September 11, 2017
Dear faculty colleagues,
I would like to begin by thanking you for the support and compassion you have shown students during these first weeks of the semester. Of the more than 17,000 UT Austin students who come from areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, almost 1,500 requested accommodation through the class absence request form. For affected students, we are working to address financial aid concerns and help those who cannot return to campus this semester. Many impacted students are now back on campus and attending classes. They are working hard to get caught up on the material they missed, but Harvey will continue to affect them, and many throughout Texas, for years to come.
The academic accommodations you have provided make a very real difference in students’ lives – not just today, but well beyond. For this, I am grateful.
I wanted to share some information that sheds even greater light on the lifelong impact you have on your students.
Last fall, we partnered with Gallup to survey alumni in an effort to better understand what made the UT experience a meaningful one. This national survey aims to understand UT alumni perceptions of their university experiences and how they related to their well-being across multiple dimensions — purpose, social, physical, community, and financial — and benchmarks these results compared to our national peers.
Across the five categories of well-being, UT Austin graduates are faring better than their national and their AAU peers. Why? One of the most interesting, though not unsurprising, takeaways from this report is the significant role that you — our faculty — have had on the lives of students.
Gallup has identified six college experiences that correlate with increased well-being and workplace engagement later in life. They include:
- Having a professor who cared about them as a person
- Having a professor who made them excited about learning
- Working on a project that took a semester or more to complete
- Having a mentor (most frequently a faculty member) who encouraged their hopes and dreams
- Having an internship
- Being involved in extracurricular activities
UT alumni overwhelmingly cited faculty caring about them as a person or making them feel excited about learning as key drivers of their success, higher than our national peers.
This reinforces what we already know and highlights the vital role that you play in your students' lives and development. UT faculty are deeply invested in our students, and it makes a measureable difference in their lives well beyond graduation. Every minute you spend with a student – whether inside or outside the classroom – matters more than you may sometimes realize.
After the tragedy our campus experienced in May, and now with Harvey, I have witnessed an extraordinary level of support and compassion among the faculty for our students. It has made a real and substantial difference. I have received messages from students and parents expressing gratitude for the support you have provided.
Given recent events at UT and those across the country, particularly in my former home of Charlottesville, your students are looking to you now more than ever. In August, you received an email from Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs, sharing resources to help students in need. I recommend you keep these on hand in case you notice a student needing assistance.
I am so proud to be part of this community. This report reinforces the reputation our faculty have as leaders in their academic fields and in the classroom. Your commitment clearly changes the lives of our students.
Best of luck on a productive semester.
Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Texas at Austin