Welcome to Spring 2015!

Welcome back to another great semester at UT Tyler!  This is already looking to be a very busy semester, and I know we will accomplish much in the coming months. I’ve recorded a short message to welcome you back and to offer a glimpse into what to expect this spring.

Welcome to Spring 2015!


Congratulations Graduates!

This weekend, I will have the privilege of shaking the hands of more than 1,000 graduates as they cross the stage. After more than 17 years as president of this unique institution, I never tire of watching the joy on our graduates’ faces as they celebrate the completion of their degrees.

I know that each of you graduating over the next two days has a different story to tell. No matter your circumstances, the journey to this weekend has required hard work and certainly there has been some difficulty mixed with the joys of accomplishment along the way. Each of you is an inspiration to me, to the faculty and staff of this institution, and to this community.

IMG_0452Your hard work has not gone unnoticed, and I commend you for your dedication.

The journey to complete a degree is challenging. That is why I want you each to understand how very proud we are of you and what you have accomplished.

Every employee of this institution, no matter what role they play, is here for a single purpose: to help you get to this day. We are honored to have helped you along in your journey and wish the very best for you as you move on to do more, produce more and help others in your lives.

I know you will accomplish great things, and hope you will keep in touch with our Alumni Association so that we can celebrate with you as you go on to build successful lives.

Congratulations, UT Tyler Class of 2014.

Welcoming Student Regent Max Richards

Last week, UT System Student Regent Max Richards visited the UT Tyler campus. Mr. Richards is a student at UT Austin. While here, he met with UT Tyler Student Government Association leaders, toured our Innovation Academy, and had lunch with a group of students.

It was great to have him on campus. Thanks for visiting us here at UT Tyler!

Student Regent Max Richards, center, and a student group attend at luncheon during the Student Regent's visit to UT Tyler.

Student Regent Max Richards, center, and a student group attend at luncheon during the Student Regent’s visit to UT Tyler.

UT System Student Regent Max Richards and me.

UT System Student Regent Max Richards and me.








In Honor of our Veterans

UT Tyler student veterans constructed the above memorial in honor of those who have fallen in combat. The memorial was unveiled this week in honor of Veteran's Day.

UT Tyler student veterans constructed the above memorial in honor of those who have fallen in combat. The memorial was unveiled this week in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor our past and present military personnel. Every single life in this nation has been affected by the dedication and loyalty of those who choose to serve in our armed forces.

Many of those veterans come to institutions of higher learning during and following their military service. Here at UT Tyler, we have 580 veterans, spouses and dependents receiving benefits. We also have numerous veterans serving in our faculty, staff and administrative positions.

Our Veteran’s Resource Center is honoring this day with a full week of events. In honor of the occasion, our student veterans—many of whom have served in combat—built the memorial you see here to honor those military personnel who have fallen in battle. The memorial will be displayed at various events this week before being permanently housed in the Veterans Resource Center office.

If you know a veteran on campus this week, be sure to thank them. They have not only made a difference for our country, but also are a valued part of this university.

Naming Suddenlink as 2014 Patriot of the Year

We were recently honored to recognize Suddenlink for their years of friendship to this university by naming the company as the 2014 Patriot of the Year.

Presenting Suddenlink Senior Vice President David Gilles with the 2014 Patriot of the Year Award.

Presenting Suddenlink Senior Vice President David Gilles with the 2014 Patriot of the Year Award.

Suddenlink’s leaders and employees have a long history of supporting this university. Most recently, the company was key in the remodeling of our softball facility. When we constructed our softball field in 2006, the goal was to make it a state-of-the art facility. We succeeded. In fact, over the years I have heard many players from other universities comment on how surprised they were to see such a facility at a NCAA Division III institution.

Last spring—with the foresight, dedication and generosity of Suddenlink—we were able to make some key improvements to the field. Those improvements have not only secured our field’s position as the best facility in Division III softball, but we now rival many Division II and even some Division I schools as well. Our facility is truly one of the best in the nation, and we were proud to name it Suddenlink Field in recognition of the company’s great support.

With Suddenlink’s help, we have expanded our press box, added quality seating, and installed a NewTek-Tricaster studio. That studio allows us to have some of the highest-quality online broadcasts and in-game video production in all of NCAA Division III athletics.

That means more people than ever can watch this amazing team, which has taken home numerous conference and regional championships and is regularly ranked in the top 10 for Division III. In the 10 years since we started our women’s softball team, these students have fought their way to the NCAA World Series three times.

Those of us who have been at UT Tyler for a while know that Suddenlink’s support has been ongoing for many years. As the event sponsor for the UT Tyler Suddenlink Patriot Million Dollar Hole-in-One, the communications company has also helped us raise more than $2 million in scholarship funds. That effort has allowed more than 500 students to complete their degrees.

The Suddenlink corporation is a true leader in this community and we are proud of the longstanding partnership between the company and this university. UT Tyler is fortunate to have such friends.

Here a few photos from the 2014 Patriot of the Year ceremony.

Suddenlink's 2014 Patriot of the Year Award

Suddenlink’s 2014 Patriot of the Year Award









Suddenlink team.

Members of the Suddenlink team.







UT Tyler Softball Player Kierin Stevens thanks Suddenlink leaders for the company support.

UT Tyler Softball Player Kierin Stevens thanks Suddenlink leaders for the company support.


UT Tyler Senior Johnathan McSwain provides music at the Patriot of the Year event.

UT Tyler Senior Johnathan McSwain provides music at the Patriot of the Year event.


Dessert plate featuring Suddenlink logo.

Supporting Longview Students

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I want to thank Texas Bank and Trust of Longview for their generous support of the Longview University Center. Recently we celebrated the establishment of the Texas Bank and Trust Endowed Scholarship. The fund was established to provide financial assistance to students attending the Longview University Center. Pictured are (from left): Jennifer Harris, Texas Bank and Trust Vice President for Business Development; Tom Tibiletti, Vice Chair of the UT Tyler Longview University Center Development Council; me; Rogers Pope Jr., CEO of Texas Bank and Trust; Kevin Hood, President and COO of Texas Bank and Trust; and Karen Partee, Chief Marketing Officer for Texas Bank and Trust. We are grateful to Texas Bank and Trust for their generous gift.

Welcoming new faculty and staff

for blog new faculty

Over the summer, we added around 60 members (pictured above) to our team of world-class faculty. We have experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. The additions to our team will keep our student-to-faculty ratio near 16:1 and better serve our growing number of students. We have also added several new faces to our professional and classified staff. I want to welcome all new faculty and staff to this excellent university. We are glad to have you as part of the UT Tyler family!


The value of serving the community

More than 100 freshmen recently dedicated a day to assembling meals at the East Texas Food Bank.  The food bank serves not just Tyler, but provides meals and essential items to local food pantries around East Texas.

The students volunteered as part of our annual Freshman Day of Service. This was the largest number of participants in the history of the event. I have also heard that this was the largest single group of volunteers to ever assist the East Texas Food Bank.

During the day, our students helped prepare food for more than 8,200 meals. What an impact their dedication will have on this region!

The UT Tyler family has always strived to make a real difference in East Texas, and I am glad to see our newest students carrying on that tradition.

2014 FDS2 2014 FDS1

Is a College Education Worth It?

A 20-second Google search for “Is a college education worth it?” demonstrates, sadly, that the value of higher education is hotly debated. The search generates more than 200,000 results.

U.S. News and World Report has a page dedicated to the debate. The New York Times issued a strong “yes” in May. The Economist chimed in last spring less enthusiastically, saying some degrees pay off much more than others.

As a university president, I clearly believe there is significant value in a college education. My opinion is based on hard data regarding better jobs and incomes as well as seeing and hearing the success stories of thousands of our graduates. I have talked to numerous alumni from this university who tell me the education they received contributed greatly to their success.

Critics of higher education claim the value of a degree is decreasing or that a degree isn’t necessary to be successful in today’s job market.

To help decide if either of those views is a valid concern, I decided to put myself in the place of a recent graduate and look for a job. I went to Monster.com and began my search.

I’m an economist by trade, but I didn’t want to narrow my job options because our students choose a variety of fields, so I built the following search parameters for my new job:

  • Requiring 0-2 years of experience
  • Full-time
  • In Texas
  • Salary greater than $50,000 a year— the U.S. Census Bureau reported the median household income in Texas in 2012 at $51,926.

To test job availability by educational level, I conducted two searches, one for jobs requiring only a high school diploma and one for those requiring a bachelor’s degree. This was the breakdown—remembering that Monster.com will display a maximum of 1,000 job openings for any search:

  • High school diploma: 484 jobs
  • 4-year degree: 1,000 jobs

The job openings displayed maxed out the system for jobs requiring a university degree! Fewer than half that constrained number of 1,000 were listed for jobs requiring only a high school diploma.

I then searched again using the same set of parameters except raising the income requirement to $80,000 per year. The result this time was a total of 980 jobs. However, the education gap was much wider. More than 83% of those positions available required a bachelor’s degree.

I understand I am simplifying the process a bit. Several additional factors—such as university, field of study, professional connections, and “soft skills” such as demeanor and conduct—make a significant difference for a recent graduate coming into the market and can assist those students in landing better jobs.

However, looking at these Monster.com searches, one thing becomes clear: Having a degree still gives you a major advantage when entering the job market.

The Pew Research Center published incomes for young workers ages 25-32. The median annual income for U.S. workers in that age group with a bachelor’s degree is $45,500. For those with a high school diploma it’s $28,000.

And that difference only grows over time. Indeed, over a lifetime of work it is still truth that a typical university graduate will earn $1 million more than a high school graduate.

There is no doubt that education is still worth it.

What does it really mean to do more with less?

Americans often hear how governmental agencies, higher education institutions, and even households have learned to “do more with less” over the past few years.

In higher education, “doing more with less” is used to describe how universities are required to meet an increasing demand for new programs, technology, services and accountability while also facing a decrease in state funding per student.

In recent years, the state funding model has changed. As legislators experience increased pressure to spend on a growing number of state needs, higher education has received smaller and smaller pieces of the Texas budget.

In 1995, UT Tyler received 49% of its total funding from state appropriations. Today, that’s down to 34%.

One of the charges leveled at universities is that tuition is increasing faster than inflation. While it is true that tuition has increased, those increases are largely due to the drastic drop in state funding per student. In fact, the net result of those two opposing trends (rising tuition and falling state funding per student) has been a decrease in total university revenue per student.

Components of Total Operating Revenue BudgetFor example, according to UT System calculations, UT Tyler received $10,967 in state funding per student in 2001-02. Add to that our net tuition revenue per student of $2,404, and our total revenue per student was $13,371.

Ten years later, in 2011-12, state funding per student had dropped to $6,238 and net tuition revenue had increased to only $4,586 per student for a total of $10,824. We talk about doing more with less. How about $2,500 less per student?

During that 10-year time period we have worked diligently to build the programs and services necessary to provide quality educational opportunities. Our students asked for additional facilities and programs, so we added several buildings, including the David G. and Jacqueline M. Braithwaite Building for nursing, the Bill Ratliff Engineering and Sciences Complex, a campus health clinic and the Ornelas Residence Hall.

We implemented two Ph.D. programs while also expanding the number of graduate and undergraduate programs. We have created the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy.

Just in the past two years, UT Tyler has added new technology to enhance online learning and implemented academic support programs such as peer tutoring. Those of us at this institution certainly understand the challenges facing families in East Texas today. We are working as diligently as possible to give our students the technology and programs they need without putting undue financial burden on those students.

Although tuition has increased over the last decade as a result of the drop in state funding per student, we have attempted to keep those increases at a reasonable level while still maintaining a quality product. Our tuition has not increased nearly enough to offset state redistribution in per-student funding.

So, as you can see, we are truly doing more with less.