Today, a college education is more than pursuing a degree leading to a career.
It’s a journey that shapes students’ entire lives, a path that prepares them for the questions of life and finding answers to those questions.
“The highest reward is not what you get for doing it, but what you become from doing it. As time and your life journey move on, consider the choices that shaped you the most. The path taken and the one left for another time. What we did and what we did not do,” University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Steven R. Angle said in his 2022 State of the University address. The outdoor presentation on Chamberlain Field at UTC marked the first in-person State of the University address since COVID-19 struck in spring 2020.
Some students may leave the comfort of high school and be nervous about their future and the direction it will take, Angle said. UTC educational objectives can ease their concerns.
“For a 17- or 18-year-old, fresh out of high school and staring at an uncertain future, our liberal arts foundation assists them in learning who they are, what they can be, and to understand the choices that will influence their lives,” Angle said.
Although differences between beliefs and points of view are now part of the national conversation, the diverse body of students and faculty at UTC can bridge divisions, he said.
“Higher education should encourage students to come together,” even those with whom they may disagree, “and have meaningful, engaging and civil conversations. This is viewpoint diversity.”
Angle said that the current freshman class is the second largest in UTC history, second only to 2019, and the number of new graduate students is up 5.9%.
Overall enrollment of 11,283 is down 1.5% from 2021. Angle attributed the decrease to students who opted to enter the workforce instead of staying at UTC to finish their degrees.
The decline represents about 132 fewer students and a budget shortfall of slightly less than $2 million, he said, noting that the budget shortfall will be covered by one-time reductions in non-recurring funding for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Capital projects are moving forward following the recent completion of renovations to Hunter Hall, built in 1957. Construction of the $30-million Wolford Family Athletics Center is ongoing, and more than $110 million will fund renovations to Brock Hall, the 540 McCallie Ave. building and construction of the first phase of the Health Sciences Building—the future home to the School of Nursing.
Angle also cited numerous impactful partnerships between UTC and national, regional and local companies and organizations. Among them:
- Certified Nursing Assistant program offered by the UTC Center for Professional Education and Life Care Centers of America with full-time jobs awaiting graduates.
- U.S. National Security Agency-backed program in cybersecurity career training targeting former first responders, military veterans and military personnel leaving active duty.
- A $9.2-million grant—the largest from U.S. DOT to UTC in University history—is set to transform downtown Chattanooga into the nation’s largest electric vehicle “living testbed.”
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2022 State of the University Address Text
Every day, we face choices. Choices in a World of Challenging Opportunities. A choice facing every prospective college student: “Do I go to college or not?” Higher education appears to be at a crossroads, challenged to show the relevance of investing the time and financial resources to complete a college degree.
The choice seen through a UTC lens is an education based in the liberal arts that touches the soul of our being. It is the foundation of how we teach and how students learn from investments in knowledge and experience.
A nervous tension exists between preparing for a job or making an investment in education. The two, however, do not have to be in conflict.
I am reminded of these lines by the poet Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in the wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
For the State of our University in 2022, I want us to reflect on the influences along the road taken and the one not taken. The decisions made along an education path help students be critical thinkers, questioning why, and searching for answers. As a university in a community of diverse people and thoughts, the answers to the following questions matter:
- What is the value of a college degree?
- Why liberal arts education?
- What distinguishes a UTC education?
Studies show that having a bachelor’s degree will mean higher lifetime earnings when compared to those with a high school diploma. But a college degree is not just about making a good living. It is about becoming the person you want to be.
A Harvard professor described a Liberal Arts education as “preparing you for your sixth job, not your first job.” Career paths are not linear. Generational advancements put us on the cutting edge of choices that require skills but also the understanding of how to apply knowledge to solve problems.
Education is more than simply the absorption of information. UTC students learn how to fail and recover, how to think critically and communicate effectively.
Equipping our students to navigate the rapidly changing global economy and to continuously reinvent themselves are at the core of a UTC education. For a 17- or 18-year-old, fresh out of high school and staring at an uncertain future, our liberal arts foundation assists them in learning who they are, and what they can be, and to understand the choices that will influence their lives.
Our students are challenged to explore, think, consider, and then converse. Our graduates must be able to understand the subtlety of human communication. UTC communities of learners grow from gained insights plowed in fields of new discoveries.
A UTC education is rooted in our values and can be summed up in four statements. These declarative words are our commitment to students, parents, our community, and to all who invest in our educational mission.
- We are community-engaged problem solvers.
- We graduate students with real-world skills valued by employers.
- We are a welcoming place for all.
- We are Chattanooga’s university.
Four short phrases are reflective of everything we do. In hiring. In recruiting. In the classroom. On the athletic field. In the community. In every action and decision.
Founders Day 2022, we are strongly positioned to take on the challenges coming our way–such as addressing affordability, engaging students with faculty, being competitive in enrollment and retention, and graduating educated leaders for life.
This fall we have the second largest freshman class in university history, second only to 2019. The number of new graduate students is up 5.9%. Great news, but in the face of success, we also face challenges. Overall, our enrollment of 11,283 is down 1.5% from last year. Initial information shows the decrease is tied to students choosing to remain in the workforce rather than returning to finish their degree. The decrease of roughly 132 student FTE translates to a budget shortfall of just under $2M, a problem we will fix with one-time budget reductions this year.
The renovation of Hunter Hall, built in 1957, is complete and Campus Drive between Hunter and Pfeiffer/Stagmier is a beautiful pedestrian pathway from McCallie Avenue to the heart of our campus. Work is underway on the $30M Wolford Family Athletics Complex and McKenzie Arena renovation.
The Hamilton County legislative delegation has been a strong advocate for UTC, supporting capital projects and other campus strategic priorities that impact student success. This year we received more than $110 M in capital funding for three projects: Health Sciences Phase I, which will be home to our Nursing School, and the renovations of Brock Hall and 540 McCallie.
The expansion of the Rollins College of Business is the top capital priority for UTC and the UT System as we look to 2023.
We are striving to be innovative and creative. Led by our Center for Professional Education, we have stepped out of the traditional boundaries of a four-year degree to invest in the needs of our community partners. For example, a Certified Nursing Assistant program offered by UTC’s Center for Professional Education and Life Care Centers of America offers clinical instruction and a full-time job at one of Life Care’s local facilities. We have also started an online cyber security certificate program in partnership with other higher education institutions targeting first responders, veterans, and military personnel leaving active duty. The program is funded by the NSA and is free to the students. This program serves those who served our country and provides trained workers in areas of critical need.
Partnerships between UTC and our community build bridges that enhance learning opportunities for our students and our engaged faculty. A recent example is the largest federal Department of Transportation grant in UTC history that will transform downtown Chattanooga into the nation’s largest electric vehicle “living testbed,” with $9.2 million for a project proposed by the City of Chattanooga, researchers at UTC, private industry and research partners.
We are moving the needle in the right direction, but there is always more to achieve.
Our commitment to our students, their parents and all who invest in our ability to educate now and in the future is to inspire, to nurture, and to empower scholarship, creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial initiatives. The reward is not what you get for doing it, but what you become from doing it.
This is who we are.
Higher education should encourage students to come together, even with those with whom they may disagree, and have meaningful, engaging, and civil conversations. This is viewpoint diversity. We continue to expand learning communities, where students of various backgrounds take ownership and are empowered to explore, inquire, and understand points of view that impact life. This is an important part of a UTC education.
The 2021-2025 UTC Strategic Plan states that “UTC will transform the lives of our students and the futures of our region by increasing access to a distinctive model of education, grounded in the liberal arts and tied closely to workforce opportunities,” it goes on to say that “by 2025 we will . . . improve student performance” by increasing the freshman fall-to-fall retention from 73% to 83% and increasing the six-year graduation rate from 53% to 63%. We remain committed to these goals.
The plan also states that we will “implement and expand Cohort 2025 to include all first-year students.” As part of our SACS COC reaffirmation process, we have developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that intends to do just that. Our QEP, “A Mocs First Year” will build learning communities that engage every new student in a one-credit hour seminar class linked to a common academic course. Connections to our residential colleges and learning communities will enhance the student experience.
Our QEP will bridge and connect a variety of current and new initiatives, culminating in a centralized learning community model that will increase new student and faculty interaction, the overall feeling of community on campus, the connection of our new students to Chattanooga, and overall student success at UTC. You will hear more details about our QEP in the coming weeks.
We remain committed to our four interdisciplinary priority areas of focus: Health and Healthy Communities; Modeling, Simulation and Data Analysis; Entrepreneurship; and Teacher Education.
We have had a change in leadership in our School of Education with the departure of Dr. Renee Murley. In concert with our search for a new leader, I am pleased to announce that UTC will be working with Chattanooga 2.0, community partners, and education leaders to do a review of our Teacher Education program that will provide a road map as we build the best, most innovative teacher education program in the south.
Designing entrepreneurial and professional courses that integrate siloed disciplines in a cross-pollination of ideas, must be the UTC approach to learning. Our Gary W. Rollins College of Business is leading the way in these efforts.
We must position ourselves on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. The future will be exciting but we must rise to the challenges we will inevitably face.
Quantum physics is on the verge of providing a new disruptive technology enabling quantum computing powered by quantum communications. Imagine having the ability to model millions of options and arrive at the best choice to save the life of a newborn baby, or to help an aging person to remain independent and productive. Yes, we can do these things now, but quantum technology will allow us to do them in fractions of a second. It will change our lives if we have the imagination, creativity, and skills to seize the opportunities.
Narrow silos will not prepare our students for the breadth and depth of knowledge required to solve problems that are intractable for classical computers. Understanding how to harness the new world of Quantum will lead to significant advances in health care, to reimagining supply change management, and how we teach; just to name a few.
UTC is actively working with community partners, and industry leaders to realize this opportunity. Our students, faculty, and Chattanooga community will write the narrative for our future.
Will we be able to strategically modify curriculum and create links for our students between the classroom and these evolving opportunities? I believe so.
As a nation, we have evolved from a time when a high school diploma supported a lifetime job. The new paradigm is the impact on a career with a post-secondary degree. How prepared are students to take on great challenges, face problems they think are impossible to solve, and collectively find answers? This is the measure of the Return on an Educational Investment.
G.K. Chesterton said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”
Is there any work more important than what we do at UTC? We provide a link between the present and a future we dream of. What we do matters. Each and every member of our campus community is an important part of who we are. Together, we are UTC.
Going back to my earlier questions, these are UTC answers:
What is the value of a college degree?
- The reward is not what you get for doing it, but what you become from doing it. For students and parents, no massive debt; we will help in managing the costs with the Hope scholarship, the UT Promise and other financial support.
Why liberal arts education?
- For a student, it is instruction that challenges, requires engagement and interaction with others, tests concepts, and encourages knowledge exploration and application. This prepares UTC graduates to be global citizens.
What distinguishes a UTC education?
- Education is shaped in the classroom, on campus, and in the Chattanooga community engaged with learning partners. Students apply classroom knowledge to solve problems facing our community.
Our path today started on two roads. One less traveled that made all the difference. We know that road. As I said earlier: The highest reward is not what you get for doing it, but what you become from doing it. As time and your life journey move on, consider the choices that shaped you the most. The path taken and the one left for another time. What we did and what we did not do.
Education is a choice. My hope is that all of us invest in being prepared for an unknown but challenging future. Whenever doors appear closed we must help our students find the grit, determination, and know-how to push them open. Reach informed choices. Learn through attaining knowledge over a lifetime. This is a UTC education. This is what we do. This is who we are. We are UTC!