Hopes and Aspirations High
President Damphousse’s Latest Message to Faculty and Staff
December 5, 2023
Celebrating Milestones and Anticipating a Bright Future at Texas State
Today, I write to you with a heart full of hope and optimism as I reflect on the remarkable progress and achievements that have unfolded this fall at TXST. I am also filled with gratitude for the concerted efforts of our dedicated university community. Your work, your talents, and your steadfast belief in our students and our mission inspire the excitement I have for an even brighter future.
It’s not by accident that the word “hope” is in our Alma Mater or repeated in the name of our shared vision for TXST’s future, Hopes and Aspirations High (2023-2029). Our university is a place where hope is born and nurtured. For the last 124 years, hope has led students to fulfill their dreams at TXST, and we have helped them ignite and sustain that hope to make a college degree a reality.
The strategic direction we have set over the past 18 months to align our resources to support our strategic imperatives has brought significant changes to our structure and operations. Thank you for having the courage, dedication, and vision to walk this path alongside me. The transformative changes we are making now will help us preserve what we value the most -- being a place where hope flourishes.
Our progress related to Hopes and Aspirations High will allow TXST to meet the future on solid ground - putting us in an enviable position as we prepare to best serve our students, employees, and the state of Texas for the next six years and beyond.
Raising TXST’s National Profile and Reputation
Before I applied for the TXST presidency, the university identified several key priorities for its next president: lead the institution’s vision and strategic direction; enhance academic excellence and build research capacity; diversify revenue streams, secure resources, and grow the endowment; raise the state and national profile; promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive community; and build a strong intercollegiate athletics program. I have made those priorities my strategic focus and sought to fulfill that mandate every day since July 1, 2022.
I am so grateful that so many of you have joined me on that journey. Indeed, in my 35 years in higher education, I’ve never seen so many major achievements for a university to celebrate in such a short amount of time. Here are a few examples from just the last month:
- Texas University Fund: Texas voters passed Proposition 5, which creates the Texas University Fund (TUF). This $3.9 billion permanent endowment ensures sustainable funding for TXST, Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, and the University of Houston. TXST will receive at least $22 million per year (starting this current fiscal year) to support our research enterprise, and to elevate the educational experience and career opportunities of our students. For more details, you can read my email to the Bobcat community.
- New Doctoral Programs: Over the past summer, faculty teams prepared applications for 11 new doctoral programs at TXST. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recently informed us that they would be reviewing all 11 programs in the coming year. If they are approved, this will nearly double the number of TXST doctoral programs, greatly enhancing our ability to become (and remain) an R1 university (and to increase our annual TUF allocation). By the way, our investment in current PhD programs is also paying off, having enrolled 111 new doctoral students in Fall 2023, a 37% increase in new doctoral students from Fall 2022 and a net increase of 77 doctoral students.
- 2024 Presidential Debate: The Committee on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced recently that TXST will become the first site in Texas to ever hold a presidential debate. We will host the first of four nationally scheduled general election debates on September 16, 2024, in our University Events Center. The CPD’s selection was based on our comprehensive application and the quality of a site visit earlier this year to our San Marcos Campus. Not only is this a tremendous learning opportunity for our students, but the debate will also put TXST on the world stage. Stay tuned for updates from the TXST Debate Planning Task Force and go to the TXST Presidential Debate webpage to find more information.
- The Divine Nine: Two weeks ago, TXST welcomed the final organization of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. TXST is now one of the few universities in Texas that hosts all nine NPHC organizations – known as The Divine Nine.
- Athletics Making History: TXST football clinched its first winning season in nine years and is bowl bound for the first time in program history! The Bobcats will face the Rice University Owls in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on December 26. You can stay up to date on gameday events by visiting TXST.com/JumpIn. Football isn’t the only team setting a high bar. TXST volleyball was selected to an NCAA Regional and made it to the first round to play SMU. This was the team’s first at-large bid in program history.
- Recognizing 125 Years of Excellence: Fall 2024 marks the 125th year of TXST. It is also the close of the “NEXT IS NOW” capital fundraising campaign, which to date has raised more than $230 million. This anniversary provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the university community to unite and celebrate TXST, its accomplishments, and its people. I have charged a 125th Quasquicentennial Planning Task Force to develop and guide the execution of a plan to commemorate our past as we move our future forward.
These are huge bragging points for TXST, and they are already elevating our national profile and reputation. For example, the Presidential Debate announcement generated extensive national and international coverage for TXST, with 5.3 billion media impressions and over one million social media impressions during the first week after its announcement.
Here are a few more of the most recent updates on the progress and direction carrying us forward.
Unveiling of the University Plan
Our journey towards realizing our Hopes and Aspirations High vision reached a significant milestone with the approval of the 2023-2029 university plan by the Texas State University System Board of Regents at their November meeting. The strategic roadmap not only charts a clear path for elevating student success, but it also outlines our commitment to achieving Carnegie R1 status by 2027, increasing student enrollment, expanding the Round Rock Campus, and becoming an employer of choice.
Expansion of On-Campus Housing
The Regents also approved the potential acquisition of two San Marcos apartment complexes for Fall 2024 occupancy. These purchases (along with the completion of two residence halls scheduled to open 2024 and 2025), mark significant steps forward in supporting the affordable housing needs of our students. As a result, TXST will offer nearly 10,000 beds on our San Marcos Campus by Fall 2025, ensuring a vibrant and dynamic living and learning environment.
Research and Innovation
In addition to the 11 new doctoral programs being reviewed by the THECB in 2024, we reached another significant milestone last month. In the last fiscal year, TXST generated a record $141 million in research and development, an amount that puts us ahead of many Texas R1 institutions. What a wonderful accomplishment by our research teams!
By the way, our Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Park continues to grow in size and impact. In 2024, for example, we plan to break ground on STAR Two, a second building and technology incubator dedicated to research and commercialization efforts.
Growing the Round Rock Campus
We continue to make progress on plans for building a Lifesciences Research Incubator and Esperanza Hall on the Round Rock Campus. These initiatives, coupled with the planned addition of at least 10 undergraduate degree programs for Fall 2024, exemplify our dedication to providing state-of-the-art facilities for learning and research. Just last week, I charged the new Commission on the Round Rock Run to 10K (to increase enrollment to 10,000 students) with developing and executing a plan to grow the campus.
Employer of Choice
To build on the momentum of the $17 million investment we made in employee salaries, positions, and benefits earlier this year, an outside compensation consultant presented the preliminary results of a compensation study for TXST. They will finalize their results in the coming weeks, which will be used to craft a plan to ensure the university offers and sustains competitive compensation to all employees in the coming years.
I often hear from employees about the positive impact the TXST dependent tuition benefit has on their families. I am very happy to share that we will increase the undergraduate designated tuition benefit for dependents of benefit-eligible employees from 25% to 50% beginning in the upcoming Fall 2024 semester.
Strategic Reviews and Leadership Changes
Earlier today, I announced that Dr. Pranesh Aswath has agreed to serve as our next Provost and Executive Vice President. Dr. Aswath’s lengthy career on the faculty and in the Provost’s Office at UT-Arlington (a large R1 university) makes him uniquely qualified to lead our Division of Academic Affairs as we strive toward enhanced student success and our Run to R1. Pranesh joins Mr. Matt Hall, who began serving as TXST’s new VP for Information Technology three weeks ago. Matt most recently served as the VPIT at the University of Central Florida (also a large R1 university).
This fall, two task forces were engaged in academic program organizational review. I charged the task forces with evaluating the potential split of the College of Science and Engineering and the future of the College of Applied Arts. They submitted their recommendations last week. Once Dr. Aswath officially joins TXST in February, he and I will begin conversations about the next steps forward.
It goes without saying how much we all appreciate what Provost Bourgeois has done in his more than 30 years of unwavering service to TXST. He has played (and will continue to play) a major role in our pursuit of Hopes and Aspirations High. I am personally grateful to Gene for his support and guidance during my own transitionary period.
Future Initiatives and Ambitious Goals
Preparing for a future filled with promise, we are embarking on a few more bold initiatives including:
- Exploring the benefits of a potential move toward a resource center management (RCM) budget model. We have only just begun this discussion process, and my plan is to seek input from all relevant constituents about our current budget model and any changes we may desire to implement. I suspect that any new budget model that we adopt will take three to five years to fully implement.
- Soliciting proposals from qualified development teams to design, finance, construct, operate, and maintain a 150-250 room full-service hotel on TXST property located at 429 N. Guadalupe Street in San Marcos. Our hope is to break ground in early 2025, and to complete the project by 2026.
- Raising our national and international profile and increasing access to higher education by launching new academic programs in Round Rock, online, and at off-campus locations such as Texas community colleges, and universities in Scotland, Japan, Italy, and New Zealand (just to name a few). These initiatives, along with expanding our non-resident enrollment, put us on the path to surpassing our all-time high enrollment number achieved in Fall 2016 of 38,808.
The achievements and initiatives I have outlined in this email offer a bit of a glimpse of the exciting journey we are on together. TXST is no longer a best-kept secret; it is a thriving institution with a bright future ahead. I am proud to be serving here alongside you.
Here's to a future filled with promise, hope, and aspiration!
President Kelly Damphousse