Inside ATTT: Illuminating Academic Life at Texas Tech
"It's all on the inside
Senior Editor, Academic Communications
Reflecting on the publication of All Things Texas Tech (ATTT; The Journal of Higher Education at Texas Tech University [TTU]) during the past two years, we hope that it has contributed to a better understanding of the TTU academic enterprise. Indeed, through the past few issues we have covered topics ranging from strategic planning to budget planning to study abroad. But, in many instances, published articles have tended to portray the what of academic life at Texas Tech. On a few occasions, however, we have delved into the how and why of academic life with contributions covering such items as integrated scholarship, digitizing library resources, and modeling strategic planning for peer institutions. We would like to do more of these types of articles and have thus crafted the Inside ATTT feature to pursue that end. As importantly, we want to use this new feature to better engage our academic community—through contributions from faculty, students, and staff. This paper provides further elaboration on the idea of an Inside ATTT feature and offers examples of topics that might lead to future contributions—across many areas of the university.
Public universities and their operations often seem mysterious to our constituents, from students and their parents to local and state citizens to public officials. Even within public higher education institutions, the how and why of academic culture, operations, policies, and procedures are not always well understood by students, faculty, and staff. For example, recent discussions at TTU regarding Tier One status are often confounded by misunderstandings of the mission of a research university. On the one hand, you might observe external constituents or constituent groups espousing an exclusive role for teaching in the university's mission. On the other hand, within the TTU community, you might hear criticisms about how the university administration is only interested in research. A simple reading of the university's mission should help to set the record straight:
As a public research university, Texas Tech advances knowledge through innovative and creative teaching, research, and scholarship. The university is dedicated to student success by preparing learners to be ethical leaders for a diverse and globally competitive workforce. The university is committed to enhancing the cultural and economic development of the state, nation, and world.
TTU Mission Statement, approved by the Board of Regents on May 14, 2010
Even with such core principles in place, there will be disbelievers who might charge, "That's what you say, but that is not what you do." The skepticism at best and cynicism at worst can lead to mistrust, dysfunction, and harm. Seeking an antidote to such misunderstanding, we can turn to our raison d'être—education. And, we, as editors of All Things Texas Tech, believe that our academic community, our students, faculty, and staff, have the wisdom to help. Accordingly, we wish to offer the opportunity for contributions from our colleagues on the how and why of our emerging research university.
Offering Some Specific Examples
We have already published articles in ATTT that contain how and why elements. For example, when the university needed to mount a new strategic planning effort in 2009, we asked Texas Tech's Vice Provost of Strategic Planning and Assessment Valerie Paton to write an article (Paton, 2009) on earlier strategic planning efforts to place the then current efforts in context—specifically, offering some how and why background.
The integrated scholar articles (Smith, 2009; Smith and Allen, 2010) all contain allusions to the how and why of motivations and actions that have helped the profiled TTU faculty to contribute to the multi-component mission of the university. In the 2010 integrated scholar article, we also asked the highlighted faculty members to tell their own stories through videos that were developed and published along with derivative podcasts (see AcademiCast) and podcast transcripts. In fall of 2011, we will launch a companion series titled, Students of Integrated Scholarship, which will highlight learning, scholarship, and outreach efforts of TTU students who are best positioning themselves for life-long learning and societal contributions. This new student-oriented series will also be enhanced through video and podcast productions.
So, how might TTU student, faculty, and staff colleagues contribute to Inside ATTT? Here are some suggestions:
- The TTU Teaching, Learning and Technology Center (TLTC) has helped numerous faculty members enhance their teaching efforts. We would like to hear from individual faculty members on how such interventions made a difference in their instructional lives at TTU. We would also be interested in learning why they sought out the TLTC for such help.
- Many TTU academic departments already use peer-teaching assessments effectively in annual evaluations and cases that are made for promotion and tenure of faculty members. We would benefit by learning from selected chairs how peer evaluations of teaching can be more effectively institutionalized. We would also like to understand why the representative chairs believe that peer evaluations make differences in the teaching performance of faculty members in their units.
- We have done much to encourage faculty members to prepare and submit (through the Office of Research Services) competitive grant proposals to federal and other agencies, yet there might be faculty members who are not aware of how such proposals are reviewed and judged. Fortunately, many TTU faculty members serve on national review panels, and at least a few of them could provide a service to our academic community by offering insights on the how and why elements of review processes and how we may all avoid pitfalls in our proposal preparation and submittal processes.
- In a recent ATTT article focusing on undergraduate research (Bailey and Smith, 2011), the suggestion was made that the university consider a goal of ensuring that every future TTU graduate engage in study abroad, a service-learning course or internship, or undergraduate research to help create strong frameworks for life-long learning. But, we would benefit from students writing about why one experience is chosen over another and how relevant experiences may have changed their lives.
- People are getting information in more ways now than ever-before, and Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, podcasts, and social media websites, can be rewarding to those who wisely make use of them to reach their target audiences (Paulson, 2009). At Texas Tech, there are numerous ways to find out about the university, aside from traditional print and broadcast media outlets. These more social outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Flickr, and YouTube, more actively engage people in the conversation about Texas Tech and let us know how we are doing as a university dedicated to its students, faculty, and staff, as well as academic and research achievement. We would like to continue providing multiple information resources for those currently at our university and those interested in our university (e.g., potential students, alumni, political leaders to name a few), so they can see how and why we care about our academic integrity and are constantly becoming innovative in our teaching and research strategies. If professors, instructors, and graduate students have a favorite lecture they would like to share via our media channels, we would like to work with you. Likewise, we are looking for ideas from students, faculty, and staff to tell more research and other success stories about our great university across multiple news mediums (linked below).
- As mentioned earlier in this article, AcademiCast is a podcast series dedicated to telling Texas Tech University's academic story, and it is part of our communications strategy to explain how and why Texas Tech is pushing towards becoming a Tier One research university. As we broaden the use and content of AcademiCast, we will need additional student, faculty, and staff contributions to make it more engaging and diverse in content. We welcome suggestions for podcast story ideas and are open to featuring interviews that provide a greater outlook of all the academic and research happenings at Texas Tech.
AcademiCast, a bi-monthly podcast series, features stories about faculty, staff, student and alumni accomplishments; on-going research across campus; and academic news related to Texas Tech. The series is produced by the Office of the Provost and features a segment hosted by Provost Bob Smith. For content suggestions for upcoming podcasts, please e-mail the Academic & Research Communications Team.
The above are just a few examples of how students, faculty, and staff might contribute to Inside ATTT. If you have other ideas and wish to share them with us before beginning to write an article, feel free to contact Bob Smith or Katie Allen. We look forward to hearing from you.
Bailey, Guy and Bob Smith. 2011. "Undergraduate Research: A Core Element of Texas Tech's Movement to Tier One." All Things Texas Tech 3(1); http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2011/02/undergrad-research.php
Paton, Valerie Osland. 2009. "Strategic Planning in Transition Periods." All Things Texas Tech 1(1); http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2009/04/paton.php
Paulson, Heather. 2009. "What the Heck is Twitter, and What Do I Do With It?" Women's Magazine; http://womensmag.com/arts-entertainment/wired-women-what-the-heck-is-twitter-and-what-do-i-do-with-it
Smith, Bob. 2009. "Integrated Scholars: You Will Find Many at Texas Tech." All Things Texas Tech 1(2); http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2009/09/integratedscholar.php
Smith, Bob and Katie Allen. 2010. "Texas Tech Integrated Scholars 2010." All Things Texas Tech 2(2); http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2010/09/integratedscholars.php
About the Authors
Bob Smith serves as provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech University.
Katie Allen serves as senior editor, academic communications, Office of Communications and Marketing, Texas Tech University.