• August 6, 2020

Woodley looking to transform campus - Odessa American: Education

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Woodley looking to transform campus

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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019 3:00 am

University of Texas Permian Basin President Sandra Woodley is working to obtain money from the Texas Legislature for campus renovations and enhancements. In lieu of that, Woodley will ask the UT System Board of Regents.

Already Reps. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and Tom Craddick, R-Midland, have co-authored several amendments that would have added almost $9 million to the university, Woodley said.

Of that, $4.6 million would be for equipment and labs in the new engineering building, set to open in the fall. The other $4 million would be for institutional and instructional enhancement funds to “help mitigate the challenges of the cost of living here in the Permian Basin and to continue to grow,” she said.

“Retaining and recruiting faculty is difficult at this time and making sure that we have the operating dollars necessary to stay on top of our growth is important to me. I don’t know how to calculate the odds of whether any of this will come through, but we are optimistic that hopefully some of it will happen when they go to conference,” Woodley said.

“Every day brings a different set of odds on whether or not that’s going to happen, so I don’t know whether or not the $40 million will be forthcoming from the legislature at this time,” Woodley said.

If not, UTPB will request about $80 million from the UT System Board of Regents in Permanent University Funds.

“We have about $36 million in deferred maintenance — boiler, chiller, elevators — those kinds of things ...,” Woodley added.

The other legislative request was $40 million in tuition revenue bonds to renovate the Mesa Building, which has offices and classrooms and is one of the oldest and most frequently used buildings on campus.

“I really believe that we’ll be able to get the resources we need over the next couple of years to continue our growth. We’re so excited about where we’re heading. We’ve got exciting growth in our engineering program, in geology, in business. Those are some of the fastest growing programs that we have,” Woodley said.

“It’s important to me as president that we have the type of facilities and amenities that are needed to match the world-class University of Texas education that we’re giving those students. Those are important considerations for me,” she added.

Woodley said Landgraf, Craddick and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, have all been receptive to her.

“I see them every time I go to Austin and communicate with them often. I think all three of them are doing everything they can to make sure that the resources flow to the Permian Basin. ... We provide workforce. That’s our key opportunity to serve here in the Permian Basin and we have to have the support to do that. I think all three of them have been very helpful in the legislative session in making sure that those messages do get out,” Woodley said.

She added that she thinks there is a growing realization in the legislature and the state that the Permian Basin is very important.

“It is quite literally the goose that is laying the golden eggs and the care and the feeding of the goose is important. ... There’s another piece of legislation out there called GROW Texas that we’re following very closely that Brooks Landgraf and Craddick are sponsoring that would bring money for infrastructure and roads and also workforce and education. We’re hopeful that something like that will be able to pass. We do believe that ... it is in their best interest to invest in the Permian Basin so that we can take care of things like affordable housing, roads, safety and quality of life here so that we can continue to achieve the aspirations that are rolling down the pike,” Woodley said.

The GROW Texas package is comprised of HB 2154. The intention of the bill, if adopted, is to dedicate a portion of oil and gas severance taxes to energy-producing regions of the state. The acronym stands for the Generate Recurring Oil Wealth for Texas Fund, or GROW Texas Fund, a previous Odessa American article said.

Woodley said she hopes to present the monetary requests to the regents this summer, probably at the July meeting.

“They are going to be distributing over $1 billion in PUF funding after the session is over and we are on their list. We are on the list with 14 other institutions, so we’ll know this summer the extent of success of our request for PUF funding …,” Woodley said.

“The interest and the commitment that they have for this region and also for the University of Texas Permian Basin is humbling. To me, it (has been) very helpful these last two years to have the resources that they’ve given me, both in consulting and funding and PUF funding to be able to move this university forward, so I’m very grateful for their help,” Woodley said.

The UT System also has offered STARs (Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention) program, funding to help recruit and retain professors.

“The caliber of the faculty that we’ve brought in with almost $6 million worth of STARs funding has transformed our programs and it will also help us to significantly increase our research, which is one of our strategic pillars, so we win all around with that STARs funding. That is another bucket of support, if you will, that the UT System does provide and it’s amazing,” Woodley said.

Currently, UTPB is searching for a vice president for student and leadership development.

“That vice president will be the executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Leadership Institute, but they’ll also head up all of our student services, as well,” Woodley said.

She hopes to hire that person by the beginning of the summer.

Discussing the vice president for student and leadership development position, Woodley said officials believe they will be able to develop and implement leadership curriculum across the entire university for all the leadership teams and in the community for businesses and industry.

“We are in the process of searching for a dean of arts and sciences. That search is underway. We’re in the process of hiring a dean of nursing. We’re well into that process, as well,” she said.

Woodley also has plans to transform the campus with walking trails and a mixed-use trail spanning 26 miles between the Odessa and Midland campuses and the Scharbauer Sports Complex in Midland.

“That’s a very high priority for me personally because I think that raises the quality of life for all of us, and including the faculty and the staff and the students that I’m trying to recruit and retain, so that will have to be another funding source,” Woodley said.

She added that she thinks there are a lot of interested parties in those things.

“Included in that is the possibility that I will develop ... both my Odessa campus and the Midland campus to include affordable, high-quality housing for my own faculty and staff but also for k-12 teachers and first responders,” she said.

“We’ve been talking to people like the Permian Strategic Partnership and both of the cities to try to cobble together what might be a really exciting way forward to solving some of that problem here on my campus. We’re nowhere close to the deal or the funding, but we are in the early stages of exploring what that may look like and what it may take to achieve it,” Woodley said.

The Permian Strategic Partnership is an alliance of 20 energy companies in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, its website said.

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