WT-125: Planning Principles

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WT 125 Planning Principles

1. Servant Leadership - Inverted Hierarchies

The foundation of all leadership decisions in the planning process will be the extent to which a decision allows WT to lead by serving. This does not imply a set of working priorities with no rudder, but rather that decisions will be made by understanding the highest interests of WT in its many dimensions. Work will be directed to serving those interests through leadership. Included in this concept is the idea that the traditional pyramid of decision-making is inverted. The system will get better because the people doing their jobs at every level are empowered to make effective decisions and expected to do so. The peak of the pyramid is where students are.

2. Learner-Centered University

West Texas A&M University must provide a nurturing, as well as rigorous educational environment for learners of all levels, both on- and off-campus, degree seeking and non-degree seeking. All actions suggested by planning should value and reinforce the importance of the educational opportunity afforded students as the central purpose of WT. This is our focusing purpose, and it is academic in nature.

3. Core Programs and Distinctive Competencies

At West Texas A&M University, various core programs define us. There should be access to excellence in basic educational programs, the core body of knowledge that allows a person to be an educated human being. Each academic program should provide distinctive, excellent core experiences for students. On the other hand, each program should provide something to the greater university, and therefore the State of Texas and the student, which is available nowhere else in the state. Strength in core programs and distinctive competencies will mark West Texas A&M University.

4. Deep Interdependence

As West Texas A&M University evolves into a Regional Research University, the variety and type of offerings must be tailored to the strengths of each program represented. Distinctive competencies should be shared to avoid inappropriate redundancies in capabilities. Some programs and capacities should be resident in only one college or program, while others should be available everywhere. The commonly available programs should build a foundation for educational excellence. The special attributes should give character to particular offerings and build distinctiveness, while strengthening all parts of the campus.

5. Quality as the Cornerstone

Defining and assessing quality is an immense challenge. Quality is not always easily characterized in words and numbers. Some aspects of quality in higher education defy any quantification; most require multiple indicators. For example, student retention – a measure some value highly – should never be misinterpreted to mean our educational efforts are of high quality just because student retention is good. Rather, given success in this indicator, our chances for achieving quality educational opportunities will probably increase, but only other indicators of effectiveness will demonstrate that. The way that we nurture students, the number effectively placed for employment or graduate/professional study, their performance on professional examinations for certification all indicate quality in other dimensions. The synergy and interaction of the dimensions discussed are themselves an indicator of our aspiration for making WT a place known for a pervasive commitment to student achievement.

6. Serving Texas

The genesis of the Morrill Act that established the land grant universities in America was the demand created by the Industrial Age for educated people to serve the agricultural and mechanical needs of a growing nation. This landmark legislation recognized that education could and should lead to the improvement of the human condition and that learning should be for the many rather than the few. A strong commitment to service still prospers at WT. The challenge as we enter the middle of the 21st century is to capture and confirm a contemporary notion of a Regional Research University coupled with a great land grant institution. This creates a distinctive philosophy. Our current understanding of how higher education can transform society will have an impact on American life equal to or greater than that of the Morrill Act in the late 19th century. WT should lead in extending and amplifying what it means to be service oriented in the 21st century through action consistent with the ideals of the Morrill Act. We are a part of that mission.

7. Participatory Decision Making

People affected by the plan and process should be directly involved in the decision- making that produces the plan. While it is impossible to include everyone, it is possible to include representatives of those affected. For example, learners involved in course work through the various parts of the University can be effectively represented in the planning process through the agency of dedicated faculty and staff. The key players in the planning process should seek participation from their constituencies to the greatest extent possible. As the plan unfolds, this input will assist in guiding the effort to serve all best.

8. Flexible Organizations

West Texas A&M University should be known as an efficient organization. Many sources suggest it is lean at the top and that resources for administration are effectively distributed when compared to other institutions. Increasing competition from private, for-profit universities and demands for efficiency from Austin and The Texas A&M University System offices means we must become more adept yet from an administrative standpoint. Necessary bureaucratic procedures should be transparent and easy to negotiate, not an obstacle to success. People, rather than organizations, should be responsible for making decisions. We should do all that we can to create funnels of responsibility and to have decisions made by people at the lowest, most appropriate levels that adds value. The best universities will be responsive to change, adaptable, agile, and able to provide support and assistance for the knowledge work of the institution.

9. Risk-Friendly Environments

The best universities of the 21st century will encourage informed risk-taking. Taking risks may produce failure, but from failure comes discovery. The most profound ideas, the greatest inventions, the most compelling masterpieces grow from an environment that tolerates, even encourages, risk. People identify with the entrepreneurial spirit of Texas, and especially of the Panhandle. This spirit – that pushes the edge of thought and action and sees possibilities and opportunities where others may not – needs to be present in the faculty, staff, and students of West Texas A&M University and its plan. Faculty, staff, and students should be encouraged to be entrepreneurial in every aspect of university life, to be bold in seeking opportunities that benefit the life of the university, its citizens, and ultimately the citizens of the Panhandle, state and beyond. This entrepreneurial spirit will mark WT.

10. Facilities 

The campuses and facilities of West Texas A&M University must provide welcoming environments that are aesthetically pleasing as well as appropriate to their purpose and efficiency. All should be proud of the physical facilities and resources of West Texas A&M University.

11. People First

West Texas A&M University is first composed of people. Every effort will be made to recruit, retain and reward students, faculty and staff who challenge us with their commitment and excellence. Students are WT’s cause for being. Recruiting and retaining the very best, by our measure, requires much more than test scores and class rank. We will seek those who will lead. Faculty are needed to work with excellent students. The quality of our faculty and the work settings we nurture are important to our future success. Graduate students, that special breed who are at once learners and leaders, will form the foundation for excellence in teaching, research and scholarship for faculty. Staff, who support the academic enterprise, should be regarded for the commitment to excellence that they bring.

12. The Future

The desire to be good, the fear of failure and the comfort familiarity provides are three fundamental conditions of human nature. Our vision should address these through a careful analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and steadfast determination to build on strengths, eliminate weaknesses, seek opportunities and face threats creatively and energetically. WT will be more distinctive in the future than it is today. That distinctiveness will be created on a foundation of quality that is widely recognized and measured by world standards.

Because of our efforts over the next few decades, the legislature and the people of Texas will have a deeper appreciation for the role that WT plays in the state’s economy. The general population will be more aware of what WT does for the economy and for their quality of life. An understanding of our deep responsibility will provide the foundation for this, but it will be built upon by a new view of how we can provide leadership. We will take our responsibility to inform in a way that serves as a benchmark for other universities.

New alliances and new forms of teaching and learning will emerge. These will shape educational programs that go beyond the individual and impact learners from the childhood to old age, in primary and secondary schools, in corporate offices and places of production, individually and in groups, for profit, and for fun. This is the changing nature of higher education, and it will mark WT.

These dozen planning principles should be evidenced in all of our decision making as we reflect on the future of WT.