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Making it Possible . . . Crafting Texas Tech's Strategic Plan for 2010-2020

September 2009

Bob Smith
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

 

All Things Texas Tech

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 . . .

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.

All Things Texas Tech

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:

  1. an endowment equal to or greater than $400 million;
  2. the sum total of Ph.D.s awarded equal to or greater than 200 in each of the previous two years;
  3. high achievement of freshmen classes for two years as determined by THECB;
  4. have Association of Research Libraries membership OR the basing of a Phi Beta Kappa honor society chapter on campus;
  5. high-quality faculty for two years as determined by THECB; or
  6. 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:

  1. restricted research expenditures of $45 million (Texas Tech’s recent annual restricted research expenditures have been $26 million or less); and
  2. 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:

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:

Developing a Set of Peer National Research Universities

English Tower in Fall

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.

What’s Next?

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:

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 bob.smith@ttu.edu.