTSA is home to one of the country’s premier information assurance and security programs. Fred Chang and the partnerships he will foster here will be instrumental to moving UTSA forward in our quest to be a Tier One research university.

We have preeminent faculty joining us in other areas:

One is renowned sociologist Christopher Ellison, who is the Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Social Science. Dr. Ellison joins us from UT Austin. He has two books and more than 185 articles to his name; in fact, a study he co-authored on how families who pray together stay together was publicized in USA Today the week before Chris arrived on campus for New Faculty Orientation.

Laura Rendon joins us as a professor of educational leadership and policy studies. She came from Iowa State University. Her research focuses on access, retention and graduation of low-income and first-generation college students, as well as the transformation of teaching and learning to emphasize wholeness and social justice. Her work has been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education and on PBS.

Finally, a man who has been a good friend of mine and of UTSA for several years has joined our faculty. John Phillip Santos is an author, a documentary producer and a National Book Award finalist for his family memoir, “Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation.” John Phillip joins us as a University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies.

All of these people are here because they saw the exciting things that are happening and the great potential at UTSA. As a younger university on the rise, we need the entire community of San Antonio working with us to reach Tier One. We need to be more creative and innovative in our thinking, planning and implementation.

We need you — all of us — to look beyond the walls of UTSA to cultivate and establish partnerships like some of the ones I have mentioned. To get to Tier One, we must leverage the state investment with community, corporate and philanthropic resources — and our own brand of ingenuity.

The good news is that our momentum is unquestionable. Late last fall, we announced new research expenditure numbers and were thrilled to be able to report a 34-percent increase in total research spending over the previous fiscal year. We went from $34 million to $46 million.

What is even more significant is when you look at our progress over five years, we essentially doubled our research expenditures. This increase is due in large part to a strong emphasis on our five areas of research excellence—health, security, energy, sustainability, and human and social development — all of which are directly linked to the key industries in San Antonio.

Our goal is to reach $100 million in research expenditures by 2016. So, just as we doubled research spending over the past five years, we need to do it again. And I’m confident that we can because we are recruiting the faculty and building the infrastructure that we need in order to do so.

As the university continues to expand its research focus, we never lose sight of our commitment to our students and our core mission to provide them the best education. This is why universities exist.

This year, we were fortunate to have a number of our faculty recognized for excellence in classroom teaching. Most significant was our showing at the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Last year, two very deserving UTSA faculty members were recipients of the inaugural award — Richard Gambitta and Chunjiang Qian. Now, let me name the folks who won this very prestigious award this year: Diane Abdo, from the Writing Program; Sazzad Bin-Shafique from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Thomas Cannon, from the Department of Marketing; Kolleen Guy, from the Department of History; Maria Kaylor and Alycia Maurer, both from the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching; Mary McNaughton-Cassill from the Department of Psychology; John Morris, from the Department of Political Science and Geography; and Richard Utecht from the Department of Marketing.

Dr. Utecht’s philosophy on classroom teaching speaks to how many faculty at UTSA view their roles. He said, and I quote, “After 25 years at the university level, I still consider teaching to be the most personally rewarding activity associated with being a college professor.”

This year, nine UTSA faculty members were selected for this prestigious recognition; after UT Austin, that’s more than any other school in the UT System.

We are so proud of this accomplishment because it underscores our dedication to students and our commitment to providing them with outstanding instruction in the classroom.

We had a couple other important faculty recognitions this year.

This spring, George Perry, dean of the College of Sciences, was named a foreign corresponding member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences for his research on Alzheimer’s disease.

Last month, College of Engineering Dean Mauli Agrawal received the Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Health Care and the Biosciences. He was selected for this award by BioMed-SA for his contributions in orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials, tissue engineering and drug delivery.

Last week, we learned that Miguel Yacaman, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, had received the 2011 John Wheatley Award from the American Physical Society. Miguel was honored for his efforts promoting the development of physics in Mexico and Latin America.

I am sure you all join me in congratulating these outstanding members of our UTSA community.

A significant milestone we completed this year was applying for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the implementation of our Quality Enhancement Plan, or the QEP.

Thank you to a dynamic UTSA team of faculty and staff led by Sandra Welch and Gerry Dizinno for coordinating this effort. The two-year planning process involved countless hours in preparation for the SACS March 2010 visit to our campus, and your efforts really paid off. UTSA received a favorable response and can expect reaccreditation in December.

Reaccreditation ensures that our students are receiving a high-quality education. To further provide them with the best possible preparation to enter the workforce or pursue advanced degrees, we need additional resources.

UTSA makes a difference for our students and San Antonio with support from visionary friends and alumni who understand the value that a world-class university brings to our community. During the last fiscal year, UTSA raised more private dollars than ever before. Thanks to Kenny Wilson, chair of the development board, and all the other board members, some of whom are here today, we have seen improvement in not only the size of gifts coming to the university but also in the numbers of people who are giving.

This includes giving by our faculty and staff through the “Together, We Are UTSA,” fundraising initiative.

One of those on campus who has been a longtime supporter is statistics professor Jerry Keating. Years ago, Dr. Keating used royalties from a book he wrote to create a scholarship for students majoring in statistics.

He has told me, he figured his students’ tuition dollars fundamentally were supporting the book, so instead of keeping that money, he invested it in their future.

Dr. Keating came from a blue-collar family and paid his own way through college. But, he also realizes that the financial burden of paying college tuition is greater today than it was for him.

So, I thank Jerry and all of you who have participated—it makes a very powerful statement when those who know UTSA best help support the university financially.

The gifts secured by our advancement team in the last year include the largest corporate gift of $2.5 million from Valero Energy to help recruit graduate students in business and engineering.

We received the largest-ever gift-in-kind from Schlumberger, who gave us software to assist with our water and mineral research. And it also includes the largest gift from an alumni couple, Jim and Cathy Bodenstedt, who gave $1 million for UTSA football.

The Bodenstedts championed our football program at a very important time. We were in the middle of our first recruiting season, and it was quite a surprise when they shared with me during an event that they were committing $1 million to provide scholarships for our football players.

Speaking of football, we now have a team! We have officially completed a deal to play in the Alamodome. We signed our first class of recruits in February this year, and 71 students have started practicing under the tutelage of Larry Coker and the great assistant coaches he has assembled. By this time next year, we will have a win-loss record—but hopefully we will still be undefeated.

Recently, I was at the airport to catch a flight and saw a security guard I’ve seen many times before, but we’ve never chatted. He asked if I was Dr. Romo from UTSA, and when I said yes, he asked, “How’s football coming?”

We talked about football, and I was able to share with him some of the other great things happening here. But, football opened that conversation; it was the catalyst to create more interest in our institution.

I firmly believe that enhancing student life and raising the university’s profile nationally through athletics goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to be a Tier One university.

I have noticed that, before we’ve even played our first game, there is a renewed spirit on our campuses. These kinds of enriching experiences make UTSA a place where students can feel at home.

It’s been a very productive year. We have accomplished a great deal, and it’s because all of us are working together. Now, let’s talk about where we are and where we are going.

We reached a significant milestone this fall with our enrollment. For fall 2010, UTSA enrolled more than 30,000 students.

That figure includes more than 4,000 graduate students, and the Graduate School had the largest percentage gain, which is wonderful news for us because that reflects our enrollment management goals.

Our overall enrollment hours are up as well because we’re retaining more students. Our doctoral student enrollment increased 20 percent to 656 students this fall. We gained more than 100 doctoral students each of the last two years.

What’s most impressive is we managed to do that without adding any doctoral programs this past year. Between 2004 and 2009, UTSA introduced more programs than any other school in the state. And we need to keep adding those programs.

At the undergraduate level, we enrolled 5,075 new students, which also is consistent with our enrollment management goals.

It is no secret that we have raised our admission standards, and we will implement more changes in fall 2011. And, our strategy is working. This year’s class is the strongest academically we have ever had.

This fall, 42 percent of our freshmen were in the top quartile of their high schools; we expect by next year, half of our incoming students will be top quartile. To the school superintendents who are here today, we thank you for sending us your best students. Keep them coming.

Our students are the backbone of what we do here. We produce 5,000 new graduates from our bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs every year. Seventy percent of the students who graduate from UTSA each year transferred here from another institution. So, the standard measures of institutional effectiveness do not always tell the whole story.

We are helping close educational attainment gaps in our region. We are succeeding in our mission to educate and prepare people for work or advanced education. We are helping people achieve their dreams for the future.

And, our students continue to make us proud with their accomplishments.

This year, two of our Honors College students from the Class of 2010—Jonathon Nomamiukor and Carlos Castañeda—were named Rhodes scholarship finalists.

Dana Mecke and Devin Gibson were both named conference Student-Athletes of the Year.

And Hector Aguilar, an organic chemistry doctoral student, was invited to the 60th annual Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Germany.

Our enrollment of 30,000 is a very impressive number, but more impressive is the quality of our student body. Realistically, we are slowing down the train of fast enrollment growth. Growth is good, but without adequate space to plan for and accommodate it, we are challenged.

As we look forward, we need to continue to address how we plan to do what the state mandates to become Tier One.

It is important to note that the Legislature is going into session this spring. The last legislative session in 2009 was successful for higher education with the passage of several initiatives to foster more emerging research universities.

For this coming legislative session, however, we are beginning with an estimated $21 billion shortfall in the state budget. All state agencies have been asked to cut their budgets by at least 5 percent and possibly more.

At UTSA, we’re doing what we can to address these challenges with minimum disruption to our academic mission. While it is unfortunate that we do not have the funds to create many new positions or even to offer merit raises this year, we have not laid off or furloughed employees as has happened at other universities.

Good planning helps to ensure that we continue to fulfill our mission despite significant cutbacks. We have new tools to help us manage resources and faculty productivity. Additionally, we have realigned the academic budget to give more flexibility to department chairs to manage instructional resources.

On the business side, we have established a Cost Containment Committee that is working on ideas to help curb expenses across the university.

Interestingly, we already have a strong record of doing more with limited resources.

We ask a lot of our faculty — in terms of teaching load, research and outreach work. I want all of our faculty to understand: I know you go all out for UTSA, and I appreciate everything you do.

We have been addressing growth in a number of ways including enrollment management and through the building of new facilities.

In the past year, we opened and dedicated the Applied Engineering and Technology Building.

The North Paseo Building is under construction. Once complete, it will free up academic space in existing buildings and allow expansion of the John Peace Library.

The Graduate Sculpture and Ceramics Building is under construction on the West Campus. And this year we will begin constructing a new parking structure, a new residence hall and the Park West Athletics Complex.

Nonetheless, we continue to experience a significant space deficiency; UTSA’s gross square feet per student ratio is well below the Texas average. In effect, our campus has the capacity to accommodate only 21,000 students.

This session, we will be asking the Legislature to consider allocating bonds for us to build at least one new building. We will be seeking funding through tuition revenue bonds for a building to house teaching labs and classroom space.

Many of our science instructional labs are taught in facilities that were built about 35 years ago. A new facility would help us address a critical shortage for classroom space as well as provide state-of-the art resources for our students.

Overall, we are very efficient. But, going into a legislative session with further cuts, we may have to tackle a new challenge of trying to be even more efficient — without moving in the opposite direction.

This is a challenge that we all must work together to overcome. We are UTSA, and we must all contribute to cost containment and to seeking out collaborations that will bring resources to the university.

As we move forward with those efforts, we are doing so with an eye toward sustainability. It is incumbent on all of us to adopt sustainable practices in everything we do.

This year, we established the Sustainability Council, which is a collaboration of faculty, staff and students. The council is developing a five-year, integrated sustainability plan for UTSA.

Also this year, our students voted in favor of a “green fee,” which will be used to fund environmental initiatives on campus. Our students really have taken a leadership role in this area, and I applaud them for it.

Behind everything that we do at UTSA is a driving passion for people. We are inspired to become a nationally recognized research university for many reasons, but the most powerful is that we believe the people of Texas deserve access to exceptional opportunities.

Our region deserves the world-class opportunities that will come as UTSA grows and thrives. Our businesses need a well-educated workforce that is flexible and innovative. The community is strengthened by the great teachers we produce and the cultural programs and athletic events that we offer.

In essence, UTSA makes San Antonio an even greater place to live.

A stronger UTSA ensures that our city can remain competitive globally and that our community will continue to be a place where people want to invest and do business.

Tier One universities attract businesses, innovators and experts and help ensure economic stability. Tier One is important to the future of Texas.

What is Tier One? I get asked that all the time, on campus and off campus. Despite what other universities say or how they define it, let me shed some light on how I like to define Tier One.

Earlier this year, I was speaking to a group of our Air Force ROTC cadets and one of them asked me, “What is Tier One?”

Not expecting that kind of question, I could have told him about the expectations our Legislature and our peer institutions might have about what a Tier One university is or should look like.

But, I didn’t do that. I knew that the best answer to that question was right in front of me. I told him, “You are Tier One. You are what make UTSA Tier One.”

I said that because, this year, UTSA’s Air Force ROTC detachment was recognized as the best overall large detachment in the nation with the Right of Line Award.

They achieved this under the leadership of Col. Lisa Firmin. They beat out other schools around the country, many of which historically have had stronger ROTC traditions and larger detachments. They set a goal to be the best and they achieved that goal. They are Tier One.

And there are many other ways that we are already a Tier One university.

Of course, we always do well in the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education rankings, and this year was no exception. UTSA is ranked No. 1 in the biological sciences and in architecture, meaning we graduate more Hispanic undergraduates in those fields than any other college or university in the country. That is Tier One.

Helenita is here. In 2010, UTSA became the first university in the world to have the most advanced electron microscope ever made.

The microscope was purchased thanks to a gift from the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation. It magnifies samples by 50 million times and the images it produces has exceeded our expectations.

Without a doubt, our microscope lab is Tier One.

UTSA is home to the state demographer—Lloyd Potter, and having such a high-profile position on our campus, serving our community and educating our students—that is a Tier One opportunity.

This summer, the UTSA Minority Business Enterprise Center, one of 11 programs that make up the Institute for Economic Development here, earned a No. 1 national ranking.

The U.S. Department of Commerce recognized our local center as the best in the country for its outstanding overall performance. That is a Tier One program.

UTSA Debate finished the year ranked 10th in the nation, ahead of a long list of debate powerhouses including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Harvard University, Vanderbilt, UT Austin, Baylor and Dartmouth. That is Tier One.

For three years in a row, Hispanic Business has ranked the UTSA College of Business among the top 10 M.B.A. programs in the nation. Also this year, the College of Engineering made the magazine’s top 10 list for graduate engineering programs. That is Tier One.

And for the third year in a row, the College of Business Briefcase Brigade won first place in their category in San Antonio’s Battle of Flowers parade.

Unfortunately, having the best parade entry is not among the Legislative requirements for Tier One designation. I have checked. But, I am very proud of the Briefcase Brigade because this group embodies the spirit of our university. It points to the coalescence of students, faculty and staff working together to become Tier One.

The faculty alone cannot carry us to Tier One based solely on their research. The students alone cannot make us a Tier One university based solely on their academic performance. Our staff cannot do it alone, and our administrators cannot do it alone. But, by working together, we can — and we will — become Tier One.

When we invest in a program, a student, a faculty member or research at UTSA, we truly are making an investment in the strength of Texas and in the future of our nation. Part of the reason we’ve been successful at maintaining our pace toward Tier One is because we’ve had support from our community.

Earlier, I talked about some of the biggest gifts in UTSA history. I want you to know that we value gifts of any size because every dollar given to support our students, the work of our faculty and the service we provide to our community makes a difference at UTSA. Some of the most transformational gifts begin modestly with the simple intent to make a difference.

This year, UTSA lost a dear friend, Miss Mary McKinney. If you looked at your newspaper this morning, you already know a little bit about Miss McKinney. She is represented today by Steve Lewis, Bob Wehmeyer and others from Jefferson Bank, and also Judge Larry Noll and Richard Noll and their families.

Miss McKinney established an endowed scholarship in 1994 in memory of her parents, Felix and Elizabeth McKinney.

Her father, Felix, was a locomotive engineer for Southern Pacific Railroad. Despite having no formal education, her parents had a love for learning, and they were determined to provide a university education for their daughter.

Miss McKinney graduated from Trinity University and UT Austin, and she became a teacher. A lifelong learner, she took additional classes at various schools including 11 courses at UTSA. So, she was a Roadrunner.

It was her experience at UTSA that led her to establish the scholarship in memory of her parents. She saw that our students had a great desire to learn but did not always have the financial resources needed to enroll.

She was intensely private and did not want any publicity about her gifts. She simply wanted to help people who desired to improve themselves through education.

For more than 20 years, she made modest gifts to the university, most of which were about a few thousand dollars, for a total of almost $250,000 at her passing. Her gifts have provided opportunity for more than 100 students at UTSA. That kind of consistent giving really makes a difference.

What we were not aware of is that Miss McKinney had plans for it to continue after she had passed. She included UTSA in her will, making provisions for a scholarship fund that will be available to students from almost every discipline.

Let me tell you—her generosity is going to continue to be transformational.

This private woman who made modest gifts during her lifetime has now made the largest gift from an individual in UTSA’s history. The gift includes stocks, bonds and real estate—including three parcels of ranch land.

I am humbled and pleased to announce today the Felix and Elizabeth McKinney Endowed Scholarship Fund is being expanded with a total gift that is estimated by Jefferson Bank at more than $22 million.

With the mineral rights, we expect that generous bequest will be giving to the university even more for many years to come. This will change the lives of generations of UTSA students. And, again, I must thank Bob and Steve, who truly are members of Miss McKinney’s extended family, for stewarding this transformational gift.

Remarkable things are happening at UTSA. Even in difficult and uncertain times, extraordinary and wonderful things are happening. This comes as no surprise to me.

Seventeenth-century essayist Jean de la Bruyere said, “Out of difficulties grow miracles.”

I believe this, and I’m asking you to believe it, too.

Thank you for being here today. I am grateful to each and every one of you for all that you do for UTSA.

Ricardo Romo
The University of Texas at San Antonio