Highlights from the November 2018 Board of Regents meeting

November 11, 2018

Dear TWU community,

This past Thursday and Friday, we held our quarterly meeting of the TWU Board of Regents. The two-day meeting that we just completed on the Houston campus gave us an opportunity to share the progress we are making with our governing board partners as well as to listen to their feedback and calibrate our next steps. The meeting was very positive, and I would like to share some of the highlights with you. 

Everyone on the Denton campus is keenly aware of construction and the transformation of our physical surroundings, fueled by a long period of enrollment growth, good fiscal management, taxpayer investment, and the ability to take advantage of public-private partnerships. With funding from our reserves, tuition revenue bonds, special item appropriations from the state legislature, public-private partnership agreements, and donor-directed gifts we are rapidly expanding infrastructure that will both modernize our campus and usher in the next era of opportunities for students, bolstering what they already have described as the “feeling of a private school at the cost of a public.”

Capital Projects Graph

We shared specifics about the completion of the Oakland Complex, relocated soccer field, and Student Health Center; progress on the residential village and dining facility; renovations of 1) Hubbard Hall for a new student union; 2) the Undergraduate Laboratory Building for new music practice and fine arts studio spaces; and 3) the Old Main Building, housing the Institute for Women’s Leadership on its main floor. Also, that the science and technology research center is slated to break ground in December at the northwest corner of the Bell Avenue and Texas Street intersection. Lastly, we noted that along with the dramatic pace of new construction, we have been diligent to maintain the buildings we already have. In the past year, we have directed over $6 million of our facilities budget toward building maintenance, resulting in a Facilities Condition Index of 3.7, better than the national benchmark of 6.0 for a well-maintained campus.

During the Finance and Audit Committee meeting, the regents also received reports on enrollment, philanthropic support, ethics and compliance, and from Audit Services. Enrollment Management shared census-day enrollment numbers for fall, noting the healthy increases in graduate enrollment as a result of concerted efforts and also projections of continued growth for the spring. University Advancement noted the near doubling of the TWU Foundation endowment since 2013; that we expect to exceed our new commitments goal by the end of the year, and that plans are shaping up for the Virgina Chandler Dykes Leadership Award as well as a series of alumni events to connect with our more than 94,000 living alumni, 80% of whom are in Texas.

We ended the committee meeting with an excellent report from Carolyn Becker, TWU Staff Council president. Earlier in the day, the council had invited Regent Perez to speak at one of their regular meetings and to talk about the role of the TWU Board of Regents and how it connects with staff. I believe the recorded meeting did much to clarify the function of the board through a staff lens, in building relationships between staff, administration, and the governing body of regents, and in facilitating communication and transparency that are vital for a thriving organization.

Shifting to the Academic Affairs Committee, we heard an update from Dr. Donna Scott Tilley on Research and Sponsored Programs, noting our expanding faculty and student research services; some of the outcomes of the efforts to support a thriving research culture, including significant increases in requested dollars and grant proposals; and highlights of a dozen specific grant awards. The regents also heard a presentation about research on starch-resistant foods underway by Houston nutrition faculty member Dr. Mindy Patterson. 

Proposals Submitted for External Funding

This meeting culminated with Dr. Michael Mistric, associate clinical professor in nursing, who shared his story of the relationship he fostered between TWU and the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences. Thanks to his individual leadership, some of our Houston nursing students can now complete an 80-hour clinical rotation at the Institute. After the meeting, Dr. Mistric arranged for a tour of the institute for the regents. On the tour, we were delighted to find many installations of his unique artwork, which he has loaned to the institute, displayed throughout this facility. We ended the day with a dinner hosted by alumna and longtime friend of the university, Cynthia Harper along with her husband and her son, John, Jr. who also sits on the TWU Foundation Board.

photo from IFS tour and dinner with Harper family

At the full board meeting on Friday, we started by paying special attention to our veterans, especially the more than 300 who are part of our student body. We heard about the programs that support vets with the transition to college, including College Credit for Heroes, and ways the university addresses feelings of isolation, including the Vet Zone at Texas Woman’s. In her presentation, Amy O’Keefe noted that Texas Woman’s was named a Military Friendly School again for the ninth consecutive year and this year moved up dramatically in the national ranks to the top quartile of institutions in the Military Times’ Best Colleges for 2018. Most moving, though, was hearing directly from two student veterans, Elizabeth Rosato and Mayra Ramirez, who underscored the vital role their TWU experience is playing in preparing them for their future.

Elizabeth, who spent eight years in the Air Force military police, said her service made her “realize that even though I had been told I couldn’t do something because I was a female, I was so blessed and lucky to live in this country rather than some of the others that I visited that did not allow women basic human rights.”

Mayra credited TWU staff and faculty with the “motivation and support I have needed as a semi-single parent to continue to pursue my dreams even when the going gets tough.” Mayra, who served four years as a legal administration clerk in the Marines, shared with us that she “knows all veterans who use TWU’s veteran center enjoy it as much as I do. I feel it is our safe place, where we can be ourselves and support each other; it’s our family on and off campus.” Majoring in General Studies, with concentrations in family studies and sociology, she hopes to work with lower-income families to help them obtain resources they may need. 

Regent Nancy Paup notably wrapped up their presentations by crediting both students’ commitment and their courage to “Boldly Go” in tackling the leadership challenges and opportunities before them—so true to everything that we stand for at TWU!

Another engaging board discussion centered on a consultant’s report on the prospect of adding a slate of competitive sports at TWU. These sports programs would not involve athletic scholarship players and would not be governed by the NCAA, but instead would be designed to enhance the collegiate experience for students as our residential population grows, spur enrollment, and lift community spirit. Other universities who have started similar programs have had very positive outcomes.

Regent Wu asked if the introduction of these sports would affect the rich ethnic diversity of our campus, and others asked about any impact on academic quality, but I was able to share that unlike with NCAA recruiting, we can be much more intentional with a recruiting strategy that matches goals the university sets. Much still needs to be considered before any action is taken, but this presentation was very positively supported by the board and they encouraged further investigation. 

Kevin Cruser, our director of legislative affairs, shared an update, and then we were pleased to officially introduce our new mascot, Oakley, to our board members.

Regents with new mascot, Oakley

In closing, I spoke with regents about TWU metaphorically sitting on a ‘gold mine’ because of so many positive opportunities. Following in the vein of that metaphor, I highlighted two nuggets: the impact of our alumni and university ambassadors—including you—and the current diversity of our student body. I shared the recent success of our first stop in Fort Worth on an alumni tour that seeks to connect more deeply with our alumni and to look back at the rich legacy of the university as we continuously also look forward. 

Some of the data that have surfaced in our look back are summarized in a report from Gallup in partnership with Excelencia. From a national representative sample of alumni from 2000 to 2017, we see reminders of how intentionality matters. One data point that stood out is how many of our alumni strongly agree with the statement that their education was worth the cost. That should come as no surprise though, given that more than half of our students are first generation, a trend of TWU providing opportunity and excellence that has persisted for some time. It also was heartening to see how well our alumni are doing with elements of wellbeing, something that will only strengthen as we become even more intentional about health and wellbeing.

Gallup poll results

My final note to the regents highlighted how much our student body reflects the ethnic diversity of the State of Texas. When I spoke recently in Washington, DC about the role universities play in preparing Hispanic students for the workforce, I connected our work to my background in second-language acquisition. In many paradigms, not knowing English is seen as a deficit. But if we think about it long term, knowing one language and then learning English means, in the end, the student knows two languages. In the ‘asset’ paradigm, we instead leverage the strengths the student brings. We have a long history of intentionally serving a student body that was historically excluded from higher education, namely women and people of color, and we can now apply that model of intentionality to serve others similarly marginalized.

Demographics TX and TWU

The meeting concluded with a sense of accomplishment for the progress we’re making. Of course you can always review the agenda, presentations, and recording of the full meetings on the regents' website. 

With this report, let’s turn our attention to the growing list of next steps still to do. Please let me know if you find these summaries helpful.

With Pioneer Pride,
Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President

Page last updated 2:54 PM, November 12, 2018