Oldham-crowd-commencement-smallThere is a rhythm to a university campus, as I noted in a post early last fall, and each time of year has its own unique charm. This past Saturday was a perfect example of the bittersweet conclusion of another academic year.  More than 1,300 new TTU alums flew from the nest. The Eblen Center neared capacity for both commencement ceremonies, and the atmosphere was electric. The support provided by families, faculty and staff to the Class of 2013 was evident, and these grads have already risen to meet those expectations. Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and Millard Oakley, local icon and philanthropist, encouraged the graduates with sound advice to avoid debt, give back, never give up, and take advantage of every moment.

Fortunately for the majority of TTU grads, their futures are already on track. Anecdotally, many TTU students have worked to put themselves through school, held internships or co-op appointments, and already have landed their “dream jobs” to begin their careers.

Tennessee Tech is listed as one of the most affordable universities in the country due to our relatively low cost of attendance coupled with low student debt and high starting salaries for TTU graduates. In fact, TTU grads have the lowest student loan debt in Tennessee and the second lowest in the country. As I visited major employers around the state this year, I consistently heard the same message. Employers love to hire TTU grads because they are great employees with strong work ethics and excellent skill sets.

Let there be no doubt, a college degree (especially one from Tennessee Tech) has never been more valuable than it is today. I look forward to hearing about our graduates’ adventures and the lives they touch along the way.

I also am looking forward to a new class of freshmen on campus next fall.

But the campus does not go quiet during the summer. We will push forward action plans that have been crafted from our work through Flight Plan. Now more than 50 faculty, staff and student representatives have played key roles in helping us choose priorities that improve our undergraduate experience, transform technology, creative distinctiveness and expand resources.

All of you have something in common with our most recent graduates. The future of Tennessee Tech is important to you. I’ll continue to keep you updated this summer about our university. Please continue to share feedback with us.

Go Eagles!