Welcome back for the spring semester at Texas Christian University! All indicators point to a vibrant new year as we continue to strategically invest in The Academy of Tomorrow — building TCU into a national, academically stellar university that retains the character and traditions for which we have long been known.

 

During the icy days leading up to final exams, many individuals made a difference in our students’ lives: faculty who implemented a flexible final exams schedule, staff who opened the Mary Couts Burnett Library for weekend study as well as those who came in and kept the BLUU open and humming with activity, cooks who kept stranded students well-fed, grounds crews who cleared paths and parking lots, and the Campus Police who kept them safe. I know that there are many others who worked diligently so that students could successfully complete the semester, regardless of the weather. Thank you all!

 

On a more somber note, our city and University have lost a legendary civic icon and a most-valued member of our community, former Fort Worth mayor Bob Bolen, who passed away Jan. 6. Mr. Bolen was mayor from 1982 to 1991, a period of some of the most dramatic growth in Fort Worth’s history. Upon leaving the mayor’s office, he was appointed senior advisor to the TCU Chancellor, and three of TCU’s Chancellors benefited from his invaluable vision and wise advice. I think the world of him and will miss him dearly.

 

Since U.S. News & World Report listed TCU in 2011 as one of 20 “Up-and-Coming National Universities,” its overall ranking among national universities has risen by 17 points to No. 82. According to The Washington Post, this is the greatest increase among Texas universities ranked in this category. While The Washington Post article acknowledges annual fluctuations in rankings, it notes: “Even so, if a given school rises or sinks 10 or more spots in the course of a few years, that could illuminate a significant change in what is a highly competitive marketplace.”

 

In just two of many outstanding recognitions, The Economist ranks Neeley’s MBA faculty first in the world and the Executive MBA 21st in the world. The undergraduate program also has a high profile — for example, listing 28th in the U.S. in the Bloomberg Businessweek national rankings.

 

As we know, TCU professors are amazing teachers, mentors and researchers. According to The Huffington Post, TCU is ranked No. 13 by students for having the best professors. The ranking is compiled by the RateMyProfessors website.

 

In spite of the winter storm, Fall Commencement proceeded like clockwork. More than 820 graduates from the United States and 28 other countries became Horned Frog alumni.

 

The University conferred a posthumous Honorary Doctor of the University degree on Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt. Cpl. Schmidt was a TCU student before joining the Marines. He was killed while patrolling with his platoon in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Because of his passion for TCU and for history, Cpl. Schmidt requested in his will that a portion of his military life insurance policy benefit be used for a scholarship for history graduate students. The Lance Cpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Memorial Scholarship was established, and the first graduate student benefited from a Schmidt Memorial Scholarship award in 2012. Additionally, Cpl. Schmidt’s father and stepmother launched a funding effort that has raised $1 million for the Lance Cpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Professorship in history.

 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) has reaffirmed TCU’s all-important accreditation for the maximum term of 10 years. Many institutions receive reaffirmation of accreditation, but often must also submit annual or biannual reports to reach full compliance. Because we completely demonstrated compliance during the reporting process, the University will not have to submit these additional reports. We have many reasons to be proud of TCU – and this is one of them!

 

We are grateful for the many faculty and staff members who dedicated extraordinary time and effort to assure such a positive outcome of this 10-year process. Dr. Catherine Wehlburg and Dr. Ed McNertney headed the campuswide initiative, and many faculty and staff members served on SACS-COC-related committees. Thank you all!

 

You may recall that the SACS-COC requires all universities to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan or QEP. Drs. Wehlburg and McNertney are hosting a town hall meeting to discuss our QEP, which is focused on global citizenship, and how you can get involved. The meeting is set for Friday, January 24, at 3:30 p.m., in Palko Hall, room 130.

 

One of our colleges has taken on a distinguished new name. The former College of Communication is now known as the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, named for our illustrious 1959 alumnus Bob Schieffer. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Schieffer Symposium, which is scheduled for April 9. The symposium brings prominent media figures such as Tom Brokaw, Bob Woodward and Ann Curry to campus for discussions led by Mr. Schieffer.

 

Since 2011, the Vicente Fox Forum of World Leaders at TCU has featured such internationally prominent speakers as Mr. Fox, former President of Mexico, and former dignitaries of Spain, Canada, Colombia and other nations. The TCU-Fox partnership is now evolving. Dr. Jim Riddlesperger (political science) and TCU alumnus Dr. Juan Hernandez, who was a Mexican cabinet minister during Mr. Fox’s presidency, are team-teaching an honors colloquium this semester. The Fox Forum speeches are part of the curriculum.

 

A defining element of TCU’s teacher/scholar model is the leading-edge research being conducted by our professors, often with undergraduates at their sides. Endeavors magazine highlights some of the exciting discoveries and creative works happening across our schools and colleges in the quest for new knowledge and artistic excellence.

 

Among the most important goals of The Academy of Tomorrow strategic plan are true transformations of the educational experience and elevation of TCU’s academic profile and reputation. The Intellectual Commons will provide an impetus and an optimal environment for both.

  • Work continues on Rees-Jones Hall east of the Mary Couts Burnett Library. TCU’s first completely interdisciplinary academic building, it is designed to facilitate creative, intellectual “collisions” that will result in new ideas. Some of TCU’s most innovative programs will be housed there: the Institute of Child Development, which has developed a strong international presence; the IdeaFactory, which is fostering entrepreneurship outside the business school; and the TCU Energy Institute, which can be a key resource as the nation grapples with issues of energy production. Rees-Jones Hall is targeted to open in fall 2014.

  • Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, which is positioning itself to become a leader in the new world of health care, epitomizes how TCU is embracing change. With the Affordable Care Act, our nation’s health care system is rapidly evolving. Harris College is leveraging opportunities for innovation and leadership that grow from these changes. Aiding that transformation will be an addition to the Annie Richardson Bass Building and renovation of existing space, both featuring the latest technology. The addition will be completed in August 2014, while the renovation will be complete in December 2014.

  • Renovations to the Mary Couts Burnett Library are designed to help solve a problem defined by futurist John Naisbitt as “drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” In the repurposed library, a new multimedia, technology-enhanced environment will provide almost unlimited access to information. Even more important, this access will be balanced by a person-driven focus on how to understand information and data and transform it into knowledge and judgment. Work began in December on the library’s west side, which faces University Drive, where a new entrance is being constructed for use while the rest of the library is renovated.

Elsewhere on campus, renovation of Colby Hall will begin in May 2014 and is scheduled for completion for the fall 2015 semester. This is the last residence hall to undergo a complete makeover. Updates to the façade of the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts are also in development.

 

An intense, values-centered residential university experience will remain at the heart of a TCU education. Plans for The Academy of Tomorrow have imagined TCU as a 100 percent residential campus for undergraduates, a response to strong student demand. With the opening of Marion Hall and Pamela and Edward Clark Hall this August, the Worth Hills Development already is enabling more students to live on campus. A third residence hall in Worth Hills, designed for upper-level students, is slated to open for fall semester 2014, while a new Worth Hills multipurpose center is scheduled to open January 2015. Construction of the Worth Hills Parking Garage is expected to begin in the summer of 2015. This parking garage will support further re-development of Worth Hills, including a new Greek Village.

 

Two athletic facilities are also on the project list. Completed and planned improvements to the Charlie and Marie Lupton Baseball Stadium range from fence padding and reconfigured base sidelines to an expanded concourse with an enlarged concession area and new restroom facilities. A transformation of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum has already started. Among the improvements will be new and renovated locker rooms, a wider concourse, lowered playing surface and courtside seating. Construction, which started in December, is scheduled for completion for the 2015 basketball season.

 

The Big 12 Conference is providing new opportunities for its members to highlight their academic achievements and research endeavors. The campaign comprises a number of 30-second public service announcements that will be broadcast nationally during conference football games. You can see TCU’s videos at the Big 12 microsite Big12MakingaDifference.com. In other conference news, TCU placed 11 student-athletes on the 2013 Academic All-Big 12 Football Team.

 

With so many exciting developments on campus, this is sure to be a wonderful and productive semester! I appreciate the special role you play in the TCU community. Thank you for all your contributions to our great university.

 

With appreciation and best wishes,