A core value at the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine.
When a community rallies around a purpose, amazing things can happen. Just for a moment, think back to the early 2000s when efforts to revitalize and renew downtown Amarillo really commenced. In two short decades, downtown has been transformed with plans in the works to add further vibrancy to the area and surrounding neighborhoods.
Full disclosure, back in the early 2000s, I didn't think it possible.
I was a newcomer to the Panhandle at the time. I had seen plans – plans less bold than Amarillo's vision – crash and burn elsewhere. What I didn't factor into my assessment was the Amarillo Community – the Panhandle Community. People got behind these plans and now downtown Amarillo is the envy of many cities across Texas and the U.S.
The power of community was again on full display when, against all odds, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine was successfully established in Amarillo. While the team who contributed to the success included many from across Texas and surrounding states, at the center of it all were the Amarillo and Panhandle trailblazers who invested their time, reputation, political capital, and treasure. These trailblazers had purpose, believed in the vision, and then turned the vision into reality. Without this community of trailblazers, Texas Tech's veterinary school would have been relegated as a failed idea collecting dust in some filing cabinet.
Texas Tech's School of Veterinary Medicine is built around a simple purpose comprised of two elements: to serve the veterinary educational and service needs of rural and regional communities, and to provide access to affordable world-class education. This singular purpose informed our intentional admissions process, hands-on curriculum, community-based clinical training, and continuing education offerings.
Proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Two-thirds of our veterinary students are from a small community or a sparsely populated farming/ranching area of Texas or New Mexico (the only two states from which we admit students). While not a selection criterion, it is interesting to note a third of our students represent the first generation in their families to ever attend a university. In looking at just these basic statistics, it is clear our students are very different than those at the other 32 veterinary schools across the country.
We have great veterinary students from Amarillo, the Panhandle and South Plains. Beyond our part of the State, students have come to Amarillo from as far away as Brownsville (a 12-hour drive south), the very east of East Texas, far West Texas, and across rural New Mexico. This fall, we welcome our third incoming class of veterinary students. In addition to the professional veterinary program, we officially launched a PhD degree this year with students from all over the world. Their research covers topics such as parasites, livestock production and reproduction, comparative medicine, infectious and non-infectious diseases, and so much more.
To support the success of all of our students, we have a team that now exceeds 100 staff and faculty members. Our team – our school community – brings worldwide experience, world-renown expertise, and a healthy dose of home-grown grit to build and deliver the veterinary and PhD curricula, and advance the purpose of the school.
Just three-and-a-half years ago, we gathered in a field on the west side of Coulter to break-ground on the school. At the time, there were just three employees. Come August, our state-of-the-art facilities will house more than 400 students, staff, and faculty on a daily basis. In addition, Amarillo has gained a reputation as home to a world-class veterinary medical program. Officials from multiple other institutions now come to learn about our program, and despite not yet graduating our inaugural class, we are included in the rankings of all U.S. veterinary schools.
Visitors are green with envy of the local and regional support that made our school possible. Names of local businesses, foundations, and individuals who donated are everywhere throughout our building. Visitors are also very interested to learn about the transformative economic incentives grant from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). Not surprisingly, these economic incentives grants are meant to encourage economic development to benefit our community.
At the end of our most recent fiscal year on August 31st, our school's economic impact for the community across the prior 12 months was $64.7 million with the creation of an estimated 425 direct and secondary jobs. And we are ahead of schedule. As of today, we are 50% larger than what we initially thought we would be at this stage. At the same time, we continue to operate from our originally planned budget despite being much larger. In other words, Texas Tech has been highly productive with and good stewards of our community's and Texas' investment in our program.
We still have much work to do and many great students, staff and faculty to bring to Amarillo. The school's inaugural class will graduate in two years' time, and then achieve its mature size of approximately 650 to 700 students, staff, and faculty by 2027.
Most importantly, we cherish being at the center of the Panhandle here in Amarillo. Thank you for making our school possible and making us feel so welcomed and wanted. It is no coincidence our school's first Core Value is Community. We define the activity of Community to embrace a sense of place and collaborate toward shared goals.
After all, community makes it so.