Making it Possible . . . Crafting Texas Tech's Strategic Plan for 2010-2020
Provost and Senior Vice President
"If you don’t think about the future, you cannot have one."
—John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
English novelist and playwright, author of The Forsyte Saga
From its very beginning, the Texas Tech community has had a sense of destiny and the impact this fine institution could have on Texas and the world. Indeed, Texas Tech’s first president, Paul Whitfield Horn, as early as the institution’s founding in 1923, admonished us to think “big thoughts” and in “worldwide terms.” Thus, from a start as a small technological college, evolving to university status in 1969, Texas Tech would further develop to become one of the state’s largest comprehensive research universities. While developments throughout its relatively short history may not have always been strategically conceived, our time for strategic planning could not be more critical than now. Additionally, our sense of destiny could not be any more important than it is in 2010, given the literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Texas Tech to forge its future as a national research university.
Our planning effort cast in the notion of “making it possible” comes at a time when Texas Tech must assume the role and destiny our ancestors anticipated, but only we can attain through informed strategic thinking, planning, and implementation. The thinking and the planning will be codified through a strategic plan for 2010-2020. The purpose of this article is to describe possible elements of the plan and a process that is being crafted to ensure that the final plan becomes a product of the entire Texas Tech community—led by the efforts of key faculty members, students, staff, and administrators and involving most prominently the university’s Strategic Planning Council (SPC).
A Context for Planning
To move in a planned manner into the future requires an understanding of the present stature and character of Texas Tech. Thus, the SPC has sought short descriptions that complete the phrase: Texas Tech is . . .. Following is a composite set of descriptors thus far amassed by a leadership group composed of the President’s Administrative Council (PAC), senior members of the Office of the Provost, the collegiate and library deans (all fourteen of them), and the SPC.
Texas Tech is . . .
- an emerging national research university;
- a member of the Texas Tech University System (TTUS), consisting of Texas Tech, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), and Angelo State University, along with a set of TTU and TTUHSC units and operations throughout Texas;
- the second largest contiguous university campus (1,843 acres) in the country, graced by nearly uniform adoption of Spanish Renaissance architecture;
- a university with more than 1,100 faculty members; about 30,000 students from all 254 counties in Texas, 50 states, and more than 120 countries around the world; and myriad programs at the undergraduate (118), master’s (107) and doctoral (60 including the J.D.) levels;
- one of America’s national energy universities;
- a university that prepares its graduates to be globally competent and globally competitive;
- an institution that promotes and supports interdisciplinary research;
- an academic community committed to resolving the threat of climate change through collaborations of science, engineering, and social science scholars who are dedicated to creating a sustainable energy economy that promotes national and economic security, enhances environmental stewardship, and generates economic growth;
- a university with a historic commitment to research and services that address the needs of the state, nation, and world;
- the first university in Texas to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation through the Community Engagement Classification;
- an institution with a strong culture of teaching in experiential and interdisciplinary pedagogies;
- a university and affiliated health science center that offer students robust liberal arts and sciences programs and a unique set of professional curricula such as law, medicine, pharmacy, architecture, agriculture and natural resources, engineering, business, visual and performing arts, mass communications, human sciences, education, nursing, and allied health;
- an institution with nationally recognized strengths in the sciences and engineering;
- a national leader in science-technology-engineering-mathematics (STEM) initiatives that promote recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in STEM fields;
- a source of innovative programs in mathematics and science teacher preparation through cooperative programs in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education, and Engineering;
- recognized for providing quality teachers for Texas schools, especially in the high-need areas of math, science, special and bilingual education, and English as a second language;
- the location of notable business and law schools;
- a university with options for earning a Healthcare Management M.B.A. jointly with an M.D., Pharm.D. or J.D. degree.
- the home of great creative and technical writing programs;
- an institution with an undergraduate mass communications program recognized by its peers and professional practitioners for preparing graduates who have had leadership careers throughout the nation;
- dedicated to excellence in the practice and teaching of ethical leadership skills;
- a university with the largest non-land grant college of agricultural sciences relative to research productivity;
- home to what has been designated the best Ph.D. program in environmental toxicology;
- the location of America’s foremost personal financial planning degree programs;
- a university where undergraduate research opportunities enhance the educational experience of many students;
- home to a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Program—the only program in Texas and one of only thirteen nationally to have received continuous funding from HHMI since 1993;
- host to internationally recognized journals published in the Departments of English and Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures;
- an institution that is located in a great center for American music and contributes widely in the visual and performing arts;
- a place of legendary caring and hospitality;
- a university community that believes that "from here, it’s possible;"
- a place where the library is the center of discovery on campus and where library resources are digitally available 24/7 from anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection;
- the only place in the world where a student, staff or faculty member can learn, practice, and render virtual objects in 3-D and create animated videos in an open-access environment;
- a dynamic force in Texas, shaping the future, impacting the present, and preserving the past;
- a major force in making Lubbock the cultural capital of West Texas, an area of more than 140,000 square miles, a region larger than Germany or Italy.
Given the above composite picture, many higher education observers might remark that Texas Tech seems to parallel in character, role, and scope, traditional land-grant institutions located in states where the land-grant and liberal arts universities stand apart from one another. This possible perception calls for some explanation.
The Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln at the height of the U.S. Civil War, provided for federal land subsidies for the establishment of universities that would provide liberal and practical education for people in the working classes. Agriculture, mechanical arts (engineering), and military tactics were the areas of study emphasized in the original legislation. The land-grant institution, as it would subsequently evolve, would not only blend liberal and practical studies but would also have at its core research that would solve problems and extend research-based solutions to society. The research and extension efforts would subsequently be codified and receive funding under two Congressional acts, the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, respectively.
Today, there is at least one land-grant institution in every state in the union, along with the 1890 Historically Black Institutions in several southern states including Texas, but individual state histories vary in how the land grant was adopted relative to the higher education systems established or supported in each state. Thus, in twenty-eight states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, the land-grant and liberal arts missions were combined to create institutions such as the Universities of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin-Madison.
In twenty-two other states, by contrast, the land-grant and liberal arts missions were split into separate institutions. Thus, we note states such as Michigan (University of Michigan and Michigan State University), Texas (University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University), and Washington (University of Washington and Washington State University) where there are twin institutions with different histories, roles, and missions. However, the character of land-grant and non-land-grant universities, all coming under the rubric of national research universities, have tended to merge following the remarkable growth and development of U.S. research universities following World War II. Thus, we encounter notable performing and creative arts programs in traditional land-grant institutions while many liberal arts institutions have strengths in engineering and outreach. Nevertheless, agriculture and related fields tend to be associated with the land-grant institutions regardless of organizational character, thus, with our College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and traditional strengths in engineering, Texas Tech “feels” like a land-grant and one that fits the pattern of a state such as Texas with its separate land-grant and liberal arts institutions. Indeed, if the land-grant assignment were to be repeated today in Texas, it is possible that the designation of the land-grant mission with its attendant federal resources for research and extension might well be split between Texas A&M and Texas Tech. This is not going to happen, but the historic analyses are useful in understanding Texas Tech’s place in the scheme of national research universities.
One other approach to the identification and designation of national research universities is through peer analyses that will be addressed below. But, before considering such analyses, it is important to assess where Texas Tech has been planning-wise during the past decade. It is also important that we consider the role and scope of Texas Tech, its vision and mission, along with its strategic priorities, which will be addressed right after the planning assessment that follows.
Prior Plans, Prior Aspirations
Hubert Humphrey, long-term U.S. Senator, vice president under Lyndon Johnson (1965-1969), and unsuccessful candidate for president in 1968, was fond of reminding audiences about the distinctive difference between totalitarian states and democracies relative to the treatment of prior leaders. In the former case, the contributions of earlier leadership is erased or minimized. In contrast, in democratic nations, earlier leadership and positive efforts are honored. So, it should also be in higher education institutions, remembering too Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) assertion that “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” an aphorism that comes from Greek mythology and the medieval scholar, Bernard of Chartres (died circa 1030), and used frequently by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) during his time in public life.
Texas Tech, although a relatively young institution, has always aspired to excellence in undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The record also affirms how Texas Tech has contributed through research and service to the economic and cultural development of Texas and the nation. These contributions were more or less aligned with calculated efforts during Texas Tech’s eighty-six year history. In particular, Texas Tech has been conscientiously strategic in the current decade culminating in a 2005-2010 plan that has been integrated with efforts tied to reaccreditation of the university through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. While the most recent efforts are laudable, a criticism offered by planning-affiliated faculty and staff members, and administrators is that the university has not always been as strategic as it might have been. Specifically, we have not always made decisions that were as beneficial as possible to the institution. Thus, we are stressing the word and concept of being strategic in the planning effort currently underway, an effort that will lead to the 2010-2020 Texas Tech Strategic Plan. Coincident with this strategic approach to planning is a literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has been made available through passage and the signing into law by Governor Rick Perry of House Bill (HB) 51.
A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity
HB 51 deals with the opportunity for Texas Tech to be officially designated by the Texas Legislature as a national research university (NRU). Let’s consider this opportunity further.
The larger states in the U.S. have one or more major public research universities. Among the largest states, population-wise, such as California, Florida, and New York, the count is between six and ten. Thus, for Texas, given its physical size of 268,581 square miles and population of 23 million, there would be sizable benefits—economically and culturally—to an increase in the number of public NRUs from the current two of Texas A&M and UT Austin. Thus, HB 51 provides opportunities for a set of emerging NRUs (Texas Tech and the Universities of Houston, North Texas, Texas at Arlington, Texas at Dallas, Texas at El Paso, and Texas at San Antonio) to achieve formal NRU status. To do this, each emerging NRU as designated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), must accomplish the following levels of productivity as set out in HB 51: (1) have at least two years of annual restricted research expenditures equal to or greater than $45 million (2) achieve at least four of the following six criteria:
- an endowment equal to or greater than $400 million;
- the sum total of Ph.D.s awarded equal to or greater than 200 in each of the previous two years;
- high achievement of freshmen classes for two years as determined by THECB;
- have Association of Research Libraries membership OR the basing of a Phi Beta Kappa honor society chapter on campus;
- high-quality faculty for two years as determined by THECB; or
- high-quality graduate-level programs as determined by THECB.
Texas Tech’s challenge in meeting the HB 51 criteria is primarily in two critical areas:
- restricted research expenditures of $45 million (Texas Tech’s recent annual restricted research expenditures have been $26 million or less); and
- Ph.D. graduates (Texas Tech’s annual degrees awarded have been shy of 200 by 5 to 10 percent).
Some may now ask: “why bother?” The answer relates to enhanced funding with dollars that can benefit faculty, students, and staff directly along with the ability of our university to enhance its contributions to the state, the nation, and the world. Specifically, by moving to NRU status, the provisions in HB 51 provide direct funding benefits. Also, by enhancing emphasis on graduate — particularly doctoral — education, additional formula funding will result. Let’s consider both sources of revenue in a bit greater detail.
With certification as a NRU, Texas Tech would qualify, given a majority vote in a state-wide referendum in November 2009, for funding through the state’s National Research University Fund (NURF), which is an endowment currently valued at about $500 million, but a fund that could grow to $1-2 billion by the time allocations are made, and the state’s Research University Development Fund, which currently provides for NRUs with $50 million or greater in total research expenditures at a rate of $1 million per $10 million of such research expenditures. Thus, the stakes are high, but the potential for funding is even greater given the graduate education, especially Ph.D.-level education, emphases at NRUs and the funding formula in our state.
Higher education in Texas, and in a significant number of other states, is funded with primary allocation made through the Legislature, by a formula that is based on acknowledged differential costs of education at varying educational levels and in diverse fields or areas of study. Thus, for example, while lower division education in English receives funding by a factor of one, education at upper division and graduate levels, particularly in costly areas such as business, science, and engineering, receive comparatively higher or much higher levels of support, as indicated in Table 1. Thus, a single credit hour in science at the doctoral level receives more than twenty times the funding than a single credit hour of lower division English. Accordingly, when determining the formula-driven state allocation for Texas Tech, the THECB and the Legislature merely calculate the total number of weighted credit hours and multiply by an agreed-to dollar figure ($63.10 per weighed credit hour in 2010-2011) to determine the total legislative allocation. No lobbying, no manipulations—simple math for the university to receive what President Bailey notes as “what it has earned.” So, the amount earned is directly linked to weighed student credit hours taught, particularly those associated with upper level undergraduate and graduate, especially doctoral, level instruction. Thus, by qualifying for NRU status, Texas Tech will automatically qualify for additional revenues because of greater emphasis on more costly education. As it happens, such emphases will also help the university compete nationally for recognition as an NRU as we shall see when we consider peer university assessments. But first, we need to take up the matter of strategic planning of NRUs in general and Texas Tech in particular.
Strategic Planning and the Future of Texas Tech
Strategic plans typically contain the following features:
- a description of context, where the institution is presently;
- a vision statement, preferably a single sentence indicating where the institution is going and what it will look like when the vision is achieved although the vision may reflect some conditions already in place;
- a description of the institution’s mission, what is done by the institution; how it is done, including elements of quality, scope, responsiveness to need, uniqueness, and effectiveness; who is served;
- a discussion of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a so-called SWOT analysis, that characterizes the institution and its environs;
- a set of strategic priorities, or overarching goals, that will guide the institution’s future development;
- as a part of the SWOT analysis and the development of specific goals and objectives, the university community must remember that Texas Tech cannot be “all things to all people” and it must prioritize its efforts based on a pyramidal-type model not only consisting of a few major interdisciplinary initiatives based on a larger set of outstanding disciplinary departmental and other academic units and recognizing an overwhelmingly large set of high-quality programs, but with recognition that choices be based on the sine quo non of quality;
- goals and objectives to help the institution realize its vision that include recognition of the university’s strengths and past accomplishments;
- recommendations to constituents that will assist the institution in achieving its vision and goals while remaining true to its mission.
With these general strategic planning features in mind, the leadership of Texas Tech, including faculty and staff members, students, and administrators, has embarked on a process that will lead to the development of a 2010-2020 strategic plan by December 31, 2009. The efforts have begun with an understanding of the TTUS strategic priorities and goals developed and reviewed by the Board of Regents (BOR) in August of this year. Briefly, the plan incorporates a vision for a set of institutions (TTU, TTUHSC, and ASU, along with a number of centers and operations throughout Texas) working cooperatively and collaboratively to serve the education, research, and service needs of Texas.
Specifically, the TTUS plan contains three pillars for the future: enrollment growth, enhanced research productivity, and student success. With the TTUS vision and pillars for the future in place, Texas Tech is well positioned to develop its institutional plan. Work in this campus-based effort began during the spring and summer of 2009, starting with a review of President Bailey’s charge to the SPC and our leadership that a process be developed and a plan finalized for BOR approval by March of 2010. Following are some of the preliminary steps that have been accomplished since the spring of 2009:
- The SPC reviewed an outline of the proposed planning efforts on April 28.
- The strategic planning outline was discussed with the PAC, academic deans, and the Strategic Enrollment Planning Council in early June.
- Two full-day retreats were held on June 19 and 25, during which each dean was given an opportunity to review progress in their collegiate unit or equivalent, and to propose how the evolving university plan would mesh with his or her unit’s vision, mission, and goals. Also in attendance at these meetings were members of the PAC, four vice provosts, and the chief information officer. During the June 25 session, vision and mission statements of twelve peer NRUs were shared with the composite leadership group.
- A presentation based on this paper was given to the deans retreat leadership group on July 2.
- The deans and other campus leaders were then asked to contribute to the suggested vision statements, mission elements, and short descriptions for inclusion in the “Texas Tech is . . .” context characterization noted earlier. After a number of iterative opportunities for revisions, the following four vision statements were crafted for campus consideration and possible adoption of one:
- Texas Tech is a national research university devoted to excellence in learning and research, guided by ethical leadership and service to Texas and the world.
- Texas Tech is a premier national research university noted for excellence in teaching, research, and student success.
- Texas Tech is an eminent national research university that focuses on student success, discovery of knowledge, and global engagement while encouraging diversity and integrity.
- Texas Tech is a national research university that fosters innovative opportunities in learning, research, and service, empowering individuals and society.
- Analogous to the consideration of vision statements, mission elements were recommended by the leadership group members and developed into the following draft mission statement:
“Texas Tech, an emerging national research university, advances knowledge through innovative and creative teaching, research and scholarship while preparing students to become globally competent, globally competitive, and ethical leaders. The university is also dedicated to service to its students and enhancing the cultural and economic development of the state, nation, and the world.”
- With draft vision and mission statements in place for campus-wide review, the leadership group turned its attention to the recommendation of a set of peers for benchmarking and other comparison efforts.
Developing a Set of Peer National Research Universities
While HB 51 prescribes a set of criteria for emerging research universities such as Texas Tech to qualify for formal NRU recognition, it will be useful along the way for us to know how Texas Tech compares to peers around the nation. More specifically, it will also be helpful to know how Texas Tech stacks up relative to key performance indicators (KPIs) as they will be determined through the strategic planning process. To complete such work requires defining a set of peers, which we’ll want to consider in the context of U.S. higher education overall.
NRUs may be public or private institutions. Thus, we note that in Texas two public institutions, Texas A& M University and the University of Texas at Austin, and one private, Rice University, are already designated as NRUs. In developing a set of peer institutions for comparison and benchmarking purposes, however, it will be wise to consider peers that are all public research universities because of the similarities inherent in the vision and mission elements of public institutions. I have written previously about peer institutions (“From here it’s possible . . .” Assisting TTU’s Ascent During the Second Decade of the 21st Century), but wish to briefly refer to that description; then expand the discussion a bit to offer a proposed set of peers for adoption by Tech.
It may seem curious to some observers, but the vast majority of great NRUs are affiliated with the nation’s major athletic conferences. Thus, if we identify the public institutions in the Big 12, the Big 10, the Pacific Athletic Conference or PAC 10, the Big East, the Atlantic Coast Conference or ACC, and the Southeastern Conference or SEC we come up with a set (Table 2) of NRUs that are readily identifiable with Texas Tech. Furthermore, the vast majority of these institutions would readily qualify for NRU status according to the criteria in HB 51.
Besides the set of fifty-five NRUs found throughout the U.S., it would also be wise for Texas Tech to keep tabs on our sister emerging research universities. Thus, our strategic planning comparisons will have a national and statewide context. This is a recommended course of action for adoption in our strategic planning efforts.
While we can be pleased with what we have accomplished in a relatively short period, it is well for us to consider the elements necessary to complete a final draft of the 2010-2020 Texas Tech Strategic Plan. It is also important for us to consider broad campus buy-in to the substance and process of our strategic planning efforts. Thus the following is proposed:
- Mounting a set of broad-based discussions of the emerging plan and ideas developed thus far. Ongoing meetings of the SPC are playing an important role here, along with discussions that the vice president for research and the provost are having among all of the university’s academic units. These discussions are being augmented through meetings with the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Texas Tech student government groups. These meetings are taking place this fall. We will also mount a number of campus-wide forums to ensure that the entire Texas Tech community is engaged in the strategic planning process. Additionally, President Bailey has made presentations campus-wide on the implications of the state financing of higher education to the progress of Texas Tech becoming a recognized NRU.
- With discussions this past summer and now into the fall of 2009, the implications of the university’s strategic priorities, as articulated in the TTUS Strategic Priorities and Goals reviewed by the BOR in August, are being clarified and discussed. For the sake of completeness, the Texas Tech Strategic Priorities and Goals are as follows (taken from the TTUS Strategic Priorities and Goals):
- Increase Enrollment and Promote Student Success: grow and diversify our student population in order to improve higher education participation and supply a well‐equipped, educated workforce for the State of Texas.
- Strengthen Academic Quality and Reputation: attract and retain the best faculty in the country in order to enhance our teaching excellence and grow our number of nationally recognized programs.
- Expand and Enhance Research and Creative Scholarship: significantly increase the amount of public and private research dollars in order to advance knowledge, improve the quality of life in our state and nation, and enhance the state’s economy and global competitiveness.
- Further Outreach and Service: expand our community outreach, promote higher education, and continue to deliver quality, affordable health care to underserved Texans in order to improve our communities and enrich their quality of life.
- Increase and Maximize Resources: increase funding for scholarships, professorships, and world‐class facilities and maximize those investments through more efficient operations in order to ensure affordability for students and accountability to the State of Texas.
- Along with the university’s strategic priorities, goals, KPIs such as undergraduate six-year graduation rates, and recommendations to Texas Tech’s constituents are being developed; data on KPIs are being collected and analyzed relative to Texas Tech’s peers.
- Using elements contained in this article and information being developed during the fall, draft versions of our strategic plan will be reviewed by the university’s leadership and members of an external advisory group commissioned by President Bailey.
As we move towards our deadline of December 31, 2009, of having the final draft of a strategic plan, I hope we will find ourselves as T.S. Eliot noted so well years ago in Little Gidding:
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
—T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Anglo-American poet, critic, and playwright
Four Quartets Little Gidding, V (1942)
For my part, I am most grateful to all who have and will contribute to our 2010-2020 Strategic Plan as it becomes an integral part of our anticipated bright future.
Bob Smith serves as provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech University. He is also chairing the university’s SPC. Comments, suggestions for changes in the context, vision, and mission statements, peer analyses, and other sections of this paper are welcome along with questions, all of which should be addressed to Bob Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.