5 Things I've Learned: UT-Austin President William Powers



William Powers


At UT 43 years

Faculty for 36 years

President for 7 years


1. Focus on the big rocks. If you focus on five goals, you might get them done. If you focus on 63, you won’t get any of them done. 

2. Go big or go home. A B+ isn’t good enough for people in Texas. It’s not good enough in sports, and it’s not good enough in anything else. If you’re not shooting to be the very best, no matter what field you’re in, it’s not good enough. Nobody had tried a $3 billion capital campaign before. Few think 70 percent of our students can graduate in four years. It’s better to aim high and come up short than aim low and claim victory.

3. You have to put your money where your mouth is. If you have a goal, you have to fund it. The provost and I created a new process to align budgets across campus with the stated goals of department heads and deans.

4. If you want to do something big, you need a champion. In a leadership position, it’s hard to get something done by making it someone’s second job. Curriculum reform needed a champion, and Paul Woodruff answered the call. Four-year graduation needed a champion, and David Laude answered the call. Now Kevin Hegarty is championing our Smarter Systems business productivity project. And in all areas, surround yourself with talent. As Jim Collins said, get the right people on the bus, and get them in the right seats.

5. I’ve learned I’ll always be a teacher first. When I entered administration, as dean of the law school, I found there was nothing as good as teaching, so I kept doing it; and I still do it today.