August 23, 2013
Greetings, Faculty and Staff,
I hope you have had an opportunity to enjoy a restful and refreshing break sometime over the summer and that you are ready to begin the fall 2013 semester with energy and enthusiasm.
Personally, I can’t recall ever beginning a semester with more optimism. Although I have been here only eighteen months, the university and the college have made so much progress in this short time, and both continue to advance.
At the university level, the campus is bustling with improvements in our infrastructure, including not only new building construction, but also improvements and needed maintenance on older buildings. Most importantly, the new, academically talented freshman class—which includes the most honors students ever—is evidence that our students are getting better each year. This year’s class is also the largest in nearly a decade (and has the most out-of-state students and most diverse population), an indication that UT is becoming an increasingly attractive option for talented students.
Another indication that the future is looking bright is the university’s financial picture. The university received an increase in state funding this year. Although it doesn’t restore our budget to the 2008 level before the budget cuts, the increase is larger than what we have seen in the past three years. Moreover, faculty and staff are receiving pay raises again this year—for the third consecutive year. Although our salaries are not where we would like them to be compared to salaries of top competing institutions, we are definitely moving in the right direction, and that’s reason to celebrate. Indeed, our salaries are now above average in the SEC.
Within the college, there is evidence of progress as well, and we have much to celebrate, beginning with an increase in faculty. This term, seventeen departments are welcoming new faculty to their ranks as a result of our success in making a case for additional faculty lines a year ago.
Our School of Music faculty, staff, and students couldn’t be happier! Having outgrown their space long ago, they have been scattered in spaces all around campus. But now they are settled in the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center—a state-of-the-art facility that most certainly will enhance their success in attracting excellent students and faculty. To add to the good news, the All-Steinway Initiative was completed over the summer, which means piano students will now hone their skills and develop their talent on the very finest instruments. Investment in the college by our friends and generous donors is responsible for these major enhancements, and we are grateful for their support. You will soon hear about opportunities to tour the new music building, and the Fall Convocation will be held there in December.
The college is on the move, too. With your collaboration and support, we are making steady and significant progress on our five-year strategic plan, which was approved last year. The five overarching goals are: providing an excellent education to well-prepared and diverse undergraduate and graduate students, improving the visibility of our faculty research and creative activities and supporting the quality of those endeavors, hiring and rewarding the best faculty and staff, improving the infrastructure of the college, and developing the resource base to support these improvements.
These intertwined goals became more specific and concrete after we completed the gap analysis comparing our college to similar liberal arts colleges at Top 25 public research universities. We are now looking beyond our five-year plan to 2020, envisioning our course of action and the resources we will need to close this gap. The most compelling conclusion from our analyses is that accomplishment of our goals of enriching undergraduate and graduate education while increasing research productivity is predicated on three variables: significant growth in the size of our tenure-line faculty with complementary increases in essential graduate student and staff positions and improvements in infrastructure to support their success. Working with you, we have made substantial progress toward our goals, including refining our academic priorities, making new investments in hiring, and funding new initiatives that support our pursuit of excellence in several key areas. As we launch this new academic year, I ask you to join me and the team in the college office to continue to advance the college. A particular challenge that we must tackle together immediately is to respond to the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) Accreditation Interim Report and prepare for the re-accreditation review in 2015. As soon as the semester is under way, Associate Dean Robert Hinde and I will be reminding departments of the specifics of your role in assuring our continued high standing.
This message is the first of several I will be sending this year to communicate with the members of the Arts and Sciences family based in the collegiate units. My intent with these messages is to open up a dialogue with you, so as I share my thoughts with you, I invite you to share yours with me. Please feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org to respond to this message, to offer your thoughts about the college, and to suggest topics you would like me or others in my office to address.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to advance our college. Have a wonderful semester!
With best regards,
Theresa M. Lee, PhD
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Save the dates!
Mark your calendar now for three of the college’s major events this term:
- Winter Convocation (December 3, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.)
- Graduate Hooding Ceremony (December 12)
- Fall Commencement (December 13)