Congratulations to the nearly 700 undergraduates and 130 graduate students who will receive their degrees during our 262nd commencement ceremonies next week.  In addition, many of the 217 undergraduates and 96 graduate students who completed their degrees in August will return to campus for commencement festivities.

  • The graduate student ceremony takes place at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15.  TVFCU Vice President of Corporate Engagement Dionne Jenkins will deliver the graduation charge.
  • Two undergraduate commencement ceremonies will take place on Saturday, Dec. 16. The College of Arts and Sciences/College of Engineering and Computer Science ceremony will begin at 9 a.m., with UTC alum David Wade, the president and CEO of EPB, as featured speaker.  The Gary W. Rollins College of Business/College of Health, Education and Professional Studies ceremony starts at 1 p.m., and the featured speaker is Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.

In advance, I would like to thank the faculty members who have agreed to serve as marshals during commencement and our staff who volunteered to help.  It means so much to our graduates to have you in attendance.  You have played an immense role in our students’ lives and truly make a difference.  You help bring out the best in our students in the classroom by preparing them for life after UTC.  Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to educating and supporting our students.

Cultivating a Culture of Innovation

At the recent National Forum to Advance Rural Education, we announced the creation of the new Center of Excellence and Innovation in Education.  Our goal is to build one of the best teacher education programs in the South, and the Center of Excellence and Innovation in Education will be the foundation for achieving our goal.  We are poised to be leaders in innovative school models, literacy, leadership and rural education.

Congratulations to Katherine Goforth Elverd and her staff on the growth of the music therapy program at UTC.  Keely Phillips and Kyndall Blum will be the first students to attend UTC as music therapy majors for all four years they were enrolled, and they are graduating next week.  Joseph Taylor, who transferred from Belmont University to UTC as a junior, also will graduate with a music therapy degree—the first transfer student to accomplish that feat.

Creating the Mocs Experience

During the summer of 2022, I had the good fortune to meet prospective student Zayda Dominick.  She told me she planned to major in biochemistry, so I encouraged her to contact Dr. Benjamin Stein, one of our newer faculty members with an exciting research program.  Zayda, now a sophomore, recently presented research titled “Understanding how NtrZ affects NtrY in Caulobacter crescentus” at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Durham, North Carolina, and received an undergraduate poster award.  Undergraduate research opportunities are vital in positioning our students for success, and I am thrilled to be able to share this news.  Zayda, congratulations!  Professor Stein – Great Job!

Brock Scholar and elementary education major Rebekah Cahill, who will be graduating next week, recently placed second in the Education and Pedagogy category in the National Collegiate Honors Council’s 2023 Sloane Prize for Undergraduate Research poster competition in Chicago.  Her departmental honors thesis, directed by Dr. Rachael Davis, was titled “School District Gerrymandering and Student Performance: A Look into How Central Alabama Is Failing Its Most Vulnerable Students.”  What a terrific finish for an outstanding UTC student!

Congratulations to senior Hao Luong, who will be graduating next week with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing, for the artwork she created that is now on display in the Division of Access and Engagement offices.  Hao’s story is captivating; she moved with her family from Vietnam to Chattanooga seven years ago.

A big “Go MOCS” shout out to Mocs defensive lineman Jay Person on earning Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year and for being selected as a Buck Buchanan Award finalist—which goes to the FCS’ top defender—for the second straight season.  The winner, to be chosen by a national voting panel, will be announced in January.

One more round of applause to Head Coach Rusty Wright, his staff and the entire UTC football team for another outstanding season.  The Mocs won eight games, their highest total since 2016, and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs.

 Leveraging Our Special Place as Chattanooga’s University

The accolades keep coming for the School of Nursing, which has been named the best in the country in a nationwide competition of student and alumni voters.  The quality of UTC’s nursing program is a testament to the faculty, staff and students of the School of Nursing, which continues to address workforce demands throughout Chattanooga and the region by increasing the number of desperately needed nurses.

Operating with Excellence

We are in the stretch run of the national search for the next Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.  Thank you to the search committee chair, Provost Jerold Hale, and the entire committee for their hard work in identifying the final candidates for consideration.

A big round of applause to our Chancellor’s Ambassadors for their outstanding work decorating Founders Hall for the holidays.  How festive it is to spread the holiday cheer!

We are in the final days of the fall semester.  For those of you taking final exams for the first time in college, relax and take a deep breath.  The end of the semester is near!

And to our students who are about to graduate, I hope you take pride in being a Moc.  You will forever be linked to UTC and Chattanooga, and you will continue to define UTC.  You are—and will continue to be—ambassadors in spreading the word about our great university.  I wish you success in all your future endeavors.  Look back with fond memories of your time at UTC as you move forward into an exciting future.


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