Reaching goals at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is not just a matter of having money; rather, it’s setting goals—then determining how much money is needed to reach them.
“At UTC, our budget will not define our aspirations. Our aspirations will define our budget,” Chancellor Steven R. Angle said in his 2023 State of the University address on Friday, Sept. 15.
“Our vision is not scaled by what we think we can afford. Our vision is based on investments required to drive students’ success and community impact,” he told the audience in the University Center Auditorium. “Now is the time to be bold and set stretch goals.”
Students are the primary focus at UTC, “the reason we exist,” Angle said. “Our core mission is providing an excellent educational experience for students.”
Numbers show the efforts are paying off:
- Fall semester 2023 had the largest freshman class ever at UTC.
- More than 92% of incoming freshman students have a high- school GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- The graduation rate for student-athletes is 91%, and the overall four-year graduation rate has doubled in the past decade.
“Talented people—at UTC and in our community—made these 10-year achievements a reality,” Angle said. “What drives our success? Our faculty and staff and their passion to be difference makers in the lives of our students, in our community, our state and our nation. This is our success.”
Angle looked back at his first State of the University address in 2014, titled “Achieving Excellence: Charting a Path to the Future,” and found that the school’s determination has not flagged.
“Chattanooga is moving forward, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is fully engaged,” he said in his 2014 address. “With our focus on quality, community connections and student success, your University is a partner in the economic advancement, cultural health and sustainability of our community.’
Expectations are not slowing down, he said, and in the next 10 years, UTC will focus on four areas to address the future success of students and the rest of the UTC family.
- Developing a campus community where students, faculty and staff can thrive.
- Maintaining and expanding the University’s relationships with Volkswagen, EPB and Chattanooga’s Smart Cities program—among others—making the school an indispensable piece in the region’s and Tennessee’s workforce and economic development.
- Promoting innovation to place UTC at the forefront of the vast changes happening in higher education across the world.
- Continuing to insist on excellence, from how the campus looks to student success to exceptional teaching, research and service.
“As we teach and infuse lifetime learning into the next generation, there are difficult questions that challenge the norm and push us to be inquisitive and, at times, contrarian,” he said. “Our students are prepared to be problem solvers and critical thinkers.
“Working together over 10 years, we have made significant strides as Chattanooga’s university,” Angle said. “As we look to this next decade, our actions must be relevant, easily understood, and difference-makers. We must be innovative as we stay true to our values and who we are.”
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Chancellor Steven R. Angle’s 2023 State of the University Address
Good morning. I am Steve Angle, and I have the privilege of serving as the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Thank you for joining us today for the 2023 State of the University Address.
In 1886, local community leaders launched Chattanooga’s University to create a talent pipeline for our region. In 1969, the University of Chattanooga and Chattanooga City College merged to become the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Today, we celebrate 137 years of our University.
As I was preparing for today’s State of the University Address, I thought back to my first one in 2014. It was entitled “Achieving Excellence: Charting a Path to the Future.”
The program contained a brief summary of the talk:
“Chattanooga is moving forward, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is fully engaged. With our focus on quality, community connections, and student success, your University is a partner in the economic advancement, cultural health, and sustainability of our community.”
Today, in 2023, we remain committed to achieving excellence in all we do.
At UTC, great opportunities come from understanding why we exist, who we are, and our impact on lives, community, and society. Working together over 10 years, we have made significant strides as Chattanooga’s university. As we look to this next decade, our actions must be relevant, easily understood, and difference-makers. We must be innovative as we stay true to our values and who we are.
Our aspirations must embrace the increasing pace of technological change. Our plans must be bold leaps forward, not incremental steps down the same path of the past.
We operate in a world of constant disruptions that will only accelerate in the months and years ahead. We spent the last decade preparing for a Founder’s Day in 2023 that is one of confidence and focus on excellence.
Our 10-year snapshot captures:
- The 4-year graduation rate more than doubled, and our six-year graduation rate is up to 53%. For student-athletes, it is 91%.
- Research grants increased by 52% to over $14 million.
- Donor gifts increased by 131% and we had our biggest fundraising year ever in 2018 with $56.8 million.
- University High, a unique dual enrollment program, launched in August. Today, there are 56 high school juniors on our campus taking both high school and college courses.
- The largest freshman class ever entered UTC in Fall 2023.
Talented people—at UTC and in our community—made these 10-year achievements a reality. What drives our success? Our faculty and staff and their passion to be difference makers in the lives of our students, in our community, our state, and our nation. This is our success.
Our past achievements give us reason to be bold. We are ready.
Our attention now is on the next 10 years as the best ever for UTC. Our focus aligns with President Randy Boyd’s vision that this will be the greatest decade in the history of the University of Tennessee. UTC will be a leader.
As a dean in California, I was talking with a colleague, Don Dye, Dean of the Anderson School of Business, bemoaning the need to find $60M for a new building to house a planned ag genomics institute. His advice:
“There is no shortage of money in this world, but there is a shortage of great ideas. Don’t worry, we will find the money because this is a great idea.”
Our vision is not scaled by what we think we can afford. Our vision is based on investments required to drive students’ success and community impact.
At UTC, our budget will not define our aspirations. Our aspirations will define our budget.
Since the year 2010, UTC has had well over $1 billion to support our goals and aspirations. What aspirations will define the next billion dollars?
Now is the time to be bold and set stretch goals.
Our core mission is providing an excellent educational experience for students, and four interdisciplinary focus areas drove our work in the past decade.
The four interdisciplinary areas:
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Health and Managing Wellness
- Computational Modeling and Data Analytics
- Teacher Education
The progress made has brought added definition to each one. I want to briefly discuss the impact and measurable results.
First and foremost, students. Students, the reason we exist. Students, our core mission. Enrollment, retention, progression, and graduation will all continue to increase.
Our students are among the best in the country. Over 92% of our incoming freshman students have a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher. In Fall 2022, 99% of our incoming freshman students received some sort of financial aid, making a college degree an affordable, smart investment. We are providing access and setting our students up for success.
The State of Tennessee is incredibly supportive of higher education. Thanks to the leadership from our local legislative delegation and the support of the Governor, we have:
- An outcome-based funding formula that focuses on student success.
- Significant investments in capital projects that keep our academic programs relevant and aligned with workforce needs.
- The HOPE Scholarship that provides significant amounts of financial aid for students.
- The Tennessee Promise that provides tuition-free community college and inspired the UT Promise, a last-dollar tuition scholarship for students with $75,000 or less in family income—two-thirds of the households in the state of Tennessee.
Excellence in everything we do means linking the academic experience with student life.
“A Moc’s First Year” will build a campus environment that supports a community of learners.
New housing in 2018 led to residential colleges, faculty in residence, and Living Learning Communities. And for this decade, a new 700-bed student housing complex will go on the site of Frist Hall.
While infrastructure is important, an outstanding educational experience for all students remains our priority. Let’s look at our four priority areas:
First, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Our work is directly tied to economic and workforce development in the greater Chattanooga area and beyond. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is having increasing impact on our campus and in our community. A search for the founding director of our new Center for Regional Economic Research is nearing completion. Several key faculty hires have provided an infusion of new leadership to our academic programs and our community. The goal is to multiply our impact by leveraging campus expertise with investments made by community partners.
In 2018, an alum made a $40 million gift to name the Gary W. Rollins College of Business. We are poised to double the size of the Rollins College with a $30 million commitment as the lead gift toward a $97 million addition to Fletcher Hall. The support of the Hamilton County delegation and the Governor will position us for success.
Health and Managing Wellness is the next area. We have strong programs and are building capacity to meet the needs of Tennessee. The UTC nursing program is currently ranked #1 in Tennessee by Nursing.org and has a 100% NCLEX pass rate.
With the help of our State Delegation, with a special nod to Senator Bo Watson, we are designing a new facility to house our nursing program. The result will be additional new space to sharply increase the number of our nursing graduates and to house a cutting-edge simulation laboratory. As with many projects today, costs have gone up and we are actively raising funds for the project. We will soon announce an $8 million naming gift, which will make this new building a reality.
Initial planning is underway for a second phase facility to house the balance of our health-related programs, potential program expansion, and community partnerships.
Third, Computational Modeling and Data Analytics has evolved to include quantum, transportation, mobility, data analytics, modeling simulation, artificial intelligence, Smart Cities—all huge opportunities for UTC. Our focus is on areas with the potential to redefine our future as a university. The UTC Research Institute brings laser focus on quantum and transportation/Smart Cities.
The growing relationship with Volkswagen will provide new opportunities for our campus and community. During our upcoming trip to Germany, new collaborative initiatives will be explored. Now is the right time to recruit a Director of Economic Development to facilitate our engagement in the economic fabric and development of our city, state, and nation.
Our economic development efforts extend to EPB, which is led by CEO and UTC alum David Wade, and will connect UTC to the EPB quantum network. UTC Research Institute Director Mina Sartipi, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research Reinhold Mann, and the college deans have aligned resources to advance the quantum agenda.
The fourth area is Teacher Education. If we really want to make a difference, teacher education is where it begins. Literacy, preparing for third-grade advancement, dual language learners, and being ready for the workforce or post-secondary education—all are impacted by teachers in the classroom. Teacher preparation is the key, and that means being on the cutting edge and challenging the norm.
An outside review of opportunities last year prepared us for identifying a new teacher education program leader. A proposed center that focuses on Innovation and Excellence in Teacher Education will be the foundation for achieving our goal.
We look forward to working with our faculty, staff, and community partners over the next several months to bring this Center of Excellence to reality. We are poised to be a leader in areas like teacher preparation, rural education, new school models, literacy and leadership. This is important work, and our partnering school systems, community and students are counting on us to get this right—and we will.
Research and creativity are not limited to these four areas; they are part of the fabric of our institution. Across the board, our faculty are scholars in their fields. Their passion and excitement for research, scholarship and creative activities make them outstanding classroom instructors. Our academic programs are aligned with our research goals, with our community, and with the state to have maximum impact.
UTC will lead with four rallying points to focus our work in this decade:
- Creating the Moc experience where students, faculty, and staff are positioned for success and thrive.
- Leveraging our special place as Chattanooga’s university, we are central to the workforce and economic development efforts of this region and Tennessee.
- Cultivating a culture of innovation where we lead on the transformational change happening in higher education and in our state, nation and world.
- Operating with excellence, from the way our campus looks and feels to student success, and exceptional teaching, research, and service.
The future looks exciting and exhilarating. The technology crossroads of the digital revolution are gaining momentum from the broad availability of generative artificial intelligence and the potential applications of quantum.
As we teach and infuse lifetime learning into the next generation, there are difficult questions that challenge the norm and push us to be inquisitive and, at times, contrarian. Our students are prepared to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. Ginni Rometty, former chief executive of IBM, delivered this point in discussing AI and the workforce:
“As an employer, I can give people hard skills, and in the digital world they change every three to five years. It doesn’t matter that much. I really need them to understand how to work, how to think, how to problem solve.”*
There are new tools to examine with our students so they know the benefits and the limitations of technology and are prepared for leadership positions in the workforce. As business moves into quantum and AI, the educated workforce will need to apply the new technology.
Similarly, updating the skills of those in the current workforce is also important, and our Center for Professional Education is a game changer.
Later this month, we will hold two campus open forums on how UTC should apply generative AI in our instruction, business operations, and research. We will discuss opportunities and pitfalls, gaining valuable input and insights for future discussions and investments that will be required. There are a host of questions to consider, but this is the future. We need to find our place and how it best fits with our focus on students and excellence.
Our greatest asset is our people; we will empower and invest in them. Our faculty and staff will lead the way in finding innovative opportunities to integrate these new tools into everything we do, we teach, and we solve.
The disruptive changes facing higher education are an opportunity for even greater impact of what we do and to increase the value of a UTC degree.
Our students master critical thinking and problem-solving. They need to develop empathy for others and understand the past and cultures so the context of today determines the reality of tomorrow. This is what we do. How we do it will be powered by incredible tools we can use to unlock the potential we see in our students.
Our charge as educators is to stimulate student aspirations driven by technological change. Encourage bold leaps forward that will shape the future. Ask the difficult questions, challenge the status quo, and be an engaged and educated disrupter. And most importantly, pursue excellence in all we do. Together, let’s launch the best decade of UTC.
*August 31, 2023, Chronicle of Higher Education Panel about AI and the workforce.