Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young highlighted some of the school’s recent successes Wednesday during his “state of the university” message, listed some challenges that need to be faced and in a surprise announcement, said that a new $100 million President’s Excellence Fund has been created to award cash grants for faculty research projects.
“The state of our university is strong,” Young told listeners in the Bush Library’s Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.
“We have witnessed a tangible momentum these last 12 months, one that is set to continue well into the future. I share this not as my biased opinion, but as fact.”
Young cited Texas A&M’s rise in national rankings, joking that “rankings are the bane of our existence – unless they are in our favor, in which case, they are wonderful.”
A growing influence
The university has made significant strides in numerous rankings, among them reports in U.S. News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal. He added that student engagement – which measures quality and frequency of student interactions with faculty and other students, and whether students would recommend their school to others – has made national strides. He noted that Texas A&M’s return on investment, or ROI, which measures starting salaries of recent graduates, is among the best of any national university.
Young also pointed with pride to Texas A&M’s role in “transformational education,” noting that the university has more than 6,000 students who participate in study-abroad programs – believed to be the most of any public school in the country.
“We also have more than 5,500 undergraduate students who participate in research at Texas A&M, an opportunity that at most universities is afforded only to graduate students, and this can be life-changing for many students,” he said.
He also listed faculty mentoring as a hallmark of Texas A&M faculty, increased participation in entrepreneurship and learning experiences for students and “something that I think is taken for granted – the more than 1,100 clubs and organizations on campus that provide leadership development.”
Young noted that Texas A&M’s sphere of influence continues to grow, citing as an example the university’s active role in last spring’s South by Southwest conference in Austin where the school showcased some of its most promising technology for an audience of 150,000 persons from 90 countries.
“We faced several difficult challenges in the past year,” he added, “and an ongoing challenge deals with controversial speakers on our campus. It is the responsibility of every single one of us to demonstrate excellence and how we treat others, and we will continue to be diligent to ensure the critical right to freedom of speech and the safety of students, faculty, staff and the public.”
“Natural disasters were another challenge,” he continued.
“More than 45 percent, or about 31,000 of our students are from one of the 38 counties in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we also have 124 students from Puerto Rico. Harvey delayed the start of the school year for the first time in our history, but we rallied – from our student-athletes to Reveille herself – to rescue, feed and comfort storm victims.”
Regarding Texas A&M’s much-anticipated Innovation or I-School, Young said the project will involve students and faculty from every college on campus, “to bring solutions to problems. We have the creativity and energy to do it, and we want Texas A&M to be the place where the entire world comes for help to solve its problems.”
In announcing the $100 million President’s Excellence Fund, Young said the cash grants will begin in December. “The fund will be broken out into large grants of half a million to a million dollars and smaller grants, such as $30,000, ones we call ‘T3 grants,’ that will involve professors from two or more colleges with a great idea,” he said. Recipients of the grants will participate in a President’s Excellence Fund Seminar each September at which they will present their projects and discuss their progress.
“We know that excellence does not come cheap,” he added, “but we have every confidence that the imagination, creativity and energy of this great faculty will take us places we can hardly imagine today. Frankly, I can’t wait.”
Young’s full speech is available for PDF download.
Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644 or firstname.lastname@example.org