The Texas A&M University System Regents this week announced plans for a $22.8 million building for veterinary education, research and workforce opportunities in the Panhandle as part of almost $90 million in new commitments to the state agriculture industry on the West Texas A&M University campus.
In a special telephonic meeting Thursday morning, the Board of Regents added the Texas A&M University’s new Veterinary Education, Research & Outreach (VERO) Center to its Capital Plan. The VERO Center will be constructed adjacent to West Texas A&M University’s new Agricultural Sciences Complex and a new Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) facility currently in the process of relocating from Amarillo to Canyon.
“This is a great day for Texas A&M, West Texas A&M and the Panhandle,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “With these three new facilities in Canyon, the Texas A&M System has invested nearly $90 million in the future of agriculture and animal health in this region. We have created a two-way superhighway of veterinary education and research activity from Canyon to College Station, and it runs right through these new structures.”
Once the VERO Center is completed in 2020, it will provide an anchor in Canyon where students from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) will be able to take courses, participate in externship programs and conduct research. Opportunities for research and collaboration with faculty and staff at TVMDL, West Texas A&M’s Agricultural Sciences Complex and the CVM’s VERO Center will be available to students from both Texas A&M and West Texas A&M.
“This arrangement is a perfect model of how, through collaboration with the System’s regional universities and state agencies, we can expand our reach and our impact on the lives of Texans,” said Texas A&M President Michael Young.
“When we first announced this partnership, we indicated that we wanted to increase enrollment of promising future veterinarians from the Panhandle area at the CVM, knowing that they were more likely to return and work in this area following graduation,” said West Texas A&M President Walter Wendler. “By bringing the College of Veterinary Medicine to WT, those students won’t have to wait until after they graduate to come home and begin making a difference.”
Thursday’s announcement is the latest development in a nine-year effort on the part of the CVM to expand veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach throughout the state.
In 2009, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board encouraged the veterinary school to increase its enrollment to meet future state needs. With no state appropriation available for construction during the recession, Texas A&M invested $120 million from the Permanent University Fund to construct a new teaching complex, which opened in 2016. That same year, in anticipation of their expanded capacity for enrollment, the CVM announced partnerships with four System institutions – West Texas A&M University, Tarleton State University, Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville – designed to encourage more underrepresented minorities and rural students to pursue veterinary education.
An initial focus was placed on the partnership with West Texas A&M University because of its location in the epicenter of the U.S. livestock industry. The CVM established the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center at WTAMU in 2016 and hired Dr. Dee Griffin and Dr. Dan Posey, two experienced veterinary professionals, to build a program to address regional industry needs and enhance interest among students. Evidence of success materialized quickly. In 2017, West Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences set a school record of 10 graduating pre-veterinary majors who were accepted into veterinary schools. Nine of the 10 went to Texas A&M.
“We are thrilled by the rapid return in our investment in West Texas A&M and ecstatic to be establishing a permanent presence on their campus,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Texas A&M’s CVM. “The Texas Panhandle leads the nation in livestock production, so it is vital that we continue to provide this region with exceptional graduates and quality service as only Texas A&M can. Our success here will also inform our approach with the three other partnerships that make up our statewide, system-wide initiative.”