Benson led the presentation, which was the first State of the University address held in person since 2019, on Oct. 18 at the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building Lecture Hall.
According to the presentation, UT Dallas' fall enrollment of 31,650 students is the highest in the university's history. Of those, 4,237 are freshmen, including 227 national merit scholars. In addition to reaching that new student population record, Benson said that the university has increased enrollment over 60% in the last decade, making it one of the fastest-growing public universities in the nation.
“We were one of only five public universities in the state of Texas that actually grew from the fall of 2020 to the fall of 2021,” he said.
Benson said the university is also reaching its goal for both undergraduate and graduate students.
With its increased enrollment, the university started construction on two major projects during the 2021-22 school year, Benson said.
In May, university staff broke ground on the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum, which is expected to open its first phase in 2024. Approximately 12 acres in size, the athenaeum is expected to include a performance hall, two museums and a parking garage within a central plaza in the southeastern area of campus, according to university officials. Construction also began this year on a Biomedical Engineering and Sciences building, which is expected to be open in fall 2023. The research facility is a joint project between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern. It is located in the Dallas Medical District.
UT Dallas also partnered with the city of Richardson for The Innovation Quarter Headquarters, which officially opened Sept. 14. Once UT Dallas staff move in, the headquarters is expected to include five new research centers and an extension of the university's Venture Development Center.
As part of the address, Benson outlined the university’s goals for the 88th Texas Legislature, which is scheduled to be held Jan. 10-May 29. Items of interest to the university include funding the backlog for the Texas Research Incentive Program, increasing the state funding formula to cover enrollment growth and inflation, reinvigoration of efforts to develop more national research universities in Texas and providing new funds for the National Research University Fund.
In addition, Benson said he hopes to appropriate $54 million in funds from the Legislature to help UT Dallas address statewide issues. These include $40 million for a North Texas Semiconductor R&D Hub, $10 million for a Center for Pain Therapeutic Discovery, $2 million for an academic bridge program and an additional $2 million of funding for the Crow Museum of Asian Art.
More information on the State of the University address is available here.