A Town Hall kickoff event introducing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus community to the University’s upcoming reaccreditation visit was held on Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the University Center Chattanooga Room.
More than 200 faculty, staff and students attended the event, which focused on the upcoming Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) site visit on March 6-9 and UTC’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), titled “A Moc’s First Year.”
Speakers at the Town Hall event included Theresa Liedtka, dean of the UTC Library and SACSCOC reaffirmation coordinator; Cindy Williamson, director of assessment in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Institutional Research and the campus’ SACSCOC liaison; and Chancellor Stephen R. Angle.
UTC is accredited to offer degrees by SACSCOC. Every 10 years, the University’s accreditation is reconsidered, with a formal reaffirmation process taking place.
As part of the reaffirmation process, institutions must have a long-term commitment to student success, known as a QEP. The UTC QEP, titled “A Moc’s First Year,” is intended to increase the retention and graduation of first-time, full-time freshmen students.
The next step in the process is to have a visiting team come to campus, with the reaffirmation site visit occurring in early March.
“If you look at our QEP, ‘A Moc’s First Year,’ it focuses on student success,” Angle said. “How do we create an environment where we can get students in their first year connected to resources to a sense of community, to other students, to mentors, to people that they can ask the question, ‘What do I do if I fall behind?’ There are a lot of resources and we want you to ask those questions, but we need to create an environment where they will do that.
“Building this sense of community and a cohort environment, that’s a lot of what this is about. But if you look at the plan, it’s going to empower our faculty and staff to put their own creative touch on what is a learning community.”
“A Moc’s First Year” will bridge and connect a variety of current and new initiatives, culminating in a centralized learning community model that increases student and faculty interaction, the overall feeling of community on campus, the connection of new students to Chattanooga, and overall student success at UTC.
First-year students will be part of a learning community that consists of two seminar courses. Each student cohort group will take a one- or three-credit-hour first-year experience course and another more extensive course in an area of specific academic content.
Two specialized events will take place as part of “A Moc’s First Year,” something social on campus and something taking the students into the city of Chattanooga. By including social and city exploratory experiential components, “A Moc’s First Year” aims to help integrate students into campus and Chattanooga city life.
“Well over 750 of our campus colleagues have participated in Roadshows, surveys and given their ideas in order to help us move these efforts forward,” Liedtka said. “SACSCOC is really a campus community effort.”
The Town Hall also featured a spirited game of SACSCOC UTC Jeopardy emceed by Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Stacy Lightfoot.
Lightfoot and the three contestants, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Yancy Freeman Jr., Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jerold Hale and Honors College Dean Linda Frost, all sported “A Moc’s First Year” T-shirts in support of the initiative. The game show—in which answers about the SACSCOC and QEP had to be answered in the form of a question—consisted of the categories “What’s in a Name,” “It’s a Date,” “But Why, Though,” and “Say Something.”
“It was a lot of fun to bring everybody together and have a little crowd participation thanks to SACSCOC UTC Jeopardy,” Liedtka said after the Town Hall’s conclusion. “It was a fun, engaging educational event for the campus.
“We had a couple hundred people come in, so we’re absolutely excited. I saw a lot of familiar faces and some people I hadn’t seen in a while.”
Liedtka noted that her work as the SACSCOC coordinator is far from over.
“I actually get to speak to the (Student Government Association) tonight, so we’ll get to talk to more students about the QEP,” she said. “I’m looking forward to handing out T-shirts and buttons and spreading the word.”