Thursday, October 29, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come

Over the past 20-plus years I have had the good fortune of being involved with TEEX in many different capacities–everything from student worker to staff member, from customer to now Advisory Council member. I was on the TEEX team that delivered one of the first international classes when we taught Rescue in South America. I was lucky enough to be involved in delivering the first TEEX class aboard the USS Lexington. And I’ve seen the Texas Fire Training School grow from being “that place outside town with all of the smoke” to becoming the largest emergency response training center in the world. Needless to say, I have seen the agency grow and develop in ways that no one ever could have anticipated.In late 2007, I was approached to participate in the TEEX Advisory Council (TAC) being formed by TEEX’s Director, Gary Sera. The list of council members was quite impressive, including city and state officials, university faculty, a hospital administrator, a former U.S. Attorney, and many other important folks from industry and the public sector. I was proud to participate, even though I couldn’t imagine what I could bring to such a group.

Within just a month or two of joining TAC, I was approached by a colleague and invited to participate on a curriculum advisory committee for a graduate safety degree program being offered through the Health Science Center’s School of Rural Public Health. Again, this was a tremendous opportunity to network with an amazing group of students, faculty and peers.

Over the following months, I was really impressed to learn more of what both TEEX and the Health Science Center had to offer–particularly as it related to health, safety and emergency response. In fact, as I looked around and began accounting for the other entities within the A&M System involved in safety like the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center, the Texas Transportation Institute, and Texas AgriLife Research and Extension, it became clear to me that no other institution in the world has the resources that the Texas A&M University System has in this area. Unfortunately, it also became apparent that as great as each group was in their own area of influence, nowhere were they being “collectively marketed.” No mechanism was in place to collaborate and leverage the overall strength of these individual assets.
We kicked ideas around in both the TAC and the curriculum committee. With support from Gary Sera and a driving effort on the part of Jenny Ligon, TEEX’s Manager of External Relations, it didn’t take long before the potential was exposed. After a few initial meetings to clear political hurdles, representatives from each of the agencies, schools, and departments gathered to discuss the formation of a collaborative vehicle to serve as a portal for both internal and external access to the endless list of safety resources. Ideas poured out on how each could work together in conducting research, educating young minds and training the workforce of tomorrow. Excitement grew and thoughts matured.
In January 2010, less than one year from the initial brainstorming meeting, a proposal will go before the Board of Regents to formally approve the Safety Collaborative within The Texas A&M University System. It is not clear just how big this idea might be, but the opportunity is too great to pass up. Just like the guy in the movie who cut down his corn field to make a baseball diamond, if we remain committed to developing this safety collaborative, great things will happen. Who knows, we might even win a national championship in baseball or football along the way. I know, completely unrelated, but as long as we’re dreaming…

TEEX Advisory Council member Randy Patton ’90 is the Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response and former Corporate Safety Director for Valero Energy Corporation.

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