Hurley touts a year of more in 2021 State of the University
STEPHENVILLE — More isn’t always better. But in this case it is.
Tarleton State University President James Hurley recapped successes and shared his vision for invigorating tomorrows in his annual State of the University address today, calling 2021 another record-setting year on all fronts.
Climbing enrollment numbers. More academic partnerships with area school districts and two-year colleges. New, progressive degree programs. Expanded innovation and research opportunities. Improved and renovated facilities. Unequaled fundraising efforts. Magnified national visibility.
“When the world changed in 2020, we refused to allow the pandemic to define our fate,” Dr. Hurley said. “We adapted and delivered a top-shelf university experience. We discovered again what we already knew, that together we can accomplish the extraordinary.”
While enrollment at many colleges nationwide remains depressed over COVID-19 uncertainties, Tarleton began fall 2021 up 6.2 percent from its pre-pandemic count of 13,176. By the 40th day of class, numbers eclipsed 14,145. The number of doctoral and master’s students is the largest in university history, and almost 22 percent of the freshman class — one of the most diverse — is Hispanic, bringing the university closer to recognition as an Hispanic-serving institution.
Collaborations with two-year Distinguished College Partners and regional Distinguished High School Partners continue to deepen the university’s commitment to educational attainment and affordability, offering guaranteed scholarships and admission for qualifying students. Tarleton inked packs with more than 80 ISDs and nine two-year colleges and college districts in 2021, providing almost 600 students more than $1.1 million in financial assistance.
Additionally, the Tarleton Promise covered tuition, fees, books, and room and board this fall for more than 120 first-time-in-college students who’d exhausted federal and state financial aid.
“We plan to help even more,” Dr. Hurley said. “The economic vitality of our region depends on it. These multimillion-dollar investments align with our founder’s vision to provide a post-secondary education to students who otherwise might not have the chance. He committed us, and we will follow the path.”
Tarleton added eight degrees over the past academic year, including master’s programs in mechanical engineering and child and family studies. Development of physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant programs is underway to help meet the surging demand for healthcare professionals in North Texas.
President Hurley’s new Faculty Development and Research Initiative, unveiled this fall, will help Tarleton’s expert faculty reshape current knowledge on everything from chemotherapy to cybercrime, providing more time to deliver life-altering breakthroughs. The program reduces classroom teaching to three courses (from four) per semester for 47 tenure-track faculty researchers and backfills instructional capacity with high-achieving graduate students.
“This grow-your-own faculty initiative increases the pipeline of future professors and researchers,” Dr. Hurley said, “It positions Tarleton as a regional powerhouse of discovery and innovation.”
Design is underway for a second building on the Fort Worth campus, with construction set to begin next year and a grand opening planned in 2024. The $66 million Interprofessional Education Building will add 100,000 square feet of classroom and specialized laboratory space and propel the university’s nationally recognized health science and kinesiology programs.
Construction of a $12 million NCAA Division I Aquatics Center is nearing completion, and upgrades abound across the Stephenville campus. Later this month the university will hold a pre-proposal conference for development and operation of a state-of-the-industry hotel and convocation center complete with D-I basketball facilities.
The president noted that economic developers and regional leaders have long expressed the need in Stephenville for a multiuse facility capable of seating large crowds. “It will soon be a reality,” he said.
Dr. Hurley applauded university supporters for their record-breaking philanthropic support in 2021 and announced a milestone in Tarleton’s largest-ever comprehensive capital fundraising campaign — closing in on $90 million and surging ahead of schedule toward a $100 million target. A record 2,700 donors made gifts to Tarleton in fiscal year 2021, which ended Aug. 31.
“We are blessed to have such visionary friends and family who consistently give more, and we are profoundly grateful for their generosity. But more impressive than the dollars is the impact,” he said. “Their gifts provide life-changing educational opportunities for our students.”
In addition to financial assistance, Forward, Together: Investing in Today’s Students for Future Success will expand academic and athletic programs, construct and renovate more campus facilities, and grow the university’s national awareness as a first-choice destination for the brightest minds.
Summarizing Tarleton’s first year as a member of the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference, the president announced the addition of women’s soccer and men’s golf in 2022. Texans earned 37 postseason honors and awards this spring in baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and women’s golf, and showed true grit in their initial FBS football win over New Mexico State.
“On the field, the court, the track and the diamond, Tarleton is poised for national success,” Dr. Hurley said. “Our faculty, staff and students worked hard to accomplish more in 2021. We are on the map and on the move.”