By Donna Howard, State Representative
As a member of the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education, I am intimately involved in our state’s efforts to increase our college-going population, close the gaps between ethnic and socioeconomic student achievement, and create a 21st century workforce that will ensure our continued growth and prosperity. I am also keenly aware of the need for citizen scholars who value collaborative problem solving and who are engaged in the betterment of their communities. In fact, I am convinced that participation in the political process has the potential to enrich our lives individually and collectively.
All of this, though, requires a structure within which the necessary experiences are available to cultivate such outcomes. The Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Consortium in the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin is exactly the type of laboratory that is successfully producing results: creating citizen scholars who are given the opportunity to link their passions with their academic pursuits in a multidisciplinary collaboration in order to affect positive change in their communities. And, in mirroring the changing demographics of Texas, the vast majority of the IE students are minorities, first-to-attend college, and/or low-income students.
IE is a model of success that links rigor and relevance, town and gown, as well as theory and real-world experience. What a difference this can make in the lives of these students and also in the future of our great state.