The university recently took advantage of its emerging research status to promote the successful Pride in Action fundraising campaign. The $125 million raised from the campaign will be put toward a variety of campus projects, including renovations of Alkek Library, support for a larger student body, more scholarships and the construction of a new Performing Arts Center.
Texas Tech University, a fellow emerging research institution, is putting its Vision and Tradition campaign funds toward scholarships, fellowships, new facilities and most notably, endowments to attract teachers and researchers. According to a Sept. 13 University Star article, the Tech campaign has raised about $925 million over the last two years.
In fundraising efforts, Texas State does not match up to Texas Tech. Tech has made significant contributions to the physical and natural science fields in the past 40 years by developing a research-driven culture. In addition, United Supermarkets, a Texas grocery store chain, has contributed millions of dollars to the Tech fundraising campaign, according to an Aug. 29 article on the Vision and Tradition: The Campaign for Texas Tech website.
However, as a new emerging research institution, Texas State can learn from Tech’s history and aim to increase fundraising, research and campus development. This is especially true with additional funding from the Texas Research Incentive Program. The Center for Research Commercialization, which focuses on environmental sustainability and biotechnology, will help launch a variety of new projects. Additionally, the initial $1 million gift for the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment will fuel a solid start to an era of Texas State research. Likewise, the new Science, Technology and Advanced Research Park will focus on turning high-tech analysis into attractive products for businesses and start-ups. The new academic buildings under construction seem prospectively promising.
Yet, the university’s goal of creating more master’s and doctoral programs and increasing research does not seem to fall in line with the overall designated fiscal budget. According to the 2012 fiscal year budget numbers, $225,325 was allocated to the new doctorate program in materials science.
However, approximately $74,000 more was designated to the marching band than to the new program. These materials science students will be leading research in new laboratories. And if the program is not funded enough, how can they conduct groundbreaking research properly?
Texas State is primarily an undergraduate-serving institution. Access and affordability are clear concerns of the Texas State University System. But, the value of the basic degree is not necessarily positively correlated with how many total degrees are awarded. With the new emerging research title, Texas State must invest in and actively promote a wide variety of research projects.
In the long term, focusing on research projects and a more active application of textbooks to real-life situations will help promote a constructive learning environment at Texas State. The synergy between the two components will better prepare students, both graduates and undergraduates, for the increasingly competitive job market. As always, it is important to keep the university on par with other emerging research institutions, especially if Texas State plans to move toward a Tier 1 classification level in the future.
-—Ravi Venkataraman is a creative writing masters student.