August 2014 Letter to Tennessee Tech Community

Colleagues,

Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed your summer and are ready to start a fabulous new academic year. Last year was a year of change and many of you participated in various committees and forums to make it all happen. As a result, we witnessed some major changes in our modes of operation: from budget transparency to advisement improvements, and from operational efficiency measures to data-informed decision-making. Some notable changes included: new and more selective admission standards for freshmen, establishment of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, establishment of many new graduate and undergraduate programs / concentrations, a drastic increase in the number of new faculty hire approvals (which became possible as a result of efficient budget reallocations), substantial increases in undergraduate research funds and graduate assistantships, hiring of many advisors, establishment of a hybrid advising structure and the formation of Campus Compass. These and many other new initiatives and programs that were implemented are described in more depth in my 2014 End of the Year Statement:

https://www.tntech.edu/files/provost/Docs/End_Of_Year_Statements/End_of_the_Year_Statement.pdf

Some of the programs that were initiated last year are presently under review and consideration by various faculty committees, such as the formation of an Honors College, promotion and tenure review, and review of our faculty salary equity model. Also, during the coming year, we will continue to invest in new technology and will bring the Tech Wall concept to fruition.

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Our Craft Center is a marvelous asset that I believe has been underutilized. I spent a day meeting with faculty, staff and Artists in Residence and listened to their concerns and needs. We took some immediate actions to assist them, such as hiring student helpers, acquiring a van and a temporary driver to establish a daily shuttle service, and funding their needs for Craft Center signage. We have also scheduled meetings to address their other needs.

 

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This summer, I met with several groups including faculty, administrators and community leaders to start a conversation regarding the establishment of a TTU Rural Policy Institute. This idea was proposed based on President Oldham’s desire to do something special for the rural areas that Tennessee Tech serves. It is an idea that has already excited some of our constituencies who have heard about it. The mission of the institute is envisioned to be:

“To generate and disseminate objective knowledge about the challenges and opportunities that exists in rural communities. To share this information with other scholars, policymakers and businesses in order to create public awareness of issues related to rural communities.”

We will submit a proposal to the appropriate faculty committees for their consideration and approval.

 

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We need to continue to invest in our most important asset, our faculty. I am very excited about several new programs that are designed to do just that. After the successful establishment of our Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, which will have a grand opening ceremony this fall, we are focusing on three new programs for faculty leadership, faculty mentoring and a fitness/togetherness program. Championing these new and exciting programs is our own Dr. Lanise Rosemond. Her talent, energy and dedication to Tennessee Tech will drive these programs forward.

 

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Another important topic that we need to consider this year is our online (electronic) education strategy or lack there of. In addition to ROCC participation, TTU offers two online programs and a host of hybrid courses. However, there is no campus-wide strategy in place for online education. Again, I will need your assistance to consider our options and to develop a campus-wide strategy for our institution. Related to online education, as President Oldham pointed out during our University Faculty Meeting, we are presently involved in preliminary talks with some state officials to examine the feasibility of establishing a program to offer online programs to Tennessee industry and businesses. The initial talks have been very positive.

 

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Many of you have been involved in various search committees for new faculty, staff and administrators. I know how time consuming the process can be and I truly appreciate your efforts. Helping to bring outstanding colleagues to Tennessee Tech is one of the most impactful services that will benefit the institution for decades to come. Thank you for your service!

 

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I am delighted to report to you that under President Oldham’s leadership, with significant cooperation and support from our deans, chairs and faculty, and with considerable reallocation of funds through our budget model, we have increased the number of permanent faculty (hired or authorized to be hired), excluding retirement and other forms of separation replacements, from 333 faculty members in 2012-13 to 395 in 2014-15. This amounts to an increase of 62 permanent positions over that period or approximately 15% increase.

During that same period, our total enrollment has been more or less flat, i.e. decreased from 11,469 headcount in 2012 to 11,118 in 2013 and the FTE slightly increased. While we do not yet have this year’s final figures, it is anticipated to be a flat enrollment compared to last year. The charts below show that while enrollment has stabilized, the permanent faculty hiring has continued at a noteworthy rate. This should go a long way to alleviate the shortage of faculty that had occurred as a result enrollment increases in years prior to 2011.

 

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This academic year, we have been fortunate to bring some outstanding faculty from top institutions, such as our own and: University of Wisconsin, Ohio State, Auburn, University of North Carolina, Suny-Buffalo, Yale, Brown, Texas A&M, University of Tennessee, University of Pittsburgh, University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, University of Quebec, Georgia State, University of Mississippi, University of South Florida, Universidad de Conception, Chile, Montana State, North Carolina State, University of South Dakota, University of Konstanz, University of Memphis, and Louisiana State.

Additionally, during the calendar year of 2014, the following administrative and leadership appointments were made:

Dr. Jennifer Shank, Interim Dean of the College of Education

Dr. Kenneth Wiant, Interim Dean, College of Business

Dr. Lisa Zagumny, Associate Dean, College of Education

Dr. Alice Camuti, Associate Dean, College of Graduate Studies

Dr. Melissa Irvin, Director Retention Services

Dr. Robert Kissell, Chairperson, Dept. of Biology

Dr. Theodore Pelton, Chairperson, Dept. of English

Dr. Christy Killman, Chairperson, Dept. of Exercise Science

Dr. Richard Rand, Chairperson, Dept. of Accounting and Business Law

Ms. Lynn Haley, Director, Career Services

Ms. Brandy Hill, Interim Registrar

Mr. Kevin Flanary, Director, Military and Veterans Affairs

Ms. Julie Longmire, Director, Advisement Services

Faculty Assignments:

Dr. Lanise Rosemond, Faculty Coordinator, Faculty Development Programs

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Peterson, ROTC

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To maintain the momentum that we generated last year when the Office of Minority Affairs held a series of seminars, this year I have asked the deans to form a Diversity and Inclusion Committee in each college so that we better serve the needs of all of our faculty, staff and students, and to ensure that we maintain a welcoming environment for all members of our Tennessee Tech community.

 

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In order to better connect to community college students and at the same time reach out to other groups such as high school students and non-traditional students, we have designated November 8 as “Community Day”. Our plan is to bring many prospective students to campus and provide advising, financial aid assistance, campus tours as well as departmental visits and provide them with tickets to our Homecoming football game. For our prospective students, it will be a day to explore and experience a taste of Tennessee Tech. If you happen to be on campus on that day, please welcome our visitors and their families and spend a few minutes sharing your TTU experience with them.

 

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As you know, preparations for the SACS-COC reaffirmation visit is on going and even picked up tempo during the summer and I imagine that will be the trend during this year and next until the campus visit which is scheduled for March of 2016. Many of you have been involved in those activities and we have made good progress. Much credit should go Dr. Huo who is leading those efforts as well as Professor Lenley who leads the QEP efforts.

 

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Last year, I asked all deans and my other direct-reports to prepare a Continuity of Business Plan for their units so that in case of an emergency or a catastrophic event, we would be able to continue our operations with minimal interruption. This is sometimes referred to as Continuation of Operations Plan or COOP. Many units are developing their plans and others have recently started. If you are not already involved in those discussions, I am sure you will have the opportunity to participate in your unit’s plan this year.

 

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I believe we all deeply care about the success of our students. Retention of our students is not just the responsibility of our Enrollment Management division. It is a responsibility that we all need to share. Many initiatives were rolled out last year from hybrid advising to Degree Works, Class Scheduler, Course Waitlist, Education Advisory Board platform, Pre-registration, course scheduling, evaluation of high-demand courses and offering of multiple sessions of high-demand courses, and central tutoring. Substantial investments were made in hiring new advisors and acquiring state-of-the-art technology. Yet, to succeed, we need to leave no stone unturned and continuously look for best practices and even become a trail blazer and develop best practices that others could emulate. To that end, I have asked the deans to nominate faculty to work with our Enrollment Management team in an Enrollment/Retention and Graduation Taskforce. The idea is to meet on a regular basis, examine our current practices, discuss and suggest ways to improve the services that we offer to our students. Many traditional practices could be revisited. For instance, presently, students have to apply by a certain date for graduation or they will not receive their degree during that semester. In a proactive approach, we could potentially track our students’ progress and notify them that they can receive their degrees when the requirements are met. No need for them to apply by a certain date.

 

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During the last AY 2013-14 Senate meeting, I mentioned that I am ready to establish a position of University Ombudsperson and asked for suggestions as to how we should go about creating such a position. I envision a faculty member who is recognized by her/his abilities in conflict resolution to assume this position on a part-time basis. If you have any suggestions, please share your thoughts with me.

 

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Finally, I wish to thank you again for all your 2013-14 accomplishments and I look forward to working with you to have another successful year in 2014-15. I will communicate with you through my letters and blogs. I will see you during Coffee & Tea with Provost gatherings, would be delighted to come to your department meetings or meet with you at your offices and I will continue to have luncheon meetings with department chairs.

Bahman

 

 

 

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