MTSU is kicking off its second century with an even stronger commitment to making sure its students succeed, President Sidney A. McPhee told university faculty, staff and guests today.
In his address during the Fall Faculty Meeting that launches each new academic year, McPhee enumerated MTSU’s successes as well as plans to build and expand on those triumphs in 2012-13 and beyond.
“If we sit on our hands and do nothing, we may fail to seize an opportunity that could define our second century,” he said. “Students will remember those faculty and staff members who challenged them the most, not the least. They will remember the people who reached out, who connected with them.
“That is why I ask each of you to remember that no matter what you do, as a member of the faculty, staff or administration, all of us have a responsibility for student success.”
Fall 2012 semester classes begin Saturday, Aug. 25, at MTSU. Weekday classes begin on Monday, Aug. 27.
Critical to students — and thus the university’s — future successes, McPhee said, is developing even more support systems for students.
One of the first steps is preparing a Strategic Plan for Enrollment Management, which he said is currently being reviewed by MTSU’s Faculty Senate and others for feedback. It comes as a response to the Complete College Tennessee Act, which bases state higher-education funding on retention and graduation rates, not enrollment.
“It is time for us to again take a strong, careful look at the size of our institution and to consider the following questions and issues: What should be our maximum enrollment? And how does that number balance with our resources and standards?” McPhee said.
MTSU’s fall 2011 enrollment was 26,422 students. Figures for fall 2012 will be available soon.
McPhee said the draft enrollment-management plan considers whether MTSU should slow freshman enrollment, slightly raise admission requirements and increase the number of graduate, international and transfer students.
To attract, help and retain strong students, the president noted that MTSU already has implemented an “Academic Alert” program, which allows faculty to communicate directly with and follow up on students with classroom performance issues.
All incoming students also are assigned to academic counselors, as well as academic advisers, to provide continuity in guidance. And MTSU admissions advisers are working with area community colleges that feed large numbers of transfer students to MTSU to continue their higher education. McPhee also gathered several university colleagues to serve as “student advocates,” who each will monitor and mentor five incoming freshmen through the “rigors of college.”
The bottom line for 2012-13 and the future, McPhee said, is to ensure that MTSU remains and grows as a “community devoted to learning, growth and service.”
“We hold these values dear, and there’s a simple phrase that conveys them: ‘I am True Blue,’” he said. “Each time we repeat these words, we express not only the ideals we wish to share with our students, but also our commitment to the student-centered culture we are building on our campus.”
MTSU’s “True Blue Pledge,” unveiled last fall at University Convocation, is the basis for the “I am True Blue” motto. The pledge, which vows to practice core values of honesty and integrity, respect for diversity, engagement in the community and committing to reason instead of violence, has been adopted campuswide by students, faculty, staff and alumni.
“In short, True Blue stands for the very best of what Blue Raiders expect from one another — that together we are committed to the progress and success of our university. But without good actions to stand behind these good words, it will be meaningless.”
In addition to commending MTSU’s Athletics Department for their continuing work to ensure student-athletes’ success, the president cited three examples of “True Blue” behavior on campus, singling out faculty and staff for their dedication to students and colleagues: Dr. Joey Gray, who teaches in the Department of Health and Human Performance; Dr. Lawanna Fisher of the University College; and Ben Jones of MTSU’s Accounting Services.
“It (‘I am True Blue’) was not intended to be a marketing slogan — and perhaps that is why it has resonated with some more deeply than just a phrase written for a billboard,” McPhee said.
At the conclusion of the gathering, MTSU Foundation President Bill Mooningham presented the 2011-12 Foundation Awards to 17 faculty members, including Dr. Larry Burriss, longtime professor in the College of Mass Communication, who received the Career Achievement Award.