In 1973, "The Sting" won the Oscar for the best picture and "The Way We Were" was named the best song. "All in the Family" was the number one television show and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" was a hit for Tony Orlando and Dawn.
It was also the year, in September to be exact, that the first students sat in the first classes offered at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Thirty-seven went on to graduate the following semester. As an upper-level university, UT Permian Basin filled a unique niche in the public higher education system in Texas. It would offer only junior, senior, and graduate-level courses from 1973-1991. In the fall of 1991, UT Permian Basin became a traditional four-year university with a curriculum that ranges from freshman to graduate courses.
The First Students
In September 1973, Midland and Odessa's goal for an upper-level school was realized when 1,011 students registered. One of those students remembered registration as a "piece of cake." He added, "The faculty bent over backwards to accommodate the students."
Odessa' s enthusiasm for the new university was apparent to students new to the area. Another young transfer student, who moved to Odessa in 1973, was struck by the city's pride in UT Permian Basin, comparing the citizens to proud parents with a new baby. She had been thrilled to find that she could complete the degree she had begun at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. "The timing [for UT Permian Basin's start-up] was perfect," she said.
Another of the first students that fall recalled with appreciation the one-on-one interaction with the faculty. "We even helped in the interviews for hiring some of the faculty," he said. "The administration took our recommendations seriously."
The First Year
Streaking was a national craze on college campuses during that first year, and UT Permian Basin was not immune to the phenomenon. Director of Admissions Gomez, a member of the University staff since its inception, remembers not only watching a student streak across campus into a waiting van, but also contributing to his bail fund in case he was arrested. The streaker's sprint across campus, with only his head covered, was a noble gesture aimed at squashing Odessa College's good-natured taunting that UT Permian Basin students were too old to ever produce a streaker.
The Years After
Much has happened at UT Permian Basin since the first courses were offered, but none has had as much impact as the University's transition in 1991 from an upper-level institution to a more traditional four-year campus. Now students may choose to meet their educational objectives without leaving the Permian Basin.
The addition of freshmen and sophomores to campus brought about other changes, including an intercollegiate sports program, more than doubling campus housing units, and the creation of a number of academic scholarships for freshmen.
One constant though, from 1973 to the present, has been the quality of the faculty at UT Permian Basin. Students have benefited from the experience of attending relatively small classes taught by professors who hold the highest credentials offered in their field. The changing student body continues to mirror more accurately the region UT Permian Basin serves, bringing a diversity to campus that includes non-traditional students, first generation students, and transfer students.
Since the majority of UT Permian Basin students work part-time or full-time, many upper-level and graduate courses now are offered through such scheduling options as evening hours, interactive televised instruction, or weekend programs. In addition, several new programs have been added, including the first new undergraduate program in more than 20 years - a bachelor's degree in environmental science. The graduate level programs have been expanded to include a master's in criminal justice administration, a master's in public accountancy, and a master's in bilingual/ESL education.
As a component of the University of Texas System, UT Permian Basin is afforded the same quality of services received by larger institutions with far more extensive resources, including hands-on experience with some of the latest technology and equipment available. For instance, the J. Conrad Dunagan Library features some of the latest advances in digital materials, including a 20-station multi-media laboratory and classroom. With the completion of the new Library/Lecture Center in November 2000, the Dunagan Library will move to larger quarters with even more amenities.
Another new building, the Visual Arts Studios, will provide outstanding two-dimensional and three-dimensional studio space for instruction, as well as a new gallery for the many art exhibits hosted by UT Permian Basin throughout the year.
The Regional Electronic Academic Communication Highway project - REACH - continues to grow, with televised interactive courses increasing from a single class in 1995 to a broad array of undergraduate and graduate-level courses. In addition, UT Permian Basin is involved with the new "TeleCampus," a virtual campus that includes every component of the UT System.
Another program of importance is the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute. Created by the Texas Legislature as the only program of its type, the Institute reaches thousands of high school and college students in communities throughout the state, hosts nationally known panelists in its Distinguished Lecture Series, and features a leadership studies curriculum.
As UT Permian Basin enters the 21st Century, it will continue to emphasize what has been its greatest asset - offering a high-quality, undergraduate education, predominantly in the arts and sciences, and selected professional and graduate programs of interest to the region.