Gas drilling to aid students

The university will drill for natural gas on its property in order to financially boost all operations for several years to come, the provost said during a Staff Assembly meeting Tuesday.Provost Nowell Donovan said the drilling will be into the Barnett Shale reservoir 7,000 feet underneath campus.

The money from the drilling will be used to further university interests and help create a better breeding ground for leaders, Donovan said.

The information was given in a presentation Donovan called, “The Handshake Moment.” He defined it as the moment when a student shakes hands with the Chancellor and said everything a university does relates to that moment.

Donovan said the message delivered at commencement is that a student has earned or merited a degree and that the degree is of the highest quality TCU can deliver.

“We’re bound to each other by a whole series of promises,” Donovan said.

To help define these promises, Donovan gave an assessment of the school’s academic goals. John Householder, Staff Assembly chair, said Donovan’s assessment described, “Where we are and where we’re going with academics.”

Donovan said the university had students of distinction, and that the faculty, “exemplified the TCU teacher/scholar model.”

However, Donovan emphasized that the school needs to continue down its current path of improving academic facilities.

“We still have quite some way to go,” Donovan said.

He said the money from the natural gas should help make progress toward achieving the university’s goals.

“We are 100 percent certain there is money underneath us and that it will help us in the coming years,” Donovan said.

The plan calls for the university to utilize horizontal drilling and fracturing, the process of cracking the rock with pressured water.

Donovan said the Barnett Shale was the least risky drilling investment in recent years.

He said the TCU Energy Institute has been formed for further research on the situation and will be a great opportunity for the college of science and engineering as well as the business school.

When the new buildings are completed it will give opportunities for many departments to widen out. Donovan also said a new honors college will be established to help the university achieve its mission statement. It will reside at the heart of the old student union, which Donovan said is fitting.

“It will honor what we are all about, academic excellence,” Donovan said.

Donovan’s presentation focused on how TCU can meet the expectations of what he said a university should be.

Donovan said the university’s appeal stems from the personal relationships built up between students and faculty. He said he planned on improving this appeal by hiring 18 new faculty members as part of the school’s effort to lower the current student to teacher ratio from 17.7 to 1 to the university’s goal of a 13 to 1 ratio.

Donovan also talked about improving the number of students with an “international experience.” He said this experience consists of studying in another country or becoming more aware of other cultures through classes.

The university would like to increase the percentage of students with this experience from 21 percent to 100 percent by 2012.

Angela Kaufman, minister to the university, also reported on the new student emergency fund.

Kaufman said the fund was restarted with a $50,000 donation from an anonymous donor after the recent hurricanes.

The fund will be enable students to receive money to pay for emergencies and travel costs for family deaths.