How would you describe your position with the university?
The vice president for finance and support services is the chief financial officer of the university. The main things are centered on finding funding for the university’s annual budget, financial reporting issues, investment of the university’s balances and all those other things a chief financial officer does. But the position also has the facilities department, which is half of the employees in the division. That includes the office of facilities planning, design and construction, which has been a busy unit over these 24 years. Then I also have human resources, auxiliary services, then the campus master planning function, facilities inventory, and I also have environmental health and risk management, which has been a growing area the last decade or so. There are about 450 employees in the division.
Are there any construction projects on campus you are particularly proud of during your tenure?
The campus has changed so much from ’91. I don’t know if there’s been a time we didn’t have construction cranes on campus. Two of the most dramatic, the various stadium expansion projects—just because athletics is such a big part of the university—and most people come to the university campus by driving in off Aquarena Springs Drive, so Bobcat Stadium is one of the first things they see. I remember when I got here in the early 90’s we didn’t even have the south end zone complex. They were just the grand stands on either side and you could look straight through. The other one is probably the Performing Arts Center. The university badly needed new performance space for the fine arts programs.
Why did the university ever get away from that Spanish Colonial-style common to the buildings in the Quad?
We had gotten away from that in the '60s, '70s, '80s and really the early '90s because they’re expensive. To put those finishes—the arches, the red tile roofs—that’s not cheap. This growth spurt at the university is not anything new. They’ve been growing like gangbusters. There was a spurt in the late '60s and a spurt again in the '70s. The growth was so much greater than our ability back then to build space that we just needed square footage. There was a mentality that we need square footage so badly that let’s not worry about the aesthetics of the building or the architecture. So we have some buildings that are just kind of square boxes. Like I said, it does cost money so the university had to just say, "Look, we want to improve the appearance of campus, and we’re willing to spend a little bit more money. Let’s try to get back to the Spanish Colonial architecture that's on the Quad and in the Commons Block that were built in the '30s, '40s and '50s."
Was the football stadium expansion difficult to shepherd through to completion? Was there much opposition from students and faculty wondering if this was the right direction for the university?
It was a tough project, but maybe not for the reasons people understand. One of the first pieces was to pass the student athletic fee, which was the largest voter turnout for any fee referendum in the history of the university, and it passed I’m thinking 85 percent "for" and 15 percent "opposed." There was big support from the students to move in that direction. I think some people still think that all [University President Denise Trauth] has to do or [Athletic Director Larry Teis] has to do is just walk into the Big 12 offices in Dallas and say, "We want to join." That’s not how it works. They have to invite you. You have to show these conferences that you’re willing to make the investment. [With the help of] President Trauth and Dr. Teis, we put together briefing booklets, and they got on the calendar of these conference commissioners and made trips. Remember it’s not just the conference commissioners, but all the presidents of those universities in there have to vote to invite you in. So they made trip after trip after trip visiting university presidents around the country. So that’s why it doesn’t happen overnight.
How did STAR Park get started?
This is interesting. [In the early 2000s] the university was 100 years old and had never had engineering as a degree program. Frankly I don’t think any of us thought we might ever have engineering here. But early in Dr. Trauth’s tenure here, if I have this straight, my recollection of the story is she gets invited to a meeting at the University of Texas System by the then UT chancellor. There are a lot of academic folks there including the UT Austin president. They told us—President Trauth and the provost—‘You guys need to start engineering. We can’t meet the demand in Central Texas. UT Austin and UT San Antonio both have full-blown engineering programs, and we can’t meet the demand.’ Particularly at UT Austin they prefer to focus on the graduate education. They were getting some grief from a lot of the high-tech companies in Austin that they didn’t have more evening programs for undergraduate- or master’s-level engineering. That’s not their mission. So they actually said, "We will do whatever we can do to support you starting engineering programs at Texas State." We were somewhat fortunate. The nationwide economic downturn in ’08 and ’09—we had a reduction in state appropriations, something like 10 percent. But some of these other states, I think Georgia had a 50 percent reduction in their state appropriation, Arizona I’m remembering a 35 percent reduction. It was huge. So we crank up engineering and the provost and the dean of science were able to just literally steal great faculty from all over the country who wanted to leave their state because of the cutbacks in state funding. So we got a star faculty. They bring with them research grants, connections to corporate research, and very quickly the dean and provost are reporting that we’ve got corporations beating down the door who want to jointly conduct research with our faculty in our labs.
Being in the center of San Marcos, the university has a unique relationship with the city. What has it been like collaborating with the city on construction projects throughout town?
It’s been great working with the city staff. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years. The ‘town and gown’ relationship, some days it’s good, and some days it’s not so good. The Aquarena Springs Drive project—the city was supportive of this—we didn’t want just a concrete and steel superstructure right there coming into campus, so [the Texas Department of Transportation] agreed to some aesthetic enhancements, some additional landscaping. It seems like we’ve been working on that project for 15 years. I’m glad it’s finally here.