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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.

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