As President William Powers Jr. prepares to step down, UT’s next president, Gregory Fenves, said his goals for the University center around addressing persistent issues, such as increasing access to research opportunities and engaging in more productive dialogue with the UT System Board of Regents.
In an interview with The Daily Texan, Fenves, executive vice president and provost, also said he hopes to explore issues of accessbility and affordability, closely echoing his predecessor.
Fenves said his initial goal will be to manage the cost of education, an issue Powers, UT System Chancellor William McRaven and previous chancellors and regents have acknowledged.
“I think the most important issue that’s facing the University is, ‘How do we provide high quality education at a reasonable cost?’” Fenves said.
In an interview with The Daily Texan in April, Powers said the solution to affordability is not clear-cut. He said he was sure that future administrations would continue to grapple with the issue.
“There’s no single bullet,” Powers said. “We just always keep trying [to operate the University] as efficiently and as high quality as you can.”
Fenves said one of his educational goals is to connect undergraduate and graduate students to campus research opportunities.
“What I feel is the most important theme for education at the University of Texas is how we link our undergraduate education mission with our research mission,” Fenves said.
Fenves said his previous experiences as dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering and as provost have helped him form relationships with the regents and UT administrators.
“I can work with almost anybody, and I’ve had good working relationships with members of the board,” Fenves said. “In my current role as provost, and my previous role as dean, I’ve had a lot of interaction with them through the presidential search process and the selection process.”
One challenge preparing for the presidency poses is that issues and opportunities for change often remain unseen until one actually takes the position, according to former UT President Larry Faulkner.
“I don’t think any president should come in with a firm idea of what all [his or her] goals are,” Faulkner said. “I don’t think that you know enough until you’re in the job, what is really ripe, what are the best opportunities for the institution, and in fact, opportunities will appear while you’re serving.”
Faulkner said he would advise Fenves to take steps to learn more about the University but said Fenves is positioned differently than he was when he first came into the job.
“When I came in, I didn’t know the people, [and] I didn’t know the intricate issues facing the institution, and I had to learn about those,” Faulkner said. “Greg Fenves has been here for years now, and so he is more prepared on that scene than I was.”
Working with the state Legislature night pore a greater challenge for Fenves when he becomes president, Faulkner said.
“What I don’t think [Fenves] has had is an opportunity to talk to people in the state,” Faulkner said. “Even though Greg Fenves would have gotten some of that activity while he was dean and provost, it’s nothing like being president.”
Fenves said he has gained valuable experience working with the Legislature in previous roles at UT.
“I have considerable experience working with the Legislature,” Fenves said. “I’ve been working with the Legislature since soon after I joined the University of Texas. I think I’ve developed great relationships with many members. I understand the legislative process.”