Michael Young, 25th president of Texas A&M, delivered an update on university activities and initiatives in his fourth State of the University on Thursday in the Memorial Student Center’s Bethancourt Ballroom.
During the speech, Young offered an optimistic assessment of the present condition of the university.
“What you do matters,” Young said. “It is of consequence. It makes a difference. It changes the world. Because of your efforts and contributions, the state of the university is strong and vibrant.”
Young discussed three themes in his speech — “why now matters,” “who we are” and “what we will do next” — and elaborated on what they meant for the continued prosperity of A&M. However, he also pointed out that the university still had room for improvement.
“That is not to say that we are without challenges,” Young said. “We as Aggies are conditioned to face and overcome challenges, to strive for excellence every day, to celebrate success and to plan for more.”
Prior to President Young’s speech, Student Body President Mikey Jaillet introduced him by noting that Young has been instrumental in further elevating the profile and prestige of A&M both nationally and internationally.
“At Texas A&M, he has envisioned and implemented a strategy to help the university continue to rise among the ranks of major public universities,” Jaillet said. “[He has earned] renown for innovative programs such as the President's Excellence Fund and our Student Success Initiative, as well as supporting our ‘Lead by Example’ campaign, which has become the most successful fundraising campaign in the history of our university.”
Young reflected on the “Vision 2020” university roadmap adopted in 1999, outlining the progress that has already been made in fulfilling the stated objectives and promises of this and other more recent initiatives.
“We are at the culmination of Vision 2020 — [a] bold, well-crafted strategic plan created in 1998 by visionary prescient Aggies,” Young said. “The aspiration of these leaders set a path that leads to our designation as a Tier 1 research university as well as a member of the Association of American Universities. … We are also in the final push of our four billion [dollar] ‘Lead by Example’ fundraising campaign. … This campaign is scheduled to end at the end of 2020, and I am proud to announce that we are now at 3.6 billion dollars in that campaign.”
Young highlighted some of the milestones that A&M has achieved both academically and in research. A&M received a total of $992 million dollars in research in 2018 — the largest in A&M history. Moreover, present enrollment stands at 69,228 students — the largest in the country — with the shortest average time-to-degree, highest six-year graduation rate and best lifetime return-on-investment among Texas public universities.
“We are now a Top 20 university [in research funding] across public and private universities alike,” Young said. “Because of the growth in the state and tremendous demand in what we as a university have to offer, we have grown by the equivalent of three universities in the last 15 years.”
Young mentioned the myriad construction and infrastructure maintenance projects that are currently ongoing or have recently been completed on the College Station campus, such as the Student Service Building, as well as those in Galveston, including projects like the Main Academic Complex. He stressed that these projects serve as vital investments toward the success of current and future Aggies.
“I referenced our growth earlier,” Young said. “It is critical that we provide all the infrastructure and critical resources for everyone on our campuses to have optimal learning and research opportunities. This investment is necessary to ensure that we serve that growth and continue to provide the highest quality education environment possible.”
Looking to the future, Young emphasized that the university would focus on six priority areas, including faculty investment, the Student Success Initiative, enhancing graduate education, supporting emerging areas of critical research, academic innovation and staff advancement.
“We look forward to receiving your input as we implement all these programs,” Young said.
To assist in outlining A&M’s future, Young said that the process of developing the next roadmap to take A&M through 2030 is ongoing.
“[We] cannot and should not look only to short-term priorities,” Young said. “In order to help our university thrive, the Provost is chairing a process to create a strategic plan for our university for the next 10 years.”
The Vision 2030 Committee will be hosting open forums throughout the semester to solicit public feedback on various aspects of the plan. More information for these events is available at provost.tamu.edu/Strategic-Planning.
Young also reflected on the passing of former President George H.W. Bush and how the A&M community rallied to pay tribute to him as he was laid to rest on the grounds of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum. He said that A&M will continue to honor the 41st president through the additions he helped make to the university.
“We love President and Mrs. Bush,” Young said. “We will honor their memory on this campus and beyond, through the Presidential Library, to the students who graduate from the Bush School of Government Public Service and in always striving to live the Core Values that this university shares with his enduring legacy of service.”
Young concluded by reiterating the role that all members of A&M play in contributing to the university's good fortunes.
“As we move into 2020 with vigor and a firm commitment to the success of this institution, and to each other, let us be grateful for what we have been given, optimistic about the future and enthusiastic about serving our university, our community, our state, nation and world,” Young said.