WT 125: Introduction


From the Panhandle to the World:
A Regionally Responsive Research University

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 of people to help move WT forward.

Thankfully, the challenge was that so many people from on-campus and off-campus were willing and able to contribute to a vision, a generational plan that will aid in determining what WT might look like in 2035, when the University celebrates 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. WT does not want to be like any other university on the list: that would be foolhardy. Rather, WT wants to be considered in the same family of the universities, while WT maintains its own identity.

WT 125 Introduction Statement

The last set of institutions included in our analysis, are those that have a geographic, or competitive tie to WT. WT 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 WT legitimately competes with these institutions for some students, the University 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 WT something that none of those other institutions possess. None are part of the Texas Panhandle. WT is distinguished from all others in a remarkable way. Culture and geography will drive everything WT does in the coming decades.

There are ten Theme Groups identified. Through discussions with the Steering Committee, President’s Cabinet, and Deans, WT identified key areas where progress and attention to the future would lead to potential improvement. The Theme Groups could be focus groups, working groups, or any other number of titles.

A structure for the process is documented. There is an organizational chart. Given the magnitude of the undertaking, WT 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, 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 WT embarked on this process, President Wendler implored each person to see themselves, 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.

WT’s goal is to attain doctoral status and in so doing, become a university for which no designation currently exists: a Regional Research University. WT is focusing on solving the complex and demanding problems and challenges associated with the constellation of many small communities served by a single metropolitan area. WT aspires 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.

WT defines 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, WT can transfer its insights and ideas to other similar regions in the nation, and even beyond our national borders.

In closing, the process and procedures outlined herein are similar to others that President Wendler 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 President Wendler 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, President Wendler developed a plan called Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment.

It is President Wendler’s passion to look ahead – gleaned insight accumulated along the way. WT encourages anyone interested to look at these documents and processes. They have commonality with what follows, and constitute President Wendler’s full experience as an academic planner. Each produced a clear and useful future perspective – vision – for each organization. The University’s effort, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World will be the best of the lot.