“Putting the Big Rocks in the Jar.”

Date of release: 08/27/02

President Denise M. Trauth

Good morning. I am absolutely delighted to be here! This has been quite a summer — for John and me and for Southwest Texas.

You all have made us feel so welcome; we are overwhelmed by your hospitality and deeply grateful. I want to thank the Search Committee, especially. I know the hours you devoted to finding a president for Southwest Texas, but I want your peers here to know how impressed I was with you and your process. Yours were the first faces John and I put onto Southwest Texas; we immediately liked the university itself because of you. And of course I think you and the Board of Regents did a wonderful job — we’re here!

Bob introduced John to you earlier. John and I have been married and have shared parallel academic careers for almost 29 years. He was even my boss once along the way. We have two daughters and three grandchildren. We’ve taught together, we’ve conducted research together, and now we’re looking forward to this new part of our lives together. We’re very glad to be here.

I would like to express my gratitude to Jerry and Cathy Supple for their gracious help in our transition process. Several reporters have asked me what it’s like to follow such a popular and successful president. And I tell them — and you — it’s humbling. But if I had the choice of following a president who left the institution in excellent shape or one who left it in a state of disrepair, it’s an easy choice for me. At the same time, I feel good about the skills that I bring to this position and to the needs of Southwest Texas — it’s a good fit.

When I first began to look at SWT, I knew what most people know about it: that it’s Lyndon Johnson’s alma mater; that it’s in the beautiful Texas Hill Country; and that it’s an old and distinguished school founded on teacher training. When I looked more closely, I found an institution rich in diversity, academic programs, faculty credentials and student support. What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t know, about the place, though, is what the people and the campus culture are like. I was looking for a place where the people who are the university sincerely care about the university, a place where the people share a vision for the institution and are looking for leadership to help them get there.

That’s what I believe I have found here. It is apparent to me that you all love this place and you like each other. And you’re willing and eager to work together to make SWT one of the preeminent higher education institutions in the nation.

No wonder I’m delighted to be here.

* * *

Years ago Southwest Texas began the tradition of honoring several colleagues at the beginning of the academic year. Their work is representative of the outstanding teaching, scholarship and service in which many, many of you are constantly engaged. I am honored to continue this tradition of recognizing and rewarding some of the best among us.

Andrea Allely, president of the Alumni Association, will help make our first presentation. Each year the Alumni Association recognizes an outstanding teacher with its Teaching Award of Honor.

Today’s honoree is a member of the psychology faculty. He has consistently made the lists of favorite teachers compiled by various student groups. They comment that his love of teaching drives his personal interactive style, and they recognize his contribution to their lives long after they leave his classroom. On behalf of our alumni, we are delighted to present this Teaching Award of Honor to Christopher Frost.


Dr. Trauth and Andrea Allely, president of the SWT Alumni Association, present the Teaching Award of Honor to Christopher Frost.

Each year we present two presidential awards for outstanding teaching, two for outstanding scholarly and creative activity and two for outstanding service. One award in each category goes to a faculty member at the assistant professor or instructor/lecturer level and one at the associate or full professor level.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching go to two individuals who have helped to earn Southwest Texas its reputation for outstanding, caring faculty. Their students and their colleagues alike recognize the love they have for their profession, which enriches the entire academic experience. Please join me in honoring Jennifer Forrest, associate professor of French, and Barbara Trepagnier, assistant professor of sociology.


Jennifer Forrest and Barbara Trepagnier receive the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

We also are honoring two faculty this morning for their scholarly activity. Both have made significant contributions to their disciplines and to society in general, and they have brought their research to the classroom to enrich their teaching.

We are very pleased this morning to award the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activity to two members of the English faculty — professor Allan Chavkin and instructor Amy Randolph.


English faculty members Allan Chavkin and Amy Randolph receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activity.

We call on our faculty to serve as well as to teach and conduct scholarly research. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Service is given to faculty who are examples to our entire community for their willingness to go the extra mile with students, colleagues and the community. This year we honor Rebecca Bell-Metereau, professor of English, and Carolyn McCall, instructor of curriculum and instruction.


The Presidential Award for Excellence in Service is awarded to Rebecca Bell-Metereau, professor of English, and Carolyn McCall, instructor of curriculum and instruction.

Each year the Faculty Senate chooses two colleagues as our campus nominees for the Minnie Stevens Piper Award, which recognizes outstanding college teachers in the State of Texas. These faculty are chosen on the basis of their dedication to the teaching profession, their influence on the lives of students and their contribution to the university as a whole.

I want to ask Oren Renick, chair of the Faculty Senate and associate professor of health administration, to come forward to assist in giving the Everett Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Awards.

Our first award goes to a faculty member from the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance who has combined her commitment to teaching with an exemplary record of creative achievement, service and mentoring her peers and students. It is with sincere pleasure today that we present this award to Joan Hays.


Oren Renick, chair of the Faculty Senate, assists Dr. Trauth in awarding the Everett Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Award to Joan Hays, Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Our other Faculty Senate nominee went on to win the Piper Award last spring. The Piper Foundation has made an excellent choice. This faculty member is passionate about education and the use of education to heal and humanize society as a whole. I am delighted to present the eleventh SWT faculty member to be named a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor — Nancy Chavkin.


Nancy Chavkin is presented the the Everett Swinney Faculty Senate Teaching Award.

Even though they have already been honored at an earlier presentation luncheon, we want to recognize today three faculty members who have been named distinguished professors emeriti by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System. Together they served Southwest Texas for 73 years. The resolutions that honor them are on stands in the foyer, and I encourage you to look at them later.

Our honorees are:
Louis Caruana, who served 25 years on the faculty in the College of Health Professions, and retired as Distinguished Professor of Clinical Laboratory Science Emeritus; Sheila Fling, who brought her unique expertise to the Department of Psychology for 27 years and was named Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emerita; and Larry Patterson, who served SWT 21 years as faculty, MBA director, chair and acting dean, and retired as Distinguished Professor of Marketing Emeritus.


Louis Caruana, second from the left, Sheila Fling and Larry Patterson are recognized for being named distinguished professors emeriti by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System.

We also want to include in our introductions this morning the 2001 Staff Employee of the Year. She was chosen from among the 12 Employees of the Month. Please help us congratulate T.Cay Rowe.


T. Cay Rowe, Director of Media Relations & Publications, shares the congratulatory applause as the SWT 2001 Staff Employee of the Year recipient.

And I’d like to introduce to you this year’s winners of the Mariel Muir Mentoring Award. Each year we honor a faculty member and a staff member for their mentoring of our students and employees. Our late dean of science for whom this award is named would be extremely proud of Joanne Smith, associate vice president of student affairs, and Fred Blevens, associate professor of mass communication. Fred is on leave this year and couldn’t be with us.

Mariel Muire Mentoring Award recipients Joanne Smith and Fred Blevens.

I congratulate all of these outstanding faculty and staff. Southwest Texas is truly blessed to have all of you. Thank you.

* * *

Today marks the 100th time that Southwest Texans have gathered to begin a fall semester. A hundred years ago President Thomas Harris stood in front of 16 faculty members and 303 students, the women in their high-button shoes and long dresses cinched at the waist, the men in their tall starched collars and vested suits. Together they admired their new school; they could smell the fresh paint and varnish. They could hear carpenters putting finishing touches on doors and windows. And together they began the year — excited, hopeful and eager to get started. A hundred years later, much has changed. But, like them, here we are, beginning a new year — excited, hopeful and eager to get started.

Unlike Harris and his colleagues, though, we can look back at one highly successful year in anticipation of another. With a record enrollment of 23,549 last fall, we are expecting another record this fall, probably a thousand more students. We will have a record number of freshmen in our 100th freshman class, based on an 8% increase in eligible freshman applications. Transfer applications remained about even from last year, but we expect greater numbers to enroll. And even with a doubling of graduate tuition this fall, we had a record number of applications and expect an increase there as well.

We expect enrollment of minority students to be up also, based on a 4% increase in eligible African-American applications and a 9% increase in eligible Hispanics. Southwest Texas’ successes in retention have worked their way through the system to impact graduation rates. As of our last graduation, 45% of students who began here six years ago had graduated. Only six years ago, the rate was 30%. Residence Life is busy finding on-campus beds for about 100 students in overflow housing, although we have 450 more beds this fall than last fall. You no doubt have noticed our new housing for students. San Marcos Hall with its 419 beds and 500-car parking garage is right out my front door at home. And Bobcat Village with 660 beds is a complex you can’t miss on Aquarena Springs Drive across from the stadium. Hidden behind the apartments is a 1,000-space commuter parking lot. Ground will be broken on another privatized residence hall next summer, and it will open in Fall 2004.

Buckner Hall will come down this fall to make way for a parking garage to serve that area of campus, as well as the College of Business Administration Building in the future. Dean Denise Smart and her faculty are excited about the Business Building, which will occupy the site where Read Hall now stands. Construction will have to wait for the completion of the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Complex so that we can shuffle departments around. Look for the Mitte Complex to be finished next summer and the departments of Technology, Physics and Art to be in their new facilities. Also awaiting the completion of the Mitte Complex is a renovation of the College of Education Building.

We hope to begin renovation of the first floor of the Alkek Library around the end of this semester. This work will result in the creation of new instructional labs and classrooms, and will give faculty a place to try out new teaching equipment in a classroom setting. We break ground in January on the Student Health Center at the corner of Student Center Drive and Sessoms.

If you haven’t taken a look at the new End Zone Complex, you owe it to yourself to do that. It’s magnificent, and gives Southwest Texas the best athletic facilities in the Southland Conference. And sometime when the football team, the band and the Strutters aren’t on it, you ought to look closely at the new turf on the football field. It’s prettier and safer than before, but the best thing about it might be that it doesn’t need water.

Some of the old Riverside Apartments are coming down now to make room for an expansion of Strahan Coliseum. We will begin renovating the inn at Aquarena Center in the spring in Phase 1 of construction of the Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs. And a year from then we will begin demolition of most of the old theme park buildings in the second phase of construction.

Did you follow all of that? I realize it sounds like "fruit basket turnover," but if you’re still confused, Nancy Nusbaum has posted facts and photos on the Facilities Information website.

I hear that I am in for quite a show in Austin in January. The Legislature will be meeting. It looks like a $5 to $8 billion deficit, depending on your source of information. Our challenge there will be to continue to advance the priorities of SWT.

Southwest Texas did extremely well last year in expanding its academic programs. We started classes in two new education Ph.D.s last fall, one in school improvement and one in adult, professional and community education. This fall we begin our fifth doctoral program, a Ph.D. in geographic information science. And a sixth Ph.D., one in aquatic resources, goes to the Board of Regents this week. With smooth sailing, we could offer that program in Fall 2003.

We also added undergraduate programs in digital and photographic imaging and applied mathematics. And master’s programs in wildlife ecology and applied sociology.

We have changed the name of the Department of Speech Communication to Communication Studies. And this week the regents are expected to approve the move of the dance program, which will change the names of two departments. The new names are the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Our faculty and students continue to garner honors, more than we could possibly mention at one time. Some examples include:

• The designation of SWT as the Southwestern Regional Humanities Center by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to be headed by Mark Busby. Eight universities were named regional centers in an intense competition. SWT bested Arizona State for the Southwestern center. The university will match money from the NEH to create a $1.5 million endowment.

• Tom Grimes of the creative writing program and SWT were center stage in June when Laura Bush came to the Katherine Anne Porter House in Kyle to designate the site as a National Literary Landmark. SWT and a group of local citizens aided by the Burdine Johnson Foundation guided the purchase and restoration of Porter’s childhood home. The university now operates the house as a writing center.

• Congratulations to Max Warshauer, whose Mathworks program was one of five programs in the state recognized by the governor for closing the gaps in higher education. Then later in the year Max went to Washington, where his program received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Bush.

• Ron Walter’s fish-breeding center added another $1.7 million grant from a division of the National Institutes of Health and was named a National Scientific Resource Center.

• Jaime Chahin, dean of the College of Applied Arts, received a prestigious award from the Consul General of Mexico this summer. The award recognizes outstanding work that has "a significant impact on the understanding of Mexico." • Once again this year SWT was the only university in the country to have all three of its nominees named Rockefeller Fellows. Stephanie Sierra, Patrice Reese and Lisa Jefferson each received one of 25 national fellowships from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund targeting minority students entering the teaching profession.

• Bobcat athletics received the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Cup given to the program with the greatest overall success during the year. Women’s sports earned the Women’s All-Sports Trophy with regular season championships in five of the nine women’s sports.

This past year was indeed one filled with great accomplishments and I look forward to the year that we commence at this convocation being equally productive. I know that many of you came here today to get a glimpse of how exactly I might define that productivity. In other words, what kind of a president I will be. And so, instead of keeping you in suspense any longer, what I will do now is to share with you some of my values – particularly those values that shape the environment in which you and I do our work every single day.

Like you, I get a vast collection of e-mail messages in my in-box. In addition to all the communications from the university community, I’m on several listservs that deliver an astonishing array of information from the trite and trivial to the wise and the worthy. From one of these many sources, I received the following story, which contains the origins of the title of this address.

A management consultant was doing a presentation to a group of eager would-be managers and she said, "Okay, now it’s time for a quiz." First, she pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth Mason jar and set it on the table in front of her. Then she produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, she asked the group, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone responded, "Yes."

"Really?" the consultant said. She then reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. She dumped the gravel into the jar, shaking it to cause the pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then she asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time, the group was on to her. "Probably not," one of them responded.

"Good!" she replied and reached under the table again to produce a bucket of sand. She poured the sand into the jar, where it filled in all the spaces left among the rocks and gravel. Once more, she asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" shouted the group.

Once again, she replied, "Good." Then she picked up a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Having done this, she looked at the group and asked, what is the point of this illustration?

One eager beaver raised his hand and asked, "Is the point that no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things onto your calendar?"

"No," the consultant replied, "that’s not the point." Then she went on to say, "The truth that this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."

I’m sharing this story today because I am firmly convinced that now and for the next several years, we at Southwest Texas State University have the opportunity to put some big rocks in place. In the process of building our university, we really only have one chance to get the big rocks in the jar. Twenty years from now, when our enrollment has reached a steady state, when the scope of academic programs is no longer increasing at a rapid rate, and when our identity is firmly fixed in the minds of the people whom we serve, it will be very hard to add another big rock to the jar.

No doubt, there will be a lot of opportunities at that future date to put in water, sand, and perhaps even some gravel. But adding another big rock will be very, very hard. Putting the big rocks in now requires planning, heavy lifting, and a commitment to staying the course. But the pay off is that when it is full, the jar has the right mix of elements. Our heavy lifting is going on right now — by you — the faculty and staff who have the privilege, but also, I would have to admit, the burden, of building what will surely be a great university. As I talk to my colleagues in higher education around the country, I realize that few have the opportunity that we have here at Southwest Texas. But I also realize that few faculty and university staffs are asked to be as strategic, unselfish, and energetic as are we at this moment in our history.

John and I arrived in San Marcos three weeks ago – just in time for the August Commencement ceremonies. The following Monday – August 12 — was the day I had targeted for my beginning to work on this Convocation presentation. It was as if that Monday’s work had been preordained when, as I was eating breakfast, I read the Austin American-Statesman lead editorial headlined, "A good education is foundation for good communities."

That editorial cited a report from the Austin-area Community Action Network that showed that Texans do not enroll in higher education at the same rate as do the citizens of many other states. Only 4.9% of Texans are enrolled in higher education; this compares with a national average of 5.4%. The editorial went on to state, "The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board says Texas must take bold steps to close the enrollment gap or risk slipping further behind other states. Texas needs to enroll 500,000 more students in institutions of higher education over the next 12 years in order to make headway." The editorial concluded by saying that "The end result of a successful education system is a solid economy and an improved quality of life for the majority of the state’s population."

We at SWT should see this state of affairs as a great opportunity. A few minutes ago I said that I am firmly convinced that for the next several years, SWT will be in the fortunate position of deciding what this institution will look like into the middle of this new century. But in order to do that we must figure out what the big rocks are that need to be added now while the university-going numbers in this state – both at the graduate and at the undergraduate levels — are still on the rise. This is a time of great opportunity because it is a whole lot easier to plan what these big rocks are when we are in a growth environment than it is to do this in a steady-state or retrenchment environment.

Earlier this summer, I pledged to establish in the very near future a presidential committee that will be charged with thoroughly evaluating the university’s planning process, including the academic planning process. This committee will be broadly representative and will be asked to complete its work of recommending the elements of a revised process by the end of the fall semester. As I have talked about planning with members of the university community, I have discovered that many people are curious about my approach.

Let me say at the outset that I recognize that many in today’s audience may be put- off by a discussion of yet another planning process. You may feel that you’ve planned, and planned, and planned, and that the last place that you wish to put your time and energies is into a planning process. My answer to you is that what I am talking about today is much more than putting words on paper, simply to satisfy some external group. I am talking about a blueprint for actions that will be taken at this university. I am talking about determining together what the destiny of this institution should be. I am talking about crafting a shared vision.

Crafting a shared vision and continually recommitting to that vision are the defining characteristics of my approach to leadership in higher education. Ten values are the foundation of that approach, and I’d like to discuss those with you today.

1. Public universities do not operate in a vacuum. Instead, they exist to support the goals and values of the citizens of the state. Our planning must be constantly informed by our analysis of the needs of both our regional and our statewide constituents. Having said that, no one university can meet the needs of the entire state – especially a state as big as Texas! We must identify those areas where excellence has been established or is achievable by Southwest Texas and where there is a demonstrable need in our state for enhanced programs.

2. Our goal is to continue to build this distinguished institution and to enlarge its reputation for academic excellence. There are, no doubt, many components of a reputation for excellence. All of us who have had the privilege of working in an organization that has moved up the ladder toward excellence know that excellence is not achieved through the big undertakings. It is achieved through a myriad of small endeavors, all of which are executed at the highest level of quality. The development of excellence is almost always local. It begins with the commitment that quality will not be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values. It is my firm belief that central to the reputation of any distinguished university is the cumulative impact of the individually earned reputations of its many academic departments. Therefore, of paramount concern should be the creation of an environment in which these reputations can and will be earned.

3. The majority of the energy of our university – of any university — is focused on the production of graduates. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many worthy activities underway that are not directly related to students and their success at SWT. However, our core enterprise always has been and always will be the graduation of superbly educated undergraduate and graduate students. "Alignment" is a term used to analyze the relationship of all the activities in an organization to the core enterprise. Any proposed undertaking needs to be examined in terms of how it aligns with our core enterprise – the production of graduates.

4. The production of graduates subsumes three functions that characterize any public university: teaching, research and public service. We must take an integrated approach to these three functions. What we teach and how students learn is impacted by the research mission of the university and its public service agenda. Therefore, neither the research mission nor the public service agenda can be looked at in isolation from our teaching mission. Students who earn degrees at a university are educated in an environment that is fundamentally different from the learning environment at other post-secondary institutions. This is the case because faculty research imbues our educational environment. My term for the education that we are giving our students is a "research-infused" education. Therefore, we cannot talk about teaching without talking about research. And we shouldn’t talk about research without discussing its impact on learning.

5. As you have probably guessed by now, I believe in using a planning process to create community. I have found that there are often two reasons why people are hesitant to buy into a planning process. Either, they don’t want to direct their energy to production of a document that will subsequently go into the proverbial black hole nevermore to surface. Or, they prefer to direct their energy to the real process of decision-making and resource allocation, not the ostensible planning process. These two concerns are really different manifestations of the same issue. And I call the issue the back door versus the front door. That is, the real way important decisions get made in contrast to the ostensible way that decisions get made. In this context, I cannot overstress the importance of No. 6.

6. Resource allocation and reallocation must be directly tied to the outcomes of the planning process. At many universities, resource allocation is the de facto planning process. Through such allocation and reallocation, priorities are in fact articulated. If a disconnect exists between the initiatives that emanate from the planning process and the initiatives to which resources are allocated, the way-resources-are-allocated planning model will win out every time. Therefore, the way to keep the front door opened and the back door nailed shut is to tie resource allocation and reallocation to the outcomes of the planning process.

7. The term "strategic" has a very important meaning when it is used in the context of a university. Universities are by definition big, complicated, far-flung enterprises with lots of moving parts. I have never seen an initiative at any university that I would characterize as silly or stupid; however, I have seen many initiatives that fail the "strategic" test. A planning process that is strategic identifies those initiatives that will become the very highest priorities of the institution. Once these priorities have been identified, it takes hard work and discipline to stick to them and to say no to other worthy ideas. By definition in a strategic planning process, not everything can rise to the level of the highest priority, not everything can be included as a goal.

8. Having said all of this, higher education today exists in an environment that is fast changing and laden with opportunity. At some point, an opportunity will come along that simply cannot be put off until the next round of planning commences. I hope that we will always be flexible enough to take advantage of opportunity, nimble enough to move quickly.

9. Our planning process needs to be simultaneously bottoms up and top down. In other words, at the outset, each organizational unit in the university needs to write a plan. However, these plans need to be drafted within a framework that articulates a single environment within which the university operates and a set of themes that should guide the development of the campus. Planning needs to be open and honest with decision makers consulting broadly and openly throughout the process. At its conclusion, everyone on campus who wanted to have input should feel that they had that opportunity. In the planning process, and indeed in the whole operation of SWT, I am absolutely committed to an open administration. There will be no secrets; there will be no slight of hand. I have great respect for shared governance, for broad and inclusive consultation, and for diversity of opinion. As individuals and as a community, I will treat you with courtesy, and hope that you will always treat each other in the same manner.

10. My final point: as I indicated earlier, my goal is to create an environment in which together we evolve a shared vision. Many times in the weeks that have passed since I was named President, I have been asked the question, "What is your vision for SWT?" My answer today is the same as it was on the day that I interviewed. I could stand here and tell you what I think this university should become. However, that would be wrong. Together we need to craft a vision that is shared across the many sectors of SWT.

When he announced his impending retirement from Southwest Texas, President Jerry Supple made the comment that stepping down from his leadership post at this university was like swinging the best dance partner you ever had into the arms of another person. When I read his statement, I was struck by what a nice metaphor dancing is for the work of the university: creative; performed in a partnership; sometimes choreographed, sometimes improvised, always joyful. And so to continue the mataphor, I would like to quote a line from a song that became popular this summer: "When you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you’ll dance."

As we begin this new year with all of its challenges, we need to realize and relish the incredible opportunity that we have before us. The privilege of building a university is ours. It is a privilege not often given. This year will, without a doubt, require hard work and perseverance. But we will dance and when this era of SWT is at an end, we will be able to look back and say with great pride: "We were the ones who did it!" Thank you for your kind attention.