Lifting students to their potential. Expanding research. Reinventing health care. These have been some of the running themes for Gregory L. Fenves’ presidency of the University of Texas, and on Thursday he announced new initiatives along those lines as part of his fourth state of the university address.
UT will start building a universitywide career center next year in the Flawn Academic Center to help drive the upward mobility of its students, he said. Faculty members from across the university will begin in earnest this fall to study ways to foster healthy development of children and families struggling with social, behavioral or health adversity. And a financial aid program for incoming students is being expanded to include eligible sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Borrowing a page from the playbook of U.S. presidents delivering state of the union addresses, Fenves singled out a person in the audience at the B. Iden Payne Theatre who illustrates one of his themes — Issac Turrubiate Salinas, a junior from Eagle Pass on the Rio Grande. English is his second language and no one in his family had attended college, but he is thriving at UT, majoring in economics and government, participating in internships and winning a writing prize.
“Issac’s story reflects the purpose of our university, which is to unlock potential,” Fenves said. “We offer opportunities to talented students from all walks of life.”
Fenves noted that UT did not admit African American students for half of its 135 years, adding that this history of exclusion and segregation confers a responsibility to champion diversity. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld UT’s limited use of affirmative action in 2016.
Fenves, 61, who became president of UT in June 2015, uses the annual state of the university address as an opportunity to unveil plans and to reflect on accomplishments and challenges.
In his remarks Thursday, Fenves took note of the National Science Foundation’s recent award of $60 million to UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center for a new supercomputer, dubbed Frontera, a research powerhouse that will be the fastest supercomputer at any university in the nation.