(VIDEO) Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec wants to give every student a transformative experience.
In his annual State of the University address Wednesday morning (Oct. 17), Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec focused on how far the university has come, where it will go in the future and how it will get there.
In 2023, Texas Tech will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding, and plans are already underway for that celebration.
One measure of the university is in its growth over the first 95 years. Despite a national trend of declining numbers in higher education, Texas Tech set its 10th consecutive record enrollment this fall, plus records in first-, second- and third-year retention.
“In some ways, this growth is a reflection of the strength of the brand of Texas Tech,” Schovanec said.
Faculty numbers have increased by nearly one-quarter over the last five years, with a 9.5 percent increase in tenured and tenure-track faculty. Five years ago, the student-to-faculty ratio was 24-to-1. Today, Schovanec said, it's 20-to-1. His goal is to lower that ratio even more, to 18-to-1.
One of the university's next steps will be to add more staff positions, which the growth in students and faculty has outpaced.
Although the university has increased its offerings in online and distance education, Schovanec said he also expects enrollment to increase at the university's regional sites as Texas Tech's main campus approaches capacity.
“The case we have to make through what we do and the message we articulate is, there are values in a residential experience you could never replace through online technology,” Schovanec said. “We always have to remember, we're here for the students, and we touch them in ways that will impact them for the rest of their lives.”
An initiative from the Office of the Provost is designed to give each student a specific experience that will benefit them – one they wouldn't get from another university.
The Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences, or TrUE, seeks to provide students with a signature experience outside the classroom that will impact their lives, whether through faculty-mentored research or creative activity, an internship, a service opportunity or something else entirely.
Schovanec focused on the work being done throughout the Texas Tech community to transform lives through engaged scholarship, including the Bayless mentoring program, Tech to Town, the partnership between University Student Housing and Habitat for Humanity, the East Side Arts Camp that students in the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts host in the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood, and projects that engineering undergraduates have completed for Bean Elementary School students.
Even through research efforts, Texas Tech community members are looking to make a difference, Schovanec said. He pointed to the Texas Liberator Project, cotton genomics researcher Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, water conservation work and specialized clothing for Alzheimer's patients as several examples of scholarly activity with a real-world impact.
“There are hundreds of good stories out there, but these typify the kind of good work we want to be doing,” Schovanec said.
Schovanec also touched on Texas Tech's globalization efforts, driven by the university's Quality Enhancement Plan, “Bear Our Banners Far and Wide: Communicating in a Global Society.”
This fall, the university opened its first international campus, Texas Tech University Costa Rica. And in a few weeks, Schovanec will travel to Washington, D.C., to accept the 2018 Sen. Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization, which recognizes excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of the university. It's the second time the university has received one of the two awards named after the late Illinois senator who was a strong advocate for international education and cross-cultural learning. In 2016, Texas Tech received the Sen. Paul Simon Spotlight Award, which honors a specific program or initiative that contributes to internationalization on campus.
“In this world in which we live, it's so important that our students be globally competent and have these experiences,” Schovanec said. “It speaks to a culture of internationalization, not just as part of checking a box, but for preparing students for a global society.”
Along with this award comes a variety of global recognitions.
“There are five major global rankings,” Schovanec said. “In 2014, we were only ranked in one of those. Now we're in all five.”
Under Schovanec and Interim Chancellor Dr. Tedd Mitchell, Texas Tech's legislative priorities for the upcoming biennium will include the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo; the Texas Tech Mental Health Institute, a collaboration with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center; and academic and student success through additional funding for student-support programs.
In terms of facilities, Texas Tech may look different in the coming years. Construction is nearing completion on Experimental Sciences Building II, and the next phase will begin in the spring for the expansion and renovation of the Charles E. Maedgen Jr. Theatre. The ongoing renovation of Weeks Hall, as well as updates to teaching laboratories and classrooms, will continue.
But there's more to come.
A possible new building, which would be placed in what is currently the parking lot behind the Chemistry building, is under discussion. It would be dedicated to sciences and social sciences, which would move out of their current homes in Holden Hall as the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering expands into it.
“There's a lot planned,” Schovanec said, “so hang on.”