The motto at the University of Texas is: "What Starts Here Changes the World." The university's governing body, The University of Texas System Board of Regents, has backed that motto with a $16.5 million investment that supports the mental health of the very thing that starts at UT's 13 academic and health institutions — its students.

In a recent release, the UT Regents announced that the data-driven, multi-million investment over the next five years will build upon the institution's "long-standing commitment to student safety at all UT academic and health institutions."

In 2011, the university became the first system of higher education to approve an investment toward comprehensive alcohol prevention, education, and recovery programs at each of its academic campuses, and this latest investment will both further support and broaden the scope of those programs. The release detailed a special meeting held on June 28 to approve the $16.5 million investment for expanding and enhancing student mental health, student safety, and alcohol education resources at 13 institutions.

“Student safety is always top of mind for the UT System Board of Regents,” said chair Kevin P. Eltife in the release. “Our unanimous support of new funding speaks to the Board’s commitment to ensure the very best learning environments for all students across all UT institutions.”

Chancellor James Milliken said UT System leadership recommended additional investment in student mental health resources based on national studies and internal data that show a significant rise in the diagnosis and treatment of student mental health issues — including stress, anxiety and depression — over the past 10 years or more. Unsurprisingly, the release notes how the coronavirus pandemic and its associated challenges accelerated this trend, as the percentage of students at UT institutions who were diagnosed by and/or received mental health services from a professional increased from 20 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2021. During the same period, student counseling centers reported a 38 percent increase in psychiatric hospitalizations.

The total allocation of $16,500,000 will fund five initiatives, as well as the evaluation of their impact, for five years across the UT System:

  • Mental health crisis line
  • Expanding clinical mental health services to students via telehealth
  • Web-based alcohol education and sexual assault and harassment prevention for students; harassment, safety, and other training for faculty and staff
  • Faculty and staff training
  • Thrive at UT mobile app

“Student safety and wellness remain a most critical priority for UT institutions, and the Board of Regents’ newest investment will support, educate and treat students at all UT academic and health institutions throughout their journey toward a degree,” Milliken said. “Our campuses are grateful for the timing of these new resources that will allow them to expand and enhance the student services determined to be most effective over the past 11 years and during the pandemic.”

Just one Texas school hooks ranking among best global universities by U.S. News & World Report

honor roll

In the eyes of U.S. News & World Report, the University of Texas at Austin stands out as a global powerhouse.

In a ranking released October 26, UT Austin appears at No. 43 among the best global universities. It’s the only Texas school to land in the top 100.

To the surprise of probably no one, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, claims the No. 1 spot.

To compile its list, U.S. News evaluated more than 1,700 schools around the world based on 13 factors tied to reputation, research publication and citations, and scientific excellence. In the U.S., 271 schools made the list.

“These rankings stand out from our other education rankings due to their emphasis on academic research,” Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, says in a news release.

In a separate news release, UT toots its own horn about the U.S. News recognition, citing the school’s lofty position among the “global elite” in higher education.

The school also notes the publication’s callout of academic subject rankings, with UT placing in the top 25 in the world for mathematics (No. 18), materials science (No. 23), arts and humanities (No. 24; tie), and geosciences (No. 24).

Elsewhere in U.S. News’ top 200:

  • The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas ties for 124th place.
  • The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston ties for 135th place.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station appears at No. 140.
  • Rice University in Houston appears at No. 167.

Fort Worth grabs life by the horns as No. 5 city to live after college

honor roll

For many college students, it’s tough to imagine life after college when they’re cramming for exams and cranking out research papers. Yet the time does come when they’ll venture into the “real world” with their degrees.

Before graduation rolls around, college students often find themselves wondering where to start their after-school journeys. To help with this homework, real estate website Point2 has developed a list of the best places for life after college, and Fort Worth ropes the No. 5 ranking.

Poor Dallas is way down the list, barely registering at No. 21.

Austin — home of the University of Texas — comes in at No. 1.

The website looked at an array of factors to come up with its ranking, such as population growth, business growth, median age, household income growth, poverty rate, and housing availability and prices.

Point2 considered only the 86 places that host the country’s 100 most successful colleges and universities, as rated by U.S. News & World Report.

Fort Worth — of course, home to prestigious Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan, and Tarrant County College — was noted in Point2's study among America’s top 10 most dynamic college towns in terms of population growth (no secret everyone's moving here!), change in business establishments, and building permits.

Plus, anyone who's tailgated or sat in the stands at a TCU football game knows Fort Worth comes out in droves to cheer for its hometown Horned Frogs.

Other Texas communities on the list are:

  • No. 17 College Station, home of Texas A&M University.
  • No. 24 Waco, home of Baylor University.
  • No. 33 Houston, home of Rice University.

“While education and innovation keep these educational institutions on the map, it’s the economic and social conditions in the city that convince students to pursue a career and build a life in their college town. That’s why household incomes, home prices, the number of businesses and startups, and even the city’s poverty rates weigh heavy,” Point2 says.

George Strait/Instagram

Texas music icons George Strait and Willie Nelson to share stage for just 2nd time in history

If it wasn't for Texas ...

On the cowboy boot heels of his acclaimed headlining performances at this year’s ACL Music Festival, the king of country music George Strait will not, in fact, ride away. He's returning to the stage with another Texas music legend, Willie Nelson, in a shared-stage performance that's happened just once before in the icons' storied careers.

Strait and Nelson will perform April 29, 2022 as part of the grand opening celebration of Moody Center, a new $338 million venue opening on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

The show, dubbed "Strait from Moody Center," bills Strait as the headliner, with special guests Willie Nelson & Family, and Randy Rogers Band noted as special guests.

Exclusive VIP packages and tickets for the grand opening show go on sale Friday, October 22 at 10 am on the Moody Center website. There’s no word yet on specific ticket prices.

“I’m so glad I’ll get to ‘sing one with Willie,’ and I can’t think of a better place to do it than Austin, Texas,” says Strait, who holds the unique distinction of having more No. 1 songs than any other artist in history. “Willie is an incredible musician and an even better person, so I know this will be a great night together along with our friends from Randy Rogers Band.”

The event, which will give many Texans their first opportunity to check out the new 15,000-seat music venue, also holds special significance in another way, as Texas treasure Nelson turns 89 years old the night of the show. And who doesn’t want to spend Willie’s birthday with the Red Headed Stranger himself?

“While planning our grand opening celebration, we knew we had an obligation to pay homage to the Lone Star State. George, Willie, and Randy are all Texas natives who have built legendary careers while having an unbelievable impact on the country music industry,” says Jeff Nickler, general manager of Moody Center. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

Strait from Moody Center is among several shows already announced for the venue’s first days, including planned performances from The Weeknd on April 19, 2022 (a move from its original April 18 date); John Mayer on April 20, 2022; and Justin Bieber on April 27, 2022.

Before tickets for the Strait from Moody Center show go on sale to the public October 22, American Express card members can score them Wednesday, October 13 at 10 am through Thursday, October 21 at 10 pm. Fans can also sign up for the Moody Center newsletter before Monday, October 18 to get venue pre-sale access from Wednesday, October 20 at 10 am until Thursday, October 21 at 10 pm.

Health and safety procedures for the show will follow guidance from public health authorities, and enhanced COVID-19 protocols may be added as the show date nears. Fans can get the latest COVID-19 info regarding Moody Center on the venue’s website.

TCU climbs the charts in prestigious new U.S. News & World Report college rankings

Head of the class

A trusted annual report that compares more than 1,400 undergraduate institutions in the United States has given the Horned Frogs a reason to be proud. U.S. News & World Report's new 2021 Best Colleges report has ranked Fort Worth's Texas Christian University No. 80 nationwide. That's up 17 spots from ranking of No. 97 in 2020.

This, on the heels of another recent report, by neighborhood review site Niche.com, that ranked TCU No. 6 in Texas and No. 110 nationwide.

The U.S. News report, released September 14, gave TCU high marks in the categories of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (No. 33), Best Colleges for Veterans (No. 50), Best Undergraduate Teaching (No. 61), Best Value Schools (No. 87), and also cited it as No. 366 in the category of Top Performers on Social Mobility. (No, that doesn't have to do with social media, although TCU is among Texas' most Instagrammed schools.)

“Although an institution’s quality cannot solely be judged by any publication’s set priorities, these rankings reaffirm what we at TCU already know — our academic excellence and student experience are among the best in the country for 148 years," says Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr. in a release. "TCU has been a leading university because of our outstanding faculty and staff and our world-class students and alumni."

Nationally, TCU (somehow!) tied at No. 80 with a number of other schools: Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; Howard University in Washington, D.C.; Michigan University in East Lansing, Michigan; North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina; University of Denver in Colorado; and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The prestigious U.S. News report compared the institutions across 17 measures of "academic quality" this year. Acknowledging the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools, the publication made several updates to its methodology, notes a release.

For 2021, U.S. News added two new metrics to measure student debt. It also increased the weight of the outcome category, which measures graduation rates, retention rates, and social mobility, and reduced the weights for standardized test scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving. And, for the very first time, the report ranks test-blind schools (those that don't require an SAT or ACT score for admission).

"The pandemic has affected students across the country, canceling commencement ceremonies and switching classes from in person to remote," said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer, in a release. "Whether students have slightly altered their college plans or changed them entirely, it remains our mission to continue providing students and their families with the tools they need to help find the right school for them."

Among Texas' other top schools, UT Austin ranks No. 42 nationally, up six spots from 2020. It's the school's highest ranking on the report since 1985, touts a news release from the university. UT Austin also rates as the top public university in Texas.

Elsewhere, Southern Methodist University and Texas A&M University are tied at No. 66 nationwide, while Baylor University comes in at No. 76.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the title of best university in Texas once again goes to Rice. The prestigious Houston school ranks No. 16 among national universities, up one spot from last year.

Besides earning high marks for its undergraduate teaching, innovation, and value, Rice gets special mention from U.S. News for its quality of student life.

"Rice University, located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, offers a dynamic student life in the nation’s fourth-largest city," the report says.

So, which university is head of the class, nationally, in 2021?

That honor would go to Princeton University, followed by Harvard, Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale to round out the top five.

Photo courtesy of the Moody College of Communication

Matthew McConaughey takes new role as professor at University of Texas

Wolf of Guadalupe Street

There's little doubt that Matthew McConaughey bleeds burnt orange. Among the positions the Austin A-lister holds at the University of Texas are: minister of culture, unofficial assistant coach of both the football and basketball teams, and owner of the finest suit ever fashioned out of burnt orange fabric.

Now, the Academy Award winner can add professor to his resume. On August 28, UT's Moody College of Communication announced McConaughey has been appointed a professor of practice beginning in the fall 2019 semester.

McConaughey has been a visiting instructor in the Moody's Department of Radio-Television-Film since 2015. The Academy Award winner, who actually graduated from the RTF program in 1993, began his tenure co-teaching the Script to Screen, a film production class.

According to UT, McConaughey "developed the course’s curriculum, which provides a unique, behind-the-scenes view of each stage of a film’s production" alongside Scott Rice, who teaches the course with McConaughey.

“It’s the class I wish I would have had when I was in film school. Working in the classroom with these students gives me a chance to prepare them,” McConaughey said in a release. “Making movies, turning words on paper into film, is both a science and art — no matter the time or generation."

It's easy to see why UT would want a bonafide Hollywood superstar on staff, but according to Noah Isenberg, chair of the RTF, McConaughey is a gifted teacher.

“He has a passion for teaching, and for all things cinematic, that is palpable, even infectious,” Isenberg said.

The university also offered a sneak peek at this semester's syllabus. Students in the fall 2019 course will be studying The Gentlemen and Mud, the acclaimed film by Austin-based director Jeff Nichols, and in which McConaughey stars. Nichols is also scheduled to speak to the class.

“We are proud to welcome Professor McConaughey to officially join our world-class faculty,” said Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt. “Matthew cares deeply for our school and our students, and we are thrilled that he shares his time and talent to help prepare the next generation of media leaders and innovators.”

Professor McConaughey ... well that sounds alright, alright, alright.

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Giant sea creatures made of recycled beach trash wash onto Galveston Island in must-see new exhibit

inspiring sea change

A giant great white shark, massive bald eagle, oversized octopus, and more enormous sea life have invaded Galveston Island.

"Washed Ashore," a compelling traveling art exhibit of giant sea animal sculptures made of trash collected from beaches, is now on display across 19 locations in Galveston.

The clever showcase features more than 20 pieces — most more than six feet tall and as much as 17 feet wide — such as coral reefs, jellyfish, penguins, sunfish, and more.

Sculptures can be found at museums, hotels, parks, attractions, and popular outdoor spaces. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon-based non-profit Washed Ashore and the Galveston Park Board, the exhibit, which is open though March 5, is free.

This innovative, powerful exhibit is designed to educate the public about the hazards of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and comes at a touchstone environmental moment. Some 35 million metric tons of plastic entered the global aquatic ecosystems in 2020, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s research partners.

Similar "Washed Ashore" exhibits have been displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, as well as zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens across the nation. Notably, this Galveston debut marks the first time the exhibit will not be behind a paid gate, per press materials.

“The sculptures are impressive,” Visit Galveston Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody says. “But they’re even more impressive when you look at them closely. The artists at Washed Ashore placed recognizable objects – like buckets and shovels – at a child’s eye view. This way, hopefully, they will learn to take with them what they bring to the beach.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit the official site.

Photo courtesy of Visit Galveston

Meet Greta the great white shark.

These are the 5 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

It’s a frigid start to February this week, but tasty events bring opportunities to warm up once the coldest weather passes. Get cozy with hand-made pasta and wine, a dim sum cooking class, two new Sunday brunch launches, and a complimentary educational class to watch online from the warmth of your own home.

Thursday, February 2

An Evening with Batasiolo Wine Dinner
Only 11 lucky individuals get to partake in this four-course dinner set to take place in il Modo’s intimate pasta-making room. Wines from Beni Di Batasiolo Winery will be paired with each course. Reservations are $199, plus tax and gratuity, and include valet parking. Dinner begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, February 4

Who Eats Cornbread? Who Eats Biscuits? Baking and Texas Identity Webinar by the TCU Center for Texas Studies
Curl up at home with hot biscuits or cornbread while watching this tasty and educational webinar led by Rebecca Sharpless, professor of history at TCU. She’ll talk through the history of baking in Texas and the American South, speaking from research conducted for her latest book, Grain and Fire. Learn who used white cornmeal, who used yellow, who used sugar, who didn’t, flour to fat ratios, and why it all matters. The free webinar begins at 10:30 am.

Jazz Brunch Launch at The Fitzgerald
The Camp Bowie Boulevard restaurant will channel New Orleans vibes with the launch of its new jazz brunch. The live jazz pianist will provide tunes on Fitzgerald’s heated patio both Saturday and Sundays from 11 am-2 pm. Plan for brunch dishes like crab cake Benedict, shrimp and grits, crawfish omelets, and bananas Foster banana pudding.

Dim Sum Time at Indulge Cooking Studio
The downtown cooking studio located inside Third Street Market hosts an array of classes regularly. This one will feature dim sum, the traditional Chinese meal made up of small plates featuring various dumplings and snacks. The menu will include chicken shumai, Chinese greens, spring rolls, and an egg custard tart. The class is $89 and will begin at 11 am.

Sunday, February 5

New Sunday Brunch at Craft & Vine
The Roanoke restaurant, wine bar, and craft cocktail lounge will launch Sunday brunch with new buffet-style stations. Enjoy eggs Benedict, a carving station, waffle bar, and more, as well as champagne flights, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and even a bar cart for crafting Old Fashioneds. The price is $39 per person and $15 for kids 12 and under. Brunch service begins at 10 am and the live music starts at 11 am.

Luke Bryan trucks to Dallas-Fort Worth for 2 tour stops, including Dickies Arena

Country on

Luke Bryan fans, clear your calendars in late September 2023. The five-time Entertainer of the Year and American Idol judge is making not one but two stops in North Texas on his "Country On Tour."

He'll play Dallas' Dos Equis Pavilion on September 28, then scoot over to Fort Worth for a show at Dickies Arena on September 29. The only other Texas stop on his 36-city tour will be in Lubbock, on July 27. (So sorry, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.)

Special guests throughout the tour will include up-and-coming country artists Chayce Beckham, Tyler Braden, Ashley Cooke, Jackson Dean, Jon Langston, Conner Smith, Alana Springsteen, Hailey Whitters, and DJ Rock.

According to the tour site, Beckham, Dean, Whitters, and DJ Rock will play the Dallas-Fort Worth shows.

Bryan has a history of investing in new artists by inviting them to join him on tour, a press release reminds.

“Artists get into the business to make music and perform it for the fans,” Bryan says in the release. “Leaving it all out on that stage is what it’s all about for me. I’m excited to support and have so many talented new artists along for the ride this year. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of our job.

The tour is named for Bryan's 30th No. 1 single, “Country On” - a celebration of farmers, truckers, military, first responders, and all of Americana that hit the top of the country singles charts around Christmas 2022. He has amassed a career tally of 56 total weeks at #1.

Bryan launches his 2023 headline dates at Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas on February 1. He's also returning as a judge on ABC's American Idol this spring.

Bryan's "Country On Tour" kicks off June 15 in Syracuse, New York.

Tickets go on sale on at 10 am Friday, February 3 at Lukebryan.com.

Presale for Bryan's fan club members will run 8 am Tuesday, January 31 through 5 pm Thursday, February 2. For details, go HERE.

Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets from 10 am Wednesday, February 1 to 10 pm Thursday, Feb 2 through the Citi Entertainment program. For complete presale details visit www.citientertainment.com.