Hopes & Aspirations High
President Damphousse’s Message to Faculty and Staff
January 5, 2023
As we begin a new year together, I hope you share my excitement for what’s ahead for Texas State University. I believe that your hard work over the past several years has positioned us to soar to even greater heights in 2023. I want to start this new year by sharing my vision for our future that has evolved over the past six months of serving alongside you, providing updates on areas where we’ve made recent progress, and laying out some of our plans for the coming year.
There’s a lyric in our alma mater that really resonates with me. I feel it’s especially timely for TXST: “O, Alma Mater, set upon the green hills, with turrets pointing upward to the sky, we yield to thee our love and our devotion; mother of hopes and aspirations high.” Hopes & Aspirations High reminds us of our noble, higher calling to keep students at the heart of all we do. It captures the potential and promise ahead for them and for those of us who have made helping them succeed our life’s work.
Transformation is a never-ending process. The most successful organizations reinvent themselves, never resting on their successes. Hopes & Aspirations High is a vision to build on decades of groundbreaking growth and move TXST forward through our next transformation.
PILLARS, GOALS, AND PRIORITIES FOR HOPES & ASPIRATIONS HIGH
Two pillars define our Hopes & Aspirations High: elevating student success and running to R1. Several goals support these pillars such as increasing enrollment, expanding recruitment efforts, capitalizing on the rich opportunities at our Round Rock Campus, and reducing administrative burdens. To be successful in achieving our Hopes & Aspirations High, we must create an environment where YOU, the members of our staff and faculty, are empowered as valued partners in our journey. To that end, my top priorities include supporting employee morale, removing barriers to success, and opening pathways to new solutions that support your good work.
SERVING EMPLOYEES AND REMOVING BARRIERS
In my conversations with many of you, a clear, recurring theme has emerged: the need to ensure our pay rates are as competitive as possible, with sufficient staffing levels. We’ve made some initial progress in this area in the past year including:
- Spending well over $5 million to permanently increase the salaries of more than 1,400 employees.
- Removing the requirement that some salary increases have presidential approval.
- Providing 10% pay raises for 100+ student workers, including in our Student Learning Assistance Center.
- Awarding more than $9.6 million in one-time bonuses to employees.
- Adding more than a dozen new staff positions in critical areas.
I’m especially excited to announce that beginning this Fall, TXST will offer up to a 25% tuition benefit for dependents of eligible employees. More information about this new benefit is forthcoming from Human Resources.
We’ve also streamlined processes and removed unnecessary barriers for faculty and staff, including:
- Reducing the number of SACSCOC outcomes assessment reports significantly for our administrative support units.
- Approving remote work for employees during Energy Conversations Days. Each vice president can now determine whether their essential offices can operate remotely during that time.
- Increasing efficiency by producing a digital HR policy catalogue.
Additional improvements are coming soon. Over 700 employee recommendations were submitted to the Administrative Burdens Task Force, many of which will be addressed in the upcoming report. Read the task force’s latest update.
DOING MORE WITH MORE
At Convocation in August, I committed to helping TXST staff and faculty “do more with more.” I remain steadfast in that commitment and have allocated more than $20 million in new funds since then. My leadership team and I are dedicated to providing you the best resources, support, and infrastructure possible.
The updates I’m sharing today are examples of areas where we’ve started doing “more with more” – and we’re just getting started. Together, we’re on a thousand-mile journey. So far, we’ve trekked about six miles. I know it can be hard to see where each of us fit into this vision. Please know that all our staff and faculty members have an important part to play, and there is a place for everyone! I’m confident and energized to take on the road ahead because of the brilliance, dedication, and ingenuity of our faculty and staff.
Doing more is essential to catapult TXST to the NEXT level in our teaching and research mission. That begins with understanding the broader landscape in which we’re operating. Another promise I made at Fall Convocation was to be candid. Most of the improvements we strive to make require significant funding, so a candid assessment of our financials is an important first step. Achieving “more with more” requires us to have more revenue and resources, but it also requires us to have less of other things – meaning we need to reduce or eliminate some expenditures, redundancies, duplications, and outdated programs and services. We must remember that in our current world of flat revenue, finding opportunities to do less in some areas is a requirement to do more in other areas.
ASSESSING THE LANDSCAPE: ENROLLMENT AND REVENUE
Over the last several years, other universities in Texas – our competitors – have passed us by in enrollment. In 2015, TXST was the fourth largest university in the state. Since then, we’ve dropped to seventh. Other institutions have seen greater increases in graduate and online enrollment, which is primarily how they pulled ahead of us. Although we have celebrated record-breaking freshman classes, our overall enrollment has lagged, with notable declines in transfer and master’s students. In fact, TXST has fewer students today than we did in 2016. That enrollment decline amounts to a reduction in revenue and resources that we must address.
State funding presents another challenge. For at least the last 20 years, TXST has received nearly the lowest amount of state appropriation per student of any four-year institution in Texas. Largely because of this, TXST is more tuition dependent than many of our competitors. While I will continue our efforts to increase our state appropriation, it is clear that enrollment growth is a prerequisite for adding some of the resources and infrastructure investments we need for the future.
The bottom-line is: It will take time, commitment, and a coordinated, university-wide effort to increase enrollment, especially graduate and online enrollment, and revenue. We must begin by understanding how (1) all our institutional priorities are inextricably linked and (2) intentionally working together will move us farther along in our journey.
BREAKING DOWN SILOS. ASSEMBLE THE BUILDING BLOCKS.
Each priority in our vision is a building block. A strong future for TXST depends on our ability – and our willingness – to connect them and to appreciate how they complement one another. Attaining success in one priority feeds growth in the others.
For example, increasing enrollment generates revenue needed to expand retention initiatives, student services, and staffing levels. At the same time, increased retention success leads to increased enrollment. In addition, conducting research alongside faculty members engages students like few other activities, and engagement is one of the strongest indicators of student success. Our Run to R1 will not only improve student success outcomes, but it will also:
- Bring more resources to the university.
- Expand degree offerings.
- Attract high quality students.
- Increase the number of assistantships for students.
- Make our graduates more competitive in the job market.
- Attract high quality research faculty who will provide students with expanded opportunities to engage in research.
- Increase the value of a TXST degree.
Let me be frank. Pursuing these goals in silos would drastically limit our potential. We each have a different part to play, but we must all pull in the same direction. Achieving our goals will likely require necessary, respectful disruption to the status quo as we seek out new and different opportunities, such as international student recruitment and online degrees. Our ambitious aspirations require us to unite behind a shared vision and to take bold action to bring that vision to life.
BOLD MOVES IN ACHIEVING HOPES & ASPIRATIONS HIGH
Below are just a few of the early recommendations submitted to Cabinet from the presidential commissions, task forces and work group, with more to come.
- We have allocated $6 million of university reserves to admit 50 new PhD students for Spring and Summer 2023 in three PhD programs: Material Science, Engineering and Commercialization, Computer Science, and Aquatic Resources and Integrative Biology. These students will hold research assistantships and receive a full tuition scholarship. These programs were selected because of their ability to scale up their enrollment AND graduate PhD students in a relatively short period of time. In time, as more funds become available, we will invest more in current and future PhD programs. Learn more about this data-driven strategy on the Run to R1 Commission webpage.
- To continue our efforts to reduce the cost of attendance for our undergraduates, we have enhanced our total scholarship pool to attract incoming students by $2.1 million, reversing our initial plans to increase undergraduate tuition, and we continue to plan other ways to eliminate undergraduate tuition increases for the foreseeable future.
- Recruiting more international and graduate students is a critical part of our Run to R1 and has become a key enrollment growth priority. To that end, we removed a cap that historically limited the funds we could invest to recruit international students through partner agencies. Learn more about these low risk, high return investments on the Recruitment Task Force webpage.
Later in January, Cabinet will receive the full recommendation reports from the commissions, task forces, and work groups. I’m convening the Cabinet on January 19th to review each of the recommendations. In addition, we will examine how TXST’s organizational structure aligns with our top institutional priorities and begin a discussion of how we can better align our historical resource allocation decisions with our future. By February, I’ll provide additional updates about steps we are taking to achieve our Hopes & Aspirations High. I hope this message that I am sharing today demonstrates that we are steadfast in our commitment to innovate and invest in data-driven strategies that support our vision.
My friends, 2023 will be an exciting year for our university. My commitment to you is to remain accessible, communicative, and candid. Every day, I’m grateful and humbled to serve alongside the exceptional scholars and professionals at TXST. It's a great time to be a Bobcat!