Onward, Together – July 1, 2021 (Employee email) - The University of Tulsa
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Onward, Together – July 1, 2021 (Employee email)

Dear colleagues,

Today, I am honored to start my term as the 21st president of The University of Tulsa. I look forward to working with you as we – together as a team – steward TU over the coming years. Thank you for your trust, your enthusiasm and your warm welcome.

During the next few months, you will hear more from me about my optimistic vision for TU. But I would like to begin by offering a few words about my personal style and how I see the challenges ahead.

TU is already a remarkable institution. I believe TU offers an outstanding education about which we can be enormously proud. Having previously taught at TU and Harvard’s Kennedy School and now coming back to Tulsa after having served as a professor at the University of Virginia, I can say that the faculty, students and instructional quality at The University of Tulsa are absolutely top-notch. I am exceedingly proud of TU’s programs, students and faculty, and this is true across all departments and degrees.

I know that TU cannot thrive without vital programs in all of the bedrock disciplines that make a university worthy of the name. I intend to deepen our engagement with the humanities and social sciences. These areas are, after all, my first and enduring love. At the same time, TU offers professional programs in business, law and health care and has a renowned college of engineering and natural sciences; expansion into the exciting areas of cybersecurity and energy transitions, while growing our health care programs, promises opportunities we must enthusiastically pursue. STEM and professional degrees on one hand and the liberal arts on the other should be, indeed must be, viewed not as competing, but rather as complementary pursuits. Our challenge is to integrate all of these curricular elements in a way that produces better citizens. That, after all, is what a university is about.

I know full well that the mission of a university is not the same as that of a commercial business. A university is a social enterprise committed to excellence in teaching, research and public impact. Nevertheless, to be successful, its total revenues must, with some fluctuations, exceed its total expenses; our best efforts will always be subject to budgetary constraint. As president, it is my job to ensure the long-term financial solvency of TU without compromising our academic mission. To that end, it is imperative that we put as much effort into growing revenue as we devote to scrutinizing expenses; the solution to TU’s budget shortfall does not lie in permanent austerity. To prosper in the years to come, we must increase the size of our student body, find auxiliary sources of income and dramatically improve retention and graduation rates. These are existential needs, and I am committed to meeting them.

There is so much for me to learn in the coming days and weeks and beyond. I look forward to getting to know each of you. I want to hear about your interests, your experiences and what inspires you to be at TU. I am eager to get to know this university better so we can all help it achieve its vision to be one of the outstanding colleges in the nation. I am counting on you to help me learn. I also ask your forgiveness as I inevitably make mistakes along the way.

Two last things. I have asked Jennifer Bennett, a professor in the business school, to serve as my interim chief of staff. She will be a great addition to the team. I also have established an email account to receive comments and suggestions from the broader public: IdeasforTU@utulsa.edu. Emails to this address come directly to the personal accounts of Jennifer and me. Please spread this address to as many people as you can; there is wisdom in the crowd.

I wish you a successful summer, and I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and say hello if you see me around campus. I also encourage you to schedule a meeting with me so that I can get to know you better. I think you will find me accessible, curious and always welcoming of your opinions.

Let’s make this a great year. Go TU!

Very respectfully,