What We Have Accomplished Together

Last year was in so many ways a historical year for Tennessee Tech and many aspects will undoubtedly remain in the annals of the institution. I posted my last letter to campus community in December, but waited to disseminate it until after everyone returned from the break. The “letter” is presented in the form of a video with some narration, summarizing some of the tasks that we collectively accomplished in the past several years. A PDF version is also available on my page. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you Tennessee Tech faculty, staff and students for your accomplishments. The results collectively constitute a substantive change at the least and a transformative paradigm shift at the most.

Here is the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GmPUamr7zk&feature=youtu.be

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One-year retention rate for first-time, full-time freshmen increased to 79%  

As TTU Institutional Research has reported: “This rate, by far, is the largest one-year retention rate for the new freshman cohorts of the past 20 years.” It shows an increase of over 9% compared to 2011 figure of 69.8%.

After the new admission standards went into effect, the Fall 2015 cohort of first-time, full-time freshmen, already a well-prepared class, was the focus of intense efforts in coordinating and aligning the various student success programs to better serve our students. Improvements in advisement and communication, use of analytics to identify and assist at-risk students, course wait list and degree maps, central tutoring and career awareness efforts, experiential learning opportunities and Living and Learning Villages helped to guide and support our students.

Campus-wide efforts from recruitment to admission, engagement, and advisement were synchronized, coordinated and focused at helping our students experience an environment conducive to their successful progression.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our admissions team, enrollment management team, student success centers within individual colleges, and of course our dedicated faculty and staff who are at the frontline of working with our students on a daily basis.

I am also grateful for the extraordinary efforts of our deans and department chairs who have put student success as one of their top priorities.

Thank you colleagues for you are the greatest asset of TTU.

Bahman Ghorashi



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On Higher Education and Student Success – A Unique Approach

Over the last decade, we have seen an intense focus placed upon enhancing the retention rate and graduation rate of college students. Numerous programs have been established and a deluge of funds have been unleashed to support various innovative programs supported through the latest data analytics platforms and statistical models. Many states have restructured their funding formula for higher education in order to tie them to performance metrics that value student progression, retention and graduation rates. National programs and various state supported programs have allocated substantial sums of money to reward those efforts and the institutions that have not complied have seen cutbacks in funding. However, thus far, the results have been less than remarkable. Figure (1) below, illustrates the percentage of four-year college students who earn a degree within five years of entry [1].

Retention 1

Figure (1) – Percentage of Four-Year College Students Who Earn a Degree within Five Years of Entry (data from ACT Institutional Data Files [1]).

Note that from 2005 to 2015, there has been a very modest increase of less than one percent in the graduation rate of students in all institutions. When one compares this modest gain to the significant investments that are made, the Return on Investment (ROI) signals a less than satisfactory outcome.

Additionally, a comparison of the percentage of first-year students at all four-year public and private institutions who return for a second year shows practically no change (74.4%, (see figure (2)) despite tremendous efforts and funds devoted to enhancement programs.

Retention 2

Figure (2) – Percentage of First-Year Students at Four-Year Colleges Who Return for Second Year {from ACT Institutional Data Files [1]}.

Are all these programs ineffective? Hardly, as most are carefully crafted to address various pedagogical and situational needs of different groups of students. They are primarily based on years of studies, analytics and statistical analyses pertaining to an average student within a defined group. But, is there such an individual as an “average” student even within a defined group, such as “first-generation”? Moreover, the learning environment and the educational technology are changing so rapidly that it is hard to predict the degree of effectiveness of different modes of learning for groups of students with vastly different needs.

What are the Solutions?
This is indeed a very complex problem that requires a much more in-depth analyses, above and beyond the intent of this article. However, in an attempt to improve the current conditions, a new approach is proposed to address some of the shortcomings of existing practices.
Let us approach the problem with the premise that there is no such individual that could be considered an “average” student. Rather, each individual has unique characteristics that can affect her/his learning style and, therefore, must be treated accordingly. Moreover, a student could belong to several defined groups, e.g. an international student who is also a first-generation student. While the delivery of a customized education to the specific needs of only one student may not be possible, it is, however, possible to incorporate the concept of mass-customization to a great extent in order to meet the needs of every single student.
In recent years, Tennessee Tech University, like many other institutions of higher education, has established and implemented numerous student success programs. In February of 2016, we held a Saturday retreat inviting representatives from various sectors of our university and other stakeholders to examine and revisit our many student success initiatives and consider ways to integrate those programs in a synergic fashion so that they impact student retention and graduation in a far more effective manner.

Please see my full article describing the outcome of our retreat and our method of approach:



  1.  Retention/Completion Summary Tables, ACT Institutional Data Files, 2015   http://forms.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/2015-Summary-Tables.pdf
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The Academic Year 15/16 In Review

Another successful academic year has come to a close. Your hard work in pursuit of excellence has brought to fruition some spectacular results (see below), ranging from a new Carnegie Classification of Tennessee Tech to a Doctoral/Research university, a new Honors College, a new facility and director for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence to a new Education, Research and Outreach Center accompanied with a multi-million dollar NSF grant. Additionally, we unveiled an interactive wall (Tech Wall), opened a Makers’ Space, established a division of Digital and Distance Education and witnessed an increase in the number of freshman applications. Several new programs were approved and successful audit and accreditation of some of our existing programs resulted in near perfect outcomes. We were also able to conduct successful searches for many faculty and department chair positions. The highlight of the year was a flawless Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education (SACSCOC) reaffirmation of accreditation of the University (preliminary report) with no recommendations. Of course, there were many other marvelous achievements that I have summarized in my End-of-the-Year Statement.

I have highlighted below some of your achievements and accomplishments for which I remain grateful. As stated earlier, I have also provided more detailed information about each college and unit’s accomplishments in my End-of-the-Year Statement:

https://www.tntech.edu/assets/userfiles/resourcefiles/12546/1461941933_2016 End of the Year Statement.pdf

Summary of the Academic Year 2015/2016 Accomplishments at TTU

  • A flawless SACSCOC (reaffirmation of accreditation) preliminary report with no recommendations
  • A prestigious reclassification of Tennessee Tech University from the “Master’s Colleges and Universities” to the category of “Doctoral/Research Universities”
  • Establishment of the Honors College
  • FTE faculty continued to increase
  • Student-faculty ratio decreased to 19 (The ratio was 22 in 2012 and each year decreased by one point)
  • Opening of the a state-of-the-technology iMakerSpace
  • Opening of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence
  • Establishment of a Division of Digital and Distance Education
  • Establishment of the Cybersecurity, Education, Research and Outreach Center
  • Establishment of a Creative Inquiry Office
  • Completion of Tech Wall (interactive wall)
  • Establishment and Inaugural session of the Transfer Preview Day
  • Increase in the number of the first-time full-time freshman applications for AY 16/17 (compared to the previous year)
  • New academic programs
  • Establishment of the Tennessee Tech Experience program (Student Success Initiatives)
  • New faculty hires
  • New deans, chairs, and directors
  • Purchase of major equipment: Steinway pianos, autoclave, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance equipment
  • Successful accreditation and audit of several programs
  • Finalized the renovation plan for the Jere Whitson building to House the division of Enrollment Management & Student Success
  • Approved Academic Affairs policies (new and revised policies)
  • Establishment of Diversity and Inclusion Committees in every college
  • Completion of the Continuity of Operations Plan for every Academic Affairs unit
  • Establishment of a Faculty Corps. Program (Outreach to K-12)


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Investing in Our Greatest Assets

This year, our main plan is to continue to invest in our faculty, staff, students and infrastructure in order to provide the support that our students need to succeed and the backing that our faculty and staff need in their various endeavors. Please see my August 2015 Letter to TTU community:



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Thank you for choosing Tennessee Tech

Recently I placed a small order at a local store. At the end of our phone conversation, the lady on the other end of the line said, “Thank you for doing business with us. We appreciate you”. I thought to myself, how nice and how refreshing to hear that. Truly southern hospitality at its best. I assure you that I will do business with them again.

If we paused for a moment to think that all of our TTU family members could have chosen other jobs elsewhere, but instead chose to be with us, then we might have more patience when the inevitable trying moments occur.

If every time we met our students, we ended our encounter with “thank you for choosing Tennessee Tech”, we would continuously remind ourselves that we are here because of them and they have other choices. And that alone, if nothing else, through the power of repetition, could in time cause a paradigm shift in the way we view and serve our students and perhaps in the way we treat each other as a professional family.

So, thank you TTU family for choosing Tennessee Tech. Your presence with us is greatly appreciated and I am grateful to be in your midst.


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October Letter to TTU Community



There is much good news to share, but I need to begin by thanking you all, the faculty, students, staff and administrators who made all of these outcomes possible through your commitment and hard work. THANK YOU!


Enrollment – According to the final figures that we have received, this fall semester we have realized an increase of two percent in overall enrollment while many of our sister institutions experienced a decline. During this past year, we intensified our recruitment of freshmen, transfer students and graduate students. While we saw a slight decrease in new freshman enrollment, our numbers were much stronger than many of our sister TBR institutions.



Retention Rate – We are also showing a six-percentage point increase in freshman retention over the past two years. This outcome did not surprise me as we have an outstanding student success team that spans a multitude of talented groups from dedicated advisors, staff and administrators. I am grateful to all colleagues involved in this important endeavor, yet I wish to particularly express my thanks and appreciation to Dr. Hodum and Dr. Melissa Irvin for their relentless efforts, care and attention to all issues connected to student success.


New Permanent Faculty – The additional retained and enrolled students, together with some operational changes, enabled us to substantially increase our new permanent faculty hiring. 53 tenure-track faculty members and chairpersons were hired since AY 13-14. Additional searches are on going. More faculty members were hired, or authorized to be hired in AY 13/14 & 14/15 than in many two-year periods in recent past.


Additional Temporary Faculty – By utilizing some of the international student out-of-state fees, we set aside one million dollars for hiring additional temporary faculty in areas that have short-term needs. As these funds are not recurring funds, they could not be used for permanent hires.


Additional Graduate Assistants – Also, using the international student out-of-state fees, we set aside one million dollars to hire additional graduate assistants.


Additional New Graduate Students – New graduate student enrollment rose approximately 14 percent. Through the hard work of the College of Graduate Studies and faculty colleagues in individual departments, we were able to bring more than 270 new students to pursue either a master’s or doctoral degree.


New Student Success Initiatives – Through your hard work, many new initiatives are now instituted to ensure student success, such as the establishment of Math Emporium (much credit goes to Dr. Allen Mills), the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (many thanks to Dr. Carl Owens), the new EAB platform to empower our advisors with the latest technology (Drs. Irvin and Hodum), the new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (Drs. Rencis, Wiant, et. al.). These are just some examples among many other student success initiatives. In fact, with assistance from the deans who nominated colleagues from individual colleges, we have constructed a Student Success and Enrollment Taskforce under the direction of Dr. Hodum who will be jointly working with Dr. Sharon Huo to continuously assess and address student success related issues.


Attracting More Highly Qualified Students – According to a report from the Institutional Research Office: “For first-time freshmen of Fall 2014, the average ACT Composite score, at 23.9, is the largest of any entering freshman cohort for at least the past dozen years”.  “In comparison to the previous year, nearly all of the major academic units recorded an increase in the average ACT Composite score:  Agriculture and Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary Studies.”  “ … the Fall 2014 cohort has a larger number and percentage of students with an ACT Composite score of 28 or greater.”



Highest “Performance-Funding” Score – 97.5 for 2013-14 (impacting FY 2015 budget). Highest among all Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee System institutions (corresponding to incentive funding-5.4% additional appropriations). The score reflects the results of such activities as: Academic Audits, accreditation activities, major field tests, senior exit exams, NSSE surveys and QEP projects. Many thanks to Dr. Huo and her team and all of you who assisted in various related areas.


Women in STEM Disciplines – The number of women in STEM disciplines reached a record high level of 952 in Fall 2014.

A comparison of Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 shows notable increases in female undergraduate enrollment in Agriculture, Chemical Engineering, and Environmental and Sustainability Studies.



In Summary:

Overall Enrollment                        UP                    2% increase in Fall 2014 overall enrollment. All, but one other TBR institutions showed declines


Freshman Retention                      UP                   6% increase in freshman retention over a two-year period


Tenure-Track Faculty                    UP                  53 tenure-track faculty and department chairs were hired since AY 13-14. Additional searches are on going. More faculty   members  were hired or authorized to be hired in AY 13/14 & 14/15 than in many years in the recent past


Additional Temporary Faculty     UP                   $1Million in additional funds for hiring of temporary faculty


New Graduate Students                  UP                  14% increase-More than 270 new grad students


New Student Success Initiatives     UP               Over 25 New Initiatives to improve student success


Highest “Performance-Funding” Score     UP     97.5 – 2013-14 for FY 2015 Highest among all Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee System institutions (corresponding to incentive funding-5.4% additional appropriations)


No. of Women in STEM Disciplines     UP          952 Reached a record high in Fall 2014


More Highly Qualified Students          UP           23.9 Ave. ACT – For first-time freshmen of Fall 2014, the average ACT Composite score, at 23.9, is the highest of any entering freshman cohort of at least the past dozen years. Nearly all of the major academic units recorded an increase in the average ACT Composite score. The corresponding cohorts of the past five years, the Fall 2014 cohort has a larger number and percentage of students with an ACT Composite score of 28 or greater


New Academic & Degree Programs      UP          16 New Programs [Submitted or in  preparation-Ph.D., Master’s, PSM, new concentrations]


Suspended/Closed Programs             DOWN        3 Concentrations


New Off-Campus Programs                    UP             2 [Milan and Vital School]


 The US News & World Report rating of Tennessee Tech as one of the top public universities in the south is a reaffirmation of the quality of education that Tennessee Tech offers to our students.


It is no news to any of us that the higher education establishment is changing rapidly in all fronts. We have some significant new challenges, but some of the issues that we are facing today are not new and have been around for many, many years. What is new, however, is their degree of severity and urgency. In this environment, “no-action” is in fact a choice and a form of action. It is attributed to Dr. Benjamin Franklin, saying: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”


Fortunately, at Tennessee Tech, we have understood the urgency of responding to the challenges that are before us and, as the above examples illustrate, we are already benefiting from some of our recent decisions and actions, such as the emphasis that we have placed on student success, retention, recruitment and proper budgeting. Some of the other initiatives will require a longer period of time to bear fruit.


Again, thank you Tennessee Tech community for your hard work and dedication.










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August 2014 Letter to Tennessee Tech Community


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:


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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!



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.



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


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.





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Provost’s Micro-Grant Award Winners – Fall 2014

I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Fall 2014 award recipients of the Provost’s Micro-Grant Program for Student Success. We received 23 proposals submitted from various academic departments and administrative offices.  Upon review of all proposals, our grant selection committee has selected six proposals that best embrace the spirit of TTU’s student success efforts. I wish to commend all of our colleagues who submitted proposals. Their participation highlights the importance that Tennessee Tech has placed on creating an institutional culture that values student achievement, innovation, and continuous improvement.  Also, many thanks to our selection committee members who devoted a significant amount of time to thoroughly review and discuss each proposal. They are: Dr. Melissa Irvin, Dr. Robert Hodum, Dr. Sharon Huo, Dr. Scott Northrup, Dr. Sandra Smith, and Ms. Edith Duvier.

 The award recipients and the project titles are as follows:

  • Supplemental Instruction for Introductory CHEM Courses Janet Coonce

Pilot Supplemental Instruction program (peer-led tutoring & academic support directly linked to course sections) for CHEM 1110, CHEM 3010 and CHEM 1210 

  • Explore, Experience, Excel – Increase First-Year Student Engagement & Enhance the Career Planning Process through Targeting, Marketing & Technology Upgrade M. Lynn Haley

Career Services marketing program, using technology targeted directly to first-year students to increase the use of career development & planning resources by this population 

  • Improving Students’ Attendance & Retention in Emporium MATH 1000 Debra Bryant

Peer tutoring & mentoring within MATH 1000 sections to address poor attendance and lab usage to address high DFW rates & poor study/time management skills

  • Peer-Led Team Research Applied to Information Literacy Zachary Wilcox

Small group experience in information literacy & research skills to increase interest and preparedness of lower division students in research requirement of PSY major

  • Project Inspire Demetria Mells

Increase professional development and research within College of Education undergrads and address issues with passing competency exams (Praxis I & II exams) 

  • Soaring Eagles Peer Educator Program Christina Mick

Peer educator program targeted towards after hours & commuter students to address at-risk behaviors (i.e. depression, substance abuse, violence, etc)


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March 2014 Letter


Provost’s Letter to Faculty, Staff and Students of Tennessee Tech

 March 2014

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your Spring break and had an occasion, or two, to relax, reflect and leave your cares behind.

“…When I go forth on such a pleasant day, 
One breath outdoors takes all my cares away…” William Henry Davies

I have devoted the first part of this letter to our students as well as our advisors who play a crucial role in guiding our students. The second part contains an update on some of the progress that has been made since my last letter.

As I have indicated in my past writings, I don’t wish to use slogans. It seems to me that, more often than not, slogans do not necessarily define the state of an organization, but often are used to inspire folks to achieve what they might lack. In that sense, it is not a slogan for us to say that we are all about student success. Because, by-and-large, we do put that principle in practice in most aspects of our everyday conduct. Yet, we can always make improvements in certain areas. A Kaizen attitude of ongoing improvement by everyone will take us to the next level of ensuring student success.


As we recently announced, Tennessee Tech has become a member of the Student Success Collaborative, a partnership that will provide data analysis to advisors and administrators about the trends in students’ academic performance. As I have mentioned repeatedly, focusing on student success is not a new initiative at Tennessee Tech, rather it is a part and parcel of the Institution’s culture. The Collaborative partnership allows us to make data-informed decisions as we continue our tradition of continuously engaging and assisting our students.

We have formed a leadership group, consisting of the directors of student success centers and other key individuals from Enrollment Management, Institutional Research, and Information Technology Services, to help with the implementation of this platform. I wish to thank Robert Hodum, Julie Galloway, Edith Duvier, Demetria Mells, Melissa Irvin, Rick Cumby, Glenn James, Kristy Cunningham, and Kay Hume for their willingness to serve.


At the beginning of this semester, I asked Dr. Julie Baker to assist us with identifying some of the bottlenecks that our students face in terms of retention and graduation. As of her last report to the Deans’ Council, Dr. Baker reported that she conducted 35 meetings across the university over a four-week period. These interviews included deans, chairs, directors, Institutional Research Office and Enrollment Management staff. Since then, Dr. Baker and Ms. Laura Ezell, who assists Dr. Baker in this endeavor, have conducted many additional interviews. Based on these interactions, Dr. Baker and Ms. Ezell have identified numerous factors that need attention. We have shared their findings with the academic deans and we are now focusing on ways to address those issues. To that end, I have asked three volunteer deans (Dean Smith, Dean Mullens, and Dean Rencis) to work with Dr. Baker and others in order to develop a plan for addressing the administrative and logistical issues that are identified.


 Presently, we have various groups on campus with the sole mission of assisting our students with their needs. By all accounts, these colleagues are performing excellently in helping our students. Yet, it seems to me that the organizational structure that is in place is not quite conducive to the type of collaboration and interactions that are needed to identify the root-cause of the problems and promptly address them. We will have to pay close attention to such services as: tutoring, Learning Support, Student Success Centers, advisement and retention offices, Campus Compass, learning villages, and other related student services to ensure a seamless structure capable of providing the maximum amount of assistance to our students in a timely fashion. Moreover, we have to establish appropriate checks and balances and the technology (e.g. prompt survey of those who seek help to measure their satisfaction) that would enable us to maintain and enhance the quality of the services that we offer.


 I still vividly remember the advice that a senior colleague gave me when I first started my professional career as an assistant professor. In reference to my students, he said: “be a father to them”.  Frankly, at the age of 27, it was hard for me to imagine myself as a father to 21-year-old juniors. But that advice began to resonate in the ensuing years. We have to remember that many of our students are first-generation college students. Some freshmen students are undecided about their majors and are bewildered by a drastic life-style change.  Often, they simply don’t know where to go and how to ask for help. Being a father, a mother, a sister or a brother to them goes a long way to help them make the right decisions. And as for us, realizing that we are in the business of cultivating young minds is the greatest reward in itself.


 Following is an e-mail that I received from Mr. Jacob Metz, Assistant Speech and Debate Coach in the department of communication:

The TTU Speech and Debate Team returned from our second tournament of the semester with several more trophies to fill our trophy cases with.  The tournament we attended at Murray State essentially held three separate tournaments that we competed in and we brought home a team award from each of three tournaments!”

 Congratulations to all the award winners and their capable coaches.


 Also, I received a note from Professor Lisic who is in charge of our Undergraduate Research Program. He commented on their recent visit to the Capitol for the Posters at the Capitol event, as follows:

“We had a great trip, and I set up times for the students to meet their State Senators”


Progress Report on Various Initiatives

  • I am very grateful to our colleagues who served with dedication on the Admission Standards Ad Hoc Committee. They completed their task in a timely fashion and submitted their recommendations to the Admissions and Credits Committee, which I understand has approved their proposed plan. The next step is to seek approval from the Academic Council and, if approved, we will submit the plan to TBR for their approval. Thank you colleagues: Barbara Jared, Susan Laningham, Sandi Smith, Linda Null, Dennis Tennant, Edith Duvier, Melinda Anderson, Robert Owens, and Robert Hodum. Also, special thanks to our students: Nathan Cole and Alex Martin. We truly appreciate their hard work and the great service that they provided.


  • We are working with the Enrollment Management and Registrar’s Office to implement a system that would enable us to show our students’ “Minors” on their transcripts as recognition of their efforts.


  • I understand that over twenty of our colleagues recently attended a help session to learn how to prepare winning proposals for the Provost’s Microgrant Program. Please remember that this program is open to all faculty, staff and students.


  • We are working on development of a “Parent Portal” – an interactive website dedicated to TTU parents with the goal of enhancing parents’ participation. We will work with TTU Parents Association and other institutions that have implemented similar programs to construct a very beneficial and user-friendly portal.


  • Our colleagues at the College of Interdisciplinary Studies have been hard at work developing their strategic plan. They will soon inform the rest of the campus by making a presentation at the Faculty Senate.


  • We are starting the search process for four college deans, namely: Agriculture and Human Ecology, Business, Education and Nursing.  Once the members of the search committees are identified, we will proceed with the goal of identifying the permanent deans sometime during the next academic year.


  • The Graduate School Executive Committee and the Academic Council approved the name change for the Graduate Studies Program and we just received TBR’s approval. This change in name from Graduate Studies to the College of Graduate Studies involves no additional funding or personnel.


  • SACSCOC reaccreditation preparations are progressing well. Many thanks to Dr. Huo, the SACSCOC Compliance Committee and all of our colleagues who are involved in this very important task.


  • I understand that many proposals are already submitted to the Undergraduate Research Program. As I announced during the fall semester, we have substantially increased the funding for this program to invite more student and faculty participation. A total of $145,000 is available this year for distribution to our faculty and students. 


  • We recently submitted our Letter of Intent to TBR for two partnership programs with ETSU. Many thanks to our colleagues in Nursing and Engineering for their hard work. We have started some preliminary discussions with other TBR institutions for potential future partnerships.


  • All colleges are moving forward with their Business Continuity Plans. In particular, I wish to thank our colleagues in the College of Business for their meticulous planning and attention to details. Recently they held a very informative workshop/seminar luncheon to discuss their plans.


Finally, I am delighted to announce that during this month, some of our esteemed colleagues in the Department of Music will perform at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Tennessee Tech’s Tuba Ensemble will return to New York City’s Carnegie Hall for their eighth performance. They make us very proud.

With warmest regards and best wishes,





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