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Pres Perspective

Helping Humanity Through Discovery and Innovation

By Michael K. Young

President, Texas A&M University
President Michael K. Young shares his thoughts on how Texas A&M University is a leader in discovery and innovation.

At Texas A&M University, we share a wonderful, 141-year tradition of leadership and service. As Aggies, we are the first to raise our hands in the face of any challenge and the first to seek out service to others. We are eager to solve problems. Our daily successful acts of discovery and innovation improve the state of Texas, the nation and the world. Moreover, as the world around us continues to evolve, so do grand global challenges and our will to solve them.

Showcasing Texas A&M Discovery and Innovation

Last spring, Texas A&M participated for the first time in the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference event in Austin. SXSW Interactive Week primarily brings together corporations from around the globe to showcase the latest developments in technology and innovation. Texas A&M was one of only a handful of universities to participate in SXSW and, in doing so, we positioned ourselves as a thought leader across many disciplines. Most of all, the event gave many of our students the opportunity to connect their ideas with potential employers and investors.

Over the five-day program, many of our colleges demonstrated their impact on the world in exciting show-and-tell events. For example, a presentation from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences entitled “The Human Lab” featured biometric equipment that measures an individual’s skin galvanization and eye tracking to help researchers understand why individuals make the choices they do.

The Department of Visualization in the College of Architecture illustrated how technology and humans interface. Researchers showed how haptic technology—in this case, specially- equipped stuffed animals that recreate the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and motions to the user—can relax children with autism spectrum disorder. The college also showcased its Oscar-winning animation for Hollywood films like “Zootopia” and “Piper,” proving its best-in-class stature among universities and interactive companies alike.

The College of Liberal Arts featured a digital humanities database that combs through scholarly material such as ancient art and historic documents to generate infographics. A second panel also featured this tool in a discussion of how big data is used to understand the universe. 

In addition to these presentations, Texas A&M also revealed other cutting-edge technology, including: a product that can detect infant dehydration; a racecar built from scratch by engineering students; and a program that takes users on a virtual walk on Mars. I was also honored to moderate a panel on the rise of academic incubators, on which distinguished former student and venture capitalist Ray Rothrock ’77 served as a panelist.

It was an exciting week to be an Aggie in Austin as we showed the world the great work that goes on at our university.

Students explore the intersection of art and technology at the College of Liberal Arts' digital humanities panel. 

Discovery and Innovation in Action

To illustrate Texas A&M’s important work in a longer-term format, we began a virtual reality series called “24 Hours of Global Impact” that will continue through 2018. No matter the time, day or night, Aggies in every single time zone of the world are hard at work and making a difference. This series identifies those stories of impact for the world to see.

The 360-degree videos can be viewed on desktop and mobile devices at Viewers can visit, for example, a coral reef in the remote islands of Palau or hop aboard Texas A&M’s research vessel—the JOIDES Resolution—and join scientists as they explore the seafloor for clues about Earth’s history and development. These videos were both featured in the National Science Foundation’s communications channels, and more are planned to roll out.

We are also embracing virtual reality in another way by introducing virtual campus tours. Second of course to a real visit to Aggieland, these videos allow prospective students to take a 360-degree look around our beautiful campus, classrooms and facilities. Viewers can even participate in a virtual Midnight Yell.

Be it cutting-edge science and discovery or new virtual reality formats for sharing the work we do with others, Texas A&M is leading the charge.

The Future

Equally important to celebrating where we stand today is recognizing the direction we are moving. Fueled by a shared conviction for collaboration, coupled with a team of world-class faculty experts who are trailblazers spanning every discipline, Texas A&M’s forthcoming initiative is a School of Innovation, or I-School, the next milestone in our storied legacy of discovery and innovation. The I-School—led by Andrew Morriss, former dean of the School of Law—will be a virtual school designed to transcend traditional college boundaries.

Texas A&M is leading the charge in the latest cutting-edge technology by developing new virtual reality formats. 

While the I-School will not issue degrees, it will coordinate the many existing course offerings, experiential programs, offices and services that enhance students’ skills, further faculty scholarship, and ensure our university’s efforts to advance aptitude in innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. There is much more to come as Dean Morriss collaborates with other deans, faculty, staff and myself on the development of the I-School, and we look forward to reporting more in the coming months.

As Texas A&M works to shape a bright future for our world, we must continue to support its engineers, artists, dreamers, tinkerers and forward-thinkers and bring their creativity to market by increasing investment in practical, purpose-driven research and interdisciplinary program development.

I wish to thank you all for contributing to the ambitious Lead by Example campaign. We at the university are so grateful for the Texas A&M Foundation and other affiliate groups who support our beloved university. The future is bright.


Dunae Reader '15

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor/Maroon Co-Editor