Whether it be at a local, state or national level, Texas Tech continues to make strides in agriculture that allows the university to support West Texas and develop young leaders.
Even after hitting multiple milestones in the field of agriculture, the Tech community still strives to impact as many people and places as it can. The development of the Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, the agreement to establish a national cotton classing facility near campus and other efforts to foster future leaders in agriculture are just some of the ways the university has excelled in the field.
William Brown, dean of the Tech College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, said Tech is not just a prominent university in West Texas.
“We’re a major, national research university,” he said. “That has come over many years.”
The SVM is one agricultural achievement Brown said has contributed to Tech becoming a university of great stature. Because of the results of the 86th Texas Legislative session, he said the SVM received $17 million in funding and Tech received an increase in operating dollars, which resulted from the increase in student credit hour generation, research funding and grant rewards.
In addition to the support from the Texas 86th Legislature, Brown said the Tech System has a great central administration that understands the importance of agriculture and the vet school.
“Seeking more funding, increasing the research that’s coming out of the university, increasing the expenditures on research activity,” Brown said regarding the work the System administration is doing for the SVM. “All of these activities they’ve been working on over the last five or six years have significantly increased the ranking of the university and then the stature.”
Along with the SVM benefitting the System and West Texas, Brown said CASNR has achieved a lot in recent years.
Having the top agricultural communications program in the nation, being highly regarded in the meat science field and being involved in the production of cotton with the help of an advanced fiber polymer lab all are ways Brown said CASNR is continuing to excel in agriculture. He said CASNR also has caring faculty that are willing to guide the hardworking students in their career field.
“To some degree, we are focusing in areas where we feel like we have unmatched strength,” Brown said. “There are several of those areas.”
Despite the impact of the vet school and other CASNR achievements on the university, collaborations with national departments may also promote Tech’s footprint in agriculture.
Eric Hequet, department chair and professor in the Tech Department of Plant and Soil Science, said Tech’s agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which put a cotton classing facility near campus, is another university achievement in the field of agriculture.
Even though the USDA AMS solely runs the facility, which will be located near the Rawls Golf Course, Hequet said the facility will still have a great impact on Tech.
“It is still significant for Tech because it will be the most modern and the largest classing office in the world,” he said. “Therefore, we expect many, many visitors from all over the world just to see the facilities. It will be right here on campus, so they will probably visit Texas Tech at the same time.”
Along with having the cotton classing facility near campus, USDA AMS wants to continue partnering with Tech in order to give certain students the opportunity to work at the facility, Hequet said. Whether it be in the fields of agriculture or engineering, he said the facility will provide a variety of work opportunities.
“It will be very, very positive not just for ag, but for the campus in general,” he said regarding how the USDA AMS facility will give students multiple learning opportunities.
Currently, the USDA AMS is working to renew their research presence, as the department had a research branch that was abandoned in the past, Hequet said.
“Now the idea is rebuilding it,” he said regarding the research branch of the USDA AMS. “Not within USDA, but through corporations, universities. Tech would be a good partner because we’re just next door.”
Through the partnership with the USDA AMS, Hequet said Tech benefits greatly. In addition to giving students learning opportunities, he said students will be trained at the cotton classing facility and possibly work under the USDA in the future.
“With time, we’ll have a significant number of Tech graduates within the management of USDA AMS,” he said. “It will not be built within one day; it will take time.”
With the variety of agricultural achievements Tech has earned, the campus community could be affected in different ways.
These achievements may also have an effect on the research opportunities offered on campus and students’ engagement in research.
Joseph Heppert, vice president of the Tech Office of Research and Innovation, said Tech’s achievements in agriculture, whether it be the progress of the vet school or the establishment of the USDA AMS facility near campus, will provide multiple opportunities for growth in research.
The SVM will develop professionals that will fulfill the lack of veterinarians within Texas, Heppert said.
“In one way, primarily, it is an academic program, which is going to produce extremely well-trained students to serve the state of Texas,” he said. “In order to be an accredited program, it also will have a very strong research component.”
In addition to fulfilling a state need, Heppert said the SVM will allow Tech to take part in more collaborations on a larger scale. He said the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which will be moved from New York to Manhattan, Kansas, is one department that Tech, which already has strong programs dedicated to studying communicable diseases in animals, may collaborate with in the future.
Integrating research across other disciplines, such as immunology, basic biology and wildlife population biology, is another benefit Heppert said may result from collaborations with outside departments, such as NBAF.
“The vet school will give us the opportunity to add some individuals that can collaborate with some of the researchers who will be at NBAF,” he said. “In the same way, we have the opportunity to hire researchers who will collaborate on other kinds of threatening zoonotic diseases.”
Regarding the upcoming cotton classing facility near the Tech campus, Heppert said Tech’s collaboration with the USDA AMS will also provide research opportunities.
“It’s going to connect back to out basic plant science research, which is aimed at improving the quality of plants and fiber production,” he said.
Regardless of the achievements Tech has had in agriculture, more students pursuing research at Tech may also have an impact on the agriculture field.
“We want to provide students, whether they are graduate students or undergraduate students, with the opportunity to engage in top-flight research activities,” Heppert said. “The opportunity that those students have by engaging in research, experiencing the excitement of a new discovery and then making decisions to continue that as a second part of their career will really contribute to the stability and the continued leadership of American agriculture.”