December 20, 2017
With the end of 2017 approaching, we can look back on what we have achieved and experienced as a university community this year.
There were high points and also a few challenges. Moments of remarkable success and moments that tested us. Through it all, the spirit of The University of Texas shone through — in the actions of our students, faculty members, staff members and alumni. We have a lot to be proud of and much to be grateful for.
At UT, more students than ever before are earning degrees within four years. Since 2012, our four-year graduation rate has increased by nearly 14 percentage points. This remarkable accomplishment by students and UT educators cannot be overstated — it is an improvement in academic quality and a decrease in cost to families that has gained national attention. It has enabled us to add nearly 1,000 more students to our freshman classes, providing more access to a UT education.
And we will continue to focus on upward mobility by investing further in financial aid for low- and middle-income students and by developing college-to-career readiness programs so that graduates are even better prepared to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Throughout 2017, members of the UT community were problem-solving, creating, discovering and collaborating to transform the world.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas on August 25, UT’s Marine Science Institute was severely damaged. But our dedicated staff and faculty members, security team and students were undaunted — they immediately set about restoring this critical facility for the state. Together, they are bringing life back to the MSI and resuming their outstanding research and outreach to the coastal region.
Throughout the fall semester, UT students in the School of Architecture devoted themselves to environmental cleanup efforts in hurricane-affected areas throughout Texas, rebuilding structures and serving residents in need of help. They applied the knowledge and skills learned at UT to improve life for others.
Earlier this month, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — a premier organization sponsoring medical science research — announced a new class of fellows. Out of 14 professors in the country who received this honor, three were from UT. Julia Clarke of the Jackson School of Geosciences and Eric Anslyn and Andrew Ellington of the College of Natural Sciences were each awarded major grants for their research by HHMI.
And now at the end of the year, we have welcomed Chris Del Conte — the new leader of Texas Athletics. Chris will build on his tremendous record of accomplishment as he represents Longhorn student-athletes, our coaches and our millions of fans across the state and the nation. I am confident that the legacy of Texas Athletics will flourish under Chris Del Conte’s leadership. He will help us win championships with integrity while supporting student-athletes and making the “front door” of The University of Texas inspiring for all.
It has been a busy year — one that Longhorn Nation should be proud of. Please enjoy a restorative and peaceful holiday season. I look forward to seeing you on the Forty Acres in 2018.
Gregory L. Fenves