The vision of William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System
Recently, William H. McRaven, Chancellor of the University of Texas (UT) System, spoke to the UT System Board of Regents to outline his vision for the future of the UT system 5, 10, and 20 years from now. During his speech Chancellor McRaven discussed his initiatives to implement what he described as “Quantum Leaps” in the ability of the UT System “to provide the citizens of Texas the very best in higher education, research, and health care.” His commitment to bring in world-class talent in education and research to the UT system, as well as improve the healthcare of Texas citizens, is an important affirmation to researchers and healthcare professionals currently in the UT System that the administration is committed to continuing to support and improve research and healthcare in Texas, an area that Texas ranks poorly in comparison to other states.
Currently, Texas ranks second among other university systems nationally in federal spending and third in industry-sponsored research spending. The Chancellor stressed that “Research is and will remain an absolute fundamental part of who we are at the UT System.” To demonstrate his commitment to conducting world class research in the UT system the Chancellor discussed the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) program. To date, the UT System has invested $100 million in the STARs program. This investment in world-class scholars, teachers, and researchers led to more than $650 million in returns. The Chancellor and administration understand that in order to stay competitive the UT System must continue to invest in new talent. This means that they will increase their investment in the STARs program and work towards keeping the best candidates from Texas in Texas. His speech demonstrated that the UT System recognizes the importance of research and wants to strive to be a world leader in this area.
Another main focus of the Chancellor’s presentation was the current state of healthcare in Texas. Although Texas has some of the best medical centers in the country, if not the world, most of the state does not have adequate access to healthcare. For example, 115 of the 254 counties have five or fewer practicing physicians and some have no OB/GYNs. Furthermore, six of the seven leading causes of death in Texas are largely preventable chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. To combat these issues and work to improve healthcare in the state, the Chancellor outlined the creation of the UT Healthcare Enterprise, which will create channels that allow for better collaboration between all of the regional institutions of Texas. This means creating ways to share clinical information and service lines, while investing in “telehealth,” and improving collaborative participation in clinical trials.
Finally, the Chancellor dedicated a lot of his talk to the urgent need for an overall improvement of education in the state. He mentioned that only 20% of 8th graders in the state of Texas will go on to graduate college. For such a large state with so much potential this is an inexcusable number. The current abysmal state of education in Texas has been in the news recently; several students in Houston are suing the state in the Texas Supreme Court for underfunding public education, which they say violates the Texas constitution. Therefore, the Chancellor outlined his Texas Prospect Initiative, which has four main areas of focus: 1. Improving college preparatory programs, 2. Improving elementary-level literacy with the UT Literacy Institute, 3. Providing high school counselors with better resources to provide advice and direction to students interested in college. And finally, 4. Investing in educating and retaining the best teachers in the nation.
Based on Chancellor McRaven’s vision for the UT System in the coming years, it would seem that Texas will continue to be a great place to do cutting edge research with the strong support of the administration. Moreover, the Chancellor of the UT System is willing to acknowledge the gaps in healthcare and education for many Texans and is committed to harnessing the resources and talent within the UT System to create positive change in these areas. Currently, Texas is ranked 34th nationally in the overall health of its population. Furthermore, our public school system is ranked 31st nationally in the overall quality of education. Therefore, it is refreshing to see a UT system Chancellor who recognizes these problems and is creating initiatives to change them and in turn, hopefully turn Texas into a model for other states in terms of research, healthcare, and education.
To read the complete transcript: Click here
Editor: Ashley Lakoduk