New institutions, student debt and educational opportunities were topics discussed during a luncheon dedicated to providing updates on the Texas Tech System.

Tech President Lawrence Schovanec and Tedd Mitchell, Tech System chancellor and Tech Health Sciences Center president, spoke at a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 24 at the Overton Hotel and Conference Center located at 2322 Mac Davis Lane to discuss the state of the Tech System.

“One of the things the Lubbock Chamber has been very good to us about is on an annual basis at this meeting, we’re able to visit with a lot of members of the public in the Lubbock area and tell them about the things that have been going on not only at Texas Tech and the Health Sciences Center here in Lubbock but in general what has been going on in the Texas Tech System as well,” Mitchell said.

Plans for upcoming facilities, such as the VA Clinic and a new gross anatomy lab for the Tech HSC and the Tech Academic Sciences Building and possible plans for the green space left behind after the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum demolition, were discussed during the luncheon.

Regarding the gross anatomy lab, which is one result of the expansion taking place at the HSC Lubbock campus, Mitchell said there will be more space for people to work, as the current anatomy lab only has over 7,000 square feet.

“Our new anatomy lab will be 20,000 square feet, and it will be very high-tech,” Mitchell said regarding the facility, which will get a ribbon-cutting ceremony in about a few months. “There’s a lot of technology that goes into laboratories these days. It is very different than before.”

For the VA Clinic, which is being constructed north of the Tech HSC Lubbock campus, Mitchell said there will be a big focus on mental health for veterans and other demographics, such as kids. 

The 100,0000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed in about 12 to 18 months, Mitchell said.

In addition to projects at the Tech HSC, Schovanec said there are a variety of projects taking place on the Tech campus and there are plans for future projects.

“One of the biggest projects we’re going to be undertaking in the coming year is a new Academic Sciences Building,” he said. “It's going to be off of Memorial Circle behind chemistry and physics.”

Regarding questions about the open space left after the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum demolition, Schovanec said there have been conversations about using the space for a dorm dedicated to housing mostly student athletes. 

“We can use one more dorm,” Schovanec said. “That is the place we have discussed placing the dormitory, one that will probably be 50 percent athletes.”

Along with these plans, current construction projects including the Experimental Sciences Building II and the Theatre and Dance Complex added to the Maedgen Theatre will receive ribbon-cutting ceremonies at 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 3 at 1070 Canto Ave. and 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at 2812 18th St. respectively.

The Tech School of Veterinary Medicine and the Tech HSC El Paso Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine were other upcoming institutions discussed during the luncheon. 

Regarding the vet school, Mitchell said the need for more veterinarians in Texas was discussed at the state level in 1971.

“All of the community in West Texas all joined together to support the initiative in Amarillo,” he said. 

The issue of the veterinarian shortage in Texas has grown past the capacity of the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Mitchell said. Establishing the Tech SVM will be beneficial for the area.

In El Paso, Mitchell said there has been a need for dental care and education that has lasted for many years.

“Dental care is part of healthcare,” Mitchell said. “It’s a very important part of healthcare because it relates to things, like diabetes and heart disease and inflammatory diseases, and yet training folks in the western part of the state has never been done when it comes to dental care.”

The school is wonderful for the region, Mitchell said. It is another important step for the Tech HSC El Paso campus.

Despite the construction projects discussed during the luncheon, academic opportunities and the progress of student education in the System was a topic Schovanec and Mitchell focused on.

“We’re going to have a signing with Austin College in Sherman,” Schovanec said. “We’ll be starting a program where we’ll be teaching courses at Austin College.”

Enrollment at Tech and the Tech HSC was applauded during the luncheon as well.

In 2019, Tech hit record enrollment, which consisted of 38,803, Schovanec said. The university will be very close to 40,000 students next year.

“On the Health Sciences side, we’ve also had another year of enrollment growth,” Mitchell said. 

A variety of projects and milestones that benefit the Tech System were spotlighted during Schovanec and Mitchell’s forum.

Although, there is one issue Mitchell said is prominent for college students.

“A big focus, probably our largest focus, moving forward as a System is going to be trying to address student debt,” Mitchell said. “Student debt is a conversation people are having all across the nation right now. We’re trying to see what components of student debt are things we can help control.” 

Whether it be achievements, institutional progress or issues within the Tech System, Mitchell and Schovanec provided insight on multiple aspects for the community present at the event.

Aside from the points of discussion at the luncheon, one may wonder about Tech’s role in the Lubbock community.

Abel Castro, chairman of the LCC Board of Directors, said Tech brings people to Lubbock, whether it be through tourism or the creation of jobs.

“The Chamber is really proud to partner with Texas Tech for this event," he said. “The Texas Tech University System is integral in making Lubbock."

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