I can hardly believe that this academic year is over. I want to thank each of you for your outstanding service to our campus and your dedication to our students.
We recently celebrated commencement ceremonies for more than 1,100 students. I echo Provost Ainsworth’s appreciation to the faculty members who participated in the ceremonies, and I thank all of the staff members whose efforts help make these events possible.
Spring commencement is the culmination of each academic year, and what a year we have had! You can be proud of the many, many accomplishments our campus achieved throughout this past year.
We began the year with record enrollment, and we also had the best prepared freshman class in UTC history, with the highest average high school grade point average (3.4) and highest average ACT score (23.2). UTC was once again honored by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Top Southern Master’s Universities. UTC was also named a 2014 College of Distinction and a 2014 Military Friendly School, ranking us among the top 15 percent of institutions for veterans.
Our efforts to meet the requirements of the Complete College Tennessee Act are showing results. We now rank second among all Tennessee public universities in meeting CCTA metrics.
Our focus on student success and providing a quality education to students continues to show results. I know you join me in congratulating Robert Fisher on earning a Truman Scholarship and Adrianna Eder for being an Honorable Mention in the competition for a Goldwater Scholarship. These exceptional students are to be commended for their achievements and for the distinction they bring to themselves and to our campus.
Robert and Adrianna are just two examples of the outstanding students we have at UTC. This past year, we established the guiding principles to launch our Honors College.
Our School of Nursing was ranked 11th best in the nation by CollegeAtlas.org, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek named our undergraduate programs in business among the best in the country. Our Engineering Management online program was named one of the top 25 by SuperScholar’s Smart Choice Program. These are just a few of the honors bestowed upon our academic programs this year.
UTC Faculty members brought recognition to our academic programs through their achievements as well. Biology professor Stylianos Chatzimanolis cataloged a beetle first discovered by Charles Darwin. A musical composition by Kenyon Wilson took first place in an international competition. Our business dean, Robert Dooley, was recognized for his international outreach with an honorary doctorate from Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. Debbie Ingram of Physical Therapy was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, the highest honor awarded American Physical Therapy Association members.
Strong Community Connections
UTC faculty, staff, and students are active in our community strengthening existing partnerships and creating new ones. Our campus benefits from significant support from Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, and we are actively engaged in Chattanooga Forward, Thrive 2055, Pathways to Prosperity and other initiatives aimed at solving the problems facing our community. We are proud to be Chattanooga’s university.
We are also fortunate for wonderful partnerships with local businesses and organizations in nearly every academic discipline. A gift from Blue Cross Blue Shield established the Vicky B. Gregg Chair of Gerontology in our School of Nursing to honor Ms. Gregg and to serve as a cornerstone in gerontology teaching and research on our campus.
Nick Honerkamp, David Sachsman and Steven Cox were featured on C-SPAN when the network brought its tour of cities to Chattanooga. UTC contributed to segments on the Civil War and Chattanooga’s urban past for the national broadcast.
A new partnership between UTC and IBM provides our students with access to the latest technologies in data analysis, cloud computing, mobile platforms, and other technologies fueling the big data revolution. Our students in business and computer science gain marketable skills through this important collaboration.
What a great year for our student-athletes! They did an excellent job representing our University in the classroom, in competition and in the community.
Our Mocs posted a department-wide 3.07 GPA for the spring semester, topping the 3.0 mark for the first time in school history. Our Cross Country Mocs earned the highest GPA of any cross country team in the nation and 12 programs had a 3.0 or better.
Five teams brought home Southern Conference championships: Football, Women’s Basketball, Wrestling, Women’s Golf, and Softball. Individually, six Mocs were named SoCon Athletes of the Year, three earned All-American honors, and five won SoCon Individual titles.
Physical Plant Growth
We made great progress in the development of our physical environment. The beautifully renovated Metropolitan Building reopened as a new home for Nursing, Health and Human Performance, and our TV studio. Bretske Hall now houses art classrooms and studios. During Homecoming, more than 300 alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Chamberlain Pavilion.
Perhaps the most important development in our physical plant came this year when the State of Tennessee deeded the state office complex to us debt-free. The site, which runs between McCallie Avenue and M.L. King Blvd., includes space for short term development while we address some immediate space needs as well as 600 new parking spaces. Ultimately, the gift provides us much needed land that can be developed to meet the campus’s demands as we grow.
Just a few weeks ago, the Tennessee State Building Commission approved us to move into the planning stage for new housing. This new residence hall will be built on the site of the tennis courts and the racquet center between the Boling Apartments and the McKenzie Arena. We plan to relocate the tennis courts and demolish the racquet center within the next 12-18 months with an expected opening for the new housing for fall 2017.
We have begun the groundwork for the development of a new strategic plan. We will continue to work throughout the summer with more planning work when the new academic year begins. We hope to have a new plan ready for implementation by January.
On every front our campus is achieving excellence. We have much to celebrate, and next year promises to be another year full of achievement as we anticipate the opening of our new library, the implementation of a new strategic plan, and continued efforts to increase retention and graduation rates. With the tremendous support we receive from the University of Chattanooga Foundation and The University of Tennessee System, our future looks bright.
For those of you who will be taking some time off this summer, I wish you well and look forward to your return for a new year in August.