State of the University 2021
Thank you for joining me for the annual State of the University Address to reflect on our accomplishments and where we are headed in the future.
Over the past 18 months, we and other higher education institutions undertook significant challenges, made rapid changes and showed an ability to adapt.
Many business sectors transitioned to new modes of operation with more remote workforces and virtual work environments. 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.
As we look at the state of the University on Founders Day 2021, we are in a strong position to take on the challenges coming our way – such as refining our business model, addressing affordability and recruiting students as the number of high school graduates decreases.
This fall our enrollment is 11,457, down 2% from last year, but still strong. Our first-to-second year retention numbers decreased from 77% to 73%. Yes, we are disappointed, but this temporary setback will not deter us from achieving our goal of 83% first-to-second year retention by 2025.
With $26 million in HEERF 3 funding tied to the pandemic, more than $13 million in financial aid was recently directly allocated to students, making their education even more affordable.
The UC Foundation continued renovations for South Campus housing, helping to ensure UTC has the best student housing in the state of Tennessee.
The Hamilton County legislative delegation has been a strong supporter of funding and campus strategic priorities that impact student success at UTC.
The College of Health, Education and Professional Studies moved to 540 McCallie Avenue– the old State Office Building – so Hunter Hall could be renovated with a planned reopening in fall 2022.
We had been told there would be no new capital projects funded this coming year but, recently, THEC announced funding would be available in July 2022 for new capital projects that impact healthcare and economic development. The top UT Priority is Phase 1 of our Health Science Complex, which will house our nursing programs and provide a 60% increase in the number of nursing graduates.
On Nov. 23, we will break ground for the Wolford Family Athletic Complex and renovation of a portion of McKenzie Arena.
We are planning a new, 800-bed student housing complex on the site of the recently demolished Frist Hall.
The constant evolution of our campus, programs, practices and priorities are aligned with our core values that define what we do, how we do it and the standard of excellence we expect. These are the pillars of our liberal arts tradition and foundation.
Over the next several weeks, our work on a new five-year strategic plan will be completed. This plan charts a consistent path of engaging students, inspiring change and enriching community. Three areas of emphasis are:
- Reimagining General Education, a foundation of a UTC degree, stretching the ability to creatively problem solve with a deeper immersion into subject matter.
- Bringing together diverse groups of incoming students in collaborative learning experiences.
- Infusing interactions with diverse people and being exposed to experiences that encourage critical thinking.
It has been written that “The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals. The tragedy of life lies in having no goals to reach.”
As an instructor, I had a student who was on academic probation but wanted to work in my lab. He told me he needed to see the practical side of chemistry. He needed a chance; he needed someone to believe in him. I gave him that opportunity, and he went from a nearly failing student to a high achiever on the dean’s list. His environment changed and he was able to achieve and excel.
Learning is not achieved as an assembly line. When students engage with faculty on research and scholarship, when there is an immersion in the arts, music and athletics, there is inspiration to succeed.
The UTC approach is to learn by doing, creating meaningful ways for students to engage in the community and for the community to engage in the life of our institution.
Solution Scholars is a partnership of the UTC College of Business and Chattanooga’s Small Business Development Center. Students learn in class then help businesses while they gain market experience and plot potential career paths.
Mock trial, music and medicine, theater performances, the SMILE Fund, a creative arts palette are all examples of how we engage students at UTC in collaboration with community partners.
The MOCS experience is a vibrant, engaging student life, interesting classes that are demanding and rewarding, a community buzzing with things for students to do outside the classroom.
Compared to our campus of over 11,000, most of our students are from relatively small high schools, with similar life experiences. UTC encourages students to learn from and about those who have different life stories.
Our freshman experience – COHORT 2025 – is a high-level, high-intensity interaction among classmates and faculty. This fall, 72 percent of our freshmen students are partnered together with engaged faculty.
The refining of our general education curriculum will provide a firm foundation for the UTC experience. Our GenEd revisions must expand students’ curiosity, engage them in new intellectual interactions and the exploration of subject matters in greater depth. This distinctive UTC experience should cultivate creativity and self-expression while also affirming the rigor of academic disciplines. It will also connect our students to our community and the world in transformational ways, preparing them for the duties of citizenship and the responsibilities of leadership.
We must take the time to be thoughtful as we examine the bold proposals from our General Education Committee. Our campus will keep the focus of this creative process on our students. Together, we will identify the core knowledge and skills that will ultimately empower our students to be successful in their major fields of study – and in life. We will debate and discuss, but we will ultimately unite around the essence of a UTC education.
The path forward will not be not easy, nor should it be. We must shun indifference. Indifference halts dreams. A better world will not be built by indifferent people.
Let’s be committed to achieving more. Mocs should graduate in four years with a global appreciation of who they are. Being able to understand people different than them will mean success in business, in life and in a world that appears smaller with time.
We can open doors that have been locked. A truly outstanding university sees diversity and inclusion as a path to excellence and societal change.
Confidence in oneself is learned – through goals, by taking risks and having convictions. There will be success and failure. Successes convince us that we will succeed in the future. Failures show that life goes forward and provide inspiration to work that much harder. We will not accept defeat. We will achieve our goals. Our students deserve nothing less.
In all things, I encourage you to engage in robust agreements and disagreements, push the boundaries, in ways that are civil, constructive and respectful. If we take time to listen to the other person’s point of view, we may realize that at times, their point may be correct.
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.
Dr. Martin Luther King pushed boundaries but with an air of respect for what he was doing.
Dr. Horace Traylor pushed boundaries. He was the first African American to graduate from the University of Chattanooga. He became the president of Chattanooga City College and that college came together with UT and UC to form the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1969.
His passing earlier this year serves as a reminder that an integrated UTC would serve as a place where Chattanooga’s dreams come true. Fulfilling that vision remains our goal to achieve.
I recall a conversation with James Mapp, a local civil rights leader, whose name is on a campus building. His expectation was for us to do the right things for people of color, open doors and help them feel welcomed. His words are a guidepost for us as an institution.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is a trusted institution that educates and engages students to find solutions for real-world issues. We believe in diversity of thought and opinion, intellectual pursuit and social equity. Our actions and decisions are based in facts, not social media. We do not shelter those who do not want to hear and discuss differing points of view. We are accountable to our students and their parents, to the Legislature and the Executive branch, and to the taxpayers of Tennessee.
We will continue to improve the quality of the educational experience. Our new strategic plan will push us to identify best practices to achieve our goals, and to reimagine enrollment outreach, recruitment and student success.
As a campus community, we assist students in finding their path in life. Our students could go anywhere for college, but they chose us. They entrusted us with the responsibility to be guides, teachers, and role models. It is a privilege to do what we do. What we do matters. The future of our society depends on us doing a good job and never forgetting why we are here.
Together, we provide a campus environment where our students find their future. We touch their future each and every day as we challenge, inspire and encourage them.
Higher education is a complex undertaking. We strive to listen and to be heard, to challenge and be challenged. Together, we will achieve the best results for our students and for the future of our city, our state and our nation.
Thank You – Go MOCS!
Steven R. Angle, Ph.D