Friday, September 27, 2013

Texas Tomcats win DFW Flugtag

"Flugtag" in German is "flying day," and the Red Bull beverage company has made Flugtag a major event in the U.S. Last weekend, in five cities coast to coast, hundreds of teams competed with homemade flying machines to the cheers of thousands of spectators and in front of all national news organizations.

Are you surprised that a team made up entirely of LETU students won the Dallas Flugtag?  I'm not. 

The competition rules required each team of five members to design and build their own human-powered, homemade aircraft that they pushed off a 30-foot "flight deck" into a lake while one of their team members flew the aircraft for as far a distance as they could go. 

Team members included team captain Nathan O'Quinn, pilot Rachael Moffatt, Sheldon Bacher, Tim Powell, Gregg Williams and Quintin Socha.

Calling themselves the "Texas Tomcats," these students spent several months as they designing and building their aircraft to fit into the competition's design specifications: wingspan of less than 28 feet, height of less than 10 feet and weight less than 400 pounds, counting the pilot.

Originality, personality, showmanship and creative expression were all listed as part of their application process, but on the day of the competition, flight distance ruled.

The Texas Tomcats flew their mock F-14 a whopping 72 feet at the Dallas competition at Lake Carolyn in Las Colinas in front of over 90,000 spectators. And yes, the pilot was another one of our outstanding female aviation majors. (You can watch the video of their flight at competition here.)

That's right:  over 90,000 spectators attended the Dallas event.  In addition, CNN, ABC, ESPN and all national news organizations aired coverage of the fun.

Congratulations to these LETU students for achieving such great results from all their hard work. We know that an LETU education is all about excellence and ingenuity and this fun event was a powerful way for our students to show the world something of who they are.

You can see more information about the team and the video of their flight on the RedBull Flugtag website.  The nationwide competition made national news on CNN  and was featured on Good Morning America.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Longview Blitz

Saturday's Longview Blitz showed the surrounding area the hearts of our students and staff as they put feet to their faith in service of the community.

Hundreds of LETU students were on hand weeding, trimming and spreading mulch at the Kidsview playground at Lear Park. Others were organizing and cleaning at Newgate Mission. More were cleaning and chopping vegetables or scrubbing floors at Hiway 80 Rescue Mission. All of these were among several places they served on Saturday morning.

This service to our community leaves a lasting impression on the hearts of our students. They see that service is part of our Christian faith. But it also serves as an example to the community. I am thankful for the leadership of our university chaplain Harold Carl and the student floor chaplains in the residence halls who helped organize this annual event. 

Some of the students who worked that day were quoted in the Longview News-Journal that they enjoyed the day and felt blessed to serve. The time they volunteered helped them build a rapport with the community and build stronger relationships with each other.

I understand that feeling, as I have been blessed to serve this past year on the mayor's I-20 Task Force. Our goal has been to identify methods to draw more visitors into Longview from the interstate that passes through the south side of the city and identify ways to expand economic growth.

Beautification efforts into Longview's entrance along Estes Parkway and Mobberly will help improve the city's curb appeal to potential investors and will improve the impression that visitors into our city have about the quality of life in Longview. Service to our community demonstrates our heart to love our neighbor and, in doing so, we honor God and point our neighbors to Him.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rising in the Rankings

This week, LeTourneau University got some good news when the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of "America's Best Colleges" were released and LETU was again ranked as a top-tier school. The U.S. News rankings are released each fall and are considered the most notable of the annual published college rankings.

I am pleased to share that LeTourneau University moved up in the 2014 rankings to 27th place from 36th place in last year's 2013 rankings among our category of "Best Regional Universities in the Western Region, which includes master's comprehensive universities in 14 western states. Those states include Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. Our ranking placed us 5th among schools in the state of Texas, and above all state universities in Texas in our category. Again this year, Trinity University in San Antonio was ranked #1 in our peer group. Out on the west coast, CCCU members Whitworth was #9 and Seattle Pacific University was #14.

This year marks two full decades that LETU has ranked in the magazine's top tier. To be included in this report's top tier of campuses for 20 consecutive years is a noteworthy accomplishment that indicates a long commitment to academic excellence and student success that defines LeTourneau University. The U.S. News ranks colleges and universities among other schools with similar programs and degree offerings.

As I said in my report to start the new year, U.S. News' methodology is not without its faults. However, the rankings do provide a starting point for many families and prospective students to compare colleges using indicators such as  retention rates and assessment by peer institutions, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

Also, our School of Engineering moved up to 45th place among engineering schools in the nation whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's degree. Ranked third among Texas universities, with Baylor University, Trinity University, LETU is the top-ranked school of engineering within the CCCU (Council of Christian Colleges and Universities).

And our school was listed among the magazine's ranking of "A+ Schools for B Students," which are schools where students who were not "A" students in high school, but displayed spirit and hard work, can thrive. 

LETU has added over $50 million in campus facilities in recent years, with the Allen Family Student Center - slated to open after spring break next semester - as our most recent investment.  Our goal at LETU is to continue to create a distinctive Christian university experience for our students, and if in the process, we continue for more years to get noticed by rankings like U.S. News, that is a good thing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Influence of Professors

The most interesting article I read this week (and the best headline) was "Majoring in a Professor."  It was the report of a forthcoming book from Harvard University Press titled How College Works.

Sociology research on how students choose a major concluded that professors are very important and that the first professor you encounter in a degree program may be the most important.

"Faculty determine students' taste for academic fields by acting as gatekeepers, either by welcoming them into an area of knowledge, encouraging and inspiring them to explore it, or by raising the costs of entry so high so as to effectively prohibit continuing in it," authors Christopher Takacs and Daniel Chambliss write.

This affirms my experience.  Dr. James Cagley may not have been my very first business school professor, but I encountered him early in my studies.  A former advertising executive and University of Minnesota Ph.D., his passion for the discipline changed me, stirring something within me that I didn't know was there.  More than three decades later, I am still excited by the same psychological, sociological  and economic theories of business that inspired him.

LeTourneau faculty are the most influential people on our campus.  As I write, they are changing eternity for our students by the way they inspire, encourage, and direct.  When they have a bad day, our students have a bad day.  But when our best faculty are at their best, living an energized passion for their field of study and the God who is Lord of that discipline, our students are transformed; perhaps even redeemed.