WT 125: Looking Ahead

The WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World Generational Plan looks forward a few decades, rather than a few years. We are setting the target high: By 2035, when WT reaches its 125th anniversary, we will have attained doctoral status in the Carnegie classifications of universities with a powerfully distinctive mission.

In reaching this target, we will not be a typical research university but one focused on regional issues. The Texas Panhandle, with its uniquely Texas traditions, values and expectations will be the nucleus that defines every aspect of our work, without apology or equivocation. We will celebrate our deep-rooted value of hard work, of communities where people are committed to each other, of an enterprise that takes risks, and of rewards that follow determination and results. In this world of the American west, not everybody gets a ribbon.

Rewards follow results, through achievement and value.

There are few limits placed on our aspirations by this perspective, yet many possibilities. In addition, the view is not a narrow one. The vast span of place and population in the U.S., and indeed the world, are served by a constellation of small communities. The World Bank says that nearly half of the world’s population lives in rural settings. These communities, whose purpose and value are reinforced daily through contributions to economies and progress, are grounded by a sense of place and enlivened by digital drumfire that diminishes once seemingly vast Panhandle distances to near zero.

What we discover and develop at WT may have value on every continent of the globe. Our mission has purpose beyond our boundaries and deserves attention from within and without. Many institutions focus on urban and suburban issues, here and abroad. Those issues are important and have great value, but our focus will be different. We will let the needs and opportunities of smaller communities drive our ambitions and aspirations, because people in these communities have dreams about their future as surely as a resident in Dallas’ West End or Houston’s River Oaks. Moreover, while the communities may be distant from each other, they hold remarkably similar values and senses of purpose.

The process of plotting this vision will take nearly a year to complete and engage people from on and off campus, from every walk of life, who are committed to a purposeful and intentional WT that serves the needs of students and families in a direct, plainspoken way.

I believe we will see a WT in the next few decades that accomplishes the following: serves more community college transfer students; creates student opportunity at the doctoral level focused on applied research unique to the region we serve; and creates economic opportunity and a higher quality of life. In 2035, we will have a strong, more diverse and pervasive digital presence with online education while simultaneously being known for an exceptional on-campus environment that engages the whole student.

We are WT. We are the Panhandle.

This is a high target. It encompasses crafting a new kind of university, a regional research university, with sharply focused post bachelor’s study – a quarter inch wide and a mile deep – all of which will happen in a way that strengthens and heralds cognizance of our distinctiveness. What produces value in such a conception is that there are many regions similar to ours with a single metropolitan area, which in our case is the I-27 Corridor bounded by Amarillo and Canyon, serving many smaller, widely dispersed communities. I believe we must be mindful of who we are if we are to serve with distinction. Not trapped by our past, but empowered by it. We are already an excellent institution, but continued improvement will come only with the commitment of a great expenditure of energy and insight.

The insight and participation of faculty will be of paramount importance in this effort. Great universities are great because faculty members are wholeheartedly committed to helping students meet their aspirations. Alumni and friends of WT sustain our university. Excellent students help create quality. Empowered staff make administrative and support functions work on a daily basis. In all ways, our academic mission, in response to students and guided by faculty, is the foundation and will increase the quality of an already excellent University. This desire will choreograph WT 125.

I want, and the institution needs, your help in melding our uniqueness and capacity as an institution with the commanding and important issues of our culture. How can West Texas A&M University become the national and even international center of excellence and understanding regarding regional issues that drive the collective progress of a constellation of small towns?

Simply put, I seek your “big ideas” on this subject.

I am not going to send an instrument or create a poll and cite the results.  Instead, all of us associated with WT will be reaching out and asking you in the coming year, “What do you think?” I encourage you to reflect on what this means for our future. Discuss it with your colleagues, friends and coworkers. Help us engage a process that has the simple and honest intention of moving WT forward in its service to students, community and state.

I recognize that this request is unusual. It is not the “normal” way of things. However, I want to ensure that the intellectual might, innovative insight, hard work and entrepreneurism that is in the Panhandle’s DNA does not lie fallow or untapped. This effort to enhance the quality of our work and its results is critically important.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to an ever-improving WT as we approach our 125th anniversary in 2035.

Walter Wendler Signature

Walter V. Wendler