by Lisa D. Hobson, Ph.D., President of the Texas Association of College Teachers
As stated in a previous submission entitled, One of Texas’ Most Valuable Natural Resources: Higher Education Faculty, I stated, “Texas higher education faculty are the lifeblood of the institutions in the state of Texas!” Moreover, the various colleges and universities produce the state’s and nation’s leaders, scholars, innovators, influencers, designers, contributors, and even future educators. In 2016, as a reminder, “Gov. Greg Abbott charged three state agencies, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, with developing a set of recommendations that would create greater collaboration among them, raise educational attainment and economic competitiveness, and place Texas on a clear path to achieving the goals of the state’s higher education strategic plan, 60x30TX,” whereby 60% of Texas youth will obtain a certificate or degree by 2030 (Paredes, 2017, p. 1). This goal is ambitious and rightfully so as well as dependent on institutions of higher learning and the faculty who are some of Texas’ most impactful natural resources.
As someone who has served as a faculty member, academician, and leader in higher education in Texas and other states the past 20 years, I have reflected on the value of faculty and higher education as a professional and educator. Some may mistakenly assert I only view academia and higher education so positively because it is my field of employment and my profession. Beyond this reflection in my field of work, even more so, I have a highly vested interest in Texas higher education for a myriad of reasons which have given me an even greater perspective and appreciation. I truly understand faculty and the various colleges and universities play a significant role in fulfilling 60x30TX! Primarily, my awareness of the value and impact of higher education has increased and heightened through my most important role i.e. being a parent of a Texas college student.
I have truly come to appreciate higher education and the role it plays in the life of my most precious possession, my daughter who is a senior at the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA). I have been in awe of, impressed by, and grateful for the valuable experiences Lauren has had while enrolled UTSA and the diversity of people and opportunities she has had. Her experiences have surpassed my expectations of a high-quality education and I am completely confident of the rich preparation she is receiving for her future career and the real world!
I am uncertain if the greater public knows truly of the types of opportunities students receive at Texas colleges and universities. Our policy and lawmakers benefit through awareness of the successes and outcomes of our institutions of higher learning. As an example, my daughter has interacted with national influencers and state leaders through her coursework and the various university programs and offerings at UTSA. Additionally, as an undergraduate, she has already learned to use SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) which is placing her ahead as most students only learn how to use this program in masters and typically doctoral programs. In the same course, she processed and analyzed data using different statistical tests (ANOVA, Pearson’s, and Cronbach’s Alpha as examples). She has participated in the Student Leadership Center’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Project and traveled throughout the South visiting several of our country’s historic sites that shaped the future of diversity and civil rights in the nation. Additionally, she has grown through serving in leadership roles in a campus student organization. I can truly see where UTSA has helped her grow immensely as a professional, leader, and person! Again, our institutions of learning impact more than just students’ degrees, but their careers and lives!
UTSA is not the only institution making an impact in the state of Texas. As an example, the University of North Texas-Dallas (UNT-D) is the fastest growing institution in the state of Texas, has the lowest student debt in the nation and is providing many opportunities for its students who are primarily first-generation students (UNT-D, 2018). Lone Star College (2018) serves ~90,000 students in Texas and other parts of the world. Texas A&M University – College Station is home to the President George H. W. Bush Presidential Library where visitors travel from all over the world to tour and learn of our nation’s history and accomplishments under the stewardship in several roles of this beloved leader. Paul Quinn College, a work campus, has transformed itself, as a recognized and thriving school, and its local community (known previously as a food desert) to a thriving producer of organic produce for the community at large. Quinnites graduate with actual work experience and much lower student debt ratios in comparison to other schools and contribute its produce to neighborhood charities, groceries, and restaurants in the Dallas area (Paul Quinn College, 2019).
Again, Texas higher education institutions and faculty members are some of Texas’s most valuable and impactful natural resources. I want to reiterate that faculty members are not removed tucked far away in the ivory tower, but are performing vital roles as partners in the overall physical, economic, financial, technological, educational, and social prowess of Texas communities. Last, I look forward to partnering with you, through the honor of serving as President of The Texas Association of College Teachers, as we work collectively to support, strengthen, and impact higher education, our communities, and the state of Texas!
Lone Star College. (2018) Fast Facts. The Woodlands, TX: Lone Star College. Retrieved from http://www.lonestar.edu/about-us-institutional-research.htm.
Paul Quinn College. (2019). Story: We over me farm. Dallas, TX: Paul Quinn College. Retrieved from http://www.pqc.edu/we-over-me-farm/.