Twenty-five years after joining the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga staff, Yancy Freeman has seen a culture shift in its students, especially in the last decade. Students want information and they want it fast, according to the long-time campus administrator.
“This is just a different generation of students today,” says Freeman, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs. “The generation has been accustomed to technology in everything they do. They’ve grown up with computers, smartphones and all of the smart objects and information at their disposal in very quick fashion.”
Such tools of technology make today’s students brighter, faster moving and more adaptive about most things. The technological revolution, still underway, has changed the way UTC recruits students today, he says.
“We’ve transitioned from bulky storytelling in student recruitment to shorter, significant chunks of information. Students can receive and consume information at an outstanding rate of speed, so UTC has adjusted its approach to deliver information in a more immediate way. We deliver much of that information in 250 characters or less through social media platforms.”
At the start of 2010, Freeman—a three-time graduate of UTC with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public administration and doctorate in learning and leadership—held the position of assistant provost working with academic affairs, admissions and financial aid. Those multiple roles have allowed him to see UTC and Chattanooga through a bigger lens. Having built a strong relationship with the entire Chattanooga community, he “sees the UTC footprint everywhere.”
“Never before have I seen us do as much in the community and have as many connections as we do in the community today,” he says. “I feel like UTC is in the center of that conversation when we discuss how to make a better Chattanooga and a better region. UTC is a big part of the conversation with what is happening downtown, about what does city expansion and university growth look like.”
One thing that hasn’t changed at UTC over the past decade is the faculty and staff and their dedication to the students, Freeman says. “We have people who really care about students,” he says. “When I start talking about the success of our students, I have to, in the same breath, talk about the commitment from the faculty and staff.”
Attracting and keeping those students is obviously a primary goal at UTC, and Freeman is confident that enrollment will continue to grow, climbing to some 13,000 students in the years ahead. However, that’s not the only growth he expects to see in the future. “Over the years, we will see a resurgence of adult students come back to complete a degree,” he predicts. “You are going to see more nontraditional classroom settings as we welcome more nontraditional students and alternative opportunities like more online and hybrid opportunities for people to earn a degree.”
And, after students earn their degrees, Freeman says, he would like to wave a magic wand to create one magic outcome for students. “It is that every single student who graduates from here gets the job of their dreams. Whatever it is, it will serve to surpass their wildest dreams.”