Chancellor’s Remarks – UNIVERSITY CONVOCATION
AND FOUNDERS’ CELEBRATION
September 8, 2011
Meeting and Embracing the Challenges of Change
It’s a great time to be a Horned Frog! TCU was recently recognized as the “Hottest School in Texas” by Fort Worth, Texas magazine, among the “Best of the West” by the Princeton Review, and one of “42 Great Colleges to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink LLC. U.S. News & World Report recognized TCU as a top 100 university and among the top 20 national “up-and-coming” schools last year. This recognition — and the move to excellence it reflects — is terrific but exceeding even our own expectations brings with it many opportunities and challenges.
Vision in Action established an ambitious vision and goals for TCU: to be best at what we do and to realize our vision of becoming a world-class, values-centered university. Over the past five years, we’ve held true to our course. We’ve recruited outstanding students. We’ve added new faculty, new technology and new facilities. We’re establishing relationships at home and abroad. And our visibility has been soaring to extraordinary levels.
All of that combined has made us a ‘hot’ school — very attractive to students, faculty and staff. As we’ve exceeded our wildest dreams, we have made adjustments to cope with the overwhelmingly positive results of our planning. And we will continue to make adjustments. More applicants — outstanding applicants — have accepted our invitation to come to TCU than we anticipated. For the past two years, we have exceeded the target number of 1,600 freshmen by more than 200 and this year’s numbers are roughly the same.
Our faculty and staff have grown over the past three years as well - a total of 99 new faculty and 134 new staff members. In spite of growth, the faculty-student ratio has improved and was 1:13 in 2010-2011. We’ve looked forward with a second phase of Vision in Action. We have identified goals and plans that will advance our university even farther.
However, we cannot become complacent. The moment we think we have arrived will be the moment our journey to excellence ends. I would like to share with you a story from Tom Kelly’s book, The Art of Innovation.1 Schwinn, once a leading bike manufacturer, sold one-quarter of all U.S. bicycles. When mountain bikes emerged, Schwinn wrote them off as a fad. Success has a tendency to hamstring organizations. They become complacent and avoid the risk-taking that propelled them to the top. Although Schwinn picked up on the Sting-Ray bike trend in the sixties, it missed out on the analogous mountain bike trend in the eighties. Mountain bikes, of course, became much more than a trend. Today, 70 percent of the bicycles sold in the United States are mountain bikes.
Another bicycle company, Specialized Bicycle Components, didn’t have the luxury of resting on its laurels. They capitalized on the mountain bike craze, achieving great success. Schwinn slowly became irrelevant. Specialized Bicycle’s motto is “Innovate or Die” — not a bad motto to take to heart and certainly wise counsel for any entity committed to ongoing success.
William C. Taylor, founder and editor of Fast Company and the author of Practically Radical2, views today’s competitive environment from another perspective: “We are living through an age of disruption,” he says. “You can’t do big things if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else or a little differently than you did them before. In an era of hyper-competition and non-stop dislocation, the only way to stand out is to STAND FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL.”
TCU DOES stand for something special.
That’s why we must keep this university competitive and accessible. With the annual cost of a TCU education at more than $43,000, scholarships are the university’s top priority. The Campaign Scholarship Initiative has raised $84.5 million of its $100 million goal. Over five years, we more than doubled scholarship support for undergraduates from $15.1 to $30.5 million. We increased financial support for graduate students as well, from $6.7 million to $10.1 million.
We know this is not enough. The dollar amount of unmet need this year alone is almost $34 million. More families are applying for financial aid than ever before. Graduates are leaving TCU with increasingly large student loan burdens. In addition, most of TCU’s scholarship support is merit-based. It’s essential that TCU increase need-based financial aid for talented and deserving students. We must ensure that a TCU education is still accessible to middle-class students.
Let me share the words of Anntoinette Gullett, a 2008 social work graduate who is now using her expertise at the Huguley Nursing and Rehab Center. Anntoinette was both a Chancellor’s Scholar and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar who graduated Summa Cum Laude. “Without my scholarships, I would never have been able to attend TCU and have the most amazing learning experiences of my life. With my scholarships, I was able to attend a school that believes professors should have open door policies and have REAL relationships with their students. This allowed for a richer learning experience. I am more prepared to go out and BE the change I want to see in the world because of my TCU experience.”
To ensure that individuals like Anntoinette will be able to attend TCU in coming years, we must determine several key issues:
* How can we be more responsive to students with financial need?
* What is the best balance between need-based and merit-based aid?
* How can we reduce our graduates’ loan burden?
We must position TCU for even greater success, to live out our vision — to be a world-class, values-centered university.
Over the past several years, TCU has developed tremendous momentum. We are extremely blessed in the world of higher education. How can we make the best of the challenges and opportunities that we are presented with? How can we best fulfill the TCU Promise? How can we both manage and embrace change? These are the questions that will occupy us in our 139th year. Our Trustees will participate in developing strategies that will build upon our momentum and propel us forward. We will consider TCU’s academic profile and reputation, student body size and balance, and utilization of space and other resources.
We have another key question before us: What will be our “Big Idea”? We are searching for an overriding theme that will help drive TCU’s efforts over the next half-decade. The development of a Quality Enhancement Plan – or QEP – will be centered on this “Big Idea.” The QEP is at the heart of our Vision in Action planning and preparation for reaccreditation with SACS, our accrediting agency. We’re calling on the campus community to come up with ideas that will enhance student learning around the theme of “Innovation and Inquiry.” You will learn more about how you can participate throughout the fall. This is an exciting and inclusive opportunity to influence TCU’s future!
As you can see, this will be a year of dialogue – of discussion and discourse, of the exchange of ideas from ALL members of the TCU community. We have many new members of our university family. Let’s do all we can to encourage their voices. As for me, my mantra this year will be LISTENING. Winston Churchill once said: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”3 I hope to be a very courageous person this year as I focus upon listening.
Whatever our ultimate choices will be, I can promise you this. TCU will meet and embrace the challenges of change. We will honor and preserve TCU’s unique character that has brought us so far. .
One theme runs through all our achievements. From our record number of applications to our rankings, as well as our recognition as a “Hot School,” as an up-and-coming university, and as a great place to work.
That theme is TCU’s culture of unity, connection and community.
Interestingly, a leading expert on leadership and healthy organizations has written and lectured extensively on “The Connection Culture” as “A New Source of Competitive Advantage.”4 This expert is Michael Stallard, from Greenwich, Connecticut. He is a member of the TCU Chancellor’s Advisory Council. His daughter, Sarah, is a TCU junior. We are honored that the Stallard family chose this university — recognition of our culture of connection. And we are honored that Michael Stallard is writing about TCU as an example of the Connection Culture.
Let me give you an example of the “Connection Culture” here. I am sharing the words of Dr. Bill Cron, the J. Vaughn and Evelyne H. Wilson Professor in Business and associate dean of Graduate Programs and Research at the Neeley School. I quote: “I was at another university for 21 years and knew about TCU’s professor-friendly environment. After I was here one year, it hit me: Yes! This is why I went into teaching! During my last semester at the other university, I taught 180 students. Here I teach 50 to 60. It makes a huge difference. I get to know my students’ names and who they are. They are people, not just numbers. Coming to TCU took my job and elevated it. I just seem to have a higher purpose here.”
Now, let me share a student perspective. Whitney Summers, a member of the Class of 2013, is a biology major with minors in chemistry and business. I quote: “Since entering TCU, I have been immediately accepted into the Horned Frog family. The bond that TCU has created goes beyond the usual college spirit that you can find anywhere. Our culture creates a loyalty and passion for the school that I try to reflect in my actions every day. I believe the best way I can help to pass the TCU culture down for years to come is to be involved in orientation — the first experience most students have as Horned Frogs.”
We are working hard to further enhance the connection culture that so distinguishes TCU. Our faculty and staff — like Dr. Cron — continue to build the mentoring relationships that have long defined TCU.
During this time of growth and transformation, Community Renewal, a new Student Affairs initiative, is creating structures of belonging and connectedness for members of the TCU community — so that the experience Whitney has known spreads even farther.
Our University is striving to make this an even greater workplace, for example partnering with Campfire to identify excellent childcare for employees.
And Vision in Action has developed the TCU Promise — a reciprocal commitment to excellence through discovery and achievement that unites the TCU community. When all parts of the TCU Promise are fulfilled, the result is the unparalleled TCU Experience that truly changes the lives of students, faculty, and staff.
The promise covers multiple aspects of the collegiate experience at Texas Christian University and addresses the roles each of us plays to ensure our community of learning is truly “connected.” Multiple components of the promise address relevant and challenging curricula, energetic and innovative learning opportunities, an invigorating social milieu, a nurturing, safe and diverse environment, and practicing high standards of personal behavior while engaging in intellectual curiosity and active learning.
Thank you for attending today. As partners, we make Texas Christian University the unique place it is. Best wishes to each of you – students, faculty, and staff – for the 2011-2012 year.
1 http://storiesforspeakers.blogspot.com/2008/06/get-on-your-bike-success-breeds.html from The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm, Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman, A Currency Book published by Doubleday, 2001
from Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself, William C. Taylor, HarperCollins, 2011
4 The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage, Michael Stallard,