Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Candidate Interviews

The committee that has been searching to fill the position of Vice Provost for Academic Affairs has identified two finalists: RJ Hinde, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Matthew Theriot, Associate Professor and Ph.D. Program Director, College of Social Work.  Both finalist will hold an open forum as part of the interview process.  On behalf of Provost Martin and the search committee, we extend an invitation to attend the open forum.

Robert J. Hinde

Matthew Theriot

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Eight-Semester Plans Help Community College Students Transfer

8-semester-planWe are making some changes to help community college students transfer more easily to UT.

We want to increase our enrollment of well-prepared transfer students, and we want students who transfer to UT to use their time at community colleges wisely so that all their courses will count toward their intended four-year degree.

This past fall, we admitted 1,200 transfer students, but only 260 had associate’s degrees. We’d like to see that number rise—and we expect that it will, as students take advantage of the new Tennessee Promise Scholarship program that guarantees two free years of community college to the state’s graduating high school seniors.

Last fall, the Board of Trustees approved a new memorandum of understanding that outlines the requirements Tennessee community college students must meet to be guaranteed admission to UT. Those who have completed their associate’s degrees within two years of applying to UT are guaranteed admission if they have 60 transferable credit hours—45 of which were earned at the community college—and a 3.0 grade point average.

We’re now in the process of designing transfer transition guides, eight-semester plans that provide details about transferable academic credit and academic preparation based on the major that student plans to pursue. In some cases, these plans outline specific courses to take. They also advise students on how to best choose electives.

We’ve already rolled out eight-semester plans for Pellissippi State Community College. We will soon introduce plans for Roane State Community College and Walters State Community College.

Starting this summer, transfer students also will have the benefit of using uTrack. This system provides a road map for each major so students can see which academic courses they must complete and when they must complete them to graduate on time. The system alerts students if they get off track with their coursework or grades so they can develop a plan to catch up or, if necessary, change to a more achievable major.

To encourage this effort, we’ve created a transfer team in our undergraduate admissions office. Associate Director Connie Harmon chairs the team, which includes Larry Long, assistant director of transfer recruitment, and will also include three regional recruiters. A Middle Tennessee recruiter has been hired, a West Tennessee recruiter search is underway, and an East Tennessee recruiter will be hired later this spring.

Smart Communities Initiative Making Impact

smart-communitiesMidway through its first year, our Smart Communities Initiative has already made a major impact—both on the students and faculty involved in the projects and on our first-year partner, the city of Cleveland, Tennessee.

This year, faculty and students in twenty courses are working on thirteen projects as part of the initiative. One of the projects is developing a marketing and branding plan for Cleveland.

Just before the winter break, Cleveland city officials came to campus for a two-hour presentation by Associate Professor Deb Shmerler’s senior graphic design class, which spent last semester doing research to lay the groundwork for the branding campaign.

Through interviews, discussions, and an online survey, Shmerler’s students learned that Cleveland residents want to retain their community’s history and balance its southern charm while embracing industry. Cleveland residents are also determined to counter urban sprawl with small-town ingenuity, capitalize on the beauty of the surrounding area, and promote a healthful, balanced lifestyle.

A small group of Shmerler’s students have traveled to Cleveland this month to present their findings to the Cleveland City Council. They’ll spend the rest of the semester developing visual ideas for the city’s brand and preparing a final report.

Meanwhile, we are preparing to name our city partner for next year. Proposals from interested cities are due in the coming weeks, and we will announce our 2015–16 partner next month.

As we move forward, SCI will be a key component of Experience Learning—our new Quality Enhancement Plan, part of our reaccreditation process for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Read more about our Smart Communities Initiative here.

2015 Life of the Mind Book Chosen

life-of-the-mindLooking for a great book to read this spring? Pick up our 2015 Life of the Mind selection, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez.

It’s a fictional tale about two immigrant families—one from Mexico and one from Panama—who come to America in search of better lives. The title comes from a statement made by one of the characters: “We’re the unknown Americans … the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them.”

The Book of Unknown Americans is the third book by Henríquez, of Chicago, whose father immigrated to the United States from Panama in the 1970s. It was included in the New York Times list of “100 Notable Books of 2014” and listed among Amazon’s top ten books of 2014 and O magazine’s fifteen must-read books of 2014.

LOM author photo

Now in its thirteenth year, Life of the Mind is part of First Year Studies 100, a zero-credit pass-fail class that gives students their first taste of college studies and requires them to complete online lessons on topics including alcohol awareness, financial literacy, plagiarism, technology, civility, and succeeding at UT.

Freshmen are asked to read the book and complete a written response before arriving on campus. During Welcome Week, they will participate in small-group discussion sessions and attend an event where we hope to have the author speak.

The book was chosen by a committee of faculty, students, and staff led by Ruth Darling, assistant provost for student success, and Jason Mastrogiovanni, director of first-year studies. They chose The Book of Unknown Americans because it aligns nicely with our civility and global initiatives.

I hope you’ll take time to read the book and consider leading one of the discussion sessions during Welcome Week next fall. Look for more information in the coming months in Tennessee Today.

To learn more about the book, please read these reviews from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Faculty Appreciation Week is February 16–20

Faculty Appreciation WeekWe’ve received outstanding national attention this year for the progress we’ve made in our journey to become a Top 25 public research university.

In honor of our increasing retention and graduation rates, the university received the “Most Visible Progress” Trailblazer Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. We also received 2015 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for our mutually beneficial community partnerships.

We couldn’t have garnered these accolades without the dedication and hard work of our employees. To recognize and thank you, we’re using “trailblazers” as the theme of our 2015 Faculty Appreciation Week, to be held February 16–20.

The week will begin with a free lunch seminar sponsored by the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center. The Chancellor will also host a reception for his Cabinet members, deans, department heads, distinguished professors, governor’s chairs, chancellor’s professors, chairs of excellence, endowed professorship holders, and others who have received significant awards over the past year.

Faculty and staff also will be able to enjoy specially priced tickets for that week’s men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as added discounts at the VolShop and campus dining establishments.

Be watching for more information about these and other events, as well as special Faculty Appreciation Week stories about selected faculty members, in Tennessee Today.

It’s Time to Update Vol Vision

steve-smith-2012Guided by our Top 25/Vol Vision strategic plan, we’ve seen tremendous progress over the past five years. We’ve improved our recruitment efforts, seen gains in retention and graduation rates, increased our diversity numbers, and seen a rise in faculty and staff salaries. Our campus is also undergoing a remarkable makeover, with a record amount of construction and renovation underway.

But, much has changed since we introduced Vol Vision in 2010. It’s time that we review our efforts and identify areas where more progress is needed.

I’ve asked Steve Smith, dean of University Libraries, to lead a milestone review committee. This group will engage the campus community in setting goals for the next five years and updating our strategic plan.

From now until May, the committee will focus on assessing our current progress, studying external factors that may impact our work, evaluating our progress compared to that of our peers, and pinpointing gaps.

The committee will then spend a few months seeking input from stakeholders, including students, faculty, parents, community members, legislative representatives, and others who have an interest in higher education and our university. The committee’s recommendations—due in mid-December 2015—will serve as the groundwork for our Vol Vision update.

Members of the Milestone Review Committee are Annette Ranft, senior associate dean, Haslam College of Business; Chris Cox, associate head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; David Golden, professor of food science and technology; Larry McKay, professor of earth and planetary science; Mark Dean, engineering professor; Tina Shepardson, associate professor of religious studies; Catherine Luther, associate dean of the College of Communication and Information; Susan Benner, associate dean and director in the College of Education, Health, and Human Science; Beth Schussler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Frank Cuevas, assistant vice chancellor and executive director of University Housing; Lee Patouillet, associate vice chancellor, Alumni Affairs; Erik Bledsoe, director of Creative Communications; Janet Nelson, associate vice chancellor for research development; Jonee Lindstrom, associate vice chancellor of finance and administration; Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletic director; Mary Lucal, human resources director; Serena Matsunaga, a consultant to the provost; Denise Gardner, assistant provost and director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment; and a yet-to-be-named undergraduate and graduate student.

Graduate School Enhancing Recruitment, Teacher Training

African American female student reading a book.The Graduate School is employing a new technology to better communicate with prospective students.

This new tool, Prospect, will allow graduate admissions officers campus-wide to plan and track e-mail, as well as written and phone communications, with prospective students. Because Prospect integrates with our current admissions database, Admit, admissions officers will also be able to communicate with students who have started applications but have not yet submitted them. A unique feature of Prospect is that it can map the location of prospective students, which will allow university staff to schedule visits when attending conferences or admissions fairs in a specific area.

Prospect is being piloted within MBA and dual-MBA programs in the Haslam College of Business, the chemistry and mathematics departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, and graduate programs in the College of Communication and Information. We anticipate using Prospect campus-wide by next fall.

Another exciting addition to the Graduate School is Stephanie Galloway, the new assistant dean for graduate administration and student services. She is charged with helping us be more efficient in resolving student issues regarding enrollment and registration. She also will help manage Graduate School fellowships. Stephanie has her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked in higher education administration and policy for eighteen years.

Meanwhile, the Graduate School is partnering with the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center to offer a graduate teaching certification program, a fifteen- to eighteen-month program focused on course design and delivery.

The first class began last spring with twenty-six graduate students representing ten departments. Learn more about the program here.

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