WT 125: Planning Principles

Planning Principles

1. Servant Leadership – Inverted Hierarchies

The foundation of all leadership decisions in the planning process is 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 is 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 gets better because the people doing their jobs at every level are empowered to make effective decisions and expected to do so. Students are at the peak of the pyramid.

2. Learner-Centered University

WT provides a nurturing, rigorous educational environment for learners of all levels, both on- and off-campus, degree seeking, and non-degree seeking. All actions value and reinforce the importance of the educational opportunity afforded students as the central purpose of WT. This is the focusing purpose, and it is academic in nature.

3. Core Programs and Distinctive Competencies

At WT, various core programs define the University. There is excellence in basic educational programs, the core body of knowledge that allows a person to be an educated human being. Each academic program provides distinctive, excellent core experiences for students. On the other hand, each program provides 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 mark WT.

4. Deep Interdependence

As WT evolves into a Regional Research University, the variety and type of offerings are tailored to the strengths of each program represented. Distinctive competencies are shared to avoid inappropriate redundancies in capabilities. Some programs and capacities are resident in only one college or program, while others are available everywhere. The commonly available programs build a foundation for educational excellence. The special attributes 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 the University’s educational efforts are of high quality just because student retention is good. Rather, given success in this indicator, the University’s chances for achieving quality educational opportunities will probably increase, but only other indicators of effectiveness will demonstrate that. The way that WT nurtures 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 the 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, entering in too 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. WT’s 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 leads 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. WT is a part of that mission.

7. Participatory Decision Making

People affected by the plan and process are 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 are effectively represented in the planning process through the agency of dedicated faculty and staff. The key players in the planning process seek participation from their constituencies to the greatest extent possible. As the plan unfolds, this input assists in guiding the effort to serve all best.

8. Flexible Organizations

WT is 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 WT is more adept from an administrative standpoint. Necessary bureaucratic procedures are transparent and easy to negotiate, not an obstacle to success. People, rather than organizations, are responsible for making decisions. WT does all that is possible 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 – is presented in the faculty, staff, and students of WT and its plan. Faculty, staff, and students are 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 marks WT.

10. Facilities

The campuses and facilities of WT 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 the University.

11. People First

WT is first composed of people. Every effort is made to recruit, retain and reward students, faculty and staff who challenge the University with their commitment and excellence. Students are WT’s cause for being. Recruiting and retaining the very best, by the University’s measure, requires much more than test scores and class rank. WT seeks those who will lead. Faculty are needed to work with excellent students. The quality of WT’s faculty and the work settings nurtured are important to the University’s future success. Graduate students, that special breed who are at once learners and leaders, form the foundation for excellence in teaching, research and scholarship for faculty. Staff, who support the academic enterprise, are 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. WT’s vision addresses 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 is more distinctive in the future than it is today. That distinctiveness is created on a foundation of quality that is widely recognized and measured by world standards.

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

New alliances and new forms of teaching and learning continue to emerge. These 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 marks WT.

These dozen planning principles are evidenced in all decision making as WT reflects on the future of the University.