“The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart & Courage”
Texas Tech Provost Bob Smith releases a book for educators, parents, young adults, and others journeying down life’s Yellow Brick Road.
by Rachel Pierce
Oftentimes when one thinks about Oz, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland or the classic book series written by L. Frank Baum are the first artistic works that come to mind. Aside from appreciating their cultural value, “The Wizard of Oz” film and books inspired one of Texas Tech University’s chief administrators to look beyond the storyline and uncover insights to foster personal and professional growth.
Texas Tech University Provost Bob Smith wrote “The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart & Courage,” released in September, as a roadmap for navigating the Yellow Brick Road of Life. The book offers an accessible narrative through its exploration of the film, the classic Wizard of Oz stories, and the life of their creator Baum.
Certainly, there’s no better author for such a title as Smith, a man who’s led quite the storied career during his four decades in academia. In fact, it was a job opportunity that first put him onto the trail of Dorothy and friends.
“I didn’t read Baum’s 1900 book, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,’ on which the movie was based, until 1997, when I was interviewing for a job at the University of Kansas,” Smith shared in his book. “I thought since the classic work was set in Kansas I should be familiar with it, and perhaps I could create intriguing links between the development of Baum’s book and the position for which I was interviewing. One thing I learned from that interview, however, was that the Kansans I met didn’t seem to know much more about Baum’s book than people in any other state.”
Moreover, the interview didn’t lead Smith to a career at Kansas. Yet his interest was drawn in the direction of Oz, and he desired to learn more about its characters, their journeys, and the life lessons encountered along the Yellow Brick Road.
Watch an introduction to the book from Author Bob Smith.
More About the Book
Visit the book's website at www.thewayofoz.com.
“The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart & Courage” is published by the Texas Tech University Press.
“It seemed to me that in our contemporary world, educated people should aspire to integrate the intellectual, moral, and ethical lessons Baum’s characters come to represent: learning, loving, and serving others through humility and a focus on the future,” Smith said.
Through his reflections, Smith developed the core of “The Way of Oz.” Therein, Oz’s main characters each possess a characteristic that is essential for success on the Yellow Brick Road of Life. Dorothy maintains a focus on the future and represents leadership, while the Wizard stands for humility. Also, the Scarecrow stands for learning, the Tin Woodman for loving and the Cowardly Lion for serving. Smith noted that the values of learning, loving, and serving are interlinked; by integrating these three and incorporating the principles of leadership and humility, a person lays the foundation for lifelong learning–a necessity for personal and professional growth. Additionally, Smith weaves in the biography of Oz author Baum and includes supplemental video content that a reader may access via smartphone–using the device to scan quick-response codes printed throughout the book.
Smith believed that “The Way of Oz” could be a resource for students in high school and college, as the book’s message could help to reinforce the importance of advancing one’s education, engaging meaningfully with others, and contributing to outreach efforts. Further, he felt that “The Way of Oz” provided a model for exceptional faculty in higher education. Indeed, the university’s Integrated Scholars honorees, who are profiled in the academic journal All Things Texas Tech, are chosen for their commitment to and integration of teaching, research and service. Also, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents revised its tenure criteria earlier this year to clarify teaching, research and creative activity, and professional service for faculty seeking tenure and promotion–an indication that the university system champions the Integrated Scholar framework.
Smith has created “The Way of Oz” for the youngest as well as the most experienced learners, so they may find a path to leading richer and more fulfilling lives. “It became my hope,” he noted, “that ‘The Way of Oz’ might assist the ‘youth of all ages.’” Smith has been working to communicate the values presented in “The Way of Oz” through visits and lectures to schoolchildren and education professionals in the U.S. and abroad.
Through these efforts, the message in “The Way of Oz” is sure to reach many around the world, a testament to the timelessness of the classic film and the book series. By placing learning, loving and serving at the forefront, one is bound find many others traveling a similar route on life’s Yellow Brick Road.
About the Author
Bob Smith has served as Provost and Senior Vice President at Texas Tech University (TTU) since 2009. Prior to joining TTU, he served as the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2000-2008); Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Connecticut (1997-2000); Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School (1987-1997) and Dean of the College of Pharmacy (1985-86) at Washington State University; James E. Bauerle Professor (1983-85) and Director of the Drug Dynamics Institute (1978-85), Professor (1977-83) and Associate Professor (1974-77) at the University of Texas at Austin; Associate and Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry (1968-74) at the University of Iowa.
Bob's Ph.D. (1968) and master's (1964) degrees (Pharmaceutical Chemistry) were earned at the University of Michigan. He received his B.S. degree (Pharmaceutical Sciences) cum laude from St. John's University in New York (1963).
Bob is a native of New York. He is the author or co-author of more than 320 articles and nine books, including Where You Stand Is Where You Sit: An Academic Administrator's Handbook, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2006. The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart, and Courage, was published by TTU Press in September 2012. At Texas Tech, he is also editor-in-chief of the online journal All Things Texas Tech and co-produces AcademiCast™, a podcast series that includes interviews with TTU faculty and students.
His research and scholarly interests have been in the pharmaceutical sciences, communication, personal and professional development, and university administration.
Rachel Pierce is Senior Editor of Research and Academic Communications for the Office of the Provost at Texas Tech University.