Highlights from the November 2020 board meeting
The Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents wrapped up its fourth quarterly meeting — and its third via Zoom — this week. Conducting business through a video platform sometimes poses challenges, but it is a testament to our regents’ commitment to serving Texas Woman’s. I am pleased to share with you some of the highlights of their two-day meeting.
Please join me in applauding our regents for their voluntary service, and acknowledging the special announcement that our board Vice Chair Kathleen Wu was just named to the Philosophical Society of Texas. I encourage you to learn more about all of our regents. You can also read a profile of our newest member of the board, Student Regent Dawna-Diamond Tyson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from TWU and is now pursuing a master’s degree in political science.
Regents accept gift honoring Houston professor’s legacy
Sophie Lin Rydin, MOT ’78, PhD ’07 keynote speaker for the Houston occupational therapy students in 2018 for their annual Recognition Night celebration.
Regents recognized the legacy of an extraordinary alumna, Dr. Sophie Rydin, by naming the Occupational Therapy program at our Houston campus in her honor. Rydin, a longtime OT adjunct professor, has been associated with Texas Woman’s for about 40 years, going back to her undergraduate days.
It is a fitting tribute for Dr. Rydin, who lost her battle to cancer this summer. Sophie touched the lives of hundreds of TWU students and was instrumental not only in their successes but in helping the university become a more vibrant place. She and her husband gave generously over the years to help equip spaces for student gatherings and research. Following her passing, her husband Mike gave the OT program a $2 million gift in Sophie’s honor to support scholarships and student and faculty programs.
TWU’s student success efforts support state’s tough goals
The state has a daunting goal to have 60% of Texans ages 25–34 earn a college degree or certificate by the year 2030. Some efforts by higher education institutions, including Texas Woman’s, are aimed squarely at that goal.
In a report to the board, academic leaders Drs. Barbara Lerner, Mark Hamner, Joshua Adams and Jennifer Martin pointed to a series of measures — partnerships with K-12 education, dual-credit programs, transfer-friendly policies, degree plans designed to help those who left college early to complete what they started — as ways TWU has moved the needle to support the state’s goal. And those efforts have contributed to some eye-popping results. Among the faculty members who presented on this topic were history professor Dr. Jacob Blosser, chemistry associate professor Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan, and Dr. Holly Hansen-Thomas, vice provost of research and innovation and dean of the TWU Graduate School. All of them referenced strategies to get students more directly engaged in academic activities to ensure their success.
In the area of marketable skills, TWU graduates outperformed their counterparts at peer doctoral-granting institutions by finding jobs or re-enrolling in college within one year of graduating. In many instances, TWU graduates found jobs or enrolled in school at a rate that well exceeded the state average. Additionally, TWU graduates had the second-lowest average student debt among its Texas peer institutions, and average time to degree was reduced from 5.4 to 5.2 years.
Celebrating our veterans and ROTC program
Texas Woman’s ROTC Building Ceremony
Texas Woman’s has long been a military- and veteran-friendly university, and the presence of active duty personnel and military veterans at our institution — currently at 310 — is a distinction for TWU. After celebrating Veterans Day this week, it was fitting to get an update on the university’s efforts to enhance military programming. As Vice President of Student Life Dr. Monica Mendez-Grant pointed out, Texas Woman’s in the last year and a half has created its own Army ROTC program and identified special training space. Also, the university has established housing scholarships for ROTC cadets.
It is a stark contrast from the previous 35 years, when TWU students had to commute to UNT to participate with ROTC. Cadets Ryan Lackovic and Sophia Bazzalle told the board the ROTC program offers a new sense of community and fosters an environment where individuals come together to work toward a common goal.
Quakertown project planning moves ahead
Rough sketch of the concept for the Quakertown memorial
You may have heard of the university’s vision to build an outdoor classroom and amphitheater to serve as a place of reflection and a bridge to the Denton community in recognition of Quakertown, the historically black community adjacent to our campus. Regents authorized $2.5 million for the planning, design and construction of a space that would help educate and encourage dialogue as well as promote diversity — key principles of TWU’s educational mission.
Staff Council and Faculty Senate leaders provide updates
Regents learned from Staff Council President Cynthia Snider that four committees are making great progress in key areas and were then introduced to the incoming Faculty Senate Speaker Dr. DiAnna Hynds. She noted that faculty members accomplished an extraordinary feat this fall: they began the semester without face-to-face interaction with their peers, prepared curricula in online, in-person and hybrid formats and drew on their creative talents to deliver some lab classes online even though they were intended for in-person instruction. All of this was completed under a cloud of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, with many faculty members expressing great concern for their students while simultaneously experiencing personal angst.
Pioneer athletes succeed in the classroom
Despite having their athletic seasons upended by the pandemic, Pioneer athletes demonstrated true grit over the past year, achieving national academic heights instead, as Director of Athletics Sandee Mott explained to the board. TWU athletes reported a combined 3.824 GPA — a new high for the university — despite the cancellation of their athletic activities and an abrupt move to online instruction caused by the pandemic.
Gymnastic Head Coach Lisa Bowerman had even more good news: The gymnastics team logged a 3.888 cumulative GPA, which was the highest among the country’s three NCAA divisions. “We are no strangers to high academic goals,” Bowerman told the board, noting that TWU gymnastics had previously won that distinction and has finished among the top five several times before.
Screenshot of the gymnastics team from November 13 meeting of the TWU Board of Regents via Zoom, top-to-bottom, left-to-right:Isabel Goyco, Dominika Bonzagni, Bria Northrop, Chancellor Feyten, Bridgette Peterson, Mack Balderas, Paige Stuyniski, Coach Lisa Bowerman, Mara Johnson, Kyla Podges, Bethany Lazarus, Daisy Woodring, Maddie Griffith, Kenzie Kunzman, Dr. Monica Mendez-Grant, and Atheltic Director Sandee Mott
In closing, you have likely heard me talk about the university’s areas of distinction: women & leadership, experiential learning, health, and veterans (as previously noted in this message). I shared with the board that we recently added diversity and inclusion as our fifth area of distinction because it helps define who we are and is reflected in everything we do. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report recognized Texas Woman’s as the fifth most diverse university in the country and the No. 1 institution in Texas for diversity (in both rankings, TWU tied with other institutions). It is our culture of diversity and inclusion that makes us stronger because we get the benefit of an array of perspectives in all that we do.
While our minority representation across employees may not yet reflect the state’s demography, we certainly have progressed in that direction. Over the past three years, we have seen the following increases in self-identified race/ethnicity: Asian 7.1%, Black 18.3%, and multi-racial/ethnic 8.6%.
I would like to again thank our regents, faculty and staff for helping our students succeed. Their efforts, particularly during a pandemic, have been nothing short of exceptional. If you missed this week’s regents meeting, you may view the recorded livestream.
With a pioneering spirit,
Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President
Page last updated 4:10 PM, April 12, 2022