President Benson Shares Outlook for University at Annual Address
In his annual State of the University address, President Richard C. Benson laid out the current status of the institution as well as his vision for the future: to be one of the nation’s best public research universities and one of the world’s great universities.
State of the University Address
Read highlights from President Richard Benson’s presentation here.
In front of nearly 800 faculty, staff, students and guests, Benson declared that UT Dallas is a Tier One institution. He stressed that the University will continue activities that last year helped launch it into the ranks of universities with the Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
To be nationally competitive in institutional reputation, the University must attract the best students, faculty and staff, and secure funding for “impactful” research, he said.
“At the core, there’s nothing more important than for us to be providing excellent instruction in in-demand fields,” Benson said. “We have to continue to do research that is meaningful and impactful.”
Benson highlighted several recent national rankings that place UT Dallas among the top universities for low student debt, as well as a best value for students’ tuition dollars.
“Everybody who looks upon what we deliver here at UT Dallas, and what we charge for that privilege, concludes that we are a ‘best buy,’” Benson said. “We work very hard to make sure students can come here, get a great education, and when they graduate, they’re not burdened by great debt.”
Benson said that the University’s focus on STEM and management disciplines continues to draw exceptional students — from Texas and the rest of the nation — seeking skills necessary to be successful in a modern world.
“We are the fastest growing university, by percentage growth, in the state of Texas. That’s for good reason. Students want to come here,” Benson said. “More and more we’re gaining a national reputation.”
While UT Dallas students graduate with marketable skills, Benson also said it’s important for them to have an appreciation for the broader elements of the human experience, especially in the arts.
“There is a pretty good art community in North Texas, and across the Metroplex,” he said. “As time goes forward, I hope we become major players, a destination for people who want to come and participate in the good things that are going on at UT Dallas.”
Benson also touted the academic performance of the incoming freshman class, noting that about a third of those students are in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and about two-thirds are in the top 25 percent.
This fall, 157 National Merit scholars are among the freshman class, one of the highest numbers in the state.
“It is really quite stunning,” Benson said. “It says a lot about the programs we have here, that so many National Merit scholars would choose to come to UT Dallas.”
The president said that the number of international students applying to graduate programs at UT Dallas has dropped this year. Increasing international applications is one of the University’s priorities.
“We want to make sure that people of all backgrounds are finding good opportunities to come to study and to work at UT Dallas,” Benson said.
Benson said that UT Dallas will be the third emerging research university in Texas to meet the eligibility requirements to qualify for additional research dollars from the state through the National Research University Fund (NRUF). Inclusion is based on meeting several benchmarks in areas such as endowment size, external research funding, quality of faculty and freshman class, and number of doctoral degrees awarded each year.
“We’ve done a very good job to leverage our funded research with other resources to get up and over the $100 million mark for total research spending, one of the key milestones for qualifying for additional funding from NRUF,” he said.
Research and graduate education partnerships with UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas are also expanding, especially in biomedical engineering. UT Dallas already has researchers in dedicated space at the medical center, and a new bus line makes traveling to the Dallas complex more convenient for faculty and students.
“UT Southwestern is one of the world’s great medical schools and research hospitals. We are so fortunate to be neighbors. And they like us as much as we like them,” Benson said. “I see this as a great growth area for UT Dallas. It’s something that really excites me.”
Changing Face of Campus
Benson also highlighted new buildings and facilities that opened on campus since 2016 including the Student Services Building Addition, Canyon Creek Heights apartments, the Brain Performance Institute and the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center. A new engineering building and a new science building are slated to open in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
“The Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center is really going to be a major facility for us,” Benson said. “As our alumni body grows and matures, it’s just great that we have a way to welcome them back to campus.”
Philanthropic support has provided critical funding to see these projects to completion.
“This is a great thing,” Benson said. “It’s good that folks in the community and our alumni and others want to help us with this.”
Many of Benson’s priorities moving forward are reflected in a draft strategic plan he is developing with input from administrators, faculty, staff and students.
The plan includes several broad themes, including attracting talent, enriching the student experience, creating a sustainable financial future, global engagement, cultural enrichment, research innovation and driving economic development locally and around the world.
“The Metroplex is one of the most dynamic, vigorous, interesting places on the planet. This place is booming,” Benson said. “It’s exciting to be able to connect with that. We will make sure that we take full advantage of being here in the Metroplex.”
Benson said that in addition to completing the strategic plan, the University will address some challenges, including an upcoming accreditation process, and critical hires in administrative and academic areas.
To conclude his address, Benson debuted “Why I Love UTD,” a video produced by the Office of Communications that features students sharing what makes the 48-year-old University special.
“This is an unusual place. Most universities you go to, they’ve been around for 100 or 200 years, they’re well-established in their traditions,” Benson said. “Not so at UT Dallas. This is a new school, a rapidly changing university, all for the better. It’s exciting, and the future is equally bright. It’s going to be an awful lot of fun going forward.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].