Texas A&M is leaving an indelible mark on the world, beginning here in the great state of Texas. And it all stems from a palpable sense of fearlessness.
At a time when college costs are soaring, we have become a national model of excellence, access, and affordability, making headlines as one of the best value schools in America. Fearless.
In a climate where, fueled by revenue gains, many public universities are shifting their attention to out-of-state students, Texas A&M continues to invest in and cultivate in-state talent. Fearless.
And to preserve and build upon our status as a world-class public research institution, this past November Texas A&M launched Lead by Example, one of the boldest comprehensive campaigns in the history of public higher education at $4 billion, and one that perfectly summarizes what it means to be an Aggie. Fearless.
As I round out my first year as president, I want to take the opportunity to reflect upon the university’s many achievements these past 12 months, and look ahead to those ‘fearless fronts’ the Aggie community will pursue in the months and years to come.
Recruitment and ROI
Aggies believe that changing the world starts at home. As the largest university in Texas and one of the largest in the nation, Texas A&M stands committed to its land-grant mission of improving lives – regardless of income or background – by offering an exceptional education to a broad spectrum of our state’s young minds.
As demonstrated by our freshman class, we have made a clear investment in Texas talent, while also recognizing the importance of empowering and providing affordable access to all. Roughly 25 percent of the university’s entering freshmen are first-generation students, and Texas A&M stands at number one in the nation for low-income student success.
We offer one of the very best financial “returns on investment” of any college in the country. The U.S. Department of Education shows that Aggies leave school with among the lowest college-cost debt load in the state and the nation. In fact, the percentage of our students graduating with debt, as well as the amount of debt, has decreased year over year since 2012.
And we are continually recognized by national publications for providing an unrivaled education at an exceptionally affordable cost. In 2015, Money Magazine ranked Texas A&M number one in best value.
Still, there is work to be done – appropriating additional ways to fulfill Texas A&M’s land-grant heritage, and continuing to impress upon the nation the value of a Texas A&M degree. In the coming years, we will enhance student access and add 1,000 scholarships for need-based applicants, while working to continually attract students with strong academic ability. And the University will endow the Academic Success Program and the University Honors Program, to help Aggies distinguish themselves in the job market and launch high-paying, highly rewarding careers.
World-Class Intellectual Leadership
I am humbled to keep company with Nobel laureates, Fulbright scholars, Wolf Prize recipients, and many more distinguished, superbly talented faculty. Unlike I have ever experienced, A&M faculty possess an unwavering commitment to shape intellectually transformative experiences. Here, learning becomes intertwined with values-based leadership development. And classroom instruction invites students – both undergraduate and graduate – to bring experiences and skills to bear in a meaningful way through real-world application.
Texas A&M consistently ranks among the nation’s top 20 research universities. The University recently posted $866 million in annual research expenditures for 2015, representing an uptick amid a relatively flat national market. This affirms our faculty’s fearlessness in pioneering change and tackling great global challenges, all while positioning Texas A&M as a national leader in academic and research excellence.
Looking ahead, we will emphatically devote attention to attracting new and more world-renowned faculty – educators, researchers, and industry experts – for they produce not only scholars, but citizens of change. Among the goals we have slated for the years ahead: adding 200 endowed chairs and 500 endowed professorships and fellowships, endowing the University Research Development Initiative, and enhancing the Texas A&M University Institute of Advanced studies – all of which lend themselves to carving out new opportunities for transformational learning and bold thinking. And along the way, we will uncover opportunities to promote and position faculty as national thought leaders in their respective fields.
At Texas A&M, our commitment to education extends beyond the myriad opportunities we offer to undergraduate students during their tenure on campus. We hold ourselves accountable for inspiring students to broaden their academic pursuits to post-graduate education opportunities and advanced degrees offered here at Texas A&M; helping them chart a path to successful, purpose-driven careers with great earning potential; and, through experiential learning, presenting them with a competitive advantage among their peers once they enter the workforce.
Looking ahead, we plan to endow focused learning communities that keep students progressing to degrees; infuse entrepreneurship and a start-up mentality throughout our undergraduate and graduate majors; add 1,000 endowed post-baccalaureate fellowships; and establish a metric for measuring not only salary, but opportunity to make a measurable difference in students’ chosen professions.
Through these efforts, the University will bolster our storied track record of job placement, and in doing so create additional opportunities for Aggies to effect positive change in the world.
140 years ago, Texas A&M made its footprint in the sand and laid the foundation for one of the greatest teaching and research universities in America. And ever since, Texas A&M has grown more ambitious in the race to make a world of difference.
As I embark on my second year as president, I know we are poised to do not only good, but great, things. Fellow Aggies and Texas A&M ambassadors, I invite you to join me in working to build a better Texas A&M and a better world and a better future – fearlessly.
Editor’s note: This article was first printed in the May-June issue of Texas Aggie magazine, which is published by The Association of Former Students.