by Dr. Taylor Eighmy
The Tangible and Intangible Values of Great Public Research Universities
The changing nature of national research universities and opportunity present for Texas Tech.
University Strategic Plan
Making it possible... 2010-2020 Strategic Plan
Texas Tech University has before it an opportunity unmatched since students first began classes in 1925. We are on the verge of becoming the state's next national research university.
Making it possible... 2010-2020 Strategic Plan offers a framework for seizing the opportunity of a lifetime and provides a vision and mission for Texas Tech University over the next decade. This plan is our road map for achieving national research/Tier One status and for placing Texas Tech in the company of the best institutions of higher education in the United States.
The Journey to Tier One Status
Achieving Tier One status will have a transformative effect on Texas Tech. It will put Texas Tech into an elite category of universities, providing our students with unmatched educational opportunities. Attaining Tier One status will not only transform Texas Tech University, it will expand the scope of our research to meet the world's needs and create an economic boom for Lubbock, West Texas and the state.
The Tier One designation is only a first step in the journey. The ultimate goal is to become one of the nation's truly great research institutions; a university that conducts research that changes lives, that educates students who are globally competitive, and drives the formation of new businesses that significantly enhance the local and state economy.
I have often been asked to reflect on the value of great public research universities. It is helpful to frame my answer around the fantastic opportunity provided by the recent legislation here in Texas that catalyzes the development of more in-state, Tier One national research universities (see the related piece in this first issue of Texas Tech Discoveries). Texas, now more than ever before, must produce a highly educated workforce as our own demography dramatically changes. Now is the time to reaffirm our core values, as well as our value proposition to Texas and the nation.
Early European universities established in the 11th through the 13th centuries, such as Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge and Uppsala, make up the foundation of today's great American universities. These institutions had an ethos of discovery, typically within core disciplines. Coupled with the development of science academies and societies, the European university model evolved into one focused on pure discovery in fields such as mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics and medicine. Not surprisingly, efforts emanating from this university model produced new thinking around celestial behavior, gravity, atomic chemistry, chemical periodicity, quantum mechanics, electrochemistry, cell biology, microbiology and human health. Within the model and progenitor institutions, scholarship in literature and philosophy also thrived – setting a pattern for both sciences and arts being integral to such institutions. Looking back, the exemplar discoveries led to new industries such as energy, electricity, telegraphy, telephony, transportation, industrial chemistry, pharmaceuticals and medicine – all with great benefit to society. American universities have adopted the best aspects of these traditions, and the ethos of discovery is still foundational in modern American doctoral-granting research universities like Texas Tech.
Adaptive Changes: Past, Present and Future
The advent of the great American research university was further tied to newer educational paradigms that reflect two distinct adaptations during the last 150 years. In fact, we may now be entering our third period of adaptation.
The first adaptation was the result of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1861 tied to the great agricultural and mechanical arts economy of the U.S. In addition to land title transfer, federal funding was provided to significantly advance crop growth, harvest and processing. The resulting land-grant colleges and universities typically accelerated agricultural production using public outreach, and an entrepreneurship of innovation ensued. There are now many outstanding land-grant institutions with strong applied research programs across many disciplines well beyond agriculture. Additional federal legislation established Sea Grant and Space Grant institutions in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively, with similar discovery and outreach expectations.
The second adaptation was tied to the 1945 report by Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Vannevar Bush, to President Truman, titled "Science, the Endless Frontier." This report laid the foundation to support post-World War II research at universities, rather than solely at independent (and soon thereafter national) laboratories. New government-university research partnerships were established. Moreover, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) were established to support basic research at then-current major universities.
I believe that Texas Tech University embodies the best characteristics of both land-grant and other public research universities. We are not a Land Grant institution, but our applied agricultural research and development (R&D), and engineering are very strong as well as our basic disciplinary science. However, the world is ever-changing and a third adaptation is now underway, tied to a myriad of challenges such as changing national or regional demography, significant tuition cost concerns for families, eroding state funding, the advent of for-profit education (especially as delivered online), international competition for graduate students who no longer consider the U.S. as their first choice, and most importantly, the increasing need for solutions to complex societal problems – ones that require transdisciplinary solutions.
One can look at the ongoing public debate nationally, and even here in Texas, about the value of public research universities and recognize that many external and sometimes challenging forces are at play. We must not look only well ahead while continuing to reaffirm our foundations and core principles of disciplinary knowledge generation and engaged outreach, but also to support creativity, transdisciplinary discovery and experiential learning as we adapt and change according to our own informed strategic planning.
A great public research university provides access to the best thinking and pedagogy, and it is increasingly transdisciplinary – where new discovery emanates from new areas of analysis anchored in foundational core disciplines.
The Vitality of Public Research Universities
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), of which Texas Tech is an active member, has issued a special wake-up call. Its 2010 report, "Ensuring Public Research Universities Remain Vital," was the culmination of five regional summits designed to address the "crisis of the publics." Texas Tech participated in one of the summits. The recommendations offered to state and federal leaders, elected officials and decision makers outlined an important new course. The recommendations include: increase the number of degree holders, control educational costs per degree, provide non-traditional routes for earning degrees, ensure appropriate learning outcomes, support state economic development through R&D, improve federal R&D support at universities, and enhance international engagement.
As you may know, Texas Tech recently issued Making it possible... 2010-2020 Strategic Plan that charts our course for the next 10 years. Outcomes of this plan should help us realize the above-listed characteristics, as well as those of America's great public and private research universities, akin to the 60-plus great universities comprising the Association of American Universities (AAU). The plan will help us remain vital while we also carry forward the outreach characteristics of an applied R&D land-grant institution and a basic, discovery and scholarship institution, particularly one founded in strong, foundational core disciplines but with great opportunities for transdisciplinary discovery.
It is always wise to ask this question: What makes a great public research university essential in the face of external challenges? I would propose that it is increasingly experiential – beyond traditional methods of learning – more engaged and hands-on, particularly around service learning, internships, study abroad and undergraduate research. A great public research university provides access to the best thinking and pedagogy, and it is increasingly transdisciplinary – where new discovery emanates from new areas of analysis anchored in foundational core disciplines.
The Honors College at Texas Tech is dedicated to providing students with a broad education that prepares them for a lifetime of learning.
The program also offers a minor in Humanities.
Texas Tech University provides undergraduates with opportunities to engage with peers, faculty mentors and the research community through various undergraduate research programs including:
Texas Tech University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Center for Undergraduate Research
Transdiciplinary scholarship embodies outreach that benefits society. The 1998 Boyer Commission Report, "Reinventing Undergraduate Education - A Blueprint for America's Research Universities," offers passionate advocacy for transdisciplinary undergraduate research as being core to the intellectual fabric of a university, indeed tying together discovery and learning. The Boyer Report is even more relevant today. Here at Texas Tech, we have an outstanding Honors College and the capstone experience in the college is involvement in discovery and scholarship under faculty mentoring. We also are fortunate to have excellent undergraduate research programs such as the Texas Tech University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute program, the Clark Scholars program and the Center for Undergraduate Research. Additionally, Texas Tech departments have strong undergraduate research programs. We will continue to do more of this at Texas Tech.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has now begun designating universities that have exemplary engaged outreach – the translational involvement of public users that tangibly benefit from university scholarship. We are a Carnegie-designated community engaged university, and the impact of all of our scholarship is quite profound. In 2009, for example, we engaged more than 197,000 individuals, worked with more than 118,000 K-12 students and teachers, and catalyzed more than $43 million in new funds for our partners. That outreach is clearly significant and essential.
Our Role in Economic and Cultural Development
Frequently, research impacts, especially in the science and engineering disciplines, can be measured as economic impacts. Studies by the Kauffman Foundation, Science Coalition, Rockefeller Institute for Government, Milken Institute and even the National Academies are all useful for benchmarking. What is uniformly recognized is that research universities provide knowledge-focused benefits to the business community, an educated workforce familiar with the international market place, technical consulting and counseling, and management assistance.
The Science Coalition published a compelling case study of 100 success stories of new companies derived from federally funded R&D. Published in 2010, "Sparking Economic Growth," describes how many major U.S. companies (e.g., Cisco Systems, Google, SAS, ThermoAnalytics) were formed as spin-outs from federal funding to universities. These 100 companies reflect impacts across all sectors of the economy: health care, energy, education, communication, entertainment, transportation, manufacturing and defense.
Texas Tech's impact on the Lubbock area's economy also is notable. A 2010 study by Brad Ewing, of the Rawls College of Business Administration, found that Texas Tech's economic impact is greater than $1.25 billion per year. Moreover, the university creates about 15,000 jobs and household earnings of more that $600 million. The research produced at Texas Tech generates about $155 million in economic output, $69 million in household earnings and 1,318 jobs.
Achieving the state's Tier One designation will increase the university's impact substantially. In the Rawls College 2010 study, Ewing estimates that by 2020, Texas Tech's total local economic impact will be $2 billion. Texas Tech will generate about 22,000 jobs and household earnings of $987 million. Our research impact also will increase with an economic impact of $352 million.
Research universities also play essential roles in promoting culture and the arts. Texas Tech offers a wide variety of music, dance and theatre performances featuring our own students and faculty and internationally known performers. Nationally known speakers and poets are also brought to campus, and significant art exhibits are available through the Museum of Texas Tech University and the School of Art. Texas Tech holds the licenses for both the Public Broadcasting System television station and National Public Radio radio station in Lubbock.
"The Chroniclers Mural" (1954), is part of the fresco mural painted by Peter Hurd (1904-1984), located in Holden Hall at Texas Tech University. Click image to enlarge.
The notes located at the bottom of the mural include Einstein's equation (E=mc²), a depiction of energy generation, wind mills, water use, cattle, rural agriculture, and text from biblical passages promoting education and sustainability. Click image to enlarge.
Our students and faculty earn international recognition for their creative endeavors. One of our graduate students in creative writing, Lauri Anderson, just won the "Three Minute Fiction" contest sponsored by National Public Radio. A doctoral student in music, Felix Alanis, recently won third prize in the National Violin Competition. Professor of Music William Westney gives piano workshops around the world and has been profiled twice in the New York Times. Professor Tina Fuentes' artwork has been featured in museums and galleries across the country and was the subject of a PBS documentary. Spanish professor Janet Perez, whose expertise is 20th- and 21st-century Spanish narrative, theatre, poetry and essay, has been elected to Real Academy Espanola's (Spanish Royal Academy’s) North American Chapter. Poets and English professors John Poch and William Wenthe have won awards for their writing, and Poch is editor of "32poems," a nationally recognized poetry magazine. Carolyn Tate, a professor of pre-Columbian art history, has published widely on the Olmec art at La Venta and has held research fellowships from Harvard and the Clark Art Institute. One of our newer faculty members, Cristina Garcia, has published a number of works of fiction that are highly regarded; her 1992 work "Dreaming in Cuban" was a finalist for the National Book Award. And, of community and personal interest, the great Southwestern landscape artist and portrait painter Peter Hurd (1904-1984), whose paintings adorn museums around North America and Scotland, painted one of his more important fresco murals in the rotunda of Holden Hall just outside my office. Every day I can look at depictions of early life on the West Texas plains. But, what I find particularly interesting is found in "The Chroniclers Mural," the panel that represents the individuals who conceived of, and brought the fresco to fruition. In it are two depicted note pages in which Hurd painted subject matter still relevant to us today. They include Einstein's equation (E=mc²), a depiction of energy generation, wind mills, water use, cattle, rural agriculture and text from biblical passages promoting education and sustainability – a tour de force melding art, science and engaged outreach! As should be evident, these are just a few examples of how our university's scholars and scholarship impact local and national culture.
Texas is growing; its population just passed 25 million. In 2050, Texas will be predominantly Hispanic, and all Texas public institutions will need to significantly increase in size – providing cost-effective four-year and graduate degrees. The state's plan for educating the people of Texas, embodied in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Closing the Gaps plan, lays out our responsibilities: increase participation and diversity, increase the success of our graduates, expand our nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate programs, and increase our federal funding for R&D along with our total research expenditures.
The model most relevant for us is tied to this notion: Great public research universities provide great public economic and cultural benefit, now more than ever before. If our commitments to scholarship can be experiential, transdisciplinary and fully community-engaged, then society will benefit, especially if our graduates stay here in Texas where they can provide those tangible and intangible impacts to a society that is diverse and well-educated. I believe that a complete, experiential education is also essential to individual and societal prosperity and foundational to our motto: "From here it's possible."
Dr. Taylor Eighmy is Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University.