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Rotary Club of Fort Worth

March 3, 2017


Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen – I can’t think of a better place to be this afternoon than in Fort Worth – a city with which our university has significant ties – from our faculty and staff who stay here, to the many students who come to UTA from Fort Worth Schools and TCC and, of course, two great public servants and our alumni – Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.

From the signing of the E-TIP agreement with TCC to enable smoother pathways for students and our hosting of a joint workshop with the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington on a SMART cities initiative, to the agreement we signed earlier this year with BRIT (one of Fort Worth’s gems) to enable greater research collaborations between the institutions and sharing of personnel, and the ongoing discussions between UTA and the UNT Health Sciences Center to enable greater collaboration and joint projects, we are increasing our engagement with, and impact on, this city.

Add to that the educational programs ongoing at the Fort Worth Center including the internationally acclaimed Fort Worth MBA, and the tremendous translational and applied research and development work ongoing at UTARI with corporations such as Lockheed Martin, and our collaboration with Tech-Fort Worth, and you have an R-1 University fully engaged as a member of this community.

When I last spoke to the Rotary Club in 2014, I was a relative newcomer and had been at UTA for less than a year. UTA had a fall enrollment of 33,000 Texas-based students and a global degree-seeking population of about 40,000, was ranked as a “High Research University” by the Carnegie Foundation, and was unranked in Engineering and Business. Allow me to fast forward to today, three years since that meeting, and share a few numbers with you:

  • 57,000 – that’s the total number of degree seeking students that we expect to serve at UTA through on-line and on-campus degree programs by the end of this academic year, making us one of the largest campuses in the state. Even with this growth, the quality of our incoming students is extremely high with 23.9% being ranked in the top 10% of their high school class and 58.6% being ranked in the top 25%, third in the state behind A&M and Austin. In the next five years Tarrant County could well boast of having one of the largest, and best, universities in the nation in its back yard;
  • 11,526 – that’s the number of degrees awarded at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels in the last academic year, an 8.8% increase over the previous year, making us the third largest generator of highly skilled intellectual capital in the state. In addition, PayScale.com in its 2016-17 report noted that on average UTA students earn the second highest of all universities in the Metroplex just behind SMU at the early career stage, and 11% greater at the early career stage and 9% greater at the mid-career stage than the average of all universities, public and private in the Metroplex – besides our high level of academic excellence our degrees provide well-paying jobs;
  • 3,854 – that’s the number of degrees awarded by The College of Nursing and Health Innovation last year, continuing to be the largest producer of nurses in Texas, educating 64% of all RN to BSN students in Texas and producing 54% of all RN to BSN nursing graduates; 
  • 1,794 – that’s the number of degrees awarded in our nationally ranked College of Engineering, now the third largest in the state and with the 39th ranked graduate aerospace engineering program in the country;
  • 200 – that’s the Tier-1 metric for PhD degrees awarded in a year – a target we have now exceeded for the third year in a row;
  • 86 – as in $86 M in research expenditures, a 9% increase from last year fueled by the pioneering work of our faculty;
  • 63 – as in UTA being one of only 63 institutions nationwide named to Phi Theta Kappa’s 2017 Transfer Honor Roll, one of only two in Texas. And, yes, even as we draw larger numbers of high achieving high school students as freshmen we are ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the third highest destination for transfer students in the country, maintaining our commitment to meeting the needs of the urban community we serve;
  • 32.8 – as in our degree production ratio – the number of Bachelor’s degrees divided by the number of full time equivalent students enrolled four years earlier, almost 3.2 percentage points higher than the next highest in the UT System;
  • 25 – as in the number of faculty, including those recruited last year, who are focused on cancer research, making UTA one of Texas’ drivers in advances in understanding and curing this disease with funding from NIH, NSF, CPRIT and other agencies, corporations and foundations;
  • 20 – that’s the number of graduate programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s top programs, at least one in each School and College;
  • 20 – that’s our national ranking by Military Times in the “Best for Vets” list and #1 in the State of Texas;
  • 17 – that’s the number of our faculty in the National Academies of Engineering, Inventors, and Science – the highest level of academic recognition in the United States. I note with pride that in the area of innovation, exemplified by being named to the National Academy of Inventors, UTA accounts for almost a quarter of all fellows in the state of Texas;
  • 10 – as in the ranking of our graduate taxation program in the College of Business, the only one in Texas in the top 10;
  • 5 – We are ranked fifth in the nation for our undergraduate diversity index, according to U.S. News & World Report. We are the highest profile Hispanic-Serving Institution in North Texas, and the top institution in the state and 10th in the nation for Bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-American students, and No. 1 in Texas and No. 31 in the nation for total Master’s degrees conferred to minorities;
  • 4 – as in the ranking of the College of Education in the 2017 list of 50 Best Online Masters in Education Degrees;
  • 4 – as in the number of new buildings being constructed on campus. From the new Science and Engineering Innovation and Research building at the south end of our campus which will house our efforts in the Health Sciences, to a new 536-bed residence hall next to the MAC, and a new dining and student activities facility, to a new 1500-slot parking garage on the west campus the university is moving aggressively to accommodate our growth and further accelerate our march to pre-eminence;
  • 3 – the ranking of our School of Social Work in the Graduate Programs.com list of the top 25 Social Work Schools in the Country;
  • 2 – as in the number of MBA programs in the College of Business listed by CEO Magazine in its exclusive International Tier-1 list;
  • 2 – our ranking in a recent U.S. News & World Report list for the lowest debt at national universities, between Princeton and Yale;
  • 1 – as being the highest ranked university in the Metroplex for Social mobility; and
  • 1 – as in R1 – our inclusion in the highest research doctoral university group in the Carnegie Classification – the elite list of 115 of the top research universities in the nation placing us in the same group as Stanford, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins.

At UTA we pride ourselves on bridging access and excellence at an affordable cost. What is remarkable is that our very high level of excellence comes not just at a low cost to our students and their parents but also at a significantly low cost to the state. We hear a lot regarding the cost of an education and I’m proud to state that our operating expenses per full time student equivalent are the second lowest of all doctoral universities in the state and our cost-to-degree ratio is the lowest by far. Affordability, efficiency and excellence can go hand in hand.

We continue to gain in research funding from the NSF, NIH, NASA, DOE, and Department of Transportation with our faculty also leading large multi-institution awards such as in the case of Professor Yue Deng in Physics who is leading a $7.3 million national initiative to develop a next generation space weather simulator. The Department of Defense program involves physicists from the University of California, Los Angeles; Johns Hopkins University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Colorado at Boulder; University of New Mexico and the University of Texas at Dallas, as part of a team led by UTA. We recently were awarded three national U.S. Department of Transportation grants worth about $12 million in funding to UTA. From the $7.7M Center for Transportation Equity, Decisions and Dollars (C-TEDD) led by Shima Hamedi and Nan Ellin of our College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs which will focus on aligning transportation decision-making and funding sources and mechanisms to achieve efficiency, equity and upward social mobility, to the two awards in which UTA is part of, our faculty are making tremendous strides in addressing challenges facing megacities. UTA’s cancer team from across the Colleges of Science, Engineering and Nursing and Health Innovation, has received over $6M in new cancer grants in 2016 and our research is also moving out of the lab and into the commercial sector, with several companies formed around the University in key areas like immunotherapy and the development of novel chemical compounds to attack cancer. From fundamental particle physics to longer lasting roads, from computational simulation of brain trauma to the prevention of cancer, and from cyber security to big data, UTA faculty are increasingly considered the top in the fields and our teams are gaining a national and international reputation for research.

We hired over 60 new faculty last year and currently have searches open for another 50. Excellence attracts excellence and those we have recruited come to us from leading institutions such as the University of California Berkeley, Rice University, the University of Michigan, Penn State, and Memorial Sloan Kettering among others. We intend our hires to be strategic and to be the very best, adding significantly to the intellectual, research and innovation excellence not just at UTA but across our region as the catalyst for the intellectual, cultural and socio-economic development of the communities we serve.

In addition to the efforts being made through Tech Fort Worth, our work through the start-up lounge on campus, the Shimadzu Institute and our Silicon Valley commercialization office in San Jose are just the start to the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Talks are already underway though this venture to launch up to six new companies based on work completed last year, one of which has already been launched, and we hope that many in the future will be right here in the Metroplex.

Beyond the University Crossroads program, the Go Centers, and our Bound for Success initiative we have also launched a STEM Academy at Martin High School and unique Teacher Academies with AISD and GPISD. Building on the pioneering E-TIP agreement with TCC we are continuing to work on strengthening our partnership with TCC to generate the needed levels of a highly skilled workforce and to ensure that higher education remains within the reach of all who desire it in Tarrant County.

You’ve probably heard me say that UTA is a great institution with boundless potential. Innovation, diversity, excellence, access, and student success – these are the hallmarks of an institution on the move, one on the rise – and these define UTA as the Model 21st Century Urban Research University – the urban flagship, if you will, for our system.

This is an exciting time in our classrooms, in our research labs, and on our basketball courts and I hope you will not just watch as we accelerate to preeminence but that you will also join us on our journey as participants and active stakeholders, making this the megacity of the future rivalling centers in New York, Boston, Orlando, San Diego and in Silicon Valley.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon and I’d like to open the floor to questions.