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Task Force Looking at Making Admissions More Transfer Friendly

This fall we welcomed 1,460 transfer students, the largest group we’ve seen in at least a decade—up more than 180 compared to last year. They came from 365 different institutions, including all thirteen Tennessee community colleges.

Read more about this year’s transfer class here.

We want to be the most transfer-friendly university in Tennessee. We are looking at how we evaluate transfer students’ prior course work to ensure they are prepared for the rigors of our classes. We’re also taking steps to improve our efforts to smooth transfer students’ transition to our campus. The efforts are being led by our Transfer Task Force, chaired by Monique Anderson, associate dean and university registrar.

We have a tremendous opportunity to bring in even more transfer students as more of our state’s high school students take advantage of the Tennessee Promise, which offers last-dollar scholarships for Tennessee students to attend any of the state’s community colleges, colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institutions.

Recruiting and enrolling a transfer student requires our admissions officers and college departments to work together. Admissions must rely on departments to evaluate the courses a transfer student has taken to determine whether those credits should be accepted. To do that effectively, faculty need to review syllabi from other institutions to ensure these institutions’ learning outcomes are comparable to those here.

We are developing a database so we don’t have to evaluate the same courses from the same institutions each year.

We’ve created transfer pathways and transfer plans to help students from Tennessee community colleges transition to UT. However, in-state transfer students don’t always complete these plans before they apply to UT.

To assist prospective students, we have placed full-time admissions counselors focusing on transfer students in Memphis to serve West Tennessee and in Nashville to serve Middle Tennessee. There are two transfer counselors in Knoxville.

Transferring to a new university can be a shock, and transfer students often see their GPAs fall during their first semesters at UT. Transfer counselors can help students prepare for the transition to UT’s rigorous academic environment and can help students consider the important nonacademic aspects of transferring, such as the need to get involved in student organizations and study groups that will help anchor them to our university. Preparing for both the academic and nonacademic aspects of the transition reduces the risk that transfer students will drop out before they complete their UT degree.

We look forward to growing our transfer population in the coming years because these students bring a valuable perspective and enhance the diversity of our campus. We just need to be certain that we have the support systems in place that allow them to succeed as Volunteers.

Students at Math Camp

Summer Programs Help Students Find Success

We saw great results this summer from two programs aimed at helping students achieve academic success.

Both Math Camp and the Summer Opportunity for Academic Recovery (SOAR) program were offered for the second time this year.

Math Camp

Eighty-nine incoming freshmen attended this year’s Math Camp, a three-week “boot camp” to help them prepare for math-intensive majors.

As a result of their intensive work, 63 percent of the participants increased their math placement level and were placed into more advanced math courses. The others began the semester better equipped for the challenges of college algebra.

Math Camp is an optional summer program designed to provide a thorough review of concepts from Math 119 and 130—two important prerequisites for math-intensive majors or other majors requiring specific math skills. It was one of the programs Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek committed to during a White House meeting two years ago.

Last year, about eighty students attended Math Camp, and 57 percent of those who took the final exam increased their placement level.

We expect to offer Math Camp again next year. Read more about this summer’s Math Camp here.


Thirty-seven students who had been academically dismissed at the end of the spring semester are now back in class and in good standing, due to the Summer Opportunity for Academic Recovery (SOAR).

Select students are invited to attend this second-chance program. They are allowed to remain at UT if they successfully complete the program’s requirements by taking at least seven credit hours of summer classes, including a one-credit-hour course on success strategies; meeting weekly with an academic coach; and spending at least ten hours a week in structured study or tutoring outside of class. SOAR students who earn a sufficiently high summer GPA can return to UT in the fall in good academic standing.

This summer, fifty-eight students participated in SOAR. Fifty of them—86 percent of the class—completed the program. In addition to the thirty-seven back in good standing, eleven have been allowed to return but remain on academic probation. Two other students were eligible to return on academic probation but chose not to.

By honing their study skills and learning about campus resources that promote academic success, these students received the boost they needed to help them get back on track.

Last year, fifty-two students participated in the initial SOAR pilot program, and 88 percent successfully completed the program. Three of those have since graduated and twenty-three remained enrolled.

SOAR is part of our continuing efforts to ensure student success and boost retention. We expect it to be offered again next summer.

Learn more about SOAR here.

Your Input Sought for Vol Vision 2020

Since 2010, we’ve been on a journey to become a top public research university, and our road map has been our strategic plan, Vol Vision 2015.

Now that we’ve reached the five-year mark, it’s time to reflect, regroup, and re-energize ourselves for the next five years of our journey.

Our Milestone Review Committee, chaired by Steve Smith, dean of University Libraries, is busy updating our strategic plan, which will be called Vol Vision 2020.

Until now, the committee has been assessing our progress and considering the next steps that will help us continue our pursuit of excellence and enhance our culture of ongoing improvement. Now they’re seeking feedback from the campus community on their proposed updates, with the goal of submitting a final report to my office in the spring.

They’ve already held two open forums and will hold additional forums in November. In addition, committee members will meet with different colleges and divisions over the fall semester to solicit feedback. Meetings are also scheduled with representative groups such as the Student Senate, Graduate Student Senate, Faculty Senate, Alumni Association, and Parents Association.

You can read the committee’s assessment and recommendations and share your thoughts via the website.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Undergraduate education—We have made good progress increasing our retention and graduation rates, and want to continue making gains. We also want to make sure we’re preparing students for success with initiatives such as Experience Learning and other efforts to enhance the Volunteer experience.
  • Graduate education—We’ve increased our number of PhD graduates, but we’re still lagging in the number of graduates receiving master’s degrees and professional degrees. We want to improve graduate education by emphasizing student excellence and success, which means improving recruitment, increasing students’ financial support, and refining our metrics.
  • Research, scholarship, and creative activity—We’ve exceeded our goals for increasing federal and total research expenditures. However, we want to do a better job of capturing the full scope of faculty work, including not only funded research but also scholarship, creative activity, and engagement.
  • Faculty and staff—We’ve increased faculty and staff salaries and held steady on faculty awards. We want to see UT known as a higher education workplace of choice. We also want to do more to support excellence and professional development for non-tenure-track faculty and staff.
  • Infrastructure and resources—We exceeded our goals of increasing our operating expenditures per student and our endowment per student. We need to explore new ways of generating revenue and look at the most efficient use of our money. We must continue our physical improvements to campus and our technological advancements.

The committee also recommends a sixth strategic priority for the future: increasing campus diversity and inclusion. We need to continue to recruit and retain faculty, staff, and students from diverse backgrounds, which includes identifying innovative ways to promote inclusion and understanding on campus.

Finally, the committee recommends that we emphasize the Volunteer difference over the next five years. We need to capitalize on the qualities that differentiate us to make UT a university of choice.

We’ve made tremendous strides in the past five years. Going forward, it will be increasingly difficult to continue making such marked gains. As we improve, our peers—the institutions ranked ahead of us—are also getting better. As we move closer to our goal, our strides may get smaller. But working together and constantly striving for excellence will keep us moving on this transformational journey.

How Will You Experience Learning?

That’s the question we want everyone to be asking now that this exciting new initiative is under way.

Experience Learning—developed as part of our Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaccreditation process—is rooted in the pedagogical concept of experiential learning.

Through Experience Learning, we will give our students more opportunities to engage in civic life, to solve complex real-world problems, and to contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work. Our goal is to help our students develop lifelong skills in learning and problem solving and to prepare them for the ever-changing global environment. Watch this video for more details.

Our ongoing Smart Communities Initiative (SCI) is a major facet of Experience Learning.

This year, we are partnering through SCI with the Southeast Tennessee Development District/Chattanooga Area Regional Council of Governments. About 400 students and seventeen faculty members from seven colleges and twelve departments are working on projects. Classes are assessing livability conditions for senior citizens in Grundy County, developing a business plan for a farmers market in Pikeville, and laying the groundwork for local and regional disaster planning. Read more here.

Many of you already incorporate Experience Learning concepts into your courses. For those who aren’t involved and want to be, or who want to enrich and enhance what they are already doing, we’ve created a “Getting Started” guide that can be found on the Experience Learning website.

This guide will connect you with Matthew Theriot, associate provost for teaching and learning innovation, who is leading the implementation of Experience Learning and overseeing the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center. The center will be offering workshops and providing personal consultations for faculty who want to be part of Experience Learning.

We have launched a national search for an Experience Learning director to work closely with Matthew in support of this new initiative.

Improving Student Evaluation of Instruction

We are improving the way we collect student feedback about courses and instructors.

We will be replacing the Student Assessment of Instruction Survey (SAIS) with a streamlined student survey that can be customized to provide more useful feedback for instructors.

The new survey will be delivered by a new online system, Course Evaluation by Campus Labs, which is already being put in place. The Campus Labs system will provide a smoother and more effective interface for students and faculty and will make it easier for instructors to add their own questions to the survey.

Last year, I assembled a task force of faculty, staff, and students chaired by Taimi Olsen, director of the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center. After looking at our peer and aspirational universities and consulting the relevant literature, the task force concluded that both the literature and best practices indicate we should construct a new and simpler survey. The task force recommended that we base this new survey on the Students’ Evaluation of Educational Quality (SEEQ) instrument, developed by noted researchers Herbert Marsh and Lawrence Roche.

This model looks at nine facets of teaching: learning, enthusiasm, organization, group interaction, individual rapport, breadth, examinations, assignments, and overall impression. I asked the task force to design a model for testing.

This year, I appointed Jennifer Morrow, associate professor of educational psychology and counseling and program coordinator of the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement PhD program, to lead a research team that will pilot and test the new survey. She will work with the survey task force to ensure those affected by student survey have a voice in its development and testing. Jennifer and her team also will meet with stakeholder groups, including the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils, Faculty Senate, and the Student Government Association, and with deans, directors, and department heads.

Through this collaboration, we hope to test and refine the eleven core questions developed by the task force. We’ll also develop additional questions for online instruction, laboratory work, studio classes, and other specialized forms of instruction. We envision that departments or individual faculty members will have the opportunity to add these additional questions—or ones of their own design—to the survey core.

We’ll pilot our new survey with selected courses this fall, refine it based on the results, and then run a second pilot survey in the spring. We plan to have a new product fully operational by fall 2016. As we get closer to using the new survey, we will offer training to faculty to help them get the most benefit out of the new system.

Department Heads Forum: The New Normal

Dear colleagues,

I’m pleased to provide you with more details about the first Department Heads Forum, to be held on Thursday, September 24th, 3:15-4:45 PM, in the West Wing of the Haslam Business Building.

The title for this forum is “The New Normal: Meeting Expectations.” It will be in the form of a workshop, facilitated by Bill Dunne, Associate Dean in the College of Engineering; Bruce Maclennan, President of the Faculty Senate; Brent Mallinckrodt, Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Lane Morris, Associate Dean in the Haslam College of Business. These four colleagues were last year’s SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows. They developed the workshop as part of their activities during the fellowship year.

The goal of the workshop is to assist department heads with implementing the new rating rubrics in annual faculty performance review with particular focus on the role of “meets expectations” in the new rubric.

So that you can get the most out of the workshop, the facilitators request that you bring a copy of your unit’s performance expectations to the workshop.

Here is the list of dates for this academic year (15-16), with topics for fall.

  • September 24*: “New Normal: Meeting Expectations.”
  • October 14: Conflict Management Skills
  • November 19: Using Academic Unit Statistics and other data to understand and advocate for your department
  • February 10: Topic TBD
  • March 9: Topic TBD
  • April 14: Topic TBD

All meetings are from 3-4:30 pm and will be held in the West Wing of Haslam Business Building, *except for the September 24th meeting that will be held from 3:15-4:45PM.

Light refreshments will be served.

I hope to see you there.

John Zomchick
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

Fall 2015 Faculty Pub

Because the third floor of the Boathouse is no longer available as an event venue, we will do an abbreviated schedule this fall.  The dates will be October 29th and November 19th from 4-7PM at the Tyson Alumni House, next to Hodges Library.  We look forward to seeing you at the pub and welcome any feedback on the new venue or suggestions for other venues at

Introducing Our Experience Learning Initiative

Dear colleagues,

Experience Learning logoThis fall, we will launch Experience Learning. This new initiative will transform the educational experience for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Tennessee by giving them more opportunities to be involved in civic engagement, to solve complex real-world problems, and to contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work.

Grounded in the pedagogical concept of experiential learning, this new initiative will enrich the academic experience in every discipline. It will help our students develop lifelong skills in learning and problem solving and prepare them for the ever-changing global environment.

A team of faculty, staff, and students spent the past two years developing Experience Learning as part of our Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaccreditation process. Throughout the process, the team solicited feedback from the campus community and found great enthusiasm for the idea.

Many of you already incorporate Experience Learning concepts in your courses. In fact, our ongoing Smart Communities Initiative will be a major component of Experience Learning. The Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center will assist faculty who want to incorporate experiential learning into their course work.

Matthew Theriot, associate provost for teaching and learning innovation, is leading the implementation of Experience Learning and oversees the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center. We recently began searching for an Experience Learning director to work closely with Matthew in support of this new initiative.

We will promote Experience Learning to the campus community via a series of informational ads in the Daily Beacon, videos and stories in Tennessee Today and Vol Update, and our new Experience Learning website.

I invite you to get involved and see how you and your students will Experience Learning.


Susan D. Martin
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

Matthew Theriot Named Associate Provost for Teaching and Learning Innovation

Matthew TheriotI’m pleased to announce that Associate Professor of Social Work Matthew Theriot, who successfully led the effort to develop our new Experience Learning initiative, has been named associate provost for teaching and learning innovation.

The new post is a three-year appointment that will involve 50 percent of his time.

One of Matthew’s primary responsibilities will be overseeing the implementation of Experience Learning, which begins this fall. Matthew also will oversee the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center.

Matthew chaired the interdisciplinary team that spent nearly two years designing Experience Learning, which is our new Quality Enhancement Plan, a required component of UT’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

He did a superb job of leading a large team of faculty, staff, and students to develop Experience Learning. The plan drew many compliments from SACSCOC evaluators, and Matthew’s leadership received high praise from team members.

He is a natural fit for this new role and he will be an asset to our team as we work to reach our goals for improving teaching and learning on our campus.

Matthew received his doctorate in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. He received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined our faculty in 2003 and served as director of the College of Social Work’s undergraduate program from 2006 to 2013. Since 2013 he’s been director of the college’s PhD program.

Please join me in congratulating Matthew and welcoming him into this new role.


Susan D. Martin
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

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