Student Success efforts earns national media attention

Our work on the Quest for Student Success attracted the attention of the Chronicle on Higher Education, which featured MTSU in a March 2015 feature story on the best practices of retention. It was included in the print and digital editions of the Chronicle, as well as in a special Trends section it produces.

Chronicle Article Reprint

Quest for Student Success Update

MTSU’s Quest for Student Success initiative is a series of reforms launched last year to increase retention and graduation through changes such as academic course redesigns, enhanced advising, and new student data-tracking software.

We developed this program to complement and reinforce Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, which seeks to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with postsecondary degrees or certificates to 55 percent.

One component of the Quest unveiled late last year is the Student Success Advantage plan, which has the tagline “Graduate in Four and Get More.”

The plan will supplement HOPE Lottery Scholarships by $1,000 for incoming students who seek a four-year degree and stay on track to graduate on time. Our University will provide a $500 supplemental scholarship to students receiving the HOPE Scholarship after each of their first two years. Students must remain eligible for the HOPE Scholarship to get the award from MTSU.

Under the plan, we will provide what we call a Finish-Line Scholarship to graduating seniors that will return any tuition increases incurred during the four-year period of their studies.

We also recently eased eligibility requirements for five major scholarships. For example, Transfer Academic Scholarships are now guaranteed for students from all Tennessee community colleges.

In addition, even in a time of reduced state funding for higher education, we made a major investment in student success by reallocating money to hire 47 more academic advisors, who will help students maximize their investment and our incentives by providing more support, guidance, and encouragement to help them stay on track to graduate on time.

There is already evidence that the Quest is paying off. It’s no small feat that MTSU achieved increases in retention in fall 2014 that included an increase of 2 percent in the retention rate for new freshmen and a more than 1 percent increase in the retention of all students, both undergraduate and graduate.

Another example of how we are aiming for good results is the REBOUND program, which is led by Vincent Windrow, director of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs. REBOUND is targeted to improve retention rates for 564 fall 2014 freshmen who ended the semester with GPAs lower than 2.0. Traditionally, only about 20 percent of such students would return for the next semester. Emails and letters have been sent to invite these students to join the program. We expect that as many as 150 students will participate.

Early indicators are positive for persistence rates in this reform, as well. We’ll know more on the first day of class and on census day (Feb. 3).

Fiscal Year 2015–2016 Budget Overview

Fiscal Year 2014–15 was the first year of full implementation of the state’s outcomes-based funding formula as called for in the Complete College Tennessee Act. Under the act, productivity, rather than enrollment, drives state funding distribution.

MTSU’s 2015–2016 outcomes formula adjustment will result in a state funding decrease of $1,285,900. MTSU had received an increase for the current fiscal year of $1,252,000. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) voted at its November meeting to propose new state funding totaling $25.7 million for the formula institutions. MTSU’s share of the THEC-proposed new funding would be $2,533,200. Thus, MTSU’s state funding could actually increase by $1,247,300.

THEC also voted to recommend $9,840,000 in Capital Maintenance funds for MTSU projects for Fiscal Year 2015– 2016. The projects include central plant controls updates, generator replacement, automation system control panel replacements for several buildings, domestic water-sewer systems updates, exterior repairs for several buildings, Jones Hall plumbing updates, and campus-wide sidewalk repairs. No MTSU Capital Project (building construction) was proposed for new funding.

THEC’s recommendations have been submitted to the Department of Finance and Administration for consideration in the proposed state budget that Gov. Bill Haslam will be submitting to the legislature in the coming weeks. At that point, we will have more information regarding our likely 2015–16 state appropriations.

Construction Update

Many renovations of campus buildings are underway or were recently completed. Here is a brief update on recent and current projects.

Cope Administration Building. The renovation project inside Cope is now substantially complete. The renovation addresses the need for adequate administrative space following the move of Admissions, Records, Financial Aid, and the Bursar’s Office into the new Student Services and Admissions Center. The scope of the renovation included the relocation of the President’s Office from the first floor to the second floor and the Provost’s Office moving into the vacated space. The Business Office was relocated to both sides of the first floor, and improvements were made to restrooms, lighting, signage, and the building’s infrastructure. The relocation of Financial Aid will allow the Information Technology Division offices to expand on the second floor of Cope.

Davis Science and Wiser-Patten Science. The project-design documents are complete, and construction is expected to begin this month. Completion is planned by fall 2016. A connector between the two buildings will create a new central entrance for both and will provide ADA accessibility within both buildings. Programs benefiting most from this renovation include Geosciences, Physics, Anthropology, and Forensic Science.

Murphy Center has had extensive renovations to its restrooms, lighting, and acoustics, and it has a new roof and HVAC replacement equipment. The $12.64 million project is substantially complete.

McFarland Building Renovation. The building has been renovated to accommodate the relocation of the Photography Department from the existing Photography Building. The project is substantially complete and occupancy is planned for early spring 2015. The existing Photography Building is planned for demolition in spring 2015, allowing an open green space between Davis Science and Bragg Mass Communication.

Bell Street Center Renovation. A notice to proceed with construction on this project is expected within the next month, and completion is planned by early 2016. Occupants will include graduate business studies for Jennings A. Jones College of Business, University College, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, and the brand-new Center for Chinese Music and Culture. In addition, there will be lighting improvements in the garage and new lighting in the surface parking lots as well as new fencing around the green space.

Flight Simulator Building. This project is designed to house new and existing flight simulators for the Aerospace Department. Construction is anticipated in early spring and is planned for completion by early 2016. The facility will be located at Murfreesboro Airport.

Admissions Efforts

We continue to work extremely hard to ensure that we are attracting the best and the brightest new undergraduate students from across the state of Tennessee and the region. When I get a chance to personally meet these prospective students, I am confident in telling them that if they come to MTSU they will get the attention of faculty and staff that they will need to be successful in college.

To that end, regarding our admissions efforts, we have recently added the following:

  • Saturday campus tours
  • A partnership with iLEAD ACT Prep to integrate MTSU admissions information and general college preparation information
  • MTSU nights at various high schools (Shelby, Davidson, Williamson Counties) and in specific recruitment areas
  • Application workshops in January

In the near future, we will

  • host admitted student events (first on Feb. 9 with more dates pending) in specific recruitment areas for students from La Vergne and Cane Ridge High Schools and from the Nashville School of the Arts;
  • offer Transfer Campus Tours on Feb. 13, March 13, and April 10;
  • host a Community College Transfer Summit in February; and
  • host Paint the Community Colleges True Blue events at six campuses statewide (Columbia State, Chattanooga State, Motlow main and Smyrna, Nashville State, and Vol State) in March.

Athletic Highlights

Blue Raider sports teams had another exciting and productive year in 2014. Since our University accepted an invitation to join Conference USA in November 2012, Blue Raider squads have consistently attended postseason play, won championships, and achieved C-USA All-Academic team status. Here are just some of the many recent athletic and academic highlights achieved by MTSU student-athletes.

Along with a bowl-eligible football team for the fifth time in the last six years, MTSU had a women’s cross country team that won its first-ever conference championship; tournaments hosted by both men’s and women’s golf; and a soccer team that produced its 11th winning season in the last 12 years.

During the fall 2014 semester, 11 of 15 teams had semester team GPAs of 3.0 or higher, 104 student-athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+), and 32 had perfect 4.0 GPAs. Overall, 191 of 343 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (56 percent).

Five student-athletes made the Conference USA All-Academic Team during the fall season (below). They were Jordan Parker (football), Kelsey Branstetter (soccer), Kelsey Brouwer (soccer), Tori Hawkins (soccer), and Shadrack Matelong (cross country).

In nine years under Coach Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee football has achieved bowl-eligibility six times (including five in the last six years).

The Blue Raider football team finished second in the C-USA East Division for the second straight season with a 5–3 record. All three losses were on the road, and two were to eventual bowl teams.

Conference USA’s 2014 All-Conference football teams, as selected by the 13 head coaches, included nine MT players: safety Kevin Byard (1st Team), offensive lineman Darius Johnson (2nd Team), offensive lineman Isaiah Anderson (2nd Team), linebacker T. T. Barber (2nd

Team), running back Reggie Whatley (Honorable Mention), running back Shane Tucker (Honorable Mention), defensive end Shubert Bastien (Honorable Mention), defensive tackle Pat McNeil (Honorable Mention), and linebacker DJ Sanders (All-Freshman Team).

Linebacker Leighton Gasque finished his Blue Raider career with 22.0 quarterback sacks to rank second all-time at Middle Tennessee.

Safety Kevin Byard led C-USA with six interceptions, giving him 15 for his career so far. That ranks second all-time at Middle Tennessee and is first among all active NCAA players. In the 2015 campaign, Byard will be chasing the Blue Raider career record of 17 set by James Griffin (1979–82).

Middle Tennessee became just the 31st NCAA Division I women’s basketball program to reach 800 all-time victories with its 76–68 win at UAB on January 4.

On November 23, Middle Tennessee was at Ole Miss for a historic women’s basketball game: for the first time in Division I women’s basketball history, a father and son coached against one another. Coach Rick Insell faced off against his son, Coach Matt Insell of the Rebels. (MT won by six.)

Middle Tennessee’s senior forward Jacquez Rozier (from Waynesboro, Georgia) has been nominated for the 2015 Allstate Good Works Team, announced by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Rozier, the lone four-year senior on the Blue Raider squad, has logged nearly 50 hours of community service since his arrival on campus. This prestigious community service award recognizes distinguished student-athletes who have demonstrated commitment to enriching the lives of others and contributing to the greater good of their communities.

Volleyball’s Chelsea Ross enjoyed a strong fall campaign, earning First-Team All-Conference honors after finishing the year second in kills with 280. The junior also won the C-USA Spirit of Service Award, which recognizes significant community service, academic standing, and participation in their sports.

Middle Tennessee senior soccer player Kelsey Branstetter (pictured on page 18) garnered CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District honors. Branstetter holds a perfect 4.00 GPA as a double major in Athletic Training and Exercise Science.

On November 1, the women’s cross country team won its first-ever conference title by capturing the Conference USA Championship at Eagle Point Cross country Course in Denton, Texas. Coach Dean Hayes earned his 49th career conference title in his 50th year, and Assistant Coach Keith Vroman was named C-USA Coach of the Year.

Hannah Maina represented Middle Tennessee at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, in November. Maina became just the second woman in Middle Tennessee history to reach the NCAA Championships.

Quest for Student Success Update

Higher education is just the latest arena facing a series of disruptive forces that could, on the one hand, lead to great innovation and transformation or, on the other, lead to significant losses in enrollment, funding, and cultural influence. A recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education said there is a growing call for innovation that supports greater student success.

Nothing is more important than ensuring the academic success of students. MTSU’s faculty and administration have come together to respond to these challenges by putting ourselves under a microscope as we attempt to better understand why some students succeed and what barriers to success get in the way of those who struggle.

Even with statewide and national accolades for its efficiency in creating college graduates, MTSU’s continued success depends on its ability to help students earn college degrees. These students are our responsibility, and we must discover and develop new and innovative ways to help them be successful, instead of whining about who they are. At MTSU, from a staff and faculty perspective, we simply must maintain and grow our student-centered culture. If students become an interruption in your day, you’re in the wrong business.

MTSU already has changed some administrative processes and policies that created roadblocks for students. One of these changes allows students to register or reenroll with an account balance of $200 or less. Previously, there was an across-the-board ban on registration for students owing as little as $5 to the University! Additionally, a campus-wide task force’s discovery of an almost 40 percent failure or withdrawal rate in some general education courses—despite solid high school GPAs and ACT scores—has led to the redesign of seven courses in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

We’ve also reviewed our recruitment and enrollment strategies, resulting in a two percent increase in this year’s freshman class. This 2013–14 freshman class also showed an increase in composite ACT scores and high school GPAs over the previous year. We’ve expanded scholarship funds for groups that have traditionally been under-supported, and we’ve gone to the Tennessee Board of Regents to request policy changes to allow more flexibility in registration and payment policies.

Additionally, we’ve surveyed students who failed to reenroll and analyzed their responses regarding factors that prevented their persistence. We’ve significantly expanded our Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Research group to provide better data about student retention, graduation, and success. Every academic college and every administrative division has conducted an internal review and participated in a series of hearings to outline new plans to help more students achieve success in the classroom and to graduate. We’ve begun to review grade distribution reports to better understand those courses that seem to have exceptionally large numbers of students not achieving the grade of C or better, so that we can consider curricular innovations to improve learning. We’ve also analyzed the first data sets coming out of the new funding formula under the Complete College Tennessee Act to see where our strengths lie and where we have opportunities to make improvements that may enhance our funding.

Last, we will be opening a one-stop shop for student enrollment services this spring. We have begun posting midterm grades for the first time in many years, giving students additional feedback to help them improve where their performance is lacking. A consolidated tutoring center is also being developed to provide support for students in all majors.

I recently announced a major initiative—the MTSU Quest for Student Success—that will integrate these efforts into a single coherent approach for the future. The plan, advanced by Provost Brad Bartel and endorsed by me, is designed to make sure that every student who comes to MTSU with the drive to achieve will be met with the best instruction from excellent professors who care about their success.

The Quest for Success lays out our ambitious vision to innovate for increased student success in three key areas:

  • Recruiting students who value academic success
  • Enhancing the academic experience for students by implementing innovation in curriculum across all disciplines and underscoring the role of quality advising in student success
  • Championing enhancements in administrative processes and eliminating barriers to student success

MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is a great example of the work we are already doing to promote and improve student success, retention, and graduation. The department has implemented more student-friendly teaching practices for introductory courses and is using high-achieving undergrads as learning assistants for classmates in those courses. The department’s reward—in addition to fewer failing grades, more physics and astronomy majors, and more graduates—was a $20,000 check as the first recipient of the President’s Award for Exceptional Departmental Initiatives for Student Academic Success, given last fall.

This is our time for transformation—our time to seize the opportunity to innovate, transform, and lead the way in creating a new model for higher education. Instead of spinning our wheels focusing on the many external factors affecting higher education that are beyond our capacity to control, MTSU is turning its energies and talents toward tackling the internal factors over which we have direct influence and which we know can positively affect student learning.

Read more about the plan here: http://mtsunews.com/mtsu-student-success-reforms.

Construction Projects Update

MTSU is an exciting place to work and study, largely because so many renovations and new buildings are underway, taking shape, or opening for use. Here is the latest on recent and current projects.

Construction continues on MTSU's new Science Building

Construction continues on MTSU’s new Science Building

Science Building

Construction on MTSU’s new $147 million Science Building, which began in May 2012, remains on schedule, with move-in set for summer and fall 2014 and classes opening in spring 2015.

Student Services and Admissions Center

Construction remains on schedule for the new Student Services and Admissions Center east of the new Student Union and adjacent to Campus Recreation. The new $16 million building will relocate all functions related to Admissions, Records and Enrollment, Financial Aid, Scheduling, the Bursar’s Office, and also house the new MT One Stop to the new center of campus. It will serve as a starting point for campus tours and as the primary visitors’ center for prospective students and their families. The building includes a bridge from the new student parking garage through the Student Services and Admissions Center and extending across Blue Raider Drive to the second-floor ballroom level of the Student Union. Construction began in spring 2012 and is scheduled to be completed for move-in during spring and summer 2014. The building and the reconstruction of our service model for enrollment management will completely change the way students experience the University, significantly decrease frustration, and increase students’ ability to successfully continue toward graduation.

Football Field Turf Replacement

The replacement of the field turf will begin this month and will be completed this summer.

Parking and Transportation

The widening of the Champion Way entrance to campus, the widening of Lightning Way, and the addition of a third rotary at the intersection of Champion and Lightning Way will complete major entrance and primary roadway improvements. All improvements are designed to improve traffic flow in and out of campus, improve shuttle bus schedules, provide bike lanes around the campus academic core, and improve pedestrian safety with enhanced crosswalks and lighting. Champion Way and the rotary are scheduled for completion in late spring 2014, and Lightning Way is scheduled for completion in fall 2014.

Cope Administration Building

A $3 million renovation project inside Cope Administration Building will begin this summer after designated offices relocate to the new Student Services and Admissions Center. Among the changes will be the relocation of the President’s Office from the first floor to the second floor, and the Provost’s Office moving into the vacated space. The Business Office will be relocated to both sides of the first floor, and improvements will also be made to restrooms, lighting, and signage. The relocation of Financial Aid to the Student Services and Admissions Center will also allow Information Technology Division offices to expand on the second floor.

McFarland Building Renovation

Once the Student Services and Admissions Center is opened in fall 2014, the Photography Department, now located north of the new Science Building, will move to the McFarland Building following a $2 million renovation. The old Photography Building will then be razed.

LRC 101: College of Education Professional Development Center

Construction is scheduled to begin next month and be completed this summer on a new development center that will allow the College of Education to host up to 150 K–12 teachers in a comfortable, professional setting where they can focus on the newest methodologies and standards in teaching.

Interior of the Bell Street Medical Center

Interior of the Bell Street Medical Center

Bell Street Center Renovation

The design of a $6 million building renovation is underway. Future occupants include Graduate Business Studies for the Jennings A. Jones College of Business; the University College; the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Research; the Tennessee STEM Education Center; the Aquatic Therapy Center in the Health and Human Performance Department; the Center for Counseling and Psych Services; and general classroom and training space. Construction will begin by fall 2014, and move in is expected by summer 2015.

Flight Simulator Building

Design is underway for a $700,000 flight simulator building at the Murfreesboro Airport. The building will support the Aerospace Department’s flight training coursework.

Murphy Center Renovation

The original four buildings of Middle Tennessee Normal School are still in use after 100 years. But, for many, Murphy Center may hold more memories than any other building on campus. Now in its fifth decade as a multipurpose arena, efforts are under way to renovate it and ensure that it continues to be a vibrant part of campus life.

The renovations, which began earlier this month, include updated bathrooms and concessions, a new HVAC system, new arena lighting, and a new roof. The project is expected to be completed before the start of the 2014–2015 basketball season.

As with every construction project of this magnitude, there will be disruptions and complications for visitors, fans, and tenants. The project will be broken up into four stages, with each corner of the arena worked on one phase at a time. Temporary walls will be put up during the process that will limit foot traffic in certain areas. We appreciate your patience with this important renovation!

Blue Print Solutions opens for business Monday, February 3, 2014

Blue Print Solutions opens for business Monday, Feb. 3

Blue Print Solutions

With the opening this semester of the University’s first retail printing center, BLUE print Solutions, MTSU brings state-of-the-art printing capabilities to campus.

The name is quite intentional: the printing center will do more than simply fulfill customer orders. The idea is to also provide creative solutions for a wide variety of graphic arts projects.

Combined with significant upgrades in equipment at the existing Greenland Drive print shop, MTSU has now added color printing options to its black-and-white printing choices. All services are offered at highly competitive prices.

Much like its commercial counterparts, BLUE print Solutions offers an array of auxiliary services ranging from publication binding, large-format posters, passport photos, and the like.

BLUE print Solutions is focused on meeting the needs of students first and foremost, but it will also cater to the needs of faculty, staff, and the administration. It will also serve alumni and the general public.

BLUE print Solutions will also greatly enhance MTSU’s relationship with Apple Inc.—there will be an Apple retail presence in the new facility.

BLUE print Solutions is located in the Student Union and will operate seven days a week with both day and nights shifts.

Budget Overview

Fiscal year 2014–15 will be the first year of full implementation of the state’s outcomes-based funding formula as called for in the Complete College Tennessee Act. Under the act, productivity rather than enrollment drives state funding distribution.

MTSU’s 2014–2015 outcomes formula adjustment will be a state funding increase of $1.252 million. Additionally, THEC voted at its November meeting to propose new state funding totaling $29.6 million for the higher education formula institutions. MTSU’s share of the proposed new funding will be $2.961 million. Thus, MTSU’s state funding could actually increase by $4.213 million.

The commission also voted to recommend $8.69 million in capital maintenance funds for MTSU projects, which include absorption chiller/tower replacement, electrical updates and exterior repairs to several buildings, Bell Street building and central plant HVAC and control updates, campus-wide domestic water-sewer systems updates, Peck Hall HVAC updates, Jones Hall plumbing updates, and campus stormwater plans. No MTSU capital project was proposed for new capital outlay funding for 2014–15.

THEC’s recommendations have been submitted to the Department of Finance and Administration for consideration in the proposed state budget that Governor Bill Haslam will be submitting to the state legislature in the coming weeks. At that point, we will have more information regarding our likely 2014–15 state appropriations.

Recruiting Efforts

student-successWe are working very hard every day to recruit the best and the brightest students to enroll at MTSU!

We have the names of more than 24,000 Tennessee freshmen prospects in our database, which we have purchased from ACT and other vendors or culled from visits to our website and meetings with recruiters.

Last semester, we mailed more than 29,000 individual visit and search pieces to prospective students.

During our True Blue Tour around the state, our admissions team hosted 616 students and 730 parents/guests—an 84.9 percent increase over our 2012 tour.

At our counselor luncheons, we hosted 262 high school and community college counselors—a 43.1 percent increase over 2012.

At our two Fall Preview Day events, we hosted 668 students and 986 parents/guests—a 125.6 percent increase in students over 2012. (Note that we had one Preview Day in fall 2012 versus two in fall 2013.)

At our three True Blue Experience events in the fall, we hosted 152 students and 188 parents/guests—a seven percent increase in students over 2012. (Beginning Fall 2013, True Blue Experience participants were capped to allow all students to be accommodated in a computer lab used to engage students in an on-line career discovery program.)

Last fall, we hosted 4,481 prospective students and families for tours—a 24.2 percent total increase, and a 40.7 percent increase in students alone over fall 2012.

In total (counting tours, Preview Days, and True Blue Experience Days), we experienced a 39 percent increase in visitors over 2012!

This coming spring, we have scheduled the following recruiting events:

Campus tours every weekday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Friday, January 31, 2014—True Blue Experience

Monday, February 17, 2014—Honors Open House and President’s Reception

Saturday, March 22, 2014—Preview Day

March/ April, TBD—Admitted Student Day

April, TBD—True Blue Experience for Central Magnet School/middle Tennessee students

Saturday, June 7—2014 Preview Day

True Blue Experience Day gives students and their guests a closer look at MTSU and focuses on helping prospective students choose a career path while learning about MTSU.

During Preview Day, MTSU rolls out the blue carpet and gives students and their guests an in-depth look at MTSU, allowing students to tour campus and housing facilities, meet with MTSU faculty and administrators, and learn about all aspects of MTSU.