Tech is filled with some of the happiest students he has ever laid eyes on. At least, that’s what Bob Smith, Ph.D., provost and Sr. Vice President for Texas Tech University, said.
“This is the 6th research university that I’ve worked at,” Smith said during the Tech Activities Board open forum event. “I’ve never been any place where I’ve not seen happier students than we have at Texas Tech.”
The TAB event consisted of a panel of head figures at Tech. The group included athletic director, Kirby Hocutt, 2012-2013 Student Government Association President, Alex Alston, the sr. vice provost, Rob Stewart Ph. D., and Smith.
TAB encouraged Tech students to participate in the event by asking the panel any question they wanted. Students questions included, ‘Will we stick with Under Armour or Nike next year for football uniforms?’ ‘What’s going to happen to that random barn on campus?’ and ‘Will Tech ever be a wet campus?’
But, students had most of their questions geared toward where Tech was in regards to tier-one status, and how close the university is to acquiring the scholastic honor.
Smith said Tech is not quite a tier-one school yet. He said examples of tier-one universities include Princeton, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan, University of Washington, Iowa State, University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M. Smith said these universities are a few out of the 62 others that are in the American Association of Universities.
He said beyond those 62 are 150 institutions that he said he would consider just as recognizable, but have not reached the tier-one criterion of being in the AAU. Smith said Tech has achieved becoming a nationally recognizable research university over the last three years. He said it is a very special accomplishment for Tech because he heard people say such an achievement would take Tech 10 years to reach.
“That puts us into a pretty special group to begin with,” he said. “But, having that goal of going up and being among the very best will help the institution become the very best, or very close to it.”
Smith said some obstacles keeping Tech from being tier-one include research expenditures and how many faculty members are also members of a national academy. He said in order to understand what makes a tier-one school, he and a team split qualifications into quintiles. Highly-ranked institutions include John Hopkins, University of Washington, and the University of Michigan, he said. Then, he said, there are universities in the lower quintile, such as Kansas and Iowa State.
“When you look at those data you find that we actually compete in that 5th quintile, but we don’t compete across the boards,” Smith said. “We would have a very hard case to make getting to AAU where we are right now.”
Smith said in order to meet AAU standards it’s going to take a lot more research than Tech already does now. He also said having more robust graduate programs will help Tech achieve tier-one status. Smith said typically an AAU institution has 25 percent or more graduate students. He said Tech currently has about 16 or 17 percent.
In order to reach those goals, Smith said he thinks newly elected Tech President, Nellis Ph. D., will be a lot of help with topics like this and then some. Students especially seemed interested in what they could expect from the new president in the upcoming years.
When pondering over how he thought Nellis would improve the athletic department, Hocutt said Nellis has already shown great leadership. Hocutt said Nellis was very helpful with the search for newly hired men’s basketball coach, Tubby Smith.
“I can already tell that Nellis has a strong belief that intercollegiate athletics plays an important role within higher education,” Hocutt said. “He sees how important it is for us to have a quality and competitive intercollegiate athletics program at Texas Tech University.”
Alston said he would describe Nellis as an exceptional guy. It is apparent that Nellis wants to focus on promoting student recognition, Alston said, and hopes to prepare students to receive top-notch awards.
“I think that he’s going to be making huge strides for Texas Tech,” Alston said. “I think he’s going to keep us on track but also allow us to branch out and get that student recognition. I’m pretty excited for Dr. Nellis, honestly.”