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Update from the Dean

Facilities Services install COVID signage stickers on the groundThank you for your patience with and support of our students during this time of confusing information about COVID/Omicron variant spread. The good news is that the rate of infection in our community is on its way down. The difficult news is that each of us – faculty, staff, and students – will feel safe enough to quit wearing masks indoors in group settings at different rates, which will likely begin in the next couple of weeks.

With mixed guidance from various federal and state agencies and laws, the best advice I can offer is that we will each make our individual choice about wearing a mask, and we will need to respect the decisions of others.

In other good news, our fall-to-spring retention rate for first-year students is at 96.1% – up nearly a full percentage point over last year’s cohort. We also see considerable retention improvements in URM, men of color, Pell and First-Gen students. Thank you to faculty mentors and our advising and other staff for providing support for our majors and minors, as well as the students taking classes in our college. Additionally, I appreciate the support our students, faculty, and staff receive from the Offices of Career Development, Student Success, and the Teaching and Learning Innovation that help make these improvements possible.

There are many changes on the horizon or under discussion for campus functions and organization. One of those is our new Budget Allocation Model (BAM), for which the college has submitted our first budget to begin in FY23 (July 1, 2022 start). Department heads provided information about unit needs and members of the budget committee heard those discussions and the college deliberations. It was a collaborative process with Executive Associate Dean Chuck Collins taking the lead on developing the college model. If you would like more information about the university budget process, the initial college budget, and the impact on and role of the departments, please reach out to AD Collins. He is happy to visit your unit and discusses the process.

We kicked off the Big Orange Family Campaign last week. As faculty and staff, you are one of the greatest advocates UT has to actively promote our values and support our mission to make UT a force for good in the world. I hope you consider a gift of any amount during the campaign. Your support helps transform the student learning experience and contributes to development of world-class research to find solutions to make the world a better place to live, work, and play. Thank you for your support of our Volunteer family.

Finally, it has been too long since we have had an opportunity to gather in-person to celebrate the successes of our faculty and staff. Please mark your calendar for the 2022 College Spring Fling Tuesday, April 26 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Circle Park. We will have music, food, and door prizes, as well as recognize our faculty and staff who received awards during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces in the spring!

Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences