April 16, 2014: Enrollment Projections

I am constantly asked about enrollment numbers and where we stand for the Fall. This is an important question that I don’t mind addressing since it is an essential dimension for assessing university viability in higher education. I also am happy to report that the outlook for Sul Ross in the months ahead is good, although this is not the case at many institutions of similar size.

Earlier this week I read an article that indicated that the fate of small colleges and universities around the USA is trending downward. On average, enrollment numbers have fallen 10 percent across the country. Granted that while most of the declines are associated with smaller universities that are either independent or private, and therefore much more expensive than Sul Ross, nonetheless it underscores the fierce competition that smaller institutions face when it comes to student recruitment.

At SRSU, we are fortunate to have initiated a strong enrollment management plan that matches us with students seeking a private school education who find themselves on a public school budget. It also keys on student preferences for campus safety, a small town setting, and college programming that takes advantage of the Big Bend region and our cultural heritage, as well as, innovative degrees in new subjects like computer gaming and exotic ranch management.

So what are the strong numbers that we can report at this time? According to Denise Groves, Vice President for Enrollment Management and our very capable staff in Enrollment and Admissions, we are seeing promising projected increases in both the Summer and the Fall. For the upcoming summer term, comparing the number of students by this time last year who indicated they would be attending classes either in Summer I or Summer II, our projected headcount is ahead by 36.4 percent. Comparing anticipated student credit hour (SCH) production using the same methods, our forecast is for an increase in SCHs of 33.2 percent.

Spring Sully Showcase 2014

Spring Sully Showcase 2014

Shifting to Fall projections, we can look at student enrollment across two primary dimensions, those students who already are enrolled and those who will admit to Sul Ross for the first time (i.e., new applicants). For the former, our data suggest that currently enrolled students on our Alpine campus have greatly surpassed  all expectations in terms of headcount and student credit hour production. At this time last year there were only 61 graduate students signed up for Fall classes compared to 89 so far this year (a 46% increase). In terms of total headcount, we have outpaced this same time last year a whopping 167 percent (94 last year compared to 251 this year). Even better, our SCHs among currently enrolled students is ahead by 207 percent so far (841 versus 2585)!

Spring Sully Showcase 2014

Spring Sully Showcase 2014

In addition to projected gains among returning students we also are excited about likely increases in new freshmen on the Alpine campus. So far the number of new freshman applicants who have met college requirements is 29 percent ahead of this time last year (398 last year versus 514 this year). Our total number of new undergraduates is up 27 percent overall (this includes transfers) and 79 percent for graduate applicants who have met all requirements for admission.

So whenever you see me, ask about enrollments. I love talking about them! :)

April 9, 2014: Faculty Teaching Loads

In Graves-Pierce a few weeks ago, I overheard a faculty member talking to another person working out about the use of part-time faculty on college campuses. I didn’t catch much more than a gist of what was being said but I think it was along the lines that universities rely too heavily on “adjuncts” to teach students and that most every institution is guilty of this practice to a high degree. Just to be clear, there was no indictment that part-time faculty are not capable instructors, but rather, the issue was that they were being overused and underpaid and that the economics was the driving force for this perceived trend in higher education across the U.S.

A few weeks later the issue of adjunct instructors came up again at Kiwanis when one of our members became concerned about a tragic case involving a well-known scholar who died homeless and penniless after 25 years of part-time university teaching. The story was appalling for the picture it painted of how a once iconic professor could apparently be exploited for so long and for so little pay. It was also eye-opening in that the article that told this sad story suggested that some colleges and universities across the country rely on adjuncts to teach up to one-half of their courses. Perhaps this is a criterion that parents should consider when deciding where their children should attend college rather than just assume that all the classes taught at the university of their choice consist of full-time faculty instruction.

I thought about this issue and how it might apply to Sul Ross so I asked my executive assistant, Yvonne Realivasquez, if she could gather some data. The information she assembled from Dr. John Jones in Institutional Research confirmed pretty much what I expected. At SRSU, we have few classes taught by part-time instructors. One, because our full-time faculty prefer to teach any additional courses that department chairs determine are needed to meet student demand, and two, probably because we don’t have a lot of well qualified adjuncts living in the area who are available to teach on a regular basis.

Looking at the data Yvonne gathered, I observed that Sul Ross seems to be well vested in full-time faculty teaching our students. While we do employ adjunct instructors, we do so in only approximately 13% of our classes out of the 776 class sections we offered this Spring semester. I think this amounts to about 38 adjunct instructors on our entire university payroll, which is about the same number I had working for me each semester in the academic department I chaired at my previous institution.

Another issue that usually is linked to the overuse of adjunct instructors is that related to low pay. Low pay can mean that institutions are “exploiting” part-time people by paying them less than they should; low pay may also infer that students in classes taught by adjuncts are not getting their money’s worth since poor pay might be associated with poor preparation or less than ideal qualifications. In urban areas where there tend to be a lot more unemployed or underemployed doctorates who would like to land full-time teaching assignments there is a great temptation for highly educated people to try and make a go of it by teaching whenever an opportunity arises.  Conversely, there also is a great temptation for urban universities to capitalize on the overabundance of supply in the face of limited demand.  For the overly optimistic underemployed, the hope is that somehow teaching several part-time classes for $2000-3000 per course might eventually lead to a permanent faculty position.

Sul Ross doesn’t employ a lot of part-time instructors as I mentioned above. Furthermore, I do not believe that those who teach as adjuncts usually do so simply for the pay. In most cases we find that part-time instructors are either retired from teaching and don’t want to totally disassociate themselves from a profession they love and the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of curious students. These kind of instructors make the best adjuncts, and Sul Ross is fortunate to provide the few that we have with a place where they can continue to play an important role in SRSU student success. Sul Ross subscribes to small class sizes that are taught primarily by full-time, permanent faculty who were hired by academic departments for just that purpose. It might sound a bit old-fashioned but I think other institutions would prefer to do it this way if only they could.

April 2, 2014: Something Completely Different…

I ran by my wife my idea for my latest blog and darn it if she didn’t like it. So I decided to come up with an alternative. She won’t like it either, but then I’m not going to show it to her before I post it. :)

According to my wife, I have been spending too much time about the university and continuing to hammer on its strengths. Sorry, but that is what I see and live each and every day. I love to go to work because it’s a great place to be and there’s lots of good things to do in service to the students, faculty and staff. So instead, I’m going to talk about her.

Caryn

Caryn Thurman

She left me alone for three days this past week while she was off leading a group of Presbyterian Women from central Texas on a spiritual retreat. For three weeks prior to the event she hemmed and hawed around about what she was going to talk about and how she didn’t know anything about the subject and why did they ask her anyway. This is the same pattern that I’ve seen over and over ever since she became a pastor. It’s kind of like, why did I say yes and what have I gotten myself into now?

But the panic before the storm does not last and right up before the deadline inspiration strikes and she somehow manages to pull out something creative and useful. Part of this whole process is her personality as a person who works best under deadline; partly, she also tends to stay very busy and so she doesn’t have a lot of free time to take things slowly and easily. Of course I think the biggest part is waiting for divine inspiration to strike and none of us can force God’s timing on that one.

I’ve also observed another pattern that goes hand in glove with her preparation. It’s the post-delivery part. Once she has shared her message, she is nearly totally surprised that it came off so well, that it resonated so much with someone or maybe several someones who are kind enough to let her know. I see this every week at Church. She works hard to prepare a 15-20 minutes sermon (the shorter ones are the harder ones, kind of like the old adage I would tell my graduate students when I would require them to write a paper: people who don’t have time to write a short paper end up writing a longer one rather than a better one—the better one is the shorter version that has been edited and proofread and edited again).

Caryn 2

From Left to Right – Dr. Rob Kinucan, Caryn Thurman, and Dr. Jim Case
Graduation December 2013

My wife returned from her retreat tired but elated. She was the keynote speaker to 200-300 women and was permitted the honor of leading them in worship on the morning she drove home. She got to partake in communion with a mentee whom she helped to persuade to pursue a calling as a Presbyterian lay minister. Both dogs were happy to have her home and so was I. Now that she’s home, we can return back to the routine of wondering what she will say in worship next Sunday and wondering how she will ever prepare anything good enough to stand and deliver. She’s an amazing woman and I am in awe of her.

Our Two DogsOur Two Dogs

Our Two Dogs

March 25, 2014: Proud Moments

The weather these days has been up and down in Alpine recently, but the low numbers are receding and staying with us fewer and fewer days each time we see them. Of course the weather is relative, and ours is a much more preferable and hospitable climate than most anywhere else in the country on most any given day. For example, earlier this week when I arrived on campus a little after 7AM on Monday it already was in the low 50s. But on TV in the University Center where Sasha customizes the coffee, Al Roker was shivering in New York City with hundreds of onlookers who looked way beyond just cold.

There is much to enjoy about Alpine in addition to the weather. In previous blogs I have mentioned the friendliness of the people and the natural beauty of the Big Bend area. I’ve also talked on numerous occasions about the campus community and how much I enjoy serving faculty who are dedicated to excellence in teaching, staff who have a genuine affection for Sul Ross, and students who have chosen the Lobo family over many others that they could have selected.

I also like being able to pop into the University Center and bump into our athletes and coaches having breakfast. It seems that Coach Pearce now has a full complement of coaches who are enjoying Spring training at Zero Dark Thirty each morning. Driving by Jackson Field this morning on the way to the office the bright lights of the stadium cut like a beacon through the darkness. As I got out of my truck, I could hear the sounds of young men practicing together at a time when most of the town was just starting to wake up. If the sounds I heard are indicative of the season we will have next year then I think we are in for a treat. They were not only loud, but upbeat and in synch, suggesting to me that Coach Pearce has them working well toward some important common goals.

I also ran into Antuan Washington yesterday in Graves Pierce and he mentioned he was enjoying the extra duties as our interim track coach. The team seems to be competing at a high level and I’m optimistic we may have some track team members that will represent Sul Ross at a national level. I also heard from AD Bobby Mesker that we have successfully recruited some volleyball players that will help make a difference in that program thanks to our very enthusiastic new coach, Dewayne Roberts. By the way, our women’s basketball team and senior standout Asrelle Anderson were both recognized by the American Southwest Conference for their outstanding sportsmanship.

On an unrelated note, I heard from my Executive Assistant yesterday that we may not be able to unveil the new statue of Sullivan Ross the week of Spring graduation after all. According to Paul Tadlock, the foundry will not likely have it finished until June which leaves us scratching our heads a bit wondering when the next best opportunity for an unveiling will occur. We’ll continue to monitor the production progress and consider likely dates, including our donor’s availability to visit campus.

There is lots to be proud of at Sul Ross!

 

March 19, 2014: Spring Plans

I think it’s been about 10 days since my last blog so I thought I better get back into the groove following a restful Spring Break. By the way, for those who have fallen out of the habit of looking forward to Spring Break, either because you are no longer attending college, teaching, or have a son or daughter in school, let me suggest that you might re-connect to the glory of Spring Break by signing up for an on-line class. Then you too could look forward to it just like we do as educators, students, and university staff!

Backing up a bit, my previous blog was composed on an SWA flight to Dallas. That very next day several university presidents and chancellors were privileged to attend a morning seminar by former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Not only was this event held in the new George W. Bush Presidential Library at SMU, it also was followed with an informal talk by the former President as well who very capably hosted a luncheon for fifty or so of those fortunate to attend. His candor and humor was much appreciated at the event, as well as his generosity in posing with each of us for individual photos.

DC visitOur Texas State University System group led by Chancellor McCall left for Washington, D.C. later that same afternoon. Wednesday and Thursday saw us visit with nearly every member of the Texas delegation to the U.S. Congress, including Pete Gallego, Mike McCaul, Henry Cuellar, Mac Thornberry,  Joaquin Castro, and John Cornyn to name but a few. We even got an insider’s tour of the U.S. Congress that was nothing less than impressive, although we ran out of time to visit my personal favorite, the U.S. Library of Congress. If you haven’t visited our nation’s capital in a while or ever, I highly recommend it. I also particularly like the FDR Memorial that was opened only a few years ago.

Following our whirlwind tour of DC, each of the four TSUS presidents on the trip returned to our respective campuses in time for the Spring Break exodus. My plans included a fishing trip to Mexico where we didn’t exactly catch many fish or any  of particularly great size (after all, it’s called fishing, not catching), but I enjoyed time with my 70+ year-old dad who looks forward to this annual and historic fishing trip for the several weeks leading up to it almost as much as I do. I wish I had pictures to share but they would have to be of the five grungy looking fishermen who were overmatched all week long by the trophy black bass we thought couldn’t possibly resist the plastic worms, lizards, and spinner baits that we threw at them until our arms nearly fell off.

Spring Break also signifies the home stretch for the academic year. Not only are we half-way through the Spring semester, we also are nearing the end of the school year and rushing forward to graduation. Our search for a President continues with the deadline for applications looming large by the end of this month. Kind of like fishing, the committee will be allowed to dip into the live well after that and see what turns up. Hopefully, they will spot quite a few that are keepers.

Planning ahead I want to report that I still am optimistic that our unveiling of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross will coincide with Spring commencement. But it ultimately will depend on the foundry and whether they can produce the finished product in time for delivery to Alpine. Even further down the road, plans are underway for a special musical tribute/performance by a very talented Sul Ross alum (this is in addition to the performance we hope to enjoy by a new marching band that we intend to introduce next Fall) at homecoming in November. Alumni will not want to miss being in town for the Presidential reception in their honor, the Motown tribute performance that same night, the Homecoming parade and football game the next day, nor the Saturday evening Awards Banquet. Stay tuned for additional details.

 

March 4, 2014: No place like home

Just returned from a TSUS Regents’ meeting and an alumni luncheon. Travel is an education of sorts. It helps provide perspective and it also helps increase appreciation for home.

Whenever I leave Alpine I pretty much can expect the weather to be less Alpine-like (meaning less ideal) than anywhere I go. Colder elsewhere than here in the winter, hotter everywhere else than here in the summer, and always more humid.

This past week’s schedule took me to San Marcos, a place I like a lot. Hospitality was great and we dined in the newly updated football stadium and also attended the opening of an opulent, if not breathtaking, performing arts center.

Riding back, Cesar Valenzuela and I talked about our Sul Ross campus and how it compares with others in the system. Our Alpine campus is one of natural beauty and simplicity. We even discussed why we don’t have showpiece buildings. True, we have a new $1.4M football field house, a fantastic Gallego Center, the best residential housing in Texas, a great baseball park, and a modern student union, but none of these are particularly flashy. Why?  Probably because our history and setting are practical like the people who pioneered and populated West Texas.

Ours is a rancher’s mentality. Why build something for more if we can build a darn good one for less? Why serve lobster bisque and white wine if you can put steak and enchiladas and sweet tea on the table?

Yep, we’re not all that fancy at Sul Ross, Trappings aside, but we do appreciate great performances and unique poetry, good food and good company. For me I prefer the West and the twang that comes with it!

Incidentally, I wrote this blog on a plane to Big D, before heading out the next day to DC. I already miss the Big Bend!

 

 

February 26, 2014: New Developments on Campus

I’m heading to a Texas State University System’s Board of Regents Meeting in San Marcos this week (my first one as interim president) but before I go I wanted to catch everyone up on some exciting developments at Sul Ross that I may not have previously mentioned. I’m also asking Steve Lang and Yvonne Realivasquez to supply lots of pictures to help supplement this week’s blog since I am rushing to get this one off before hitting the road.

As a guy who always has appreciated motorized vehicles as a major source of preoccupation, first up I want to recognize that Sul Ross has acquired a pride-worthy source of transportation to replace our old 30+ passenger bus with something considerably larger. Our athletes will be travelling in style when we begin basketball play offs this week thanks to the efforts of Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez who found, negotiated, and purchased our new 40-passenger charter bus. And thanks to Steve Lang, we have an excellent story to tell about the acquisition and photos to boot!  Read the Story Here

New 40 Passenger Lobo Bus

New Lobo Bus

Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez

Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am also excited to announce that last week I signed an agreement with the Dixon Water Foundation to accept a $1.2M donation that will establish an endowed chair in Natural Resources Management. I was honored to meet and dine with Mr. Clint Josey, the namesake on the endowment, and Mr. Robert Potts, CEO for the Dixon Water Foundation to sign the agreement that will appoint last year’s Outstanding Sul Ross Professor, Dr. Bonnie Warnock as the first ever Clint Josey Endowed Chair for Sustainable Ranch Management at SRSU.

From Top Left to Bottom Right: Dave Rogers, Bonnie Warnock, Rob Kinucan; Clint Josey, Quint Thurman, Robert Potts

From Top Left to Bottom Right: Dave Rogers, Bonnie Warnock, Rob Kinucan; Clint Josey, Quint Thurman, Robert Potts

A couple of important additions to campus that will make a big difference to our future. First, the addition to our website of the final version of our Strategic Plan which was begun last Spring thanks to the input of several dozen people who came to campus to assist in the process. This planning document will serve as a snapshot of who we believe ourselves to be and as a guide that will help to shape our priorities as an institution. Never to be mistaken for a completed and unchanging document, but rather, as a foundational touchstone from which we might build upon and branch out. Second, to help us along on our journey, a daily allotment of the best assortment of key coffee products also are now available at the Morgan University Center. Pictured here is Sasha, our very charming and capable barista. 

Sasha Estrada and Sul Ross Student

Sasha Estrada and Sul Ross Student

Finally, permit me to point out once again that the search for the 12th President is underway. Last week the position was posted and soon thereafter a website was published to allow interested parties to check the progress of the search. I understand that the initial call volume inquiring about the position was strong and so far 8 applicants have made their interest official. So if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, please send them to our website!

Presidential Search Webpage

 

 

February 21, 2014: Pride in Sul Ross

At Kiwanis we have a practice of putting up a dollar for every brag we care to share with the group, not unlike a similar practice probably conducted at many civic organizations. I’ve probably “spent” a  few dozen dollars over my year and a half in the Alpine Kiwanis chapter bragging on my wife, my family, and most often, on Sul Ross. A lot of the other Kiwanians also contribute a lot of money at each meeting “bragging” about Sul Ross and other items similar to mine.

I think it is perfectly fine to talk up the things which you are the proudest. We do live in Texas and to some extent, it probably is expected (Great State, Great People—that would cost me $2 if I said it at lunch on Wednesdays). But this morning had I been at a Kiwanis function I would have emptied my wallet talking about Sul Ross.

Early this morning I had the distinct privilege and honor of kicking off the 28th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Marshall Auditorium to a packed house. It also was a captive audience to share with them the benefits of Sul Ross as the #1 most affordable institution of higher education in Texas. Best residence halls, food, and teachers too, all with a low student to faculty ratio of less than 17 to 1. Great weather to boot, although I confess I forgot to tell them I think we have the most beautiful campus in the state and perhaps the best college town too (I would have been out of money at that point had there been a dollar brag jar!).

I also invited those several hundred people in attendance to apply for college admission at Sul Ross since they obviously could recognize a good deal when they saw one. Of course they laughed since probably most had already been to college and quite a few were my age or older. Nevertheless, I also implored them to share the Sul Ross message with their kids who might be thinking of going to school, and even more likely, their grandkids. Lastly, I shared with the audience a poem that I wrote to welcome them to our campus.

Speaking of kids, our own “kids” on campus, who I prefer to recognize as “young adults” (because that is who they have become by the time they show up in Alpine thanks to parenting efforts of a supportive family), I have enjoyed watching them discover the new Bronc Buster statue that was re-located from in front of Lawrence Hall to the anterior of the Museum of the Big Bend. This statue, generously commissioned and donated several years ago by Mr. and Mrs. Al Micallef, was hardly noticed by our student body at its previous location. Now when students walk by they really are seeing it for the first time. And what an impression it makes!

And speaking of the MOBB, last night, my wife and I attended the Trappings Cowboy Tales and Dinner at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas. It was an evening of fond exaggerations and entertaining  Cowboy poetry.  I had the pleasure of sitting with Museum Board members and potential future members.  This was a great way to start out an early weekend of West Texas hospitality.  Later tonight, the Preview Party at the Museum promises to be chock-full of western memorabilia, art, along with new and old friends.

By the way, my wife is aware of my gift for writing poetry (meaning nada), and hence, asked me to keep it short if I was going to venture to give it a try. Having never done anything like this before since elementary school, what I recited is written below. You can be the judge if I should ever attempt this again.

Welcome to Sul Ross
We’re glad all ya’ll are here
To enjoy cowboy poetry
And evenings of good cheer.

Our campus is yours to come and go as you please
To bask in Alpine weather
And take in a fresh breeze.

There’ll be no cowpies to step in
Or decisions to consider
Just kick back and listen to these long-winded kidders.

You’re in Far West Texas
The Greatest of Places
So sit back and enjoy
Our Wide Open Spaces.

February 17, 2014: Busy, Busy, Busy!

Things are heating up at Sul Ross. Temperatures soared into the upper 80s this weekend, just in time to enjoy college softball and baseball in Alpine, as well as the Love Your Community 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Alpine Food Pantry and university scholarships. As an optimist, I am inclined to think that Spring has sprung and our trademark beautiful weather has returned for the year. Of course, I also have heard from long-time residents not to get too excited too soon since perennials planted before March 1st tempt the return of freezing weather.

Campus is heating up in other ways as well. In addition to recent softball and baseball games and the 5K Walk/Run (which was a huge success thanks to Karen Brown and company), Lobo men’s and women’s basketball teams competed on Saturday making it a college sports enthusiast’s dream day. And if this were not enough to fill a busy calendar we have several other significant events scheduled this week. Tomorrow begins with a visit by U.S. Representative Pete Gallego’s staff to learn more about exciting developments around campus. Immediately following that, our excellent theatre department wraps up its final showings of “Hamlette,” first to an audience of 500 middle schoolers from out of town (undoubtedly future Lobos), and later in the day to students from Alpine ISD (also future Lobos we hope!).  The next day we host another activity on campus, the San Antonio Livestock Event (SALE) address. This year’s presentation will be provided by Texas A & M Professor Dr. Jim Heird. His talk, entitled “Current Issues in the Equine Industry,” will begin at 7:30 PM in the University Center Conference Rooms. Thanks to the success of SALE, more than $1.5 million has been raised over the past  25 years to support student scholarships at Sul Ross.

Thursday evening Trappings comes to Sul Ross with a kick-off dinner in Marathon at the Gage Hotel. The next morning at 10 AM in Marshall Auditorium the Annual Cowboy Poetry extravaganza begins for the 28th consecutive year on our campus. Noted storytellers and poets including Allan Chapman and Rodeo Kate, Chris Isaacs, Cowboy Celtic and Amy Hale Auker will be on hand non-stop through Saturday to regale audiences with tall tales and homespun poetry suitable for hat and boot wearers of all sizes. Later that day the Museum of Big Bend opens at 5 PM for a well-catered reception to honor numerous artists who will be on hand to meet and greet prospective patrons as the MOBB kicks off its most prominent fundraising event of the year. Trappings events continue through the weekend with gatherings planned at the Reata on Friday night and culminating with the official opening exhibit, sale and reception the Museum of the Big Bend on Saturday evening.

The following week is jam packed too, with various Lobo athletes playing road games throughout central Texas, a Texas State University Systems Board of Regents Quarterly meeting taking place in San Marcos, a “Meet the New Head Football Coach”  alumni luncheon in San Antonio at the Oak Hills Country Club (organized by Ken Batchelor—Thanks Ken!) at noon on Friday, and then tentatively, a signing ceremony later that same afternoon in Uvalde to mark an agreement with Mexico to  accept students into Sul Ross on a more seamless basis.

So per usual this time of year, it is a sprint to Spring Break and mid-terms soon thereafter to plunge us into the second half of the term. So let’s keep going Lobos in a positive direction. There’s much to do and much to look forward to!

February 12, 2014: Great State of Texas!

OK, I admit it. I like Texas. It’s a great place to live, work, and vacation. That would have been really tough to say before my wife and I moved to the state more than 12 years ago, especially since we are originally from Oklahoma. Talking this weekend with a best friend and colleague who was born in Conroe and now has the misfortune to live in Florida, we discussed his current quest to move back to be closer to family and I chided him for living anywhere else.

Of course, no one who lives in Texas has to be sold on it. It is simply the case that if you live here, there’s a very high probability you are not interested in living anywhere else. It’s usually also true that if you are from here, chances are you are looking for a way to move back if you ever made the mistake of leaving. That’s one thing that works to great advantage for colleges and universities when they hire faculty and staff. While we always seek to hire the most qualified applicants, everything else being equal, if they’ve got Texas roots then we know they’ll probably fit better and be more likely to accept a job offer that brings them home.

Aside from our weather, and the vastness of the State and its topographical diversity (yes, we have mountains and yes, I get to gaze at them every day outside of my office window!), it is the people who live in Texas who make it the best of all choices. An article in this morning’s news is a case in point. The headline that caught my eye was this “Big-Hearted Texas Man Pays Off Lunch Account Deficits for 60 Kids.”

It seems that a Houston man by the name of Kenny Thompson heard about an incident in Salt Lake City, Utah where school lunches were thrown in the trash to punish kids with delinquent lunch account balances. Although I didn’t read that article (didn’t want to really), it apparently had to do with shaming them into paying up the next time or risk being embarrassed. After hearing about this, Mr. Thompson inquired about the number of negative lunch balances at the elementary school his son attended in Houston and where he, as a parent, volunteered his time as a school tutor and mentor. Mr. Thompson proceeded to settle the account for 60 children, to the tune of $465 of his own money.

The story of Mr. Thompson’s generosity and compassion made my day. And what he said during an interview with KPRC radio when asked about it made me smile: “[Children] don’t need to worry about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.”  He went on to say “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress,…[it] was the best money I ever spent.”

I’m glad to wake up every day in Texas. It’s the greatest of States. But even better, it’s great to live in a place with people who have an attitude like Kenny Thompson. Maybe he’s a Lobo? If he’s not, he should have been! Over the next several weeks we will begin to design and develop a mentoring plan for next year’s incoming freshmen students. I hope we can unleash our own generosity of spirit that sets us apart as a campus community that cares about our students.