Hayes Ring Plaza

Checking Out Texas A&M University

To close out winter break and start off 2019, I visited College Station to explore one of the largest universities in the nation – Texas A&M. Having been to many of the institutions of higher education that make up our state, I wanted to see what comprised Aggieland, as well as to cross Brazos County off the list of counties yet to be visited.

With a student body of over 68,000, the College Station campus is A&M’s flagship school in their system, which is made up of 11 different campuses. Texas A&M was established in 1871 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, under the Morrill Act. 148 years later, this school is stronger than ever, with some $9.8 billion in endowments and 4,900 staff on the payroll. Additionally, A&M is also one of the largest college campuses in the nation, at over 5,000 acres.

Upon arriving, I parked at the Cain Garage, located directly across from Kyle Field. Since it was the weekend, there weren’t many cars there, so spaces were plentiful on the first floor right by the entrance. Parking fees were still being collected, although it only amounted to $4 for the hour or so I spent here. The car now in a place where it wouldn’t be towed, I was ready to start seeing TAMU.

cain garage at Texas A&M
The Cain Garage.

My first stop along my walking tour was Kyle Field, the school’s ginormous football stadium. To give you an idea of what “ginormous” means in this context, Kyle Field is the fourth-largest stadium in the nation!

All around the stadium, the saying “Home of the 12th Man” can be seen. This term dates back to 1922 when an Aggie by the name of E. King Gill suited up to help his team, who had sustained multiple injuries in a grueling game against Kentucky’s Centre College. Although he never ended up entering the field, the “12th Man” is representative of the A&M student body, who are willing to serve when duty calls. Duty and loyalty are common themes here, as I would see all throughout my visit.

kyle field a&m
One of the entrances into Kyle Field. Several statues are displayed around the stadium.

Past the stadium, around a five-minute walk away, was the Haynes Ring Plaza, home of a giant 12-foot replica of the iconic A&M class ring!

Hayes Ring Plaza

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For students, “Aggie Ring Day” is one of the most notable events that they will attend during their time here, as it symbolizes the completion of a specific set of academic requirements, and induction into an exclusive network of fellow Aggies. Ring Day takes place at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center, located right next to the replica ring. Alongside the walkway, various Aggie quotes of respect, loyalty, and honor are displayed.

Haynes Ring Plaza

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After getting my photo taken underneath one of the most unique outdoor artifacts I’ve seen at a university, I began checking out the various buildings that make up Aggieland. Rudder Tower, named after former university president James Earl Rudder, was one of my first stops.

Rudder Tower at Texas A&M
Rudder Tower.

On the first floor is the Aggieland Visitor Center, where you can get maps, brochures, or go on tours of campus. A backdrop of the A&M school logo off to the side provided for a good photo op.

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If you are looking for a place to dine and get some good views of campus, the University Club, located on the 11th floor might just be your ideal spot. It was closed when I visited, however, according to their website they serve a buffet Monday thru Friday. It looks like a great spot to break for lunch during a weekday visit!

Heading further into the center of the school, I found myself on the Military Walk, one of the main walkways of A&M. Rooted in tradition, this was the spot where for years, the students making up the Corps of Cadets gathered daily. Many of these Aggies went on to become leaders in their respective fields.

Military Walk at Texas A&M
Military Walk.

Descriptions of the various notable points of the school’s history were displayed on both sides of the walkway. These signs provided me with a good introduction and understanding of the history I was surrounded by.

Military Walk at Texas A&M

Continuing along, I decided to go check out a building that I had seen while driving in – this tall building with an airport control tower “cab” look to it at the top. After walking for around ten minutes, I finally got to it. This structure was none other than the Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building, the tallest building on campus.

Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building
The Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building.

Although it was closed for Winter Break, this 15-story building sure has an interesting design! Upon doing some Googling back home, I discovered that a Doppler radar unit is mounted on the roof. With all those panoramic windows, it would sure be nice to see the view from the 15th floor. Speaking of architecture, that is one area A&M is lacking in. Most of the buildings can be described as being pretty bureaucratic and plain. Several pieces of public art lined the courtyards and walkways, but it wasn’t anything super special by any means.

texas a&m campus

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The next stop was to the Sterling C. Evans Library, one of five libraries on campus.

Sterling C. Evans library
The Sterling C. Evans Library.

Inside, rows and rows of books lined the six different floors. If you want a good view of campus, head up to the sixth-floor graduate study lounge. Everything here was open to the public, so visitors can waltz right on in to see the landscape of A&M.

Sterling C. Evans library

 

On the first floor, there was a sizeable computer/study area, which works well for research or group collaboration.

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Heading out, I came across a replica of A&M’s mascot, Reveille the Dog on the first floor by the circulation desk. Reveille has served as the school mascot since the 30s, and there have been nine lucky dogs that have held this title. The Reveilles that have passed away have their own cemetery close to Kyle Field, complete with a mini-scoreboard so they can see the 12th Man outscore the visiting team!

Sterling C. Evans library
Reveille the Dog greets all who visit the library.

My last stop on my way back to the car was at the Memorial Student Center, A&M’s student union.

Memorial Student Center
The Memorial Student Center.

Located close to the Cain Garage and Kyle Field, this student union was one of the newer buildings on campus. Inside, you can find everything from the bookstore to different spots to hang out. Many of the facilities inside are named after the values and traditions of the university, such as Respect Lounge and 12th Man Hall. In fact, this whole building is considered a living memorial to those Aggies that gave their lives defending our nation. To that end, signs on the doors instruct visitors to remove their hats upon entering as a sign of respect.

Memorial Student Center
The main lobby of the Memorial Student Center. Banners overhead display the core values of the university.
Memorial Student Center
The Barnes and Noble bookstore inside the MSC.

One unique spot in the MSC is The Flag Room. Nicknamed the “living room” of A&M, it contains sofas, tables, and even a grand piano! This spot is great for Aggies and visitors alike to sit down, hang out, and take in the culture of the university.

Memorial Student Union Flag Room
The Flag Room is one great place to take a break and experience some of A&M’s history.

As the name suggests, the room contains various flags used in the history of the university, including many of those belonging to the Corps of Cadets. Other A&M memorabilia was displayed, making it an interesting location to congregate and learn about the history of the school!

Memorial Student Center Flag Room
Some of the many flags displayed in the Flag Room.

In conclusion, this was one nice first visit to see one of Texas’ most well-known schools, and one that has so many different customs and traditions. This campus is simply humongous, and could easily take half a day or more to see everything. With that in mind, a second trip is already in the works for when the government reopens, to visit the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, located on the edge of campus! A lunch stop at the University Club would also be included in the itinerary.

Texas A&M water tower
This water tower reminds you that you are in Aggieland!

 

 

Texas Tech University

Howdy From Hub City – Lubbock, TX

Lubbock – a city that is known as the home of Texas Tech University, but also one of the main population centers in rural West Texas. After a great day spent exploring Amarillo, the family and I headed for “Hub City”, located two hours away. This nickname originated from the fact that Lubbock is the economic hub of the South Plains region. This wouldn’t be my first time in town- flying back home from Roswell, New Mexico last year, I stopped at the Lubbock airport for fuel and a quick lunch. Seeing that Texas Tech was one of the few well-known universities in the state that I hadn’t visited, it was an easy decision to swing by to see the school and city.

Leaving Amarillo, we took Interstate 27, which stretches from Amarillo to Lubbock. On the way there, we passed by towns like Canyon, Happy, and Plainview. Canyon is home to West Texas A&M, a small university that focuses pretty heavily on agricultural and equestrian studies.

West Texas A&M
Old Main at WTAMU.

West Texas A&M

West Texas A&M
The bell tower right in front of the “pedestrian mall” – the main walkway of the school with buildings on both sides.

Happy isn’t just some name you’ve heard in a movie – it’s an actual town! With a population of just 667, it is nothing more than a tiny community in the dusty Panhandle. Many of the roads weren’t well-paved, and the downtown area was little more than a few buildings.

Happy, Texas
Happy’s City Hall.

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With light traffic conditions, we entered Lubbock city limits ahead of schedule. After lunch, we began our tour of Hub City, starting with the most well-known place in town – Texas Tech University.

Texas Tech University
The school seal right by the main entrance to Texas Tech.

Established in 1925, the school was originally established as Texas Technological College. The state legislature formally changed the name to Texas Tech in ’69. Today, it is home to over 36,000 students and holds several distinctions including being the only campus in the state to have a university, law school, and medical school. Tech is also very well-known in the athletics department, with its football team competing in the Big 12 and holding status as a Division 1 school.

Doing a walking tour of campus, we explored the various buildings that comprise Red Raider Country. With covered arch walkways and different architectural features around several buildings, the campus looked pretty nice.

Texas Tech University

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Although there wasn’t as much green space as that of Iowa State University, the exterior layout still was well-designed and easy to navigate.

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Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, most of the buildings were closed. However, we did go inside the library, which was open.

Texas Tech University Library

Texas Tech University Library interior

Inside, it was pretty typical, with all the features one would expect for a university of this size. A coffee bar was located in the lobby area, along with computers and meeting areas on the first floor. Smart boards were installed by the little meeting pods, allowing students to collaborate using advanced technology.

Texas Tech Library Interior

The upstairs area was all books. Combined, the Texas Tech library has over 1.7 million volumes in its collection.

Texas Tech University Library Interior

Leaving the library, I came across this pretty neat statue of a walking “book man”.

Texas Tech University
The “Book Man” statue by the library.

The last place we visited here was the Rawls College of Business, located all the way on the other side of campus.

Texas Tech University
The Rawls College of Business.

The doors were locked, but peering inside the building looked pretty modern. This bear and bull piece of public art, representing the stock market with its lines indicative of the ups and downs was unique!

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All in all, I found this visit to Texas Tech to be pretty relaxing. It was neat seeing the campus of a school often discussed in collegiate football and talked about by friends who went here. Leaving Red Raider Country, it was off to our next stop, Prairie Dog Town – perhaps Lubbock’s most unique destination.

Prairie Dog Town

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A part of the city-owned Mackenzie Park, Prairie Dog Town is an enclosed area where prairie dogs live and get spoiled by visitors dropping food. It was started in 1935 by a guy name K.N. Clapp, after being concerned about the possible extinction of this species due to the government’s poisoning program. With two pairs of prairie dogs as its first inhabitants, this habitat flourished. Upon arriving, there were quite a few people, most with bags of carrots in hand.

Prairie Dog Town
It’s afternoon snack time!

Being that we didn’t prepare any food, we headed to the local supermarket and was back before long with several bags of baby carrots. Tossing them to these little creatures, they caught and ate the incoming supply of fresh food around half of the time. Other times, they seemed to be oblivious to the fact that a carrot had landed right next to them(or perhaps they just didn’t care).

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Signs here give the visitor some information about prairie dogs and their burrows. These creatures are pretty ingenious as I learned from this diagram- their underground habitat includes emergency exits, various rooms, and a food storage area!

Prairie Dog Town
Signs here educate visitors on the history and burrowing habits of the prairie dogs.

Birds were swooping in and walking around amongst the prairie dogs, but they didn’t seem to mind or have any sort of conflict at all.

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Between feeding and just observing these creatures in their natural habitat, we spent close to an hour here. Prairie Dog Town is a place I definitely recommend for a fun, family-friendly outdoor activity here in Lubbock. Time slipped on us, but we still headed for the American Wind Power Museum.

American Wind Power Museum
Some of the many windmills on display outside the American Wind Power Museum.

Due to the museum getting ready to close for the day, we opted not to see the exhibits inside, but we did walk around Lineberry Windmill Park, located outside. Many different windmills were represented here, including this Vestas V47 wind turbine. This thing is humongous!

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The huge Vestas V47 wind turbine.

Rising 164 feet into the West Texas sky, this wind turbine generates 660kW of power, enough to power the museum. Excess energy is sold to the local power grid. These modern-day windmills can be seen all over this region, however, it is here that you can get up close and personal with this masterpiece of technology.

American Wind Power Museum
These wind turbines are right at home in windy West Texas.

Leaving the Wind Power Museum, we did a driving tour of downtown. The whole area was deserted; with all the Texas Tech folks gone there just wasn’t any livelihood there. At the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport though, our last stop, it was anything but deserted.  The terminal was pretty crowded, full of folks mostly coming back into town. While their terminal isn’t very modern, it was well-structured(at least from the non-secure side) with rental car counters located in the building; negating the need to hop on a shuttle.

In sum, it was a nice half-day spent seeing Hub City and what makes up the land of the Red Raiders! Being that this school revolves around the university so much, it might be worth stopping back in on game day, or at least when the semester is in session. I’d also like to see the exhibits that make up the American Wind Power Museum. But for now, it’s one more Texas city visited!

 

A Visit to Abilene Christian University

A few weeks ago, my friend Tom and I flew out to see a city in West Texas that I have only driven by but never explored – Abilene. Located off Highway 20 and home to 122,225 people, Abilene is one of the larger cities dotting the bland landscape of the region. It is located about midway between Dallas and Midland, and is a former frontier settlement. Today, this sleepy city is home to Dyess Air Force Base, numerous oil and gas operations, and also Abilene Christian University, which is where we went on this trip!

Founded in 1906 as the Childers Classical Institute, affiliated with the Churches of Christ, the school opened on a site just west of Abilene. In 1929, a new campus was built on the northeast side of town, which is the school’s present-day location. The university went thru two name changes in its history before becoming Abilene Christian University around the mid-70s. Today, close to 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students study here.

Upon arriving from the airport, it took us a few minutes to find parking. We ended up having to parallel park in one of the visitor spaces, which didn’t seem to be too numerous. Granted, that’s still better than many of the other colleges I’ve visited, where there is simply nowhere to park without the risk of your car getting towed.

One of the first buildings we checked out was the McGlothlin Campus Center, which serves as a student union of sorts. Inside, you can find a bookstore, dining facilities, and numerous offices.

Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University

Nothing here seemed very fancy – it looked like just a typical college environment. Being that our visit was during the summer, there were barely any students to be seen here. However, I’m sure the McGlothlin is a popular congregation spot once the semester starts!

Speaking of places where students are known to hang out, another place that Tom and I saw was the Margaret and Herman Brown Library.

Abilene Christian University Library
The Margaret and Herman Brown Library.

Inside, there was nothing really special to see. Desks and computers were spread out in this learning commons for all to use. Although the building seemed quite dated, the interior looked well-maintained.

Abilene Christian University Library
Interior of the Brown Library. 

As we kept walking around campus, I noticed that much like the library, most of the buildings were pretty old, but kept in good condition. There wasn’t any real gorgeous architecture like that found at the University of Nebraska or Iowa State, but it wasn’t bad for a school nestled in a dusty West Texas town.

Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University

We did come across one building that looked new – the Onstead Science Center. Upon checking ACU’s website though, it turned out that this building was actually 70 years old, and had just received a facelift. It looked pretty nice!

Abilene Christian University
The Onstead Science Center. 

Although there isn’t much about ACU that stood out to me, one thing I liked about here was the layout of everything. Being that this is a smaller campus, the center courtyard with different places surrounding it such as the library and student union provided for good ease of access. There were also ample amounts of green space, something I feel is important to any university grounds.

Abilene Christian University

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I would have loved to explore this campus further and learn more about life at ACU, but we had to get going to allow time for lunch before heading back to the airport. This was a nice trip seeing a school I’ve heard of several times, as well as knocking out Taylor County off the to-be-seen list of Texas counties!