Despite having just completed a full academic year of dealing with COVID-19, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is strong and well-positioned for challenges ahead, from refining the business model to enhancing affordability to recruiting students from a decreasing population of high school graduates, Chancellor Steve Angle said on Friday.
“We will not accept defeat. We will achieve our goals. Our students deserve nothing less,” Angle said during his annual State of the University address.
“Many business sectors transitioned to new modes of operation with more remote workforces and virtual work environments,” he said. “Higher education, however, is more than a virtual classroom in a hybrid environment. While we moved instruction online with an incredible effort from our faculty, the college experience is more challenging in a virtual environment. An excellent college education requires engagement and interaction.”
The University’s five-year strategic plan for 2020-2025 calls for innovative approaches to academic instruction, problem-solving, critical thinking and faculty-student collaboration, he said. Among those innovations is to be a “re-imagined” general education curriculum intended to satisfy academic requirements while also sharpening students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Learning isn’t found only in textbooks and classrooms, Angle added. Applying knowledge to real-world activities brings learning to life, and for many UTC students these activities often also teach the value, responsibilities and importance of being an involved citizen, he said.
Angle emphasized the need for civility and respect as students talk, listen and even disagree with one other. Exposure to viewpoints not encountered before is an important part of a college education and preparation for success in life and in a diverse workplace, he said.
“We need more intellectual diversity, embracing the idea that we learn from those around us by understanding them and their experiences. You can have constructive conversations with someone who may not see the world exactly as you do,” he said.
While first-to-second year student retention dipped from 77% to 73% over the past year, Angle said that won’t prevent UTC reaching its goal of 83% first-to-second year retention by 2025.
He highlighted planned or in-progress construction projects including renovation of Hunter Hall and South Campus housing and groundbreaking set for Nov. 23 on a Wolford Family Athletic Complex that will be adjacent to McKenzie Arena, also due for renovations.
Referencing expectations for state funding for capital building projects in 2022, Angle said the University’s top priority is starting “Phase 1” of a UTC Health Science Complex to house the School of Nursing and enable a 60% increase in nursing graduates.
In closing, Angle challenged the UTC community to remain focused on its unique role and impact.
“It is a privilege to do what we do. What we do matters,” he said. “The future of our society depends on us doing a good job and never forgetting why we are here.”
Read the full text or watch Chancellor Steven R. Angle’s State of the University address here: