Organizations succeed or fail based on their willingness to focus and concentrate. Because of the explosion of data, and therefore the ability to compare, organizations and individuals spend an inordinate amount of time concentrating on “others.” Bobby Jones, probably the world’s greatest golfer, said it this way, “A leading difficulty with the average player is that he totally misunderstands what is meant by concentration. He may think he is concentrating hard when he is merely worrying.”
I purchased a car at a local dealership. I brought it in for a 5,000-mile checkup, a courtesy afforded to me by either the manufacturer or the dealer. An hour after I dropped the car off, I received a text message with a YouTube video attached. The video was a systematic, fully illustrated and narrated description of what had been done to the vehicle. I thought, “This is customer service on steroids.” It may be that dealers have been doing this for some time; however, it was my first experience with an acutely focused concern for keeping the car owner informed, aka customer service.
Universities must focus on their ultimate purpose—providing quality educational experiences, and guiding purpose is geography. One challenge of distance education is its disconnection, which may lead to a lack of concentration on geographic needs. The best distance education has been, and will continue to be, attentive to institutional geography. At our university, faculty who teach online also teach on-campus courses. A geographic concentration and attention to student aspirations is conveyed, over the internet, to those engaged “at a distance.” A natural outgrowth of this focus is a genuine care for individuals. That care will transcend all locations—caring is caring. Students want to attend caring institutions. Good teaching is good teaching.
West Texas A&M University is located in a distinctive region of the state of Texas. For our university to thrive, and any other institution for that matter, we must see geography as a great strength. Deliberately focusing on the needs of the Texas Panhandle and its people creates quality experiences for students. In the midst of an ongoing long-range planning process, our goal is to become a regionally responsive research university. Such a goal will require a Bobby Jones style of focus and concentration. Worrying about where we stand will not get the job done and a loss of concentration will rob us of our greatest asset, something we have that no other institution does…a home in the Texas Panhandle.
As we move towards our future, we will focus sharply on five or six areas of interest—a focus that will provide a unique experience for our students and faculty and a single-minded determination to serve our region first. These areas are under development at this time. A specific response to distinct characteristics of the Panhandle region will lead to a narrow and razor sharp single-mindedness for all programs, but particularly graduate programs. Such attention to geographic forces and human needs will provide immediate benefits.
Wind – We live in one of the most consistently windy regions of the United States. Amarillo, the closest and most important neighbor of Canyon, Texas, is one of the five windiest cities in America. Tough on hairdos to be sure, but distinctive in the opportunity our location provides to understand wind energy and the science and policies for its effective use.
Beef – The U.S. leads the world in producing beef. Moreover, no region in the United States feeds and produces as much beef as the Panhandle and high plains of our state—about one third of the total U.S. production within a 100-mile radius of Canyon. With the leadership of people like Paul Engler, cattle on feed became big business in the Texas Panhandle. He was among the first class of inductees into the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame.
Water – One of the most precious resources to the survival of man is scarce in the Texas Panhandle. The agricultural heart of the nation, of which the Panhandle is a significant part, is one of the ten most challenged regions of the country for “water scarcity.”
Rural Communities – The heart of the Texas Panhandle, home to dozens of small communities, relies on Amarillo and Canyon for cultural, human and community sustenance. The cultural context of this constellation of communities revolves around the Interstate 27 corridor, connecting Amarillo and Canyon. The region expects West Texas A&M University to cultivate appreciation for the human condition and its expression provided by the arts. A special focus on the history of the Texas Panhandle comes alive through the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
These areas of interest and others, such as teacher preparation and human health and engineering, all focused on geography, will serve as the basis for guiding West Texas A&M University forward. Our circumstances are challenging and unique. Principles of focus and concentration, applied without exception, are the genesis of progress.