New Dean Named for the College of Law

To: UT Faculty and Staff
From: Susan Martin, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

I am pleased to announce that Melanie D. Wilson has been named dean of the College of Law.

She is currently a professor of law, associate dean for academic affairs, and director of diversity and inclusion at the University of Kansas School of Law. She will join us on July 1, 2015.

A news release will be sent today to local and statewide media to announce her appointment.

We are grateful to Dean Doug Blaze for his willingness to delay his return to the college’s teaching faculty as we searched for his successor. I also want to thank the search committee for their diligent efforts.

Please join me in congratulating Melanie and welcoming her to the UT family.

Public Forums for College of Law Dean

To: UT Faculty, Staff, and Students
From: Susan D. Martin, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

I’d like to invite you to participate in public forums during the next two weeks to meet the five finalists for dean of the College of Law.

The candidates are:

  • Brenda V. Smith, professor of law at American University;
  • William Corbett, the Frank L. Maraist Professor of Law and Wex S. Malone Professor of Law, Louisiana State University;
  • Melanie Wilson, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs, University of Kansas;
  • John A. Lovett, the Devan D. Daggett Jr. Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty development and academic affairs, Loyola University New Orleans;
  • Donald D. Weidner, dean of the College of Law, Florida State University.

The forum schedule is:

  • Tuesday, October 7 – Smith, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in College of Law Classroom 132.
  • Thursday, October 9 – Corbett, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in College of Law Classroom 132.
  • Friday, October 10 – Wilson, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in College of Law Classroom 132.
  • Tuesday, October 14 – Lovett, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in College of Law Classroom 132.
  • Wednesday, October 15 – Weidner, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in College of Law Classroom 132.

More information on the candidates, including their curriculum vitae, is available here.

Each forum will be recorded. Once all candidates have completed their visits, archived video of the presentations will be posted online. All faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to attend the sessions or watch the archived video and share their feedback on the law dean search page.

Dean Doug Blaze decided to return to teaching full time as a member of the college’s faculty but will continue to serve until his successor is named.

Our goal is for the new dean to start work in July 2015.

Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, is chair of the search committee. Members of the committee include Teri Baxter, professor of law; Scott Childs, associate dean for library and technology services and associate professor of law; Michael Higdon, director of legal writing and associate professor of law; Alex Long, professor of law; Teresa Peterson, budget director, College of Law; Brianna Powell, second-year law student; Joy Radice, associate professor of law; Paula Schaefer, associate professor of law; and Greg Stein, associate dean for faculty development and Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen & Carpenter Distinguished Professor of Law.

Vol Vision: What’s Next on Our Journey?

0914-volvisionNow 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

SOAR Gives Students a Second Chance at Success

0914-soar-largeA new program we piloted this summer allowed forty-six academically dismissed students to meet requirements to stay enrolled. One student even graduated after the summer sessions ended.

Fifty-two students, including twenty freshmen, participated in this highly structured summer program, called SOAR (Summer Opportunity for Academic Recovery). All of the freshmen who participated were eligible to return for fall term.

SOAR participants had to successfully complete Counselor Education 205 (a 1 hour course on success strategies) and at least 6 additional hours of coursework during one or both summer sessions. They met weekly with an academic coach and dedicated at least ten hours a week to structured study, tutoring, or use of other campus resources.

SOAR is part of our continuing efforts to ensure student success and boost retention. It allowed these students an opportunity to turn the tide in their academic lives. They developed new learning strategies and established connections to key campus resources, positioning them for successful academic work and a clearer path to graduation.

Math Camp = Success

0914-math-largeWe’re counting on some of our freshmen doing better in math during their first year, thanks to our first summer Math Camp.

Math Camp was a three-week “boot camp” to help incoming freshmen prepare for math-intensive majors. The program was tailored to students who scored less than 25 on the Math ACT or 570 on the Math SAT.

This initiative is part of our efforts to enhance student support and improve retention and graduation rates.

Eighty students attended the camp and took a math placement exam at its conclusion. We were quite pleased that 57 percent of those taking the exam placed into the more advanced course they’ll need for their major. The others will start with a course in college algebra, but should be well prepared for what they encounter.

Learn more about Math Camp.

Happy Birthday, One Stop!

0914-onestop-largeOne Stop Express Student Services has had a very busy—and very successful—first year.

One Stop, which provides counselors and self-service kiosks on the first floor of Hodges Library, allows our students a single office to find answers to the most common questions about enrollment, registration, financial aid, and payment services.

One Stop opened in June 2013 and in its first year of operation fielded nearly 170,000 questions via phone calls, e-mails, and walk-in visits.

Those who used One Stop were pleased with the service they received:

  • Nine of out ten said they got their questions answered by One Stop.
  • More than seven out of ten had their questions answered in one visit.
  • Nine out of ten said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the response they got and the professionalism of the staff.

Learn more at One Stop.

Bridge Program Welcomes Fourth Class

0914-bridge-largeMegan Cuddihee is looking forward to graduating in spring 2015 with a degree in public relations and minors in business administration and theatre.

During her time at UT, Megan has been an orientation leader and a resident assistant, and she’s served on the executive board of a national service sorority.

She’s also proud to have gotten her start at UT through our Volunteer Bridge Program.

This is a milestone year for the program, now in its fourth year.

Students who were part of our inaugural class in 2011–12 are now seniors and will be graduating in May. Also this year, we’ve welcomed 164 new Bridge students—our largest class to date.

Volunteer Bridge is an invitation-only first-year program that allows students seamless transfer between Pellissippi State Community College and UT. Students can live on our campus while taking classes at Pellissippi, and those who complete 30 transferrable hours and have a 2.5 GPA will be guaranteed transfer admission to UT.

This year, students who would have been placed on our UT waiting list were instead invited to participate in Bridge.

Of the 164 who enrolled, seventy-three began their studies over the summer. Another ninety-one began this fall.

Most of these Bridge students have chosen to live in the Bridge Living-Learning Community in Massey Hall.

Being part of the living-learning community is also a huge benefit for our Bridge students.

We created the Bridge Living-Learning Community after seeing the benefits of grouping Bridge students in the same halls. It fosters a close tie among the students; they feel more at home at UT and they get to know campus better. They tend to be more motivated to successfully complete the program and transition to UT as sophomores.

To ensure our commuter Bridge students enjoy the same bond, we’re holding regular meetings and programs for all Bridge students. We’ve also created a mentoring program where successful former Bridge students mentor current students.

The Volunteer Bridge program has been successful in helping many students achieve their goal of coming to UT.

In the past three years, 186 students have been part of the program. Of the 134 who successfully completed the program or otherwise secured their admission to UT, 112—or 84 percent—are currently enrolled at UT. We have thirty Bridge students who should graduate this year.

Another eleven students have opted to stay at Pellissippi to earn their associate’s degrees. Four have finished and seven are still working on their degrees.

As she begins her senior year, Megan says the Volunteer Bridge program gave her the opportunity she needed to succeed at UT.

“Bridge administrators saw potential in me,” she said. “The most extraordinary thing someone can do is to see potential in you. It’s life-changing. ”

Learn more at

Get Ready to Experience Learning

0914-qepExperience Learning will be our new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), an important component of our reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Experience Learning will encompass many types of experiential learning—from service-learning to research to study abroad to volunteering.

Led by Matthew Theriot, an associate professor of social work, a committee of about thirty faculty, staff, and students has been working for more than a year to develop the new QEP. Five different programs were proposed, and the campus community shared feedback through an e-mail survey and forums.

Experiential learning emerged as the overwhelming favorite.

We believe Experience Learning fits well with our university’s mission and vision and will help us move forward in our Top 25 journey.

Experiential learning engages students, which increases retention. Hands-on activities help students better understand their coursework and foster their sense of civic responsibility.

Experience Learning will provide opportunities for faculty to collaborate and make exciting changes to the courses they teach. It will enhance our relationships throughout the region, helping to solve problems and improve communities around us.

We envision three components:

  • The Smart Communities Initiative. Through this initiative, overseen by the Office of Service-Learning, UT is paired with an area municipality. This year, it’s Cleveland, Tennessee. City administrators have funded more than a dozen projects—everything from developing a branding campaign to mapping the city’s stormwater infrastructure—that will be addressed by students in designated courses across a variety of disciplines.
  • Faculty development program. In an effort spearheaded by the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, we’ll provide training, mentoring, individualized support, and incentives to encourage faculty members to design new courses and enhance existing courses.
  • Faculty, staff, and student initiatives. We’ll support co-curricular and extracurricular activities that provide experiential learning.

The QEP committee is crafting a report outlining how Experience Learning will be implemented, including expected learning outcomes, benchmarks, resources needed to implement the program, and details about how we’ll measure its success.

This fall, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges begins reviewing our plans. By the fall of 2015, Experience Learning will be ready to launch.

Experience Learning will be our second QEP. Our first—Ready for the World—will remain part of our culture. We will continue to encourage intercultural and international learning and provide funding for programs that advance these goals.

Learn more on the SACS website.

Smart Communities Initiative Links UT, Cleveland


This summer, graduate students in Lisa Yamagata-Lynch’s Professional Ethics in Instructional Technology course began laying the groundwork for a survey that officials in Cleveland, Tennessee, will use to solicit citizen input about city services and facilities.

It was the first of seventeen courses that will allow 425 of our students to get some real-world experience as they work with Cleveland on a variety of projects as part of our Smart Communities Initiative (SCI).

SCI partners faculty and students with cities, counties, special districts, and other municipal groups to engage in real-world problem solving aimed at improving the region’s economy, environmental sustainability, and social integrity. It is overseen by our Office of Service-Learning, led by Kelly Ellenburg.

Cities within ninety miles of campus were invited to submit proposals to be our first partner, and Cleveland was chosen last spring.

Over the past four months, Ellenburg and our SCI steering committee have been matching faculty and courses to the projects Cleveland officials proposed.

“Much of it was done through word of mouth,” Ellenburg said. “Faculty members heard about SCI and wanted to get involved.”

We now have seventeen courses and thirteen faculty members involved in the projects, which are underwritten by the city of Cleveland.

Yamagata-Lynch said her students learned a lot from the real-world challenge.

Initially, some of the students didn’t understand how ethical issues factored into the development of a survey, but “by the end they all were concerned about the numerous ethical issues that had to be addressed and how they’d fit them all into the required report,” Yamagata-Lynch said.

Her students looked at equitable computer and internet access, privacy policies, and data security issues. They did a cost-benefit analysis of available survey tools and looked at the systems that similar-sized cities had used to gather citizen input.

“They all bought into the work as providing a service to the city of Cleveland, and that made it a real-life, authentic project to them,” she said.

Among the projects that are part of this year’s SCI with Cleveland:

  • Maps and database—Geology students are updating maps and creating a database of stormwater infrastructure.
  • Computerized citizen survey—With the planning done by Yamagata-Lynch’s class, computer science students are designing a computerized system for collecting citizen input on a variety of city issues.
  • City branding—Art students are creating the visual elements of a branding campaign for the city.
  • Inman Street—Through three courses, civil engineering and architecture students will develop plans for sidewalks, lane use, traffic flow, lights, trees, and other streetscape improvements.
  • Blythe Avenue—Civil and environmental engineering students will be working on a sidewalk extension plan for this street. In a related project, students from Lee University in Cleveland will be designing a program to encourage public participation in this project.
  • Woolen Mill Branch—Civil engineering students will develop a plan for a pedestrian greenway.
  • Bus Shelter—Civil and environmental engineering students will design a bus shelter and create a prototype.
  • Cherokee Hotel—Civil and environmental engineering students will research the history of this property and propose design and development options.
  • Housing conditions—Political science students will create a survey tool that can be used to assess the physical condition of housing units in a particular part of town.
  • Bradley County Health Department—Architecture students will design a plan for overhauling this aging facility, which no longer serves the county’s needs.
  • Redevelopment plan. Landscape architecture students will propose redevelopment options for the old ninety-acre Whirlpool site.
  • Ice skating rink. Economics students will be determining the feasibility of a temporary ice skating rink downtown.
  • Energy, environment, and mobility. Students from the Bredesen Center will analyze the benefits of living in Cleveland with particular consideration to these aspects of development.

SCI is going to be a significant component of Experience Learning, our new Quality Enhancement Plan focusing on experiential learning. This fall, we’ll call for proposals for a new city partner and list of projects for next year.

For more information about SCI, visit our service-learning website.

Faculty and staff interested in being involved can contact UT Service-Learning at 974-9577,, or