Dr. Woodley speaks on stage at State of the Education
Dr. Woodley says when it comes to academic excellence, she wants the University to give students an education that prepares them for a career

There is one goal for higher education in West Texas: adapt to an ever-changing world and prepare students to conquer it.

UT Permian Basin President Dr. Sandra Woodley was on a panel with the presidents of both Midland and Odessa Colleges for a discussion on the State of Education last week. The event, hosted by the Midland Chamber of Commerce, featured Midland College President Dr. Steve Thomas and Odessa College President Dr. Greg Williams.  All agree that the success of our institutions in this day and age comes down to innovation and risk-taking.

“Innovation at UT Permian Basin has to include workforce training. Odessa alone has a worker shortage of 60,000 people – that’s nearly one third of the city,” Dr. Woodley said. “In order to solve that problem, we have three goals: academic excellence, enhanced research and improved quality of life.”

Dr. Woodley says when it comes to academic excellence, she wants the University to give students an education that prepares them for a career.

“We need to be responsive and take a hard look at what kind of degrees we need to add. We also need to focus on hands-on learning – internships, co-ops, capstone projects,” she said. “Our students really need to know what it means to be successful in the workplace. The sooner they understand that, the sooner they’ll reach success.”

The second area of innovation includes investing in applied research. Dr. Woodley plans to target on research that makes a difference in the Permian Basin.

“We need to bring the best and brightest in the world to the Permian Basin to study,” she said. “We can do that at UT Permian Basin. We need to lead with a big tent mentality and invest in an applied research center and a business incubator.”

She says the University’s aspiration is to be part of the solution for challenges in the Permian. That means coming to the table ready to work when it comes to housing, quality of life, research and more.

“I want to lift up the quality of life for the entire community,” Dr. Woodley said. “We plan to add beautiful spaces, build up our athletic programs and create a vibrant campus. Success in those areas will bring more students and that transfers to more people in our workforce.” 

Dr. Woodley says part of the University’s 10 year plan is to strengthen UTPB athletic programs to keep a sense of pride in the community. She also wants to make sure "campus life" is "alive and well" creating  a place where families will want to come on the weekend and visit. Her vision includes walking trails and parks that can elevate the quality of life in the community.

Given a magic wand, Dr. Woodley says she would pull the Midland and Odessa communities together.

"There is no limit to what these two communities could do if they were to pull in the same direction for the economic benefit and for the quality of life of our citizens," Dr. Woodley said. "We have to try as much as we can to reject the ‘us versus them’ attitude.. We are all in this together, and our collective approach can be very impactful."