Our $25 million investment in collaborative research clusters last fall gave us a strong start to the school year. And I'm excited to see that as 2009 begins, we remain on that trajectory for the 2009 legislative session, which convened Jan. 13.
This session will provide unique opportunities for Texas to bolster higher education, which it must do to secure a strong economic future for our state. While Texas legislators should remain financially prudent and be strong stewards of the taxpayers' dollars given the state's less than expected revenue, they also now have the chance to make important investments in universities like UNT so we can do an even better job of serving and advancing our state. The economic security of a state depends upon an educated work force. Without it, our state will suffer.
Already, UNT has shown that we don't have to sacrifice quality for quantity. We are a broad-based public research university with strengths in music, art, education, business, and the humanities complemented by our growing science and technology programs. We have remained a strong, dynamic institution since our founding in 1890 as a teacher's training college because we always are looking ahead.
It's a message we want to make sure our legislators hear throughout the session, and it's one that I hope you will join us in spreading. An investment in higher education is an investment in the future prosperity of Texas.
This session also provides an opportunity for the state to gain ground nationally by clearing the way for more Texas universities like UNT to become national research universities. Top-name research universities lure the best students and faculty and help power local and state economies, but Texas is woefully behind with only three such universities, one of which is private. We are asking our alumni to support legislation that will give UNT and other emerging research universities the opportunity to receive matching funds for endowed professorships, graduate fellowships, and research.
UNT is on the way to making a difference in the research environment for the region. Our investment to develop research clusters is one of many ways we have grown as a research institution this year. We attracted $8.5 million in federal funding for our Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation, while our faculty continue to engage in research that makes a difference. Our faculty are tackling the world's biggest issues head on. You can read about some of the innovative work being done on our campus in the winter issue of The North Texan.
In this session, we will ask for support to bolster our research initiatives and to hire more faculty to minimize our faculty-student ratio. As we do our part in putting academics first, we also will seek funding for our Next Generation Course Redesign Project, which serves as a model for institutions across the state and nation also looking to design classes that use technology to improve student learning in large-enrollment courses. Next Generation courses have demonstrated that they increase student success and learning outcomes while helping to decrease time to graduation. They also reduce instructional costs for large enrollment and lower-level lecture format courses.
We also will ask for the green light to build a new 120,000-square-foot home for the College of Visual Arts and Design, whose current building is much too small and outdated for our robust program. The college has nearly 2,200 students and produces nearly half of the university-certified art educators in Texas. It is home to nationally award-winning programs in communication and interior and fashion design, as well as studio arts and art history. This new building is needed to continue producing high-quality, high-demand graduates for the North Texas region and the state.
We strive to be excellent in everything we do, and these requests will ensure that we continue to offer an environment where scholarship, research, and creativity flourish.
With green pride,
Gretchen M. Bataille