Now five years into our Vol Vision strategic plan, our university looks vastly different than it did when we started, from both a bricks-and-mortar and an academic standpoint.
The start of a new academic year is prime time to look at how far we’ve come and set some new goals for where we want to go.
We enrolled our largest freshman class in at least thirty years this fall. Our goal was an undergraduate enrollment of 21,500, and we’re within about fifty students of that.
Our five-year graduation rate has reached 69 percent, and with that improved efficiency comes the capacity for incremental growth in coming years.
Now we must determine how much we will grow and how we will recruit more students without jeopardizing academic quality. We also must consider what resources we’ll need to provide a Top 25 education to a growing number of students.
Data-driven decision making
We are doing a much better job collecting and using data to make improvements and better serve our students.
Last year, we started using uTrack, an “academic GPS” that allows students to see which courses they must successfully complete—and when they must complete them—to graduate on time. The system alerts students if they get off track and notifies advisors who can assist them in developing a plan to get back on track or, if necessary, switch majors.
All first-time full-time freshmen began using uTrack in fall 2013. By spring 2014, 82 percent of the student users were on track to graduation.
An example of how uTrack helps: In spring 2014, thirty-nine of 179 freshman biology majors were predicted to be off-track in meeting their requirements. Advisors stepped in to help those students regroup.
By the end of the spring, thirty-one (82 percent) of those students were still at UT. Fifteen were still pursuing a biology major, with most expected to be back on track by the end of the summer. The others had either changed majors or were working with advisors to decide if they should change majors.
Another new tool—GradesFirst—allows faculty, advisors, and mentors to communicate more effectively with one another and students. Last year, only the College of Business Administration used GradesFirst. All colleges began using it this year.
Our goal is to make sure students, faculty, and staff have the tools they need to chart their course toward excellence.
Refresh of Vol Vision
When we set out on our Vol Vision/Top 25 journey, we established a clear set of priorities for undergraduate education, graduate education, research, faculty and staff, and resources. A lot has changed since we wrote our strategic plan.
We’ve advanced to a new level and have developed a culture of improvement and progress. We’ve launched new programs and recalibrated others based on data and desired outcomes.
Now it’s time to revisit the assumptions that framed Vol Vision and refresh it based on the progress we’ve made.
It’s been fun to watch the desire to improve become contagious on our campus, and it’s an exciting time to be at UT as we envision the next stage of our journey.
Learn more at top25.utk.edu.