Highlights from the November 2021 board meeting
I hope this message finds you well amidst the whirlwind we often find ourselves in this time of the fall semester.
In the past week, we finally celebrated the grand opening of the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership, which drew in regents, senators, representatives, county commissioners, local officials, and even The First Lady of Texas, among many others, including Sue S. Bancroft, namesake of the exhibit hall and whose $2-million gift seeded what has become a $17 million biannual, public investment in women’s leadership for Texas.
We hosted the induction ceremony of the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, which honored six incredible women. We gathered for a virtual university forum (recording) focused on our next steps as a university system.
On Wednesday, we joined as a community on our Houston campus to celebrate the legislation establishing Texas Woman’s as the first university system in the nation with a woman-focused mission, to recognize some outstanding faculty and staff, among them the 2020 Cornaro Award winner Dr. Sandra Cesario (Nursing), 2021 Distinction in Service Award winner Dr. Dewaynna Horn (Business), and 2020 TWU Award of Excellence winner Iris Du (IT Solutions). We also celebrated the faculty members in Houston who have received tenure and promotion, and we welcomed all the new faculty and staff members.
Finally, the Texas Woman’s University System Board of Regents held its latest quarterly meeting on Thursday and Friday in Houston, marking the first in-person board meeting on our Houston campus since the pandemic began.
The two-day board meeting was the first for our newest regent, Shelley Sweatt, Ed.D., appointed to the board in September by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Dr. Sweatt is from Wichita Falls, a former educator, and heads The Priddy Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting non-profits to better serve communities.
Regents got an in-depth tour of the Houston campus. Faculty guided them through labs and facilities that featured rehabilitative services critical to our nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy activities, as well as others related to anatomy and physiology. The tour ended with a poster presentation on food insecurity by faculty in the Nutrition and Food Sciences program and staff in Student Life. In our tradition of experiential learning, it was an opportunity to deepen understanding that no report or boardroom presentation could match.
During the board meeting, Vice President for Student Life Monica Mendez-Grant, who oversees enrollment management, reported that this fall’s enrollment was relatively flat (-0.6%) compared with that of 2020. Still, the university experienced a 12.9% jump in the number of first-year entering students from a year ago, and she made the point that measures of the quality of the new students show significant increases. She also reported a 10.3% increase in continuing graduate students over fall 2020. These increases reflect our improved efforts at attracting new students and enhanced support for retaining graduate students.
Despite the economic strains that the pandemic has caused over the past 20 months, Texas Woman’s had an excellent year from a legislative standpoint. Our government relations liaison, Kevin Cruser, reported that, besides regular session legislation that established Texas Woman’s as the state’s seventh university system, legislators in a subsequent special session authorized $100 million for a new health sciences building. It is noteworthy that of the roughly 45 building projects authorized in the legislation, only four received funding of $100 million or more — and Texas Woman’s was one of them.
Moreover, the legislature also authorized $20 million per biennium for programming aimed at supporting at-risk students at Comprehensive Regional Universities (CRUs). It was an acknowledgment by the legislature that CRUs such as Texas Woman’s educate the vast majority of at-risk students, who require additional program support to help them achieve academic success. I am particularly pleased with this outcome as I led the coalition of 27 CRUs to champion this legislation.
Among board actions, regents authorized a BA in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies, online delivery of an MS in Speech/Language Pathology, and funding for the university to create a network of trails on the east side of our Denton campus. The trails project will connect with planned city trails, align with our master plan, and support our Health and Wellbeing Initiative. The trails and connections will flow between our athletics district, the Quakertown Park project, new outdoor class space, and the ROTC program — and other green spaces and amenities will support the project.
We were thrilled to hear from Vice President of University Advancement Kimberly Russell about a string of “Alumni Across Texas” events that helped connect alumni in several key areas of Texas with the university. It was Advancement’s inaugural campaign on this theme, and it helped raise our profile in each of the locations. The casual receptions began in August and were held in Houston, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, and Austin. I am sending you this e-mail from Washington, DC, where more than 96 alumni RSVP’d for an energy-filled event, our largest ever gathering of alumni outside Texas.
And speaking of valued support, the board had a delightful dinner with Houston alumna Cynthia Harper (‘65), a longtime friend of the university, and her son and daughter-in-law, John and Elizabeth Harper. John Harper is the incoming chair of the TWU Foundation. Texas Woman’s is a vibrant university because of the strong support from people such as the Harpers, who believe in our university’s mission.
Lastly, I want to express my appreciation to all of our stakeholders who demonstrate continuous commitment to the university and its community. We are grateful to receive such outstanding support to keep our university robust—and help it keep making a difference in people’s lives.
With a pioneering spirit,
Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President
Page last updated 8:21 AM, November 17, 2021