March 14, 2017
It’s that time of year again in Austin — while our students are on a well-earned spring break — when our city transforms. When our streets overflow with people from around the world. When restaurants, parking lots and public spaces pulse with innovation, film and music. When leaders of business, technology and culture gather to exchange ideas and present groundbreaking new projects. Of course, it’s the time for South by Southwest.
This past weekend, the university hosted the UT Live SXSW series, featuring panel discussions and interactive exhibits, including an architecture student’s micro house, an in-depth look at artificial intelligence and a multimedia dance performance. I attended a number of the events and was proud of the wide range of accomplishments and expertise that UT presented for the world to see. Sunday evening, I participated in a panel with UT Professor Bob Metcalfe where we discussed how universities can better support faculty and student startups.
The weekend before SXSW, we opened our campus to the public for another successful Explore UT. School children, parents and visitors from across the state explored the Forty Acres and met with faculty, staff and students to see what makes The University of Texas so exceptional. Explore UT inspires future Longhorns, and I’m grateful for all of the hard work that was put in by our volunteers to make over 50,000 visitors feel at home at our university.
Today, U.S. News and World Report announced that more than 40 of UT’s graduate programs ranked among the top 10 in the nation, and four ranked No. 1. These rankings are a national recognition of the outstanding quality of our faculty and the programs they lead.
Since I last wrote to you, many members of our UT community have produced remarkable, career-defining work and received professional accolades. Some of the highlights are:
Professor John Goodenough and his research team presented the technology for the next-generation rechargeable battery in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. Goodenough, who holds the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering, is one of the co-creators of the lithium ion cell, and his new battery technology is non-combustible, lasting longer and charging faster than earlier versions. It can revolutionize the way we use mobile devices, electric cars and numerous other technologies.
Sean Roberts, assistant professor of chemistry at UT, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to fund his Green Energy at Texas (GREAT) program. GREAT will bring Austin Community College students to UT to collaborate with faculty in chemical engineering and chemistry.
Chemical engineering Professor David Allen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, bringing the total number of current and emeritus National Academy members at UT to 39, the largest concentration of any university in Texas.
Sociology Professor Chandra Muller was elected to the National Academy of Education.
The UT women's basketball team was selected to play in the NCAA Tournament, earning the No. 3 seed in the Lexington Regional. The NCAA First and Second Rounds will be held at the Frank Erwin Center at UT, and I encourage you to come to the games, wear your finest burnt orange and support our team as they start tournament play this week.
Next week I will honor three outstanding Longhorns with Presidential Citations for their dedication to our university: Ardon Moore, Sandy Gottesman and Colonel Leon Holland. It is my sincere pleasure to recognize them for all they have done for UT with one of the university’s highest honors.
This is a great time to be in Austin. This is a great time to be a Longhorn. If you are traveling here for SXSW, check out the events we’re involved in, and please stop by the Forty Acres. This is your university, and I thank you for your continued engagement and support of The University of Texas.
Gregory L. Fenves