University of Texas System Chancellor Announces Houston Advisory Task Force Executive Committee

As the University of Texas System carefully explores an expanded presence in Houston, Chancellor William H. McRaven announced Tuesday appointments to the Executive Committee of the Houston Advisory Task Force.  The Executive Committee will convene additional education, business and civic leaders, students, faculty, and elected officials of a broader advisory group as it carries out its work in the months ahead. 

In selecting the Executive Committee, McRaven consulted with a number of Houston’s education, business and local and state government leadership to request and receive nominations. In January, McRaven briefed the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas House Higher Education Committee on his vision for strategically allocating UT System resources over the long term to advance the state’s largest city as a global intellectual and innovation hub. 

“It’s all about collaboration,” McRaven said. “Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.”

Specifically, McRaven has laid out several imperatives associated with the Task Force’s work:

  • The Task Force will be charged with exploring new opportunities whereby the UT System, its institutions and other institutions in Texas and from around the nation and world may partner with Houston’s academic, medical, business and public and private organizations to elevate Houston as one of America’s top intellectual and innovation hubs, increasing Texas’ national and international competitiveness.  
  • The Task Force will be charged with working from a blank canvas to seek bold ideas that will address the city and state’s greatest opportunities and challenges. It will be asked to engage the best and brightest minds in education, business, health, technology and other critical sectors to look to the future and recommend never-before considered ways of maximizing higher education’s contributions to society. 
  • The Task Force will emphasize the need for collaborations and partnerships with public and private institutions of higher education, organizations and industries to forge a strong network of creativity and expertise in developing new innovations in education, research and economic enhancement. 
  • The Task Force will be asked to not recommend to the Chancellor the creation of academic programs or centers that duplicate what other Houston universities are already offering, unless a dearth of capacity exists that necessitates such recommendations.
  • The Task Force will develop and present a report of recommendations to Chancellor McRaven by the end of 2016, so he can seek input and appropriate approvals by the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Legislature on those recommendations selected to advance Houston.

“I’m honored to convene the great minds of Houston to help chart the course for their city’s future.  Nobody knows better than Houstonians the opportunities that will best advance the nation’s fourth-largest city as a national and international leader in innovation, ingenuity and economic prosperity,” McRaven said.  “I believe higher education has a responsibility to allocate its resources as strategically as possible, not only to address its current state of education, but to be inventive in looking at ways to proactively prepare for our future. As Houston’s second-largest employer and its top producer of research expenditures, the UT System’s 75-year-old footprint in Houston through UT MD Anderson and UT Health Science Center provides an excellent foundation for what’s yet to be imagined.”

Desired outcomes from the initiative include significantly increasing research, collaboration and educational opportunities for all Texans in nationally emerging fields, with a focus on enhancing economic prosperity for Houston. The possibilities for achieving these outcomes are considered to be wide open for Task Force recommendations, and the committees will be asked to engage with, and invite ideas and proposals from, all those who care deeply about the long-term vitality and advancement of Houston.

“Houston is a great city and great cities can never have too much knowledge infrastructure in the economy of the future,” said Paul Hobby, Houston business and civic leader. “The cornerstones of our Houston region all rose by force of collective will. The Port, the Texas Medical Center, the global energy hub, the Johnson Space Center, The Woodlands and the establishment of our fine universities all started with a big idea. I believe this new cluster of excellence will also seem obvious in hindsight,” added Hobby, who will serve as one of the Task Force’s co-chairs.

The Executive Committee of the Advisory Task Force includes:

  • Paul Hobby, co-chair; founding partner, Genesis Park; chairman, Texas Ethics Commission; former chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; alumnus of the University of Virginia and UT Austin School of Law
  • Carin Barth, co-chair;  president and co-founder of LB Capital and former Texas Tech regent; former chair of the Houston Forum; former chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of  Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush; alumna of the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University
  • Jorge Bermudez, president and chief executive officer, Byebrook Group; former chief risk officer for Citigroup; member of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank board of directors; board member of Moody’s Corporation and ERCOT; alumnus of Texas A&M University
  • Ernest Cockrell, chairman of Cockrell Interests; chairman of the Cockrell Foundation; alumnus of UT Austin
  • Alex Cranberg, UT System regent; founder of Aspect Holdings, LLC; alumnus of UT Austin and Stanford University
  • Larry Faulkner, president emeritus of UT Austin; former president of the Houston Endowment; alumnus of Southern Methodist University and UT Austin
  • David Gardner, deputy commissioner for academic planning and policy, and ex officio representative of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to the Task Force; alumnus of the University of Houston and Texas A&M University
  • Jodie L. Jiles, director of business development, Transwestern; former chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership; former board member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; alumnus of Texas Southern University and UT Austin
  • Gene Locke, of counsel, Andrews Kurth; County Commissioner, Precinct 1, Harris County;  former city attorney, representative of the Harris County Judge to the Task Force; alumnus of the University of Houston
  • Janiece Longoria, chairman of the Houston Port Authority; former UT System regent and vice chairman; director at CenterPoint Energy and Superior Energy Services; alumna of UT Austin
  • Gina Luna, chairman of JP Morgan Chase-Houston Region; former chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership; alumna of Texas A&M University
  • John Nau, president and chief executive officer, Silver Eagle Distributors; current member and former vice chairman of the National Park Foundation; chairman of the Texas Historical Commission; chairman emeritus of the Civil War Trust; former member of the University of Virginia board of visitors; alumnus of the University of Virginia
  • Patrick Oxford, chairman, Bracewell; former UT System regent; former board chairman of BioHouston; former chairman of Greater Houston Partnership; alumnus of UT Austin
  • Precious Williams Owodunni, president and founder, Mountaintop Consulting;  former vice president, Goldman, Sachs & Company; alumna of Yale University
  • Robert Robbins, president and chief executive officer, Texas Medical Center; alumnus of the University of Mississippi and Millsaps College
  • Courtney Johnson Rose, representative of the Mayor’s Office to the Task Force; principal broker of George E. Johnson Properties; alumnus of UT Austin and Prairie View A&M University
  • Gerald Smith, university representative and chair of the Texas Southern University Foundation board; chief executive officer of Smith, Graham and Company Investment Advisors; board member, Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; alumnus of Texas Southern University
  • Y. Ping Sun, of counsel, Yetter Coleman; university representative, Rice University; advisory board member, Asian Chamber of Commerce; co-chair of Asia Society Texas Center; alumna of Princeton University and Columbia University School of Law

McRaven plans to convene the Executive Committee within several weeks, and a broader advisory committee will be named at a later date.  McRaven will report regularly on its work to the UT System Board of Regents.

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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