System Chancellor

As a part of his plan to increase the UT System’s influence and excellence in higher education, System Chancellor William McRaven hired two leaders from within the System to join his staff.

David Daniel, the current president of UT-Dallas and previous candidate for president of UT-Austin, will start in the newly created roles of deputy chancellor and chief operating officer.

“David Daniel possesses skills that are transferable across the system in managing and leading people, operations, new construction and technology,” McRaven said in a statement. “He is a respected voice on the needs and benefits of higher education to the state of Texas, and he has demonstrated that he knows how to propel an institution forward on a magnificent trajectory. Everything he has done as president of UT Dallas prepares him for this new role, and now the entire UT System will be a beneficiary of his leadership.”

Steven Leslie, who held the positions of provost and executive vice president from 2007–2013, will become the System’s executive vice chancellor of academic affairs.

Leslie, also a current pharmacy professor and researcher at UT-Austin, started his time at the University as an assistant professor in 1974. During his six years as executive vice president and provost, Leslie helped to lay the foundation for the Dell Medical School and oversee the financial aid and registrar offices, both while working with the deans of all 20 colleges.

“My top priorities are to work with and support and facilitate the priorities of the University of Texas at Austin … to work with and support the programmatic needs of all of the University of Texas System academic institutions and to build a strong partnership and working relationship between academic affairs and health affairs to have a strong structure for medical schools reporting through academic campuses,” Leslie said.

Leslie said he believes his experience as provost will be helpful while he works to support the initiatives of all the different campuses. Additionally, Leslie said he wants to further explore the possibilities of adding more health programs to other campuses.

“The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley is establishing a medical school, and it has that same structure [as UT-Austin],” Leslie said. “That makes it important to work on establishing new relationships and processes and procedures to support these two medical schools that report through the academic campuses and perhaps think about if there are other campuses that could benefit from the same time.”

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ The University of Texas at Austin, Marsha Miller

The UT System Board of Regents named Naval Adm. William McRaven the sole finalist to replace Francisco Cigarroa as System chancellor at a meeting on Tuesday.

McRaven, 58, is known for overseeing the operation resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. A UT alumnus, McRaven will retire from his current position as U.S. special operations commander in August.

"We are pleased that he would agree to forgo a host of gainful private sector employment opportunities in order to lead UT System in a time of exciting transition and unparralled growth," board Chairman Paul Foster said during the meeting.

Foster was part of the search committee for the new chancellor along with vice chairmen Steve Hicks and Gene Powell. Although McRaven does not have a background in higher education, Foster said the committee determined the chancellor position does not require one.

"This job is a huge administration job that requires admininstration skills and leadership skills," Foster said. "We felt that the chancellor’s role was more one of management than academia."

Foster said McRaven will officially be appointed chancellor at the August 20-21 regents meeting. Under state law, the regents must name any finalists for chancellor at least 21 days before an appointment is made. Foster said McRaven's salary would be finalized at that time as well.

Once officially appointed by the regents, McRaven will begin his tenure as chancellor in January 2015. In a statement, McRaven said he is excited to return to Austin.

"I thank the Regents for their trust and confidence in my leadership and I look forward to this extraordinary responsibility with enthusiasm and gratitude,” McRaven said.

In May, McRaven delivered the spring commencement address at the University, sharing life lessons he learned from Navy SEAL basic training. A YouTube video of the speech has received more than 2 million views.

"If take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up – if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today," McRaven said in his speech.

A San Antonio native, McRaven graduated from the University in 1977 with a degree in journalism before joining the Navy. He later received his master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 2012, McRaven received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Exes alumni association.

Reporting to the board of regents, the chancellor oversees the System – made up of 15 institutions – and is responsible for its operations.

The transition in leadership comes after the System has been the subject of controversy over the past few years. One of the board's regents, Wallace Hall, has been the subject of a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation for more than a year and could be the first nonelected official in the state's history to be impeached. Hall has been accused by state legislators of overstepping his authority as a regent and working to remove University President William Powers Jr. from his position. 

In early July, Cigarroa received negative backlash from University students, faculty and alumni for requesting Powers to resign by October. Cigarroa cited communication and trust issues with Powers as reasoning for asking him to resign. Cigarroa later agreed for Powers to resign in June 2015, after next year's legislative session.

Foster said he thinks McRaven will be "well-received at all levels." Since McRaven's naming as sole finalist, some state legislators have praised the regents' decision, including Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

"The value of Admiral McRaven's service to our state and nation cannot be overstated," Watson said in a statement. "I'm confident that he will continue to be a strong leader and dedicated public servant."

Cigarroa announced his resignation in February and will remain chancellor through the fall 2014 semester until December. In January 2015, he will return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

This article has been updated throughout since its orginal publication.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

After days of speculation, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and President William Powers Jr. agreed to set Powers’ resignation date for June 2, 2015, giving him almost 11 months to complete his remaining goals for the University.

On July 2, Cigarroa requested Powers resign by October — a timetable that Cigarroa said would allow Powers to finish both his $3 billion fundraising campaign and his chairmanship of the Association of American Universities. In a letter to Cigarroa on July 4, Powers said he would prefer to leave at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

News of Cigarroa’s request to Powers broke on July 4 after it was leaked out to multiple media outlets by unnamed sources. Students, faculty and alumni voiced their support for Powers in reaction. Student leaders started a petition and planned a march. Faculty Council called an emergency meeting to rally support for Powers. Newly minted Texas Exes President Kay Bailey Hutchison released a statement with the alumni association’s chairman calling Powers’ potential firing “a travesty.”

Some state legislators also expressed support for Powers and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations co-chairs asked the regents on Monday not to remove him, citing the committee’s investigation into Regent Wallace Hall.

Before the unexpected decision on July 9, Cigarroa had said he would discuss Powers’ employment with the Board of Regents at the board’s July 10 meeting. While Cigarroa has called Powers time at the University “superb,” he has said repeatedly that his decision is not related to one particular instance, but rather his overall difficult relationship with Powers.

“From my perspective, it’s an issue of ‘Can we trust each other with communications without it going viral?’” Cigarroa said after the July 10 board meeting. “Because it’s really hard to have a productive relationship when a chancellor and a president can’t have discussion on sensitive matters.”

After the news was announced at the emergency Faculty Council meeting July 9, Powers said he was pleased with the agreement.

“We have a great faculty and a great group of students. I’m humbled and gratified by all the work we’ve done together and your support,” Powers said. “This is a career path that makes sense for our family.”

After the meeting, Student Government President Kori Rady said he believes Cigarroa’s decision to keep Powers on until June 2015 was influenced by the support shown by students, faculty and alumni.

“He received massive support from every entity,” Rady said. “I really think that made the difference, and, of course, I think it’s very difficult to fire someone based on communication differences if that person has that amount of support.”


Unfortunate chapter

With Powers’ end date fixed, Chairman Paul Foster expressed disappointment with “insulting and disparaging comments” sent to Cigarroa over the past week and called on the board, System and University to move forward at the July 10 meeting.

“I sincerely hope we never revisit this unfortunate chapter in the history of this great state,” Foster said. “There’s much good work to be done and the state and the nation are watching, and the future is bright.”

After the meeting, both Foster and Cigarroa refused to identify who sent the comments but said they were not threatening and were from parties and individuals outside the board.

Foster, who said he was pleased Cigarroa and Powers agreed July 9 to set Powers’ resignation for June 2015, also asked the Texas Legislature not to try influencing board decisions.

“The point is the board has a role. It’s not political. We’re not politicians,” Foster said after the meeting. “I believe we should be left alone to do our business.”

Clarifying, Foster said he was not criticizing the transparency committee’s investigation into Hall or its right to do so.

The regents also approved recommendations from Cigarroa for improving admissions processes at System institutions. While presenting the recommendations, Cigarroa said his decision to ask Powers to resign was not related to the System’s investigation into the University’s admissions, which will be conducted by an outside firm.

Cigarroa recommended increasing transparency in admissions processes; namely, he proposed prohibiting the consideration of recommendation letters submitted outside the prescribed process in admissions decisions.

“What concerns me is how external input outside the formal admissions process is handled administratively and within the University of Texas,” Cigarroa said.

In May, a limited System inquiry into the University’s admissions determined there was no structured system of wrongdoing, but found instances in which letters of recommendations from legislator sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced admissions decisions. Noting its limited data pool, the inquiry also found letters from legislators were more likely to influence admissions decisions than others.


Search for the next president 

Foster said he will form a search committee for Powers’ replacement in August. According to Cigarroa, the committee “will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.”

Cigarroa announced his own resignation in February to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. His replacement is expected to be announced before the start of the fall 2014 semester. With change ahead, Foster said he hopes the System and the University will start working better together at the July 10 meeting.

“Within a year, we will have a new chancellor and a new president at UT-Austin,” Foster said. “I sincerely hope that much sooner than that we also have a new collaborative and beneficial relationship with the various organizations who share our love for this great flagship university.”


Powers’ final months 

With almost 11 months left as president, Powers will work to finish his $3 billion capital fundraising campaign and help bring the Dell Medical School closer to being ready for its launch in fall 2016, according to UT spokesman Gary Susswein. 

Susswein said Powers will also work to improve the University’s four-year graduation rates. In 2012, Powers set a goal of pushing the University’s four-year graduation to 70 percent by 2016. Graduation rates from the classes of 2007 to 2013 have fluctuated between 50 and 52 percent.

In his July 4 letter, Powers also cited "implementing new and more efficient business models" as one of his goals. The University has slowly moved closer to implementing Shared Services centralization plan despite disapproval from some faculty members. In the letter, Powers also said the 2015 legislative session will have a significant impact on the University, particularly in setting its budget. 

Powers will also work with Cigarroa and his successor to ensure a smooth transition for Powers’ replacement but will likely not be part of the search process, Susswein said. Powers himself said he will return to teaching at the School of Law after his term as president ends next year. 

Additional reporting by YoungJee Jung and Christina Noriega.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

Texas A&M University System has been designated as one of three national biosecurity centers joining Maryland and North Carolina.

The Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing at A&M will work to manufacture drugs as well as fight pandemics and bioterrorism. It is expected to become fully operational by Dec. 2015 and upon completion will work toward researching and developing new vaccines and therapies.

The Daily Texan spoke with A&M System chancellor John Sharp about the new grant for the biosecurity center and the effects it will have on not only the university but all of the collaborators and Texas as a whole.

Daily Texan: What is the significance of U.S. biosecurity centers in this day and age?
John Sharp: Well, it’s the next war unfortunately, either against nature or against terrorism. Scientists know and have been saying it for years, that we are going to have an event sometime in the future that is a pandemic. We don’t know if it’s going to be H1N1 or bird flu or what it is, but that it’s going to kill an estimated 80 million people just like the one that occurred in the early part of last century that killed 30 or 40 million people. Just like the movie “Contagion,” half of it is true, it is going to happen, but the second half is false. There is no response to it that will keep that many people from dying. Of course the other factor is bioterrorism of man-made agents. Either way there is no response in this country to figure it out in a timely manner so the centers have come into play as a sole purpose of aid when a disease, agent or whatever it is occurs. The first part is developing a vaccine, then the second part is producing hundreds of millions of vaccines in a very short period of time.

DT: Texas A&M began placing a bid for the biosecurity center in mid to late March of last year. What was the process like, and how did A&M prepare for the bid?
Sharp: [Brett Giroir, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives] went to the ETF committee to convince them that they needed to make an investment in the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing. Here on the A&M campus, the ETF governor and lieutenant governor speaker and ETF committee agreed to do that and that is also being used in conjunction with UT’s MD Anderson, using that facility for cancer research. So by having that in place it gave Texas a big leg up, in my opinion, to getting the whole grant because we had something that quite frankly no one else had.

DT: Texas A&M had announced potential partners for the project. Now the grant has been awarded and the official team was announced — how was this team assembled? Did the other various schools and pharmaceutical companies approach A&M or vice versa?
Sharp: It was both ways. We were approached by some and some we approached when we saw someone that was really a superstar in this particular category. It was kind of mutual actually, and of course one of our partners in this grant process in the private sector is GlaxoSmithKline. Each one of the three centers has at least one drug company that it was partnered with. I’m not sure if we approached them or they approached us. Probably we approached them when we decided that we were going to go after the grant. But of course nobody really remembers these things.

DT: What does this biosecurity center mean for the campus and the staff with A&M’s emergence as a pharmaceutical manufacturing leader?
Sharp: It is a game changer in that respect, not just for the campus but for Texas because we have become almost instantly the third coast for pharmaceutical manufacturing and research. We fully expect large companies to move significant parts of their operations from other parts of the world to here. That center will obviously have a lot of collaboration with our chemists and physicists, particularly with our engineers in the biomedical department, and because we already have the vet school it is also a big part of that. It would have been very difficult to get this without the vet school because so many of this involves the disease of animals. It will create a thousand jobs right off the bat just in the construction phase, that’s without counting the jobs that will move here to become a part of it.

DT: Some people have compared this new construction to NASA being based in Houston. What is drawing people to make this comparison?
Sharp: I think what is being said is that it’s one of the largest grants to come to Texas since NASA and I think the comparison is accurate in that there will be tons of private sector interests in what goes on with regards to this research and the industries and spin-offs that occur with that.

DT: To my understanding, you were once Gov. Rick Perry’s democratic rival and, moreover, it is a big deal for President Barack Obama to give this new grant to Texas and the three other locations during an election year,. What is the political bipartisan significance of this biosecurity center coming to Texas?
Sharp: It was almost a complete bipartisan effort, it would not have happened without Perry and it would not have happened without Obama and I think what happened with all the rancor and everything that occurs in Congress is that when it comes to defense, we just don’t do the partisan stuff no matter what kind of war it is — you don’t want to be seen on the side of risking lives by stopping a project like this. I think this was too important and I think the Obama administration played it right down the middle and I think Gov. Perry did the same. On top of that we have a citizens committee that is excellent. It was chaired by Alexa Wesner who is in Austin and she became one of our most avid salesmen. We had other people like Larry Faulkner, former president of the University of Texas who was on the committee and absolutely valuable to it, and we just had a lot of people who had a lot of influence and were a large key. Best I could tell, the partisanship never entered into this process, I think it was just good people that made sure that didn’t happen.

DT: If a pandemic like H1N1 were to emerge again, would Texas be the first to receive the vaccines because we are within the vicinity?
Sharp: I sure hope it doesn’t occur within the next three years while we are getting this built, but yes, if it occurs, ground zero for the solution to that problem is going to be right here.

Following Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s reversal on the decision to cancel a high-profile boxing event in El Paso, the border town’s City Council is set to vote today on whether or not to approve a renegotiated contract with Top Rank about the fight set to happen on June 16.

Last Tuesday, Cigarroa cited a “higher than normal” risk assessment with holding the event. Cigarroa reversed his decision on Friday when he said in a video statement online that he would allow the fight between Julio Cesear Chavez Jr. and Andy Lee at the University of Texas-El Paso’s Sun Bowl to happen provided that security was enhanced and the sale of alcohol was prohibited at the event.

“Apparently there were some concerns about connections between some of the cartel members in Mexico with one of the fighters,” said senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

Rodríguez said the local law enforcement, which included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, all agreed there was no specific credible evidence of a threat at the event.

“At the same time it became evident that none of the local law enforcement had been consulted or checked with in regards to this issue and neither had a lot of our local elected officials prior to the cancellation of the event,” Rodríguez said.

Regarding the Chancellor’s conditions on the event, Rodríguez said the ban on alcohol should be lifted since the enhanced security should minimize concern. He said people are likely to drink at block parties or tailgates in any case, and UTEP would benefit from the sale of beer.

Rodríguez also said El Paso was being treated differently than other schools and was being discriminated against. Rodríguez also said the issue has threatened El Paso’s reputation.

“These kind of conditions have not been placed on events before,” Rodríguez said. “It would be one thing if there was a record of problems here at the university with serving beer or alcohol, but there has never been a problem.”

Top Rank fight promoter Bob Arum said he does not understand why the issue arose from the chancellor’s office. Arum said he is suspicious because his son, New York University professor Richard Arum, was quoted as being critical of the UT System in a Washington Post article.

“I would hope this wouldn’t be the case but it may very well be that he connected my son’s name and my name, and this was the result,” Bob Arum said. “This could very well be the smoking gun, because otherwise none of it makes any sense. None of it. Why the chancellor inserted himself into this situation seems very, very strange to me.”

The UT System did not respond to requests for a comment on the situation.

However, professor Richard Arum, who studies higher education, said he thought the situation was an odd coincidence.

“In order for me to do the work I do, I have to assume that people are acting in good faith,” Richard Arum said. “So I have to assume that the Chancellor cares about undergraduate education and is trying to do something to improve it. So I think it’s an odd coincidence — that’s all I think.”

Rodríguez said he unsuccessfully requested the UT Board of Regents to address the procedure Cigarroa took when cancelling the fight in their meeting tomorrow, as well as what standard procedure would be in the future.

“I am going to pursue this with the Board of Regents, if not at this meeting then with a follow up letter to ensure that we have procedures in place to avoid this happening again,” Rodríguez said.

Blueprint for the Future

Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part, weekly series examining System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s plan to increase efficiency across UT institutions.

In an effort to increase revenue, the University plans to be more selective in filing patents for faculty product ideas.

In System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Framework for Excellence Action Plan, he prioritizes generating revenue from technology commercialization, which is the process of patenting products developed through faculty research.

Richard Miller, chief commercialization officer of the Office of Technology Commercialization, said UT is now more selective about which faculty ideas the office patents. Technologies are now judged based on potential for profit and market demand. He said this allows the office to get more protective patents, which are more expensive.

“Universities typically try to save money,” Miller said. “We used to file almost everything that walked in the door.”

Miller said technology commercialization through Texas research universities is increasingly important to the state because it creates more jobs.

“There’s so much focus on this because given the state of the economy, we need to create more technology that will help us as Americans,” Miller said.

Miller said the total revenue from commercialization was about $25.6 million last year at UT.

“I’m looking to make changes that increase the revenue into our office,” Miller said.

He said the Office of Technology Commercialization needs to create more startup companies based on faculty ideas while it focuses on the strongest potential patents.

From 2003 to 2010, the University created 57 startup companies.

“The biggest thing we’re doing is to think more entrepreneurially,” Miller said. “We are not just matchmakers — we are active founders.”

Betsy Merrick, associate marketing director of the Office of Technology Commercialization, said student ideas are sometimes involved in patents and startups.

Based on revenue generated and the number of companies created, the University of Utah ranks first in technology commercialization across the nation and UT ranks 17th, according to a report from the Association of University Technology Managers. The University of Utah ranks 70th in research and UT ranks 28th, according to the report.

Jack Brittain, vice president of Technology Venture Development at the University of Utah, said his university is able to achieve its high technology commercialization ranking by creating more products using cheaper patents, the strategy which UT is moving away from.

Brittain said the University of Utah focuses on student involvement and created about 50 companies last year based on student startups.

“We’re defining experiences for our students while they’re at the school,” Brittain said.

Brittain said many top research universities like UT spend too much time worrying about the strength of patents and their long-term reliability.

“I think there’s a lot of good stuff at UT that could positively impact [society] that gets stuck in the system,” Brittain said.

Printed on September 12, 2011 as: University to increase revenue by commercializing research