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Fall 2019 Opening Speech

November 2019

The following is the speech given by Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., to open the fall 2019 Board Advance meeting.  Attached, you will also find a student-produced video that was presented to begin the meeting.  This video was produced by TCU students Molly Brennan and Tim Coles of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Kyle Cartwright from the Neeley School of Business, and Eric Sasadeusz from TCU’s College of Fine Arts. We are proud of them and grateful for being able to share their talent with our Trustees and the TCU community.

Board of Trustees Fall 2019 Opening Speech

Welcome everyone and thank you so much for being here.  I deeply appreciate and value the investment of time and effort you give in support of TCU.  And I am looking forward to having a robust discussion on strategic issues with you all over these next few days --especially as we think forward and contemplate TCU’s future.

Margaret Mead once said…‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ I love this quote!  It really says a lot about what we are trying to do at TCU.

I believe the Clark family embodies this quote. Their vision to co-educate men and women led them to open the AddRan Male and Female Academy.  Think about the conditions of that time.  Even though resources were scarce and obstacles great, the AddRan Male and Female College survived.

And as you know, this small, pioneering college eventually became Texas Christian University in 1902.  TCU is still here – and yet so many other schools established during that same timeframe did not survive. What was it that allowed TCU to endure the challenges and thrive?

Thanks to the Clark family’s vision and fortitude, TCU has become a top nationally-recognized university with a global reach.  Our continued success can largely be attributed to:

  • careful planning and setting ambitious, yet achievable, goals;
  • keeping a watchful eye and implementing appropriate strategies to mitigate challenges and market forces that could slow our momentum;
  • and an overall entrepreneurial spirit that allows us to act on unique opportunities.

In 2017, the TCU Board of Trustees developed the framework for our current strategic plan--Vision in Action: Lead On--by identifying four key goals.

Over the past couple of years, we engaged the campus in thoughtful dialogue around these goals, resulting in proposed recommendations from our campus community that were further refined to key priorities that are essential to achieving those goals.

STRENGTHEN ACADEMIC PROFILE & REPUTATION:

Indeed, these ongoing planning efforts are positioning TCU for the future, creating a stronger academic profile and reputation for the University.  Which in turn is attracting and retaining some of the brightest students, scholars, researchers and staff.

This year, we welcomed talented new leadership to our Horned Frog family including:

  • Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg, our new provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs;
  • Daniel Pullin, John V. Roach Dean and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Neeley School of Business;
  • Floyd Wormley, associate provost for Research and dean of Graduate Studies;
  • And Dr. Christopher Watts, who was previously chair of our Davies School of Communication Sciences & Disorders and is now dean of Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

ACADEMIC AFFAIRS PRIORITIES:

Dr. Dahlberg is building her academic team, and she is focused with the deans on creating and supporting strategies to best serve our students’ needs and build the academic profile and reputation of our University.

In fact, this summer, Dr. Dahlberg and her leadership team established eight priorities to support Vision in Action: Lead On. Each school and college has also been charged with aligning their efforts with these priorities over the coming years.

Last year, we strategically hired many brilliant faculty and staff across campus, ushering in 11 new full-time faculty positions across 10 disciplines.  We welcomed approximately 31 staff in new and reallocated positions who will support key University programs and initiatives.

More than 400 local clinicians from the Metroplex and beyond have been engaged to serve as School of Medicine faculty.  You will be pleased to know that many of these clinicians who are serving as preceptors and research mentors are donating their time to help create the physicians of the future.

STRENGTHEN TCU EXPERIENCE AND CAMPUS CULTURE:

Diversity, equity and inclusion serve as a foundational theme of our strategic plan.  As such, it truly supports all four goals but I wanted to share how it is impacting the goal of strengthening the TCU experience and campus culture, in particular.

Here are just a few highlights of DEI initiatives that are underway:

  • Our newly launched Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers faculty mentoring, teaching experience, research opportunities and leadership to stellar scholars from communities traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
    • Our inaugural fellow— Hye-Jung Park—is hosted by the School of Music. 
  • This year we also launched the Provost’s Faculty Fellow and Inaugural Academic Affairs DEI Advocate. This position is currently held by Dr. Claire Sanders, senior instructor and co-director of African American and Africana Studies minor.
    • Sanders will enable the Provost’s Office to support the implementation of DEI as an essential competency within the TCU core curriculum and will aid Academic Affairs in prioritizing, implementing and monitoring DEI initiatives.
  • The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award, which we launched in 2018, recognizes the challenging task of further transforming our community into one that not only celebrates our mission but also builds upon our heritage of inclusion. Individuals nominated for this award provide TCU with a critical voice to foster change. Their actions further a campus environment that advances conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.

We are also examining the depths of our DEI efforts across the campus. This is important to do as we seek to support our changing demographics on campus among students and our workforce.

Recently, Aisha Torrey-Sawyer, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives, in coordination with Dr. Dahlberg and Dr. Sanders, engaged Dr. Damon Williams of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation to begin a DEI inventory of our campus, starting with academic units. This audit will identify how TCU promotes the active appreciation of campus members’ backgrounds, identities and unique experiences.

Finally, I am pleased to note that we have been recognized for our DEI efforts, by receivingInsights into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award for two consecutive years. TCU is among a small select group of universities to receive this award.

Turning to the student pipeline, the University has enjoyed record application rates and increasing enrollment for nearly a decade now.  This year, we welcomed one of the best-qualified, and most diverse, freshman classes in TCU’s history.

Selected from a pool of more than 19,000 talented applicants, the sesquicentennial Class of 2023 has an average ACT of 28.

This distinguished class represents 48 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and 38 countries, which contributes to a broader mix of cultures and perspectives essential to learning as well as navigating an increasingly diverse and complex world.  Of particular interest, 57 percent of our incoming students are from outside of the state of Texas.

SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, THE FIRST YEAR:

We also welcomed the first class of medical school students to the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.  For its first year during the four-week application period, the School of Medicine received 1,392 applications.  Even more remarkable is that there was a 6% acceptance rate.

This talented, and very diverse, cohort of students come to us from all different kinds of backgrounds, with 48 percent of the students from 17 other states and 12 of the students are TCU grads.

Of course, all of the students are Dorman Scholars, thanks to a generous donation from Mr. Paul Dorman which covered their first full year of tuition.  The students have a 3.62 GPA with an average MCAT score of 508 (with 528 being the perfect MCAT score.)

Our incoming students join an impressive academic community, comprising, among others, three new Fulbright scholars, 51 Phi Beta Kappa inductees and 2,650 merit scholars.

STRENGTHEN TCU’s ENDOWMENT:

This outstanding powerful academic community didn’t just happen by accident. Rather, it is evidence of our careful cultivation coupled with the judicious use of our endowment to arrive at the right mix of students, faculty, staff who can thrive at our institution.

TCU’s endowment is ranked nationally among the top 70 colleges and universities thanks to the generous support of TCU alumni and friends and the Board’s guidance, and our fabulous Chief Investment Officer, Jim Hille.

Now that is impressive! But we want to improve our financial position and continue to strengthen our endowment with our ambitious $1 billion campaign goal.

STRENGTHEN WORKFORCE:

The success of our students and our University is supported by our outstanding and dedicated faculty and staff – consisting of a multi-generational and multi-level community of leaders with vast experiences.

Even still, we are actively designing leadership offerings to strengthen our workforce so that they in turn can continue to strengthen our academic profile and reputation.

One such program recently initiated by Human Resources is the Manager Leaders Program.  It seeks to help our rising leaders strengthen their leadership skills so that they can develop better supervisory skills to enhance and support TCU’s strong workplace culture.  This will help us continue to recruit and retain an excellent workforce.

Just like our workforce, our students’ success is at the core of our University’s purpose.

We strive to help them realize their potential and achieve their goals the moment they step on our campus.  Career planning is integral to all aspects and leadership development.

From choosing a major and getting involved on campus, to studying abroad and securing internships, career readiness requires a close partnership with students to help them engage in their professional development. 

Staff overseeing Project 85 monitor first year to sophomore year retention rates, implementing strategies to help struggling students so that they persist into their second year.  Studies show that if students are able to make it to their second year that they are more likely to graduate from their home institution.

We are working now on an integrated student success model encompassing academic advising, student disability services, career services and tutoring.  This web of support is vital to ensuring our students, who come to us from all walks of life and with different life challenges, are able to persist and successfully graduate from TCU.

And as you heard in the video, Princeton Review has ranked TCU’s career services Number 8 in the nation for career service programs. But we do not intend to rest on our laurels.

Recently, we appointed Mike Caldwell our new executive director of our BNSF Career Services Center.  Mike joins TCU from William & Mary and brings with him 15-plus years of experience in the career services field.

Among other initiatives, Mike is currently reinvigorating our career services approach by educating our students about the vital role career services plays throughout their collegiate career instead of right before they graduate.  

This approach is vital to helping TCU show families that an investment in our type of education can result in a lifetime of opportunities once they leave our campus.

A CONNECTED CAMPUS:

Over the past 15 years or so, we invested roughly $1 billion dollars in our physical infrastructure, renovating and constructing new academic facilities and residence halls to facilitate a strong foundation from which to continue investing in our people and programs.

Our new and renovated academic facilities include new faculty offices, enhanced classrooms and labs, as well as new and renovated residence halls and athletic facilities.

This work has resulted in a more well-connected campus which lends itself to a better TCU experience - none of which would have been possible without your guidance and generous donation of time and resources.

ATHLETICS – TCU’s FRONT DOOR:

Our athletic facilities often function as TCU’s front door to the outside community.  TCU Athletics also is a window on our campus and is often one of the first attractors for incoming students.  Student-athletes strive to perform at the highest levels possible as evidenced by their many wins on and off the field.

PEOPLE AND PROGRAMS:

As we near our 150th anniversary, we know that it is imperative to turn our attention to our people and programs. As you know, our fundraising initiative, Lead On: A Campaign for TCU which publicly launched on October 24th, is TCU’s most ambitious fundraising campaign ever.

Our $1 billion goal allows us to envision the next steps that will build upon our many achievements and propel our University toward greater distinction.  It will help us grow revenue sources that allow us to hire new faculty in crucial areas. And, it will help us increase our support for research, and expand access to underrepresented and lower-income students.

To provide context about that $1 billion goal, there are less than 10 universities in the country the size of TCU that have launched a $1 billion campaign.  We are uniquely positioned to leverage our momentum to achieve that goal.

As I mentioned earlier, the use of our endowment helps us build our academic community. By strengthening our endowment through our Lead On campaign, we will:

  • ease the dependence on tuition;
  • ensure that resources are available to recruit talented and diverse students;
  • accelerate improvements in teaching, research, creative and entrepreneurial activities;
  • attract and retain pre-eminent scholars and rising stars.

Our current endowment is $1.7 billion, but you will recall that the Board’s goal is to grow that endowment to $3 billion.

This goal was discussed at 2017 Board Retreat and approved as part of the Vision in Action:Lead On strategic plan.

The current campaign that is underway will help us continue to find new ways to live our mission, educate our students and create the environment and the experiences that exemplify TCU’s values.

Our endowment was instrumental in helping us launch our School of Medicine collaboration.  You will recall that you directed $50 million to be invested toward this endeavor.  In turn, the school is allowing us to attract students who are interested in not just becoming doctors, but in becoming empathetic scholars who put patients at the center of care.

OUR CHALLENGES

Today, higher education is facing many challenges. In the coming years, we will see fewer high school graduates, creating increased competition.  Students interested in pursuing a college degree now contemplate whether the cost of obtaining a degree will lead to advantageous careers.

Like the Clarks before us, TCU will have to optimize and sustain its resources, identifying strategies, sometimes unpopular ones, to respond to the shrinking number of high school graduates and address concerns over higher and higher tuition costs.

Many campuses, including ours, continue to face divisions that have the propensity to tear us apart instead of driving us closer together.

We must teach and encourage our students to develop the tools to have difficult conversations, respect differences and embrace diverse perspectives.  We must model civility.  Without these skills, our students will not be able to navigate tomorrow’s world or live up to the TCU mission. 

OUR FUTURE:

TCU is driven by the enthusiasm of those who study and work here and the generous financial support of those who believe in the mission of higher education, as well as the role TCU plays in that mission.

This steadfast passion has afforded us the ability to push boundaries to reach new heights and stay on the leading edge. TCU invests in people, harnessing their potential and equipping them to become a force for the greater good and to make a difference in the world.

From rigorous academic programs to innovative research, we are on an upward trajectory as we endeavor to fulfill the goals outlined in our strategic plan.  We remain focused on creating a community that fully supports cultural exchange and diversity -- an atmosphere in which each of us is heard, appreciated and empowered 

This goal is central to our educational mission as we prepare the next generation of ethical leaders in a global community.  Navigating the complexities of our unique talents, experiences and perspectives, however, is not always an easy task, and we may not always agree.

It’s at these times when we must apply the same problem-solving abilities that we exhibit in our classes, our research and our daily work in how we interact with each other.

We must protect and nurture TCU’s culture—that sense of spirited belonging—as we live out our core values.

  • We will welcome different perspectives;
  • We will commit to continuous improvement;
  • We will remain steadfast in our exploration of opportunities and beliefs as a vital part of the education process;
  • And we will take the lead on making TCU the best university in the country.

Especially as we look forward to our 150th year in 2023.

This is why we need YOU, and why we are so grateful to YOU for your leadership and hard work right now.  Because this work is not easy—it’s very big. It’s grand.  And it’s important for our future.

I’m excited to continue on this journey these next few days with you all as we work together to build a sustainable and optimal future for our University so that our University, and students who attend, can become a force for the greater good.

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We thought it would be fitting to close out this section of our time together with our campaign anthem we shared with those present at the campaign kickoff October 24th

It bears watching again as it’s a great reminder of our ambitions.

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