The new website serves as a one-stop shop and central clearinghouse for information about Texas Tech’s outreach and engagement initiatives.
Established in 2015 within the Office of the Provost, University Outreach and Engagement works to connect Texas Tech University's resources with the community, grow mutually beneficial partnerships and increase campus and community awareness of the university's outreach and engagement programming and activities.
Now, the office has a new tool to help with that mission: Engage at Tech Central, a new website that serves as a one-stop shop and central clearinghouse for information about Texas Tech's outreach and engagement. University and community members alike can find information on community outreach programs, activities and events, as well as academic resources and engagement opportunities.
"We recognized the need for an easy-to-navigate, central, online resource to locate and access outreach and engagement opportunities and resources available through Texas Tech," said Birgit Green, director of University Outreach and Engagement. "Engagement encompasses research, teaching and service, and ties to the work of faculty, staff and students. It involves members of the university and the community working together to address a need or pressing societal issue while leveraging academic expertise and resources with the knowledge and experiences of the community in mutually beneficial and respectful ways. Engage at Tech Central serves as a catalyst to make all of this possible on a virtual platform, providing a new online medium for outreach and engagement opportunities to grow and flourish."
Using an InfoReady Scale platform, the site allows visitors to browse images and content on tiles that link directly to existing departmental websites at Texas Tech. The tiles are organized into carousels and "storefronts," which represent areas of interest and guide visitors to relevant content. There also is a search bar and criteria filters to allow users to easily conduct a narrow search and find specific content.
The storefronts include the following categories: Trending Now; Texas Tech Faculty and Staff Outreach and Engagement; Texas Tech Student Research, Engagement and Outreach; K-12 Programs and Camps; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Academic Enrichment and Lifelong Learning; Conferences and Events; Exhibits and Collections; Theatre, Art and Music; and Resources.
"Texas Tech faculty, staff and students can use Engage at Tech Central to discover engaged research and academic outreach opportunities," Green said. "Members of the community can use Engage at Tech Central to easily locate, for instance, Texas Tech's K-12 programs, academic enrichment and lifelong learning opportunities for those seeking to further their education, or conferences, workshops and other events, as well as arts and cultural opportunities available to the general public through Texas Tech. The engagement hub will be useful in making connections and growing opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships across the university and with the community."
Green said planning has been in motion since summer 2019 and involved multiple meetings and conversations with campus stakeholders, who proactively contributed their valuable insight and ideas toward the project, including eLearning and Academic Partnerships; TTU K-12; the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences; the Center for the Integration of STEM Education & Research; the STEM Center for Outreach, Research & Education in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering; the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Museum of Texas Tech University; and Texas Tech Athletics.
Planning also included extensive research of the InfoReady Scale platform and current successful engagement hub models, regular meetings with the InfoReady Corporation and a week of on-site training with InfoReady staff in early 2020 who helped Texas Tech launch the program, which happened right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reshaped the launch of Engage at Tech Central, but it has done so in a way that only reinforces how important a central online hub like this is," Green said. "One of the original visions for the site launch was to highlight Texas Tech's 2020 summer camps available for K-12 students in the community. Unfortunately, most summer programs and events have been cancelled or are now offered in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Despite these circumstances, the community now has access to a central hub that provides an overview of the type of public events or K-12 activities that are normally available on an annual basis, as well as programming that might still be offered later this year or next. News, resources, inspiring stories of campus and community partnerships and other information relevant to COVID-19 are currently featured in the site's 'Trending Now' storefront. Tiles within Engage at Tech Central link to individual department websites that provide information about cancellations, rescheduled events, program history and more.
Green said Engage at Tech Central will grow and improve over time as project leaders fine-tune its contents based on evaluating what visitors gravitate toward.
"The more members of the community and our campus become aware of this valuable online tool, the more it will serve its purpose," Green said. "Our office promotes and supports Texas Tech's outreach and engagement with communities. Engage at Tech Central further facilitates this mission in a virtual format. The vision for Engage at Tech Central is that it will continuously grow and evolve, just as opportunities for community outreach and engagement are constantly emerging and gaining speed."
Those interested in learning more about University Outreach and Engagement and Engage at Tech Central are invited to attend a free InfoReady Review webinar at 11 a.m. June 18. The webinar, "Shrinking Silos and Connecting Campus – Outreach and Engagement at Texas Tech," will be led by Green and Katie Howell Evans, University Outreach and Engagement section coordinator. Click here to register for the webinar.
Those who would like to become a partner can contact the office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To explore Engage at Tech Central, visit the website: ttu.inforeadyscale.com/hub.