Hopes & Aspirations High

President Damphousse’s Latest Message to Faculty and Staff

September 29, 2023

a TXST graduate holding up the texas state hand sign
Dear Friends: 
In my State of TXST remarks to staff and faculty last month as we kicked off the academic year, I shared one of my favorite quotes from Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We have definitely been busy working together to create TXST’s future, and the proof of our efforts is reflected in one of the strongest starts ever to a Fall semester.  
Just a little over nine months ago, we launched Hopes & Aspirations High, our ambitious vision for TXST’s future. Our focus on running to R1, enhancing student success, increasing enrollment, growing the Round Rock Campus, and becoming an employer of choice is already reaping rewards for students, faculty, and staff. Now, we are positioned to use this momentum to implement the tools and best practices that will move us toward reaching our transformative goals. 
I am happy to share a few highlights that demonstrate our most recent progress. 
Increasing Enrollment, Expanding Globally 
Congratulations to the outstanding members of our staff and faculty who worked to help us reach these historic highs for Fall 2023:  
  • Largest freshman class for the third consecutive year (7,892) 
  • Most new freshman, transfer, and graduate students enrolled (11,752) 
  • Record-breaking number of new Ph.D. students (111) 
  • All-time high for international enrollment (up 31% to 965)  
  • Most first-time in college students ranked in the top 25% (3,259) 
  • Record semester credit hours (486,006) 
  • #1 in Texas for Fall 2023 ApplyTexas first-year applicants 
Our total reported enrollment on census day was 38,873, just slightly below our highest enrollment of 38,940 in 2016. We are rightfully proud of these successes, but there is more to do to surpass our 2016 enrollment record and to increase TXST’s reach globally. This month, we took an important step to reorganize operations to better position TXST to maximize our impact locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.  
On September 14, I met with our Enrollment Management (EM) unit to announce that all departments within EM (which include Undergraduate Admissions, Financial Aid and Scholarships, and University Registrar) will move as one unit from the Division of Academic Affairs to the Division of TXST Global led by Dr. Thilla Sivakumaran. We are making this change now, given that teams are already engaged in recruiting and enrolling new students for Fall 2024. 
There are two primary reasons for this change: 
  • We are focused on growing the number of TXST transfer, graduate, international, and online students, while also working to increase enrollment at our Round Rock Campus and at future regional and international locations affiliated with the university. To do so successfully, it is important to bring all EM activities together in one central place to ensure coordination, improve efficiency, and maximize resources. 
  • We needed to implement this change as we complete the search for a new Provost. This will free our next Provost to focus on creating and supporting academic programs and faculty as we transition to R1. As Executive VP, the Provost will continue to influence and provide guidance to EM. 
In short, the organizational change positions TXST to reach our strategic priorities of increasing enrollment and strengthening academic programs that support the Run to R1 and student success. 
We have also made substantial progress toward our goal of providing access to top-quality, affordable, and workforce-relevant degree programs through an online platform. TXST Global is finalizing a partnership with an online program management (OPM) company to leverage technologies and tools that will enhance TXST’s capacity to offer online education. This summer, six online doctoral program proposals, prepared by faculty writing teams, were submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. We are now proceeding with developing eight online bachelor’s and 14 master’s programs that were identified through a combination of faculty member input and market research. 
In addition to online programs, TXST Global will work with the Division of Academic Affairs to offer degree programs at regional locations, including select Texas community colleges, and international universities in Mexico, Scotland, New Zealand, and Japan. The expansion of our degree programs regionally and internationally will make education more accessible to students who prefer in-person learning but are unable to relocate to our San Marcos or Round Rock campuses.  
Presidential Commissions  
Over the past year, our inaugural Commissions did great work to advance our vision pillars of elevating student success and running to R1. 
  • The Commission on Student Success was instrumental in gathering critical data and insights to improve retention and student services, and to adapting a new student success technology platform, EAB Navigate, to ensure a holistic, effective approach to student success.  
  • The Commission on Run to R1 recommended investments that have resulted in recruiting more than 100 new Ph.D. students into existing programs across the university, developing proposals to nearly double the number of doctoral programs, and recruiting 50 postdoctoral researchers.   
To continue this progress, I have re-charged both Commissions for 2023-2024, appointing a mix of former and new members to provide opportunities for more faculty and staff members across TXST to lead and support our Hopes & Aspirations High.  
In October, I will appoint a new Commission comprised of faculty and staff members and community representatives to build out the plan to grow the Round Rock Campus with the overarching goal of becoming the third largest campus in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area and serving 10,000 students at that location by 2030.  
Moving Farther Together 
When we first launched Hopes & Aspirations High, I often reminded us that we are a few steps into a long journey. Today, I feel like we have moved miles ahead. I have touched on some major highlights above, but it only provides a glimpse of the progress we are making for our students, our employees, and our university. 
  • We are fortunate to be one of four universities included in the Texas University Fund ballot initiative to increase our research funding by $22.3 million in the first year.  
  • We currently have a total of 11 in-person and online doctoral program proposals under review for approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. 
  • In August, the President’s Cabinet approved moving forward with the development of proposals for the doctoral, master’s, and baccalaureate degree programs that were included in the Division of Academic Affairs strategic plan. 
  • We have appointed two task forces comprised of academic administrators, faculty, and staff to engage in focused academic program organizational reviews of the College of Applied Arts and the College of Science and Engineering. 
  • Over the past year, we have improved total compensation for all employees – staff and faculty members -- investing $17 million in salary increases and new positions. We also improved employee medical insurance benefits and retirement options, embarked on a compensation study with an external partner for implementation in 2024, implemented salary market adjustments for 250+ faculty members, and are now in the process of introducing new titles and ranks for qualified instructional faculty members to have a pathway to promotion. 
  • We are finalizing an offer to a new Vice President for Information Technology and in the middle of a national search for a new Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. 
As the proverb goes, we might move faster alone, but we are going farther together. While there is always more to do, there is also much to celebrate and look forward to. Homecoming is just around the corner and before you know it, we will be gathering together for the holiday season. 
I believe we are on the path to finishing the Fall semester as strongly as we started. Thank you for your work and for believing in our students and mission. 
Kelly Damphousse, Ph.D.