February 8, 2016
Building upon the excellence for which The University of Texas at Austin is renowned, our strategies must include a comprehensive global approach to education and research. We prepare our students to become leaders in an increasingly interconnected world. Additionally, nearly every research initiative has an international component, because not only are the issues global, the talent and resources are as well.
One of UT’s deepest international relationships is with Mexico. Our work with Mexico has a 50-year history. In an op-ed recently published in Mexico’s Reforma newspaper and three Texas newspapers, I described why Mexico City was the natural choice for my first international trip as president, leading a delegation of more than 40.
Fourteen out of 18 UT colleges were represented, including eight deans, with faculty, academic leaders, and program directors from across campus. We met with five universities and three Mexican government ministries to discuss research collaborations, student exchanges, and new initiatives in education and research. A highlight for me was meeting more than 300 alumni at a Texas Exes reception at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
The next steps in our programs with Mexico are already in progress. The LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, one of the most significant Latin American collections in the world, solidified agreements to support ongoing research on issues of gender violence against girls and women, which requires rigorous social science research with practical action. In partnership with The Center for Women's and Gender Studies at UT, as well as four Mexican universities and UT El Paso, we will continue the work of prominent Mexican anthropologist and UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) Professor Marcela Lagarde through the creation of a chair in her name and a conference at UT in her honor on March 8.
Additionally, UT’s Energy Week kicks off Feb. 16 with the panel, “Mexico Electric Power Sector Reform and the Role of Natural Gas.” Other events that week will address the country’s recent energy reforms and the huge role Texas will play in Mexico’s use of natural gas — much of which the state exports to Mexico.
In other developments on the Forty Acres, I recently announced Project 2021, a five-year endeavor to modernize undergraduate degree programs, building on more than decade of educational transformation. Project 2021 is led by Dr. James Pennebaker, Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and renowned expert on innovations in teaching methodologies. The goal of the project is to create next-generation undergraduate programs through curriculum design that builds on the resources of a great research university, pedagogy and course design, technology integration and rigorous evaluation.
Later this year we will welcome two new members to the university’s executive team. Dr. Maurie McInnis of the University of Virginia becomes executive vice president and provost starting July 1; and Mr. Darrell Bazzell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison starts as senior vice president and CFO effective April 18. The experiences of both Maurie and Darrell from top-ranked public universities will be tremendous assets as we increase excellence and effectiveness at UT.
Finally, I want to recognize the huge signing day Longhorn Football had last week. Congratulations to Coach Charlie Strong, to his coaching staff and recruiting team, and especially to our newest student-athletes. I am excited for next season.
The vision I have for UT is ambitious because Texans are ambitious. Every day at UT we are defining the future of higher education and the essential role of public research universities. Thank you for your support as we bring The University of Texas at Austin into its next era of distinction.
Gregory L. Fenves, President