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Chancellor McRaven unveils ambitious vision for UT System

The sweeping strategic plan proposes several “quantum leaps” including expanding UT System’s footprint in Houston

AUSTIN—Chancellor William H. McRaven laid out a bold and sweeping path forward for The University of Texas System to the Board of Regents on Thursday in a comprehensive presentation that introduced numerous breakthroughs, from building the nation’s next generation of leaders, to leading the brain health revolution, to aggressively recruiting the world’s greatest scholars and researchers to University of Texas institutions.

The most venturesome part of McRaven’s plan includes a new, expanded footprint of The University of Texas System in Houston, the state’s largest population center.   

“We have educational and research gems across our UT System portfolio that, if leveraged with key sectors of health, energy and business in Houston, will allow us to accelerate discoveries and expand research and educational opportunities — complementing our existing UT health institutions — and significantly grow our state’s economic competitiveness,” McRaven said.

The entire vision focuses on a new way of doing business, breaking new ground and making the UT System a public higher education system of global influence.

“When I took this job in January, my early vision for the UT System focused primarily on improving the quality of our institutions,” McRaven said. “But what I came to realize was that our institutions must focus on the quality of our service to the state of Texas. It is not about us. It is about Texas — about improving the human condition in every town, every city, for every man, woman and child. That’s what great institutions must do for their state.”

McRaven made many changes in his first few months on the job, including shifting the reporting structure so that the presidents of all UT health and academic institutions report directly to him. He dramatically increased the communication between the presidents and the chancellor’s office, hosting weekly video conferences, and setting the stage for more cross-campus collaboration to achieve important scientific and educational advancements.

He also launched a strategic assessment to figure out not only where the UT System should be today, but where it needs to be headed in the future.

McRaven said he plans to ensure UT academic and health care enterprises are world leaders in higher education, research and patient care by establishing a mutually supporting system, where the strengths of one institution help reinforce the quality and competitiveness of others. Like he did with U.S. Special Operations in the military, McRaven will bring a “team of teams” approach to UT System, to leverage the chief strengths of the entire system’s size, talent and diversity.

“By scaling our strengths, we will be able to make quantum leaps,” McRaven said.

Those quantum leaps (detailed here) include:

  • The Texas Prospect Initiative to foster unprecedented levels of engagement and collaboration between higher education and preK-12, with a focus on improving literacy;
  • The creation of the American Leadership Program, which will make leadership and ethics training part of the core curriculum for all students at UT institutions;
  • Renewed investment in bringing world-class faculty to UT institutions;
  • A  laser focus on enhancing fairness and opportunity for women and minorities in leadership positions at UT institutions;
  • Developing a UT Health Care Enterprise to leverage UT System’s size and expertise to improve the health of Texas and beyond;
  • Expanding research into brain health by investing more into the existing, revolutionary programs at several UT institutions, establishing another at UT Austin, and tying efforts together to accelerate discoveries and treatments for diseases of the brain;
  • Building a UT Network for National Security, a system-wide alliance that will confront the world’s most vexing problems facing our nation.

Another quantum leap in McRaven’s vision is the expansion of the UT System’s presence in Houston — the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the nation. At Wednesday’s meeting, the Board of Regents approved the acquisition of more than 300 acres near the Texas Medical Center.

This expansion of the UT System into the state’s most international city – where sectors such as energy, technology, health care, arts and culture fuel the economy – will provide extraordinary opportunities for research and partnerships. It will also address the need to make a UT education possible for a growing and changing population.

“We know that there is broad support for UT in Houston. For UT Austin alone, we have more alumni and more student applicants hailing from Houston than anywhere else in the state,” Regents Chairman Paul Foster said. “When you consider the vast assets of the UT System and Houston’s spirit of innovation and ingenuity, we have an opportunity to create something new for Texas that will make it even more competitive on the world stage.”

Regents Vice Chairman Jeff Hildebrand praised McRaven’s imagination.

“As a Houstonian and UT Austin alumnus, I am proud of this new venture,” Hildebrand said. “Taking one of the nation’s leading cities in medicine, energy, engineering, aerospace and business and partnering it with one of the nation’s premier systems of higher education will have immeasurable positive impact on Texas and the United States.

“Chancellor McRaven’s entire vision is ambitious and inspiring and has all the elements to position Texas as a world leader in many critically important areas.”

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking basic, applied and clinical research, and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. With 14 institutions and an enrollment of more than 217,000, the UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates almost two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public institutions in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $16.9 billion (FY 2016) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 20,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates – and more than 70,000 health care professionals, researchers, student advisors and support staff, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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