Texas A&M President addresses Aggie community in State of the University address
“My vision for Texas A&M is simply to provide a transformative education to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world. I believe that there are three areas of importance as we execute our vision.”
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Texas A&M University President Katherine banks addressed students, faculty, and the Aggie community Wednesday in her first State of the University address.
In her speech Banks highlighted the success made by faculty and students over the past year and also shared her vision for the future of the university.
“Students are the reason that we are here,” Banks said. “We cannot lose sight of our primary mission: education. We must continue to provide a top-quality education that prepares our students for life.”
Texas A&M Student Body President Case Harris says he was inspired by President Banks’ goals and vision and is looking forward to working with her to help fulfill the mission.
“I think one thing that is great about President Banks is her exciting ideas. She is very willing to make positive changes for our university,” said Harris. “She wants to see us thrive and excel so she has a lot of really ambitious initiatives that I really think will lift our university up. I’m really excited about everything she talked about today.”
Banks started her presentation by outlining several initiatives with the goal of attracting more students to Texas A&M and improving student life.
“To assist students with the cost of education, we are embarking on a scholarship campaign with a goal of an additional $100 million over the next four years,” said Banks. Another way we’re investing in our students is through our Student Activity Fund or our new Good Bull Fund. The fund was established to offset expenses for student-led activities that benefit the campus and the community.”
President Banks announced another push that’s been drawing attention to college and university campuses across the country centered around mental health and the overall well-being of students.
“I’m pleased to announce that we are making necessary investments in our health care facilities and services as well. We are currently exploring partnerships with health care providers to create larger student health service complexes that will meet the needs of our students,” Banks said. “We plan to double the amount of funding for student mental health services over the next three years. As part of this effort, we will create a distributed mental health services model for students — embedding clinicians across campus in key academic units and other key locations.”
Students’ mental health is an area of President Banks’ address that Harris says he’s excited about.
“I think that we both see that mental health is an issue on this campus and we’re really going to work on solving that and making sure students have all the resources they need.”
Banks also announced plans to help increase membership within the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets program.
“Our traditions are the heart of Texas A&M, and the Corps of Cadets will continue to be prominent on our campus,” said Banks. “To enhance the Corps, we have announced “March to 3000,” a campaign to grow the Corps of Cadets to 3,000 cadets.”
President Banks has made some headlines this year about her strained relationship with some staff and faculty and took a moment to address those issues.
“Our first and most critical investment will be in our people. We recognize that productive faculty are essential to the success of Texas A&M,” said Banks. “Over the next four years, through faculty retirement, replacement, and new positions, we will hire over 500 faculty members with an investment of $50 million for startup packages.”
“In addition, we will reduce the number of non-mission tasks, information overload, and the creeping bureaucracy that distracts faculty from their education responsibilities,” said Banks. “And to our staff: without your support and dedication to our mission, the university cannot meet the goal of preeminence. Therefore, we also must invest in the employee experience. To our staff: without your support and dedication to our mission, the university cannot meet the goal of preeminence. Therefore, we also must invest in the employee experience.”
Those that call the classroom home at Texas A&M like Dale Rice, Texas A&M Faculty Senate Speaker and Instructional Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Practices, say they’re optimistic about the future. Rice says to ensure that the university can be the very best it can be will take more collaboration starting at the top.
“I think that were all very appreciative of the new initiatives that president banks talked about today,” said Rice. “I think that President Banks talked about the importance of engagement and for the success of these steps going forward It requires not only engagement with a wider community which is incredibly important but it also requires engagement with faculty staff and students.”
President Banks also restated the university’s dedication to investing in its facilities.
“Historically, the university spends about $22 million per year for maintenance of our buildings. But that is not enough,” Banks said. “We will commit an additional $8 million annually for this purpose, to be used specifically for our older facilities. Investing in facility improvements will enhance the overall experience at Texas A&M and position us to be more competitive in the future.”
President Banks also addresses the dissatisfaction and loss of interest in education being shared across the country with universities and places of higher education.
“Nationally, there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, even suspicion among the public about universities. Surveys have shown that only half of American adults believe universities have a positive effect on the nation. This is worrisome,” said Banks. “We must demonstrate to the country what a great American university can do to improve the lives of every American. We cannot afford to be casual about how the public sees us. No university can.”
“Business as usual won’t work. If we don’t adapt, we will lose support and relevance. But this I do know: Texas A&M is the model for solving this national dilemma in higher education,” Banks said.
Banks also took a moment to tout the Aggie Spirit and Aggie Way. It’s something she says makes Texas A&M special and different than any other university.
“We must never lose sight of who we are as Aggies. We must remember our history, as it will direct us to our future. And this spirit must be woven into the classroom, the laboratory, and our connection to the world,” said Banks. “The Aggie Way represents the Aggie core values, those wonderful guideposts that lead us in our Aggie lives. Respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity, and selfless service. These values should be visible in both our words and deeds.”
“Some may view Texas A&M’s core values and our can-do spirit of optimism and enthusiasm as obsolete, a relic of another time. The world is increasingly cynical and wants us to be cynical as well,” said Banks. Here at Texas A&M, we do not simply use words like “excellence” and “integrity” on our websites. They aren’t just slogans on a poster. We actually live them. We pursue them and embed them in all that we do. To us, they are a way of life.”
President Bank’s speech can be viewed in its entirety below.
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