AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Texas at Austin President Gregory Fenves presented the annual State of the University address on Wednesday afternoon, focusing on recent achievements and outlining his priorities for the future.
During the event, Fenves unveiled the new Council for TEXAS Impact, which Fenves said will focus on how UT can can best be of service outside of campus.
“The council’s purpose will be to think deeply about the future and identify key areas where UT can have the most impact on Texas, the nation, and the world,” said Fenves.
Composed of more than 20 faculty members, two staff members and three student leaders, the council will host a series of forums across campus and Fenves urged the UT community to bring their bold ideas to the events.
“At UT, we say, ‘What Starts Here Changes the World,” Fenves said. “With the Council for TEXAS Impact, we will think about what that world will look like decades from now and imagine the breakthroughs, discoveries and goals we should focus on to change it for the better. I hope all of you will join me in this effort.”
During the annual address, Fenves also announced:
- The “Texas Challenge” to raise $50 million to build on the Texas Advance Commitment financial aid program for middle- and low-income students
- Long-term efforts to increase student housing spaces
- A new graduate fellowship program in the College of Liberal Arts
Part of the university’s vision includes initiatives and collaborations related to new student housing and financial aid, according to a press release. In July, the university announced it would draw from oil money to give free tuition to families earning up to $65,000.
Since the announcement, Fenves said many alumni have approached the university and asked if they can do more.
“The answer is yes,” said Fenves in unveiling the Texas Challenge, a call to donors to raise an additional $50 million for financial aid. He says every dollar alumni and friends contribute to the challenge will go directly to student scholarships.
“If a student can’t afford to live in Austin, that’s a barrier to their success,” said the president. “And as a university with a history of denying equitable access to qualified students, it’s our responsibility not to allow barriers but to create opportunities for students from all backgrounds.”
UT will hire an experienced consulting firm to study student housing at UT, with the ultimate goal of offering on-campus housing to all first-year undergraduate students. Several steps toward that goal are already underway, Fenves added, such as making 700 spaces available in the newly acquired West Campus apartment complex at 2400 Nueces St., and the planned replacement of the Creekside residence hall that will add 700 to 900 new spaces.
“The scope of our influence is enormous,” said Fenves. “And as a result, people everywhere are looking to us to lead.”
He added: “And when we think about the future, we have a responsibility to make good on the promise of our potential. To expand our influence. To be bold. To reach even higher heights.”
To read a full transcript of the speech, click here.