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WT-125: Introduction Statement

From the Panhandle to the World
A Regionally Responsive Research University

If you are reading this, you have been identified as a member of the West Texas A&M University community who will help guide our institution forward. It has been a difficult task to identify you as one of the members of this group. During the summer of 2017, a steering committee, the President’s Cabinet and the Deans provided and sorted through hundreds of names to get a workable size group to help move WT forward.

Thankfully, the challenge is that we have many people from on-campus and off-campus who would be willing and able to contribute to a vision, a generational plan that will aid in determining what WT might look like in 2035, when we celebrate our 125th anniversary: our quasquicentennial.

You will see in all that follows many analyses of universities that have some relationship to West Texas A&M University. A set of Comparison Peers that represent institutions similar to WT – Large Comprehensive Masters Universities, according to the Carnegie classification system.

In addition, you will see a group of Aspirant Peer institutions. This group of institutions have, within the past seven years, moved from Large Comprehensive Masters Universities into the designation of Doctoral Universities. We do not want to be like any other university on this list: that would be foolhardy. Rather, we want to be considered in the same family of the universities, while we maintain our identity as WT. 

WT 125 Introduction Statement 

The last set of institutions included in our analysis, are those that have a geographic, or competitive tie to WT. Our students’ frequently choose between WT and Texas A&M, the University of Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. These are National Research Universities. Potential students may have a legacy connection: their parents, uncles, aunts, and/or grandparents may have attended those institutions and therefore students consider them carefully. While we legitimately compete with these institutions for some of our students, we will not compare ourselves to them in this analysis: they are fundamentally different. Individually, they produce hundreds of millions of dollars of funded research annually, manage endowments of hundreds of millions of dollars – billions in some cases – and field D1 intercollegiate athletics programs. In every case, they do not have the distinctiveness provided by the Texas Panhandle. This “accident of geography” gives us something that none of those other institutions possess. None are not part of the Texas Panhandle. WT is distinguished from all others in a remarkable way. Culture and geography will drive everything we do in the coming decades.

You will also see ten Theme Groups identified in this workbook. During the summer, through discussions with the Steering Committee, President’s Cabinet and Deans, we identified key areas where progress and attention to our future would lead to potential improvement. The Theme Groups could be focus groups, working groups, or any other number of titles. My experience indicates that the concept of “themes” works well.

A structure for this process is included in this document. There is an organizational chart. Given the magnitude of this undertaking, we have created an organization within the organization that is a standalone unit. 

WT 125 has the mission of defining a positive, and ever improving future for West Texas A&M University. Never assume this implies that West Texas A&M University is not a well-functioning organization that serves thousands of students exceedingly well. However, I live by the simple idea that every organization, no matter how effective it may seem, can improve with a sharp focus and intentionality on the part of all of those associated with it.

As we embark on this process, I implore each of you to see yourselves, in every conversation, in every deliberation, and in every decision, as representatives of some 90,000 alumni; 400,000 residents of the Texas Panhandle; 10,000 current students; and tens of thousands of future students at West Texas A&M University.

I am asking you to become part of something that is larger than self.
This is an exciting opportunity from my perspective. As we each contribute to the greater good in our efforts, WT will become better.

Our goal is to attain doctoral status and in so doing, become a university for which no designation currently exists: a Regional Research University. We will focus on solving the complex and demanding problems and challenges associated with the constellation of many small communities served by a single metropolitan area. We should aspire to stand alone as an institution that understands the needs of rural communities in pursuits related to agriculture, economic development, education, engineering, healthcare, and social and cultural progress, in a way that is distinctive.

We will define a university that is unlike any other, that is well suited to the people, place and progress of the Texas Panhandle. In serving this distinctive region, we will be able to transfer our insights and ideas to other similar regions in the nation, and even beyond our national borders.

I believe this to be a particularly high calling and consider it a privilege to engage and embrace all of you in this creative process. I will say this many times in the coming year, but I would like to start with it right now: “Thank you all for your willingness to serve West Texas A&M University, The Texas A&M University system, and the great State of Texas.”

In closing, the process and procedures outlined herein are similar to one that I helped develop and lead at Texas A&M University called Vision 2020: Creating a Culture of Excellence. WT 125 also has components of a process that was used at The Texas A&M University System when I was Vice Chancellor for Planning and System Integration called The Integrative Plan: Promise for a New Century. Lastly, as Chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, we developed a plan called Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment.

It is my passion to look ahead – gleaned insight accumulates along the way. I would encourage anyone interested to look at these documents and processes. They have commonality with what follows, and constitute my full experience as an academic planner. Each produced a clear and useful future perspective – vision – for each organization.

Our effort, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World will be the best of the lot.