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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
College of Arts & Sciences


Dean LeeFall break is scheduled for next week, signaling we're at midterm of a busy and productive semester. It seems an opportune time for me to share a few thoughts and observations with you— to let you know what is on my mind these days—as we contemplate a short break and look ahead to the remainder of the academic year.

Meeting campus enrollment goals this fall has been welcome news, but has brought its own set of challenges. Thanks to your commitment and extraordinary efforts, we have managed to accommodate the increased number of students this term—although a few "classrooms" have emerged in atypical locations, particularly between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for classes, such as discussion sections, that only meet weekly.  We will be working to move some of those classes to other days or times to relieve the 'crunch'.

As the university continues to rely more heavily on tuition dollars to meet budget goals, our college can expect to have more students to serve as the undergraduate population is projected to grow slowly to about 500 more than we have today. We continue to provide nearly seventy per cent of the student credit hours on campus through general education classes to all students and preparation of our majors.  The university's elevated admission standards mean we will have not only more, but also brighter, students to serve. While attracting better and more academically talented students is highly desirable, these better students, as they should, require more intensive time from faculty, particularly as we pursue our curricular goals of providing our students with individual research opportunities, study abroad experiences, and encouragement to engage in activities of service to their community and society. This set of circumstances converges to form the crux of our greatest challenge in meeting the goals of our 2020 vision outlined in the college's strategic plan—the critical need for more tenure-line faculty.  Many resources are needed to achieve our strategic plan goals and to advance the college, including hiring more staff, improving graduate student stipends, and improving infrastructure to name a few.  But no goal is more important than increasing the number of tenure-line faculty in the college; that is a point on which we all agree and it is a concern that is foremost on my mind every day.

Our research indicates that we need to add 160 tenure-line faculty to reach our goal of meeting Top 25 criteria. Our strategic plan proposed doing so by 2020. Can we do it?

While I am optimistic about our future, I am well aware of the immense resources needed to hire that number of tenure-line faculty.  My first priority is maintaining faculty strength and core academic integrity in academic units as faculty retire or leave.  My second priority for the next six years is to add tenure-line faculty in a manageable manner, by setting a more realistic shorter term goal of adding fifty more faculty. The university has been able to support our goal by gradually growing the number of tenure-line faculty lines in the college over the last two years, but that progress is slow. Both the chancellor and provost have pledged their continuing support, but resources are constrained, and we compete with other campus needs for a share.

Knowing that we cannot completely rely on state or university support, I have made increasing the number of tenure-line faculty a top priority for the college's evolving capital campaign.  One campaign goal is to raise $30 million to support increasing the number of tenure-track and tenured faculty from 450 to 500 which will restore the number of tenure-line faculty in the college to the level before 2000.  I am encouraged by fundraising prospects and recent successes.  Our efforts are paying off in a number of ways. Just this past year, private gifts enabled us to fully fund two faculty positions and to recruit several faculty with more competitive offers by adding privately-funded award supplements to salary lines through the Chancellor's Faculty Support Challenge.

Through a combination of strategic management of our university resources and private gifts to the college, I am optimistic that we can achieve our 2020 goal. We have to remind ourselves that this journey to the Top 25 is a marathon, not a sprint, and reaching the goal is not going to occur rapidly, rather through a steady pace of progress made one step at a time, perhaps increasing our faculty by a few at a time, until we reach our goal.  The journey may take longer than we would prefer, but if we stay on the path and travel together, we'll reach our destination.

Have a great fall break!  I look forward to resuming our journey together when you return.

Best regards,

Dean Lee signature

Theresa M. Lee, Dean

College of Arts & Sciences

The University of Tennessee
College of Arts & Sciences
Office of the Dean
312 Ayres Hall
1403 Circle Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-1330
Phone: 865-974-5332 | Fax: 865-974-4352
Big Orange. Big Ideas.