Letters from Leadership Spring 2022

From the President

Dear UT Community,

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

So said author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and was he ever right. My goal is to make UT the highest- impact university in America in 10 years. To do that, we needed a plan, and for more than a year now, hundreds of people across the university have been working hard on that plan. The strategic plan you will read about in this issue will make that goal a reality and not “just a wish.”

As UT’s president, I want and need your engagement with this plan — to understand it and to contribute to it. And I’m happy to report we’ve developed multiple ways for you to do that. You can keep up to date on the work of the strategic planning teams at president.utexas.edu/strategic-plan, and you can also learn by listening to the Strategic Conversations Podcast that will be linked on that page.

The strategic plan will ensure that UT gets the most out of the great work it already is doing, such as with the Giant Magellan Telescope, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and in the arts and humanities with exhibits such as the Blanton Museum’s “Oscar Muñoz: Invisibilia,” all of which you’ll learn more about in the following pages.

Perhaps the most important focus of the strategic plan is people, and I think you’ll really enjoy reading about one of our best people, Jimmy “Pops” Johnson, and his pursuit of excellence outside of his work in the Office of Campus Safety, as well as the dedicated work of some of our graduate students.

Many of us are back on campus now, and day by day, we feel the steady return of normal operations, full capacity and the community spirit that makes a college campus such a special place. As we continue coming back together in the wake of this trying time, remember to take care of yourself.

It’s an exciting time to work at The University of Texas at Austin, and much of that is due to our strategic plan. So with apologies to “The A-Team,” let me close by saying, I love it when a plan comes together.

Hook ’em!


Jay Hartzell signature

From the Faculty Council Chair

I have been a faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin for 20 years. In all that time, my family and I had never made the trek to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. Before the start of the spring semester 2022, we finally drove out west to see the famed telescopes and attend an evening Star Party. During the day, as we toured the facility, we learned about how astronomers don’t look through telescopes anymore to conduct their research (they look at data on a computer screen) and about UT’s involvement with building the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be located in Chile. In the evening, we gathered in the open-air theater beneath a clear sky at dusk. The guide called our attention to a particularly bright body positioned above the horizon, and that night I became a member of a very exclusive group of people who can say that they have seen the elusive planet closest to the sun — Mercury. The faculty, staff, students and volunteers at the observatory were knowledgeable, witty and incredibly passionate about their work, and they were proud to welcome us to the UT campus in West Texas.

The experience was an important reminder that our work at UT stretches far beyond the Forty Acres: in the Austin community with the new off-campus office of the Center for Community Engagement, across the state through such projects as Dr. Martha Menchaca’s new book, “The Mexican American Experience in Texas,” and into South America.  

Enjoy this edition of Texas Connect.

Domino Perez
Faculty Council chair

From the Staff Council Chair

Beginning my final months as UT Staff Council chair, I reflect on the many changes to the landscape of the university over the past 22 years. While the physical layout changes to campus are highly visible, there are other changes that are much harder to see with the naked eye.  

The Erwin Center will soon be removed to make way for the Dell Medical School expansion, and the facility is being replaced by the state-of-the-art Moody Center. The Blanton Museum altered the landscape by adding “Ellsworth Kelly: Austin,” a site of joy and contemplation. Speedway, commonly referred to as the yellow brick road, has eliminated vehicle traffic and made way for safer pedestrian travel.

Issues such as flexible work arrangements, compensation, cost of living, as well as parking and commute times are at the forefront of staff concerns. The Staff Council began in the Office of Human Resources and has evolved to become an advisory committee that communicates staff interests, concerns and recommendations to university leadership.

UT Staff Council celebrates 20 years on campus this year, and I am proud to be part of a volunteer organization dedicated to advocating and working for an improved staff experience. 

Hook ’em, Horns! 

Rhonda Cox
Staff Council chair