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Five Minutes with the President: Student Success

MTSU Mag: Every university describes itself as “student-centered.” What is MTSU doing to go beyond just words and truly invest in student success?

President Sidney A. McPhee: With the passage of the Complete College Tennessee Act, our state appropriation is now based on retention and graduation rates, not enrollment. It makes it more important than ever for us to focus upon attracting more students who are best equipped for college and are most likely to graduate. And it becomes critical that we develop support systems that will help all students succeed. Examples include the following:

  • MTSU’s Total Intake Model is a new way of receiving students into the University. It provides initial advising to new students to help them solidify career goals and meet academic expectations.
  • We started an Academic Alert program, which allows faculty to communicate directly with students about classroom performance and follow up on concerns. Last year, more than 27,000 early alerts were entered in this digital system.
  • We have assigned academic counselors to all incoming students in addition to their standard academic advisors. Advisors change each time a student changes majors, but the academic counselor is the one person students can turn to for help—from enrollment through graduation—regardless of what they study.
  • In addition, 99 members of the MTSU administrative staff joined me this past fall in serving as advocates and resources for 10 new Blue Raiders each. These advocates were trained for this role and serve as the person on campus to whom students can come with any concern. We know both from research and from our own practice that in order to persist, thrive, and graduate, students must form academic and social connections to the institution in multiple ways.
  • We are now deploying admissions advisors to major-feeder community colleges in the region. Through this program, prospective transfer students have access—on their own campuses—to MTSU staff through regularly maintained office hours at the community colleges.
  • MTSU joined approximately 250 institutions of higher education across the country by becoming tobacco free.
  • MTSU’s Shelbyville campus offered three times as many classes in fall 2012 as it did the previous year. That’s higher education in your own backyard.
  • The shiny new pearl of MTSU’s campus is the $65 million, nearly 211,000-square-foot Student Union building, the newest place for students and others to gather. The placement of student activities, student groups, and student services in one location is having a tremendous impact on the campus community and speaks loudly to our student-centered focus. New campus entrances and nearby parking garages ensure that the building truly serves students.

MTSU is already the state’s most efficient producer of graduates for Tennessee and a tremendous investment for the state! Part of the reason is that everyone at MTSU—every dean, every professor, every secretary, every technical support person, every groundskeeper—feels that student success is their job. And that’s what enables us to better retain and graduate students.

MTSU Mag: Thank you, Mr. President.