Highlights from the May 2021 board meeting

Dear Colleagues,

The Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents held its quarterly meeting last Thursday and Friday — likely the last to be held virtually as we return to normalcy in the coming weeks.

Despite the challenges we have faced during the pandemic (see our latest publication, Fluid: Leading through a Pandemic), regents heard positive reports that illustrate Texas Woman’s forward momentum and took actions that will continue to advance the university. I am pleased to share some of those highlights with you.

First, the board authorized a plan to renovate a portion of Pioneer Hall to add badly needed space to the growing School of Health Promotion and Kinesiology. The plan calls for converting space that currently houses three racquetball courts and the building’s climbing wall into 15 offices, a lab, and a reception area to provide more collaborative educational and research opportunities for faculty and students.

The board also heard from faculty members about recent changes in instruction delivery that have resulted in an improved student experience and increased enrollment. Dr. Juliet Spencer (Transformation of the Biology Lab Experience, 11:01 min) talked about how the department has seen significant student increases in its most popular Environmental Biology and Human Biology core classes by offering 100% online, at-home interactive experiences, and eliminating textbook costs. The group also reduced lab time by an hour, offered a pre-lab online option and scheduled more lab sections for their high-demand anatomy and physiology classes — without negatively impacting students’ grades.

The College of Business in 2019 made all of its classes available online, converted 15-week courses to seven-week sessions and added specializations to MBA programs, including healthcare administration, human resources, marketing, sports management, women in leadership, and accounting. Outgoing Dean James Lumpkin pointed to a changing demographic of students, which increasingly reflects a greater number of non-traditional students who have families and full-time jobs — and who need more flexible degree programs. So he and his colleagues created six different periods per year for students to enter the program, resulting in a 27% enrollment growth over the past two years, and 43% growth from spring 2020 to spring 2021 (Transforming Programs to Meet Stakeholder and Workforce Needs: The Case of the MBA, 13:55 min).

Assistant Professor of Dance Dr. Ilana Morgan (Increasing Enrollment by Meeting Workforce Demands for the MA in Dance, 9:48 min) said the master’s dance program was adjusted to accommodate more students who already work full time. The retooled program, which now includes a more streamlined degree path with a low-residency requirement, resulted in nearly a six-fold increase in students annually since 2018. Four dance theory classes are now offered online and dance technique options were added to both summer sessions.

Dr. Shannon Scott (Psychology Resource Center, 12:02 min) illustrated ways to reimagine existing resources for the benefit of both the graduate students and students in the service courses. Aaron Norton, PhD, LFMT (Marriage and Family Therapy, 5:27 min) talked about program accreditation and transformation of the PhD program. Finally, Dr. Rhett Rigby (An Overview of Recent Research Endeavors, 14:09 min) reported on the Texas Woman’s team competing in the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge, sponsored by NASA, and his research in equine therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

These academic program successes helped fuel more thought on the delivery of other programs, which we expect will offer greater accessibility for working students. We were pleased that regents authorized these programs for hybrid and online offerings, pending approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:

  • Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study: Educational Diagnostician
  • Professional Science Master’s in Biotechnology
  • MA in Multicultural Women’s & Gender Studies
  • MA in Multilingual and Multicultural Studies Program

Thirty faculty were awarded promotion and/or tenure, and Provost Kapinus provided the board members with a highlight of one faculty member from each college (7:15 min).

In addition to academic highlights, we also heard from Michelle Kelly-Reeves and Paloma Silva about the “whole-person” education efforts of our Health and Wellbeing Initiative (15:11 min) and from Christopher Johnson about findings of a survey of alumni (11:23 min) that correlates “great lives” and “great jobs” of alumni with their college experiences. In the survey, responses from TWU alumni were measured against those from other Hispanic-Serving Institutions and all other universities. In virtually every category measured — from graduates finding employment after college and job satisfaction to their financial wellbeing and impact on the communities in which they live and work — Texas Woman’s outperformed its contemporaries. Those TWU alumni surveyed cited emotional support, their attachment to the university, and their perception of the value and the preparedness they received from their degree as top factors for their positive experiences. This says a lot about who we are as an institution and what we have to offer!

This meeting had its tender moments, as we said farewell to Student Regent Dawna-Diamond Tyson, Student Government Association President Uzochi Onwukwe, and Staff Council President Cynthia Snider all of whom demonstrated outstanding commitment to their roles as leaders during this particularly challenging year. At every turn, they went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their peers were engaged and connected, and they approached these tasks with authenticity, intentionality, and grace, making them extraordinary examples for those who will come after them. Speaker Hynds offered a Resolution of Appreciation for Regent Tyson (2:45 min) on behalf of the Faculty Senate.

I want to give a special shoutout to our Athletics Director Sandee Mott (Athletics Report, 6:21 min) who joined us right before the pandemic struck, as well as our student-athletes, who endured a very tough year with canceled or restricted events but who managed to remain exceptional models of good sports for us all. Our student-athletes once again this spring excelled in the classroom, earning a combined 3.69 GPA. Nearly half of our athletes earned perfect 4.0 GPAs! This marked 78 consecutive semesters — dating back to 1982 — that our student-athletes collectively attained a 3.0 or higher GPA. Among other highlights: Our Pioneer Pride Dance Team competed in the national championships and brought home the third-place trophy. Our gymnasts had a full season and turned in amazing individual performances at the national championships — with one of our students named the national champion on floor exercise; another winning fifth place on the vault; one earning fifth place on the beam; one who finished as national runner-up on the bars; and a freshman who won the individual national championship on the vault and was heralded as national runner-up on both the beam and floor.

Lastly, I am pleased that Government Relations Director Kevin Cruser’s report included updates on two bills that hold particular importance for the university. The first was SB 1295 which will potentially reward us for graduating at-risk students. For bill, I led a coalition of comprehensive regional universities to champion it. It is on the governor’s desk, but it is not yet funded in the budget. Still, it is an acknowledgement of the valuable role we and others play in meeting the state’s strategic higher education goals. The second was SB 1126, establishing the Texas Woman’s University System. It passed the State House with a vote of 137 to 2 and the State Senate unanimously. It is also on the governor’s desk and, barring a veto, is set to become law on May 26. As I offered in my report to the board (4.54 min), this is neither the first nor last significant milestone in the Texas Woman’s 120-year story, but it is an inflection point. It would make us the seventh system in Texas and the first in the nation with a woman-focus mission. Practically speaking, it is an opening of the door for new possibilities that we can explore together as we continue our momentum forward.

I want to end by expressing my gratitude to the Board of Regents members for their constant support, commitment, and leadership, to our faculty and staff for working tirelessly to make our university better, and to our students for their many achievements that make all of us so proud. Thank you!

With a pioneering spirit,

Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President

Page last updated 10:01 AM, May 26, 2021