Effective May 16, 2014, M. David Rudd became the 12th president of the University of Memphis. Please visit his new blog at http://blogs.memphis.edu/president/
Our University of Memphis held a particularly inspiring event last week when the graduating class of the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus was recognized at a Baccalaureate Ceremony there. We had seventy-seven spring & summer graduates eligible to participate, nearly twice last year’s number. Almost half graduated with honors. More than fifty actually participated in the event. The Chapel on campus was filled to capacity (660) with standees in the back, and Associate Dean, Dr. Linda Brice recalls, “After talking with one of our security officers last night he said there were also large crowds of people outside the chapel who could not get in so our numbers were probably even higher!!!”
Manager, Student and Academic Services for the Lambuth Campus Lisa A. Warmath found the ceremony especially moving. “I feared that we would lose a bit of the “personal” touch as we’d more than doubled the number of graduates since last year,” she says. “I have to admit, I was wrong. Of the three Baccalaureate Ceremonies that I’ve coordinated here, this group by far was the most energetic and engaged and I feel that I had a better rapport with them than previous groups.”
For many of our students and their families, this serves as a special ceremony for them, since many of their guests cannot get to Memphis for the actual Commencement. Lisa Warmath remembers: “This year, there were many who mentioned this to me as we prepared for the event–they understood that Baccalaureate didn’t replace Commencement, but it was very much appreciated that the opportunity was there for them and their families. This is the first year that I’ve had students share that sentiment with me. It reinforces the decision to hold a Baccalaureate Ceremony here–it’s part of being the “small” campus atmosphere within the larger university.”
Maintaining a long-held tradition from the previous Lambuth academic days was important to preserve. Dr. Dan Lattimore, Dean of the Lambuth Campus, explains: “One old Lambuth tradition that they continued was that as they marched out of the chapel, students (and some of us) marched through the administration building and out the front gates to the school symbolizing their graduating from the school.” This goes back to an old Lambuth University tradition that has been reinstated on a couple of levels. When students enroll for the first time, they “enter” the campus/ university through the Williams gates on Lambuth Boulevard–it’s a symbolic march during New Student Convocation in August. When students graduate, they “exit” the gates for the last time, symbolically leaving campus & heading into the new world as graduates. When they marched out of the Chapel during the recessional, Dr. Lattimore and I accompanied them on their “exit journey.” For Lisa Warmath, “this was probably the highlight of the evening!” I could not agree more.
The University’s initiative to enhance graduate funding for key programs this year is already reaping tremendous benefits in the Department of Communication. Based on their recent analysis, next year is shaping up to be the sort of success that we all hoped was possible, and demonstrates the remarkable difference these enhancements can make when they are strategically applied.
Graduate Coordinator Tony de Velasco reports: “We will enroll three new PhD GAs funded because of the enhanced stipend, two full-time PhDs who will receive 1st – Generation Fellowships, and two part-time PhDs who are coming to us self-funded. Three applicants accepted our offer for MA funding, while two applicants are coming to us full-time, self-funded. We are still accepting applications, of course, and expect to admit additional self-funded students for F2014. Our investment priorities for the F2014 admissions’ cycle were to:
- Offer enhanced stipends to only our top PhD applicants
- Target funding to applicants with potential to help grow research productivity in Health Communication
- Target funding to top MAs with demonstrated potential to feed into PhD.”
The number of new PhD applicants in COMM has increased by two-thirds over the program mean since 2007, with the highest number of new PhD applications in the program’s history this year. The news for self-funded (no university funds) graduate admissions is also impressive: over the past three years combined, the department enrolled only four such graduate students but this year they will enroll four for 2014 alone.
The department has made specific and concerted long-term strategies to bring greater quality and efficiency and focus to the graduate program in many ways, such as:
Deploy new and existing resources to increase new PhD stipends to grow research impact of Health Communication area and to remain competitive with peer institutions more generally
- Aggressively recruit qualified PhD and MA applicants in all areas who can self fund or who qualify for existing funds available elsewhere
- Fund qualified MA students in all areas who demonstrated research excellence and high probability for completing a PhD in the COMM program
- Reduce and streamline total number of graduate course offerings to free up full-time faculty for more undergraduate teaching
“Streamlining our graduate course offerings seems like a small step, explains Communication Department Chair Leroy Dorsey, “but it goes hand-in-hand with the overall creative strategy in maximizing the additional funding to impact the graduate program greatly and, subsequently, impact other areas in the Department (i.e., tenured/ tenure-track faculty available to teach more undergraduate courses). More efficient scheduling goes with our decision to reduce COMM’s overall number of GAs in order to foster the focused growth of our PhD program. Reducing the overall number of GAs, in short, enables us to increase the ratio of funded PhDs to MAs.”
Professor de Velasco summarizes: “The additional funding we received from the Provost’s office, along with the subsequent priorities and strategies influenced by that additional funding, will help to reposition COMM to grow its PhD strategically in all three of its research areas in the long term.” The department is a model of what is possible when enhanced funding is applied strategically to grow the department responsibly and within its own goals. They are to be congratulated for their initiative, and the success it is already reaping.
M. David Rudd, Provost
The Center for Economic Education was established just over a decade ago by Dr. Julie Heath, a professor of economics and long-time department chair. When she retired to take a position at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Douglas Campbell, an Instructor in the Department of Economics, officially took over as Director in March 2012 and continues to guide its growing list of successes.
“As the name implies, the Center is focused on advancing the level and quality of economics and financial literacy education in the area,” explains Director Campbell. “Much of our efforts are focused on teaching teachers how to teach economics and personal finance. Toward that goal, I typically lead 12 professional development workshops each year for local teachers. Teachers who attend these workshops receive free curriculum and training, not just on the lesson plans themselves, but on the economics concepts embedded in them. Most of the teachers who attend these workshops are from Shelby County and the surrounding area.” By focusing on training the trainers the Center is able to multiply its impact and numbers reached.
The curriculum is tied to state standards for economics and personal finance and, in most cases, is directly linked to specific Common Core State Standards, making it very valuable to local teachers. The curriculum is also easily integrated into other subject areas (like language arts, mathematics, and social studies) and covers all grade levels from kindergarten through high school. Thus, teachers can teach economics while teaching other subjects. Professor Campbell explains, “One of the most popular workshops I’ve led involves teaching economics using children’s literature, like Curious George and the Berenstain Bears, for lower elementary school teachers. This is very important, because the sooner we begin teaching young people about economics and personal finance, and the more we expose them to it, the greater the impact we will have.”
The Center also houses the Smart Tennessee program, which is a statewide financial literacy program focusing on grades K-8. That program employs a unique curriculum, Financial Fitness for Life, which is widely recognized as the leader in personal finance education. Smart Tennessee has reached every corner of the state and every type of district, from major cities like Memphis to rural areas. Smart Tennessee is recognized as a national leader in personal finance instruction and has been copied by other states like Texas. Just recently, the Center, along with the Federal Reserve Banks of Nashville and Memphis, sponsored the Economics Challenge and Personal Finance Challenge, two annual statewide competitions for high school students.
On a broader level, the activities of the Center are directed toward larger goals, like poverty reduction and social justice. Given that the Center is based in Memphis, which has the highest poverty rate of any large metropolitan area in the US, and among the highest rates of unbanked and underbanked households, enhancing and broadening economics and personal finance education is crucial to improving the quality of life and financial sustainability of our area. The work of the Center continues to be generously supported by First Tennessee Bank, and maintains valuable partnerships with local non-profits like the Grizzlies Foundation and RISE Memphis, and also works with the Shelby County Trustee’s Office on the Bank On Memphis program.
This is another example of the impact our University is having by pairing with a community partner to improve the life of Memphis children and families, and as Director Campbell says, “taking economics to the people.”
I am very pleased to share that our efforts to identify a new leader for the Lambuth campus have been successful. Dr. Niles Reddick has accepted my offer to be the new vice-provost for the Lambuth Campus, effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Reddick is currently vice president for academic affairs at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia. He earned a doctorate in humanities from Florida State University and has twenty years of experience in higher education teaching and administration. A more detailed formal announcement will be released next week, but I thought it important to share the good news quickly. As you know, the success of our Lambuth campus is critical to the future of the University of Memphis and West Tennessee in general. I have great confidence in Dr. Reddick’s ability to implement our strategic vision in Lambuth, strengthen community ties, and help grow our student base. Please join me in welcoming him to the University of Memphis.
M. David Rudd, Provost
The Society of Physics Students (SPS) hosted a trivia night coupled with a poster presentation in the UC River Room last month that far surpassed their expectations. The event served to: 1) recruit new physics majors, 2) attract new graduate students to the program, 3) a poster presentation to make known the research being conducted in the department of physics, and 4) social event for current SPS members. It was the first event of its kind out of the department of physics and the results were a huge success. The 78 attendees included Memphis SPS members, SPS members from both Rhodes College and Christian Brothers University (CBU), current students in introductory physics courses, physics graduate students, and physics faculty.
On the night of the event, students arrived at the University Center River Room to find informational materials about the physics major, SPS, Sigma Pi Sigma (the Physics Honor Society), and departmental research. The trivia game emceed by Dr. Robert Marchini included questions of General Knowledge, Science, and Memphis Trivia. During the half time the students presented a poster session to show the research they had been doing in the Physics department, as well as tables with physics demonstrations so attendees could experience the fundamental concepts of physics firsthand in a fun and interactive way.
Professor Marchini explains, “Since this event was the first of its kind for our department, it was quite a large undertaking for the SPS club and its officers. Everyone who attended had a fantastic time, and the department is very much looking forward to hosting it again next year, with even better results.”
The Physics Trivia Night was funded by a MemphiSTEM Mini-Grant, with additional support from the Physics Department and Student Activities Allocation funds. Congratulations to the students and faculty who made it all happen: SPS faculty advisor Dr. Elizabeth Gire , Charissa Shiver, Krystal Kirby , Justin Robbins, Catherine Boatwright, Timothy Hooker, Hunter Gore, Jack Dodson and Michael Caprio.
Everyone involved should be commended for this achievement, combining their love of learning with an event that advances the University recruitment efforts, enlightens the community and provides a fun evening, too.
Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the first session for our incoming Faculty Senate. It was not only an opportunity to recognize the exceptional leadership offered this past year by Dr. Dick Evans, but a chance to hear from incoming president Dr. Reginald Green. Before moving on, I want to say thank you to Dr. Evans. Thank you for your hard work, thoughtful contributions, and exceptional leadership. Dr. Green’s introductory comments resonated so well I thought I would share them unedited. Let me emphasize a number of themes important to the future of the University of Memphis, including the great opportunities ahead, the constancy of change, the importance of collegial dialogue and debate, and the empowering nature of hope. I want to thank Dr. Green and all of our senators for their hard work and commitment to the University of Memphis. I look forward to working with you.
M. David Rudd, Provost
Faculty Senate President Reginald Green’s Inaugural Remarks
Members of the Faculty Senate,
In the words of Charles Dickens, “These are the best of times; these are the worst of times.” At the University of Memphis, the budget is being reduced by 20 million dollars, departments are being “right-sized,” a new budget model is being developed, and new leadership is in the President’s Office.
Each of these occurrences brings challenges to the faculty. However, opportunities come with each challenge. Opportunities abound to change the way we think about delivering services that will enhance the academic achievement of the students we serve, and opportunities abound to transcend the mundane with the intent of instilling greatness in our students and ourselves.
I would like to inaugurate the 2014-2015 session of the Faculty Senate with words of hope and unity. This year, let us continue to work toward unity.
The University of Memphis is one, and its future and outcomes affect all of us. If we understand this, work toward excellence, and understand that our vision is a common vision, then, shared governance becomes the logical result, even in the midst of change.
Speaking of change, other than the speed of light, and that is debatable; the only constant in the universe is change. To resist change is to suggest that our current practices and procedures are flawless, and I am confident that you would agree that they are not. Therefore, we stand to benefit from meaningful partnerships with the administration so that collectively we engage in processes and procedures that will enhance the quality of the education our students receive.
Granted, we can debate among ourselves and challenge the administration relative to select components of various changes. However, select changes appear to be imminent. Nevertheless, within those changes lie the seeds for a bright new future full of hope; it is our opportunity to seize the day and become one body in communion with each other, our students, and the administration.
Communication is an indispensable element in the human experience; effective and timely communication enables the creation of shared meaning and understanding. To internalize the powers that lie in the spoken word, in humor, and in the creative spirit, we have to foster a sense of oneness with the administration. Making these connections, we take a Unified Holistic Approach to Action. We commit to inspiring our students to find and create meaning in their lives, their work, and the lives of others in a world that sometimes appears meaningless. We commit to becoming a greater university, the greatest university in the Mid-South. We cannot have a great university without a great faculty!
Let us never underestimate the power of collective intention, nor fail to honor integrity and individuality while being committed to cohesiveness and unity. Let us always infuse our work and the work of others with the magic of enthusiasm and the joy of accomplishment so that collectively we become all that we are capable of becoming.
Therefore, our role can become one of engagement in the decision-making process, seeking to be actively engaged in reaching any decision that affects the faculty or that the faculty is responsible for implementing. To that end, the theme proposed for this year is “Connecting the Senate, the Faculty, and Administration for an Enhanced Culture of Shared Governance.”
As a Senate, our focus must be on evidence-based reasons for the positive actions we seek from the administration. Let us become even further engaged and take a proactive stance, rather than a reactive one. Let us bring ideas to the table in a timely manner, ideas that demonstrate to the University, community, and the nation that as a Senate, we are making a positive difference in global education. In essence, the University faculty must be able to see and appreciate our positive and proactive work.
One major task that lies before us is the identification of one to three goals that we will strive to achieve. Then, we need to put an accountability system in place to measure our progress toward their achievement. This can become our first order of business in our orientation meeting scheduled at the beginning of the fall semester.
It is my hope that you will share the vision “Connecting the Senate, the Faculty, and Administration for an Enhanced Culture of Shared Governance.” In the words of Dr. Viktor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
TBR has awarded a $40,000 Student Engagement, Retention and Success grant to Dr. Shannon Blanton, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs & Professor of Political Science, to implement “Academic Coaching for Students on Academic Warning.” The team of UM researchers who will implement and complete the project also include Dr. Colton Cockrum, Assistant Director of CARES, Cecilia Olivares, Director of CARES, Bob Baker, Director of the Center for Athletic Academic Services, and Dr. Karen Weddle-West, Director of Diversity Initiatives & Dean of the Graduate School.
Dr. Blanton explains, “The primary purpose of the project is to pair students who have been placed on Academic Warning with an academic coach for individual meetings throughout the semester. Graduate students specializing in counseling-related fields will serve as coaches, and will meet one-on-one with freshmen students to help them develop a clear vision of their own goals and career path. While both lower and upper division students go on academic warning in any given semester, the largest proportion of students are continuing freshmen, so this initial pilot project will focus on students in that category.”
The study seeks to explicitly incorporate use of the Degree Compass tool in the coaching program. This software uses an algorithm based on an individual student’s transcript and academic performance, as well as data from thousands of other students, to generate individualized course suggestions. “Analysis has shown that students who selected courses in this manner had a much higher success rate than students who selected courses on their own,” Dr. Blanton continues. The grant will permit the University to afford the use of this software while the pilot project advances.
Academic Coaching is the topic of University of Memphis’ Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) required of our SACS accreditation process, and a featured part of the University’s Access to Success plan to reduce the success gap for underrepresented minorities and Pell-recipient students.
Congratulations to Dr. Blanton and her team for advancing student success initiatives. In addition to the recognition from TBR, her successful grant application deserves our enthusiastic applause.
M. David Rudd, Provost
Two University of Memphis teams of faculty researchers have been selected to receive research grants from the Tennessee Board of Regents in a competitive evaluation process. Each grant is for $40,000. One team of faculty researchers (Dr. Yonghong Jade Xu, Dr. Chloe Lancaster and Dr. Cynthia Martin) is from Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research and the Office of Institutional Research; the other (Dr. Gregory Washington, Dr. Susan Neely-Barnes, Dr. Susan Elswick, and Dr. Robin Lennon-Dearing) is from Social Work. Congratulations to each of these researchers on securing this funding!
In November 2013, the TBR Office of Academic Affairs disseminated a call for research proposals designed to support faculty research with the primary focus on underrepresented and target sub-populations with the overarching goal of increasing the understanding of pluralism in the education enterprise and the global world in which our institutions must function. The TBR received twenty proposals related to numerous aspects of diversity, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. They are recommending funding eight proposals –two from U of M.
The Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research proposal focuses on STEM student graduation rates. Dr. Cynthia Martin, with OIR, explains, “In Tennessee, the six-year graduation rate of science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) students in four-year institutions is only about 20 percent, with African American students at a rate lower than 15 percent. Consistent with the goal of the recently emplaced outcomes‐based funding formula that rewards the State higher education institutions ‘for the production of outcomes that further the educational attainment and productivity’, this project seeks to identify institutional interventions that will effectively improve the retention rates of STEM students, in particular African Americans.”
The Social Work proposal is titled “The Students Helping Students Program: ‘Response to Intervention’ in Higher Education.” Response to Intervention (RtI) is an evidence based practice model in K12 education that is used to identify “at risk” students and give them additional educational supports to promote success. Dr. Susan Neely-Barnes explains, “Although well established in K12 education, research on its use in higher education is lacking. The project will use Masters in Social Work students serving as graduate assistants to screen undergraduate BA in social work students on writing skills, study skills, reading fluency, stress management, and coping skills. Undergraduates who are identified as “at risk” will be offered either one-on-one or group intervention targeted to the identified skill area. Students will also be encouraged to use existing campus resources when appropriate. Reassessment will occur monthly and students will stay in the program until supports are no longer needed.”
The excellence of the proposals brings distinction to the University of Memphis and both teams are to be congratulated for their outstanding success.
M. David Rudd, Provost
The Master of Health Administration program is receiving lots of attention this month when Modern Healthcare magazine ranked it 19th among top business graduate schools for physician-executives. The Memphis Business Journal picked up the story last week to amplify the praise:
The MHA program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). The 53-credit hour program offers both on-campus and executive options designed for both recent college graduates and working professionals.
As Dr. Lisa Klesges, dean of the School of Public Health, said, “Gaining this high level recognition for the quality and value of our MHA degree validates the great opportunity that we offer in the region as well as a national standing. We are proud of this accomplishment and the contributions of our talented faculty that support the MHA program. The program has been successful because of the hard work and commitment of our university administration, staff, students, alumni and community partners.”
While all this is impressive in its own right, the national attention will likely increase a year from now when the Executive MHA option is launched in June of 2015. Dr. Dan Gentry, professor and director of Health Systems Management Policy emphasizes that this is an innovative program that blends distance education with periodic on-campus experiential learning, professional development and career networking, while still allowing students to complete the degree in two years. Those with full time careers will now be able to earn this prestigious degree with minimum time away from their jobs.
Congratulations are in order for their national ranking, and also for the forward thinking innovation which will bring future recognition when the new program starts next year.
M. David Rudd, Provost