TSU rides post-debate wave of positivity

Dr. Austin A. Lane

It’s not often that 14 million viewers gather to watch an event held on your own home turf. Yet that’s what happened on Sept. 12, 2019, when Texas Southern University hosted the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate, partnering with ABC News and Univision. 

It was the first such debate held on an HBCU campus in more than 12 years, and it gave the university an unprecedented opportunity to showcase its faculty, staff and students to the world.

“We could not buy this kind of publicity,” said TSU President Dr. Austin Lane. “Hosting this prestigious event gave us a platform to tell our story – and the story of the HBCU – to many who knew little about TSU, our history, and our exciting future.”

More than 1,100 TSU students, faculty, staff and alumni were able to attend the debate held in the Health & Physical Education (H&PE) Arena, while hundreds of others went to the on-campus watch party in Sawyer Auditorium to learn more about the 10 leading candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Just as important, more than 500 media from across the country gathered in the TSU Rec Center (which was turned into a media spin room/filing center) to report on the event. Many found additional stories to cover as they learned about TSU’s unique and innovative programs and activities, such as the famous Ocean of Soul Marching Band (celebrating its 50thanniversary this year) or the brand new Autonomous Vehicle (AV) shuttle, which is a partnership with Houston Metrto.

 “Hosting the debate resulted in significant civic engagement among our campus community,” added Dr. Lane. “And, it put a spotlight on some of the terrific things that are happening right now at TSU.”

Indeed, over the past 12 months, TSU has made great strides in advancing its Top 5 Priorities. 

  • TSU saw gains in student success and completionalong many fronts, thanks in part to Project Graduation, which provides a prescriptive pathway for students, and the enhancement of self-guided student tools such as MyTSU and DegreeWorks.
  • Many faculty, staff and administrators have contributed to the strengthening of TSU’s academic programs and research, providing an enhanced curriculum and making sure that holders of a TSU degree meet the needs of today’s – and tomorrow’s – workplace. TSU secured one of its largest publicly-funded grants awarded to the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, as well as several other significant grants. These give both students and faculty access to leading-edge research opportunities. The opening of our new 137,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Library Learning Center in August gives expanded access to research and tools that compose a rich academic experience.
  • Just as a new library was constructed, work continues on building the TSU culture, as the campus community continues to define who it is, what it values, and the behaviors it embraces. Known as the “TSU Way,” it is expected that each member of the faculty and staff will “Be the Exception” in going the extra mile for students, the community and each other.
  • TSU cannot be effective as an island. It takes partnershipson many levels to operate as a world-class university, adhering to the university’s mission as a special purpose urban institution. Over the past year, partnerships were strengthened with local, public and private entities in areas such as transportation, campus/community revitalization, internships, scholarships, program enhancement and more.
  • Regarding its finances, TSU continues to operate squarely within its means. The recent financial upgrade from Moody’s Investors Services (from “stable” to “positive”), which is the second upgrade in as many years, is the best indicator of financial success. And, TSU’s legislative priorities, most of which were tied to funding, were satisfactorily addressed by the 86th Legislature, resulting in increased funding for some of TSU’s most significant needs.

 “TSU has a fantastic history, and we acknowledge that history every day,” said Dr. Lane. “But, as I said in my speech at the debate, we have to look toward the future so that we can live up to that legacy. It was no surprise that TSU was chosen to host such an event. Indeed, our students, faculty, staff and alumni represent the future – a future that is shaped by our historic beginnings, and a future that is unlimitedin its potential.”