It’s not easy to pick one happening to top all of Texas Tech’s accomplishments the past fiscal year. Tech got its first National Academy of Sciences faculty member. Men’s basketball had a so-close loss in the NCAA title game and the men’s track and field team won outdoor NCAA title. There was also final state approval for new vet and dental schools. And Tech was reaffirmed as a Tier I research institution.
University president Lawrence Schovanec says all of it helps raise the school’s profile.
“We were reaffirmed as a Carnegie R1 institution, this reclassification occurred after three years instead of waiting for the usual five year reclassification and I think that reflected a lot of feedback on the last classification where many schools were left out of that highest research activity category. I believe the Carnegie Foundation was sensitive to the fact that they don’t want to wait for five years to be eligible and I think it speaks to the significance we attach to being in that group.”
The university’s first National Academy of Sciences faculty, Luis Herrera Estrella in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, begins his second year at Tech this fall. He’s one of the world’s top plant molecular biologists and serves as the President's Distinguished Professor of Plant Genomics.
Last fall, the university began recruiting a second National Academy of Sciences faculty.
“We invited that potential faculty member here on campus, I think he’s been here maybe once or twice. We applied for a Governor’s University Research Initiative grant and were notified this spring that we were awarded $5 million. So we have to match that amount. We also were able to get the Welsh Foundation to provide half of a $3 million endowment that would go to this national academy member but we have not closed the deal; we continue to work on it. We have the resources in place, we just need the faculty member.”
Schovanec also highlights that the university can now apply for millions in grant funding following verification of the school’s Hispanic Serving Institution status first achieved in fall 2017. The US Department of Education defines that status as having an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students.
Hispanics made up 28 percent Tech’s population in 2017.
“But there’s another aspect to this. They expect you to have a certain percentage of Pell eligible students to be eligible for title 3 and title 5 funding. We had to get an exemption because we don’t have that many Pell students and so we were deemed eligible. This year, now, going forward is the first time we’re eligible to apply for title 3 and title 5 funding as a Hispanic serving institution.”
The recently completed Texas Legislative session brought funding for building two new schools. Building the vet school in Amarillo and the dental school in El Paso places the Tech System in with eight other systems that include Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas A&M.
Schovanec says Tech is part of an elite group and he’s hopeful all Texas systems can achieve great things for the state.
“We’re at a point now where I hope we can all come together, and I have a much greater sense of collaboration and cooperation. That was essential to getting us here, and we can do so much better for the state if we’re working together.”
Schovanec says Tech’s sports’ successes with Big 12 titles in indoor and outdoor track, baseball and basketball can be built upon. He lauds the hard work of athletic director Kirby Hocutt and coaches.
“It’s been an extraordinary spring, pretty darn good. I can tell you there’s a difference in the perception of Tech and I think it really puts us in a different light.”