(VIDEO) Students, faculty and staff were recognized for their contributions to the university.
Texas Tech University's annual State of the University address presents an opportunity each fall for President Lawrence Schovanec to list the institution's achievements of the last 12 months. This year, the list was particularly long.
Considering only the university's records in enrollment, retention, degrees awarded and research expenditures; its designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and reaffirmation as a member of the Carnegie Very High Research Activity category; and its selection for two significant national recognitions – the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Sen. Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization from NAFSA: Association of International Educators – it would have been a banner year.
On top of all that, the university also emerged from the 86th Legislative session with the support and funding to move forward with the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine. Athletics boasted a national championship in track and field, a trip to the national championship game in men's basketball and yet another return to the College World Series in baseball.
All of the university's successes, Schovanec said, can be attributed to its community.
"We are progressing in being one of the country's best institutions of higher learning, making sure we have an impact through our teaching, research, creative activity, outreach and engagement," he said. "Across this campus, there is a prevailing commitment to certain core values that distinguish Texas Tech as a place where students, faculty and staff find opportunities to excel personally and, at the same time, enhance the success of others and make a difference in our university, our state and the world."
Five years after launching the Student Success Collaborative, Texas Tech has much to be proud of. It now boasts a record 87% retention rate and awarded a record 8,480 degrees last year. Enrollment is up nearly 12% from five years ago. By increasing merit and need-based scholarships, Texas Tech recruited more than 3,300 Presidential Scholars this year compared to just 1,100 three years ago. There are now 67 National Merit Scholars on campus; in 2016, there were 16.
But it was the stories of Texas Tech students Schovanec focused on. He highlighted past and present students from diverse backgrounds who have exceled at Texas Tech, like:
- SanJuanita Valenciano, who will earn her bachelor's degree in December at age 67, nearly 50 years after beginning her college education.
- Tristan Russo, who worked as a mechanic before attempting community college in South Florida. He came to Texas Tech as a Terry Scholar to study petroleum engineering and now has a fulfilling career as an offshore operations engineer with Talos Energy.
- Sean Lewis, who got involved on campus as a freshman and subsequently became president of the Student Government Association, a law student and student regent.
- Patrick Albritton, who was accepted to the engineering programs of every major public university in Texas and chose Texas Tech for the people and community he found here. Through his relationship with one faculty member, he joined ROTC. He now is U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Albritton, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Air Force Academy.
Schovanec also recognized a few of the faculty and staff who have facilitated those successes.
"We are making progress and gaining status as one of the top institutions in higher education – a place where, because of dedicated faculty and staff, our students are prepared to succeed professionally and personally," Schovanec said.
Research and growth
According to the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research & Development rankings, Texas Tech is in the top 10% of institutions for full-time graduate students, the top 15% for doctorates awarded and total research expenditures, and the top 20% for federal research expenditures.
"These are impressive numbers that speak to why we are a Carnegie Tier One school," Schovanec said, "but these statistics alone don't capture the breadth and types of scholarship and creative activity that goes on here.
"Our research enterprise is growing, and I believe the impact is increasing."
He highlighted some of the university's researchers, such as:
- Aliza Wong and John Carrell, who, supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Award, are seeking to help students appreciate the interrelatedness of disciplines and the complexity of problems.
- Siva Vanapalli, who is working with NASA to study muscle changes in space using worms.
- Katharine Hayhoe, whose climate science research earned her the United Nations' Champion of the Earth Award this year.
Behind this commitment to research is a commitment to research-quality facilities. The university is in the fourth year of a $20 million project to improve classrooms and teaching laboratories. It opened the new Experimental Sciences Building II and the School of Theatre & Dance Complex this fall.
For the first time, this year, the university's budget exceeds $1 billion, but Schovanec emphasized that people remain the top priority. He said increased revenue from state funding and enrollment growth was invested in Texas Tech through merit and equity pool minimum wage increases, retirement contributions and scholarships.
Looking ahead to the university's 100th birthday in 2023, the centennial committee is planning to bookend the celebrations with the 2022 and 2023 Carol of Lights. Maintaining the focus on the Texas Tech community, Wong and Sean Cunningham are creating a book – "100 Years, 100 Voices" – which will provide stories of the people who have made Texas Tech what it is.
"We want to include a celebration of not only our history, but more importantly, of what our goals are for the next 100 years," Schovanec said.
The university is strong, he emphasized, with many reasons for optimism.
"Things are good," Schovanec said, "but we all know much more remains to be done."