Before he even had a desk on campus, Chancellor Steven Angle hired a new provost, a new athletics director, and two head basketball coaches—and he hasn’t slowed down since.
Angle was named chancellor in March 2013 and assumed the office on July 1. But he worked with Interim Chancellor Grady Bogue to fill some critical leadership positions during the period before he came to Chattanooga. Angle comes to Chattanooga from Wright State University, where he served as a senior vice president. Read more about Chancellor Angle here.
With his first semester behind him, Angle speaks of enrollment, growth, and the future.
UTC has been experiencing tremendous enrollment growth over the past few years. How big do you think UTC should grow?
I think 15,000 is a reasonable number for UTC. We’re right now at almost 12,000. We don’t want to be too big, because we’d lose who we are. I don’t think Chattanooga needs a campus of 25,000 or even 20,000 but 15,000 is a good critical mass number—it’s a good planning number. I think we’re a wonderful size where we are right now.
What are some of the things you feel are UTC’s and Chattanooga’s strengths?
I think that the strength is the people. Certainly Chattanooga is an incredible place to be. We have a great campus; the facilities are wonderful, but what really make us shine are the warmth and the sincerity of all of the people who are the University, who are Chattanooga.
So then, what about the challenges?
There are physical challenges to address as we grow, especially right now in student housing. We’re putting a number of students each fall in the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. We’d like to have them all on campus. We think we’re short about 600 beds, and we could probably fill a thousand if we had them. We’ll probably break ground in 2015 for construction on a dorm to open in 2017.
Having students living on campus is so important. It creates a 24-hour-a-day adrenaline rush, blood flowing for what’s going on. If you’re on campus, you will go down and hear that lecture, or see that musical group perform, and take advantage of all the wonderful things that we’ve got on campus.
I’ve told people that my two priorities are students getting a quality education and our connections to the community. We’re focusing on student success. The bottom line metrics of graduation rates, first-to-second-year retention, second-to-third year retention, these statistics are important. But the quality of that experience is important as well. Participation in student government, on a newspaper staff, in competitive athletics—these are as important as performance in a musical group, on stage, or in a research laboratory. Engaging our students in life, education, working together as a team, and using our community as the laboratory where we can do all of this, to get out and impact our community in a positive way—these are essential to our success.
When you talk about strengthening campus connections, what would those look like?
It is critical that our students are doing service learning projects with nonprofits, with our local city and county governments. We should be impacting businesses. Our students should be out there in the community. We need to make sure that we are looking at problems that are of significance to local business in our community.
Right now we’re evaluating our intramural facilities, trying to figure out what do we really need for a campus of our size. Depending on what we do, we can impact youth leagues, soccer, and other athletics so that there is a positive synergy and we’re adding back to the community.
Are there particular areas that have come to your attention as you’ve been out meeting community leaders?
One topic that continues to come up is ‘Where does a business owner go for help, or how does someone to hire interns?’ Where is that front door for the University? Who do you contact and how do we make sure to follow up? I see that as a huge need for us. For students to get a job, that experience in the real world, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom is so valuable to them. We need to make this process easier to understand.
The Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Haslam seem to be making higher education a priority. Why?
In a knowledge-based economy, to attract and retain businesses in Tennessee, we need the educated workforce. The Drive to 55 is aimed at providing 55 percent of the state population with an advanced certificate degree or graduate degree to provide that trained workforce that’s needed for the jobs of today and of the future. The projection for Tennessee is that for our economy in 2025, we will need 55 percent of our population to have postsecondary education of some level.
The Complete College Tennessee Act was intended to provide the right incentives for higher education to focus on graduation and to increase educational attainment levels in the state of Tennessee. In the past, state funding formulas incentivized filling seats. Now we’re focusing on completion of courses, completion of credit hours, and then moving on to graduation.
That’s where there’s an incentive in our funding formula. The entire nation is going this way. More than 30 states are already focusing on outcomes formulas. This only incentivizes what we need to do anyway, which is focus on our students. That’s what we’re about as an institution, that is our job—students and their success and the quality of their education.