Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

‘I Am WT’ Podcast Spotlights Retention Efforts


CANYON, Texas — The ways West Texas A&M University works to keep Buffs in the herd is in the spotlight in the latest episode of the University’s student-run podcast.

Amber Black and Chance Haugen, assistant vice presidents for student affairs, speak with “I Am WT” host Brae Foust in the latest episode, available June 15 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and SoundCloud, as well as at

Black, a WT graduate, and Haugen each have long work histories with the University. Black previously worked in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, Rogers LEAD WT and the Office of Career and Professional Development. Haugen previously worked in the Virgil Henson Activities Center and the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

The duo discusses several innovative measures WT has recently adopted to increase student retention.

In 2021, the University launched the Start Strong initiative, offering both new and returning students multiple ways to make new friends and develop a sense of belonging at WT.

“We want to provide opportunities and set a foundation for students to be able to start the semester off strong,” Haugen said. “Then that helps them guide them through the rest of their semester and year as they’re going along.”

In addition to time-honored traditions like Move-In Day and Buff Branding, Start Strong activities include the First Friday Festival, Connect Coaching, organization fairs, free meals, movie screenings and more.

Building on the successful launch of Start Strong, Student Affairs rolled out two major new retention efforts in spring 2023.

The first, an umbrella plan called “Journey of the Buffalo,” was established following the granting of $300,000 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Partnering with Advising Services and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Student Affairs leaders developed a three-pronged program launching this spring that will offer actionable steps for students to improve their personal well-being, find healthy relationships and community, and cultivate practical skills in addition to those learned in the classroom.

Second is the new Meta Majors program, which will cluster incoming freshmen in residence halls with students from the same general courses of study to promote social and academic networks that enhance the learning experience.

“We want students to find that sense of belonging,” Black said. “We’re excited about the opportunities for students to be in class together, to be living in the residence hall together, sharing meals together at our dining hall. We want students to have this holistic experience where they really are becoming engaged learners and working together.”

Offering an excellent residential education experience is a key maxim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025.

In the biweekly episodes of “I Am WT,” student hosts Tearanee’ Lockhart, a senior advertising/PR major from Amarillo, and Foust, an Amarillo native pursuing his second bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, interview WT faculty, staff, students and alumni about what WT means to them.

Audiences hear stories about how attending or working at WT changed the lives of the guests, and how they’re making a difference in their community.

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