Student Success

In recent years, MTSU’s focus has been squarely on student success—meaning helping students overcome obstacles, stay enrolled in classes, and earn college degrees. Those goals are in perfect alignment with the state’s formula for funding that emphasizes graduation over sheer enrollment and with Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive for 55 initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with degrees to 55 percent.

In 2013, I announced a major initiative—the MTSU Quest for Student Success—designed to ensure that every student who comes to MTSU with the drive to achieve would be met with the best instruction from excellent professors who care about their success. As part of the Quest, University faculty and staff members provide extra support and assistance when our students encounter unexpected difficulties or when roadblocks arise that negatively affect their persistence toward graduation.

The data bears out that we are excelling in the areas of retention and graduation in the past few years. Here are eleven fresh updates on our student success efforts.

1 REBOUND, our homegrown intervention for freshman students who achieved below a 2.0 grade point average their first semester, received a Models of Excellence award from a national organization (University Business). The program was also exclusively featured in an article published by Academic Impressions, a leading news source for higher education, with a subscriber base of 60,000.

2 The Scholars Academy continues its history of outstanding successes in serving at-risk students. The program has grown from an initial 30 students to 113 in 2014 and then 168 in 2015. In fall 2016, we are on track to enroll at least 350 students. A total of 85 percent of the students that started in the fall 2014 cohort were retained to fall 2015. This compares to an overall freshmen retention rate of 73 percent.

MTSU Free Tutoring

Tutoring opportunities can be found all over campus, and an ambitious new tutoring space in Walker Library is available.

3 Free tutoring was offered for 187 courses for fall 2015, representing 24 disciplines.  In this past semester alone, students spent 7,089 hours in tutoring! A recent internal study shows: Students that received tutoring were retained at 14 percentage points higher (77.78 percent) than those in the comparative group that did not receive tutoring (63.89 percent); juniors that received tutoring were retained at 100 percent, which is 41 percentage points higher than those in the comparative group who did not and retained at 58.93 percent; and the 79.17 percent retention rate for sophomores that received tutoring was nearly 10 percentage points higher than those that received no tutoring and had a retention rate of 69.79 percent.

4 Through the work of faculty and staff from across campus, a total of 30 Raider Learning Communities were offered for fall 2015. A careful assessment was made of RLC outcomes by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Policy and Research. Among the findings, there was a 3.3 percentage increase in persistence for RLC participants as compared to non-participants.

5 We continue to make great progress in improving success rates for new freshmen. In fall 2013, freshman retention was 68.2 percent. In fall 2014, the freshmen retention rate increased to 70.2 percentage. And, in fall 2015, MTSU’s retention rate for new freshmen, 73.2 percent, reached the highest level in at least the past 15 years. The improvement in freshman retention between fall 2014 and fall 2015, 3.0 percentage points, was the largest one-year increase observed at MTSU in at least the past 15 years.

6 In October 2015, MTSU was presented with the Data Driven Impact Award by the Education Advisory Board, a consulting group specializing in student success. MTSU was one of three universities to receive an award. In MTSU’s case, the award was in recognition of the University’s use of data to inform decisions that improve the success of students. Considerable progress continues to be made in implementing and applying technology to support our emphasis on advising. In October 2014, MTSU launched the EAB SSC predictive analytics system. Soon thereafter, MTSU became recognized as a national leader in utilization of the system. On March 10, 2016, the advising platform was significantly upgraded to SSC Campus. Advisors quickly began applying new features in the system to serve all students, but especially at-risk students. Many faculty have been introduced to the system, with a goal to ensure that all faculty have access and understand basic features by the close of the 2016–17 academic year. In August 2016, phase II of the system will be implemented, which places all advisors and students on a common scheduling system. And work is underway for launch of phase III of the system in January 2017, when tutoring will become an integrated part of the platform.

7 MTSU continues to receive national attention for its student success efforts. In recent weeks and months, articles about MTSU’s Quest for Student Success have appeared in USA Today, EDUCAUSE, Inside Higher Education, Academic Impressions, Education Dive, NerdWallet, and eCampus News.

8 Because of student success accomplishments, MTSU representatives have been invited to present at or participate in professional conferences, including SXSWedu, Austin, Texas, March 2016; iPASS2 at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, June 2016; ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, July 2016; at the invitation of the Lumina Foundation, Indianapolis, December 2015; as a panelist at EDUCAUSE, sponsored by the Gates Foundation, Indianapolis, October 2015; and at the invitation of the Gates Foundation, Seattle, September 2015.

9 MTSU has been selected as one of five institutions to be profiled by Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) for best practices in implementing student success programs. A film producer and crew spent two days on the MTSU campus in April 2016 interviewing more than a dozen administrators, faculty, and staff for the project. In another project, APLU also selected MTSU as one of a select number of institutions to be featured as a National Case Study for Effective Use of Data to Improve Student Outcomes.

10 In the past six months,MTSU has been visited by representatives from six colleges and universities interested in best practices in implementing student success programs.

11 Through the work of faculty and other University leaders, a total of 21 sections of Supplemental Instruction (SI) courses will be piloted in fall 2016. Supplemental Instruction is a leading educational best practice that provides students with additional support, typically in courses where many students experience difficulties.


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

True Blue Tour

As the University welcomes students to campus for a successful Fall 2016, the admissions department is already looking forward to Fall 2017. The recruitment staff
are on the road meeting with students in their communities. The annual True Blue Tour will highlight these fall recruitment activities. This year’s tour boasts 11 stops, an increase from last year, to include a visit to Louisville, Kentucky. University administrators, deans, student services staff, and student leaders, as well as area alumni, will be joining me to welcome prospective students and share information about the admissions process, financial aid, scholarships, and new academic
programs. Students will have the opportunity to learn more about what it means to be
True Blue!2016 True Blue Tour Stops

Tour stops in Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky will emphasize opportunities for out-of-state students to qualify for in-state tuition rate through participation in the Academic Common Market or the Regional Scholars program. Students who live in participating states and plan to pursue academic majors not offered in their home states, or students whose high schools are in a county within a 250-mile radius of MTSU and achieve qualifying college placement scores can be eligible to receive tuition savings.

Campus Tour Experience

As each academic year begins and we welcome our newest class of students, we also take time to review what worked well for our successful recruitment cycle. Surveys show that the most influential recruitment activity impacting a student’s enrollment decision is the campus visit. Since the start of Fall 2015, more than 15,000 students and guests have come through the admissions campus tour program. That is a remarkable increase of more than 1,000 prospective students and 2,000 additional guests visiting campus compared to the previous year. In order to make the visit more meaningful, the admissions department is enhancing its tour program to create a Tour Experience for each student visiting the University. Upgraded multimedia presentations, along with hands-on exploration,
social media integration, and student-led walk-ing tours, will better enable prospective students and guests to
take a closer look at MTSU.

New Director


Friends Fady Abdelnour, left, 18, and Mary Sadek, right, 19, both of Nashville and Glencliff High School graduates, visit with Linda Olsen, the new director of undergraduate recruitment at MTSU during CUSTOMS freshman orientation June 1 in Tucker Theatre.

It is my pleasure to “welcome home” Linda Olsen (’98) to serve as the undergraduate director of admissions and recruitment. She brings a background in high school counseling and college admissions and student services administration. Linda comes to MTSU from Eastern Florida State College after serving as director of admissions and advising for the past eight years. A doctoral candidate with the University of Central Florida, she has returned to Tennessee to support the enrollment and student growth of her alma mater. Leading an outstanding team of energetic recruitment staff,
she stands ready to guide students through the admissions process toward
successful degree completion.

Blue Bag Campaign

Students have reported feeling welcomed when visiting MTSU. In an effort to expand this sense of belonging, the admissions department is launching the True Blue Bag Campaign. Every campus visitor will be given a distinguishable blue bag upon check-in for their campus tour. With these bags, our campus visitors will be very visible, not only in tour groups, but also as they explore the campus on their own time.



Please take time to greet our guests when you notice the True Blue Bags.  Welcome them to our beautiful campus and share why you are proud to be True Blue.


Fall Preview Days are scheduled for upcoming Saturdays on Sept. 24 and Nov. 5. Each day begins at 8 a.m. in the Student Union Building.

A New Focus

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with several updates regarding MTSU’s work in preparing for the implementation of the recently authorized FOCUS Act by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam. As you know, in December 2015, Gov. Haslam announced the next step in his “Drive to 55” education initiative intended to raise the number of Tennesseans possessing secondary degrees to 55% in order to meet future workforce demands. The six state universities that have historically operated under the auspices of the Tennessee Board of Regents—a group that includes MTSU—were removed from direct control of the TBR. New governing boards specific to each university will now be created or appointed and will have local control over institutional operations such as tuition rates.

On June 29, I attended an informative meeting of the FOCUS Act Transition Task Force, chaired by the governor, where he presented the timeline for implementation of the new governance structure. Here is a summary:


Late September 2016: The governor plans to announce his appointments to the six boards of trustees for the former TBR universities (MTSU, Austin Peay, East Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee State, and Tennessee Tech);

Fall 2016: Faculty Senates at MTSU and the five other former TBR universities will be asked to develop processes for selection of faculty members for the boards;

October 2016: MTSU and the five other former TBR institutions transmit Substantive Change Review proposals to our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The body requires such notification when there is a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution;

February–March 2017: The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) presents and reviews appropriation, capital, and tuition recommendations to legislative committees. Also, during this time period, THEC will work with the UT and TBR boards, as well as the six boards that are forming, to understand campus revenue needs and prepare binding tuition recommendations;

Late March 2017: The state will offer professional development sessions for the members of the six new boards of trustees;

April 2017: The six new boards of trustees will meet for the first time.


June 2016 signing of the FOCUS Act

With regards to our internal preparation for the new governance changes, our campus FOCUS Act Implementation Transition Team, divisional working groups, and subcommittees have been busy reviewing MTSU policies and TBR policies and guidelines to determine which ones will be applicable subsequent to the transition to a local board of trustees. As revisions are proposed by the MTSU Transition Team, they will be posted on a new FOCUS Policy web page. As with our current policy review process, policies reviewed by the FOCUS Act Transition Team will be emailed to the campus for review. This began July 15. The normal 30-day comment period will be expanded in order to provide faculty with adequate time for review upon their return to the campus. Thus, any policies put out for review prior to August 26 will have a comment deadline of September 25. Thereafter, it will revert to the standard 30-day period.

Finally, in early June, several MTSU administrators joined me in a meeting with Dr. Russ Deaton, THEC’s acting executive director. I was pleased to review THEC’s priorities during this transition and its commitment to a smooth changeover.

I believe this new proposal advanced by the governor and the corresponding new level of independence for the former TBR universities is truly bold and potentially transformational for MTSU. I look forward to learning and exploring the opportunities it could provide towards our mission of ensuring student success and providing more graduates for the state’s workforce.

January 16, 2014

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to sidney.mcphee@mtsu.edu.

January 16, 2014 [ pdf ] 3.6 MB

  • President’s Greeting
  • Construction Projects
  • Murphy Center
  • Blue Print Solutions
  • Tobacco Free
  • Buchanan Fellows
  • Budget Overview
  • Updates & Achievements
  • MTSU Magazine
  • Student Life
  • Recruiting Efforts
  • Tuition Discount
  • Graduate Studies
  • Athletics
  • Academic Affairs
  • Fundraising
  • Inclement Weather

August 23, 2013

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to sidney.mcphee@mtsu.edu.

August 23,  2013 [pdf]

  • President’s Greeting
  • Student Success Initiative
  • Enhancements to www.mtsu.edu
  • Academic Announcements
  • Enrollment Management Update
  • True Blue Respect
  • Student Life
  • Construction Update
  • One-Stop Student Service
  • MT Athletics
  • Fundraising and Development Update
  • Budget and Salary Overview
  • Tobacco Free Reminders

January 17, 2013

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to smcphee@mtsu.edu.

January 17, 2013 [view the pdf]

  • President’s Greeting
  • Budget Overview
  • Student Life
  • Academic Affairs
  • Tobacco Free
  • Security Guards
  • Pride Points
  • Athletics
  • Technology Survey
  • International Affairs
  • Development Update
  • MTSU Magazine
  • Tuition Discount
  • Inclement Weather
  • Closing

August 24, 2012

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to smcphee@mtsu.edu.

August 24, 2012 [view the pdf]

  • President’s Greeting
  • Centennial Recap
  • Student Success
  • Fundraising Campaign
  • New Deans and Chairs
  • New Student Union Building
  • Budget
  • Campus Construction
  • Athletics
  • International Affairs
  • True Blue
  • Academic Affairs
  • Technology Update

January 12, 2012

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to smcphee@mtsu.edu.

January 12, 2012 [view the pdf]

  • President’s Greeting
  • Enrollment Forecast
  • Budget and Salary Overview
  • Fundraising and Development
  • Campus Technology
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Task Force on Nonviolence
  • Tobacco-Free
  • Capital Projects
  • Science Building
  • Athletics
  • Winter Weather Alerts

August 29, 2011

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to smcphee@mtsu.edu.

August 29, 2011 [view the pdf]

  • President’s Greeting
  • Centennial Celebration
  • Budget and Salary Overview
  • Student Life
  • Capital Projects
  • Science Building
  • Athletics
  • Fundraising and Development
  • Campus Technology
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Task Force on Nonviolence
  • Admissions Forecast
  • Reaccredidation
  • Changes to Advising
  • Tobacco-Free

January 13, 2011

President Sidney McPhee welcomes the MTSU community every semester with a campus newsletter designed to keep people informed about matters affecting the University. Comments should be emailed to smcphee@mtsu.edu.

January 13, 2011 [view the pdf]

  • Welcome back for the New Year!
  • MTSU set to celebrate Centennial in 2011
  • Admissions Forecasts Another Record in Enrollment
  • 1% to 3% budget cuts likely this year
  • Two buildings on track to open this year
  • No word yet on state salary raise, bonus
  • ongoing Campus Construction
  • Federal support ‘significant’ to campus
  • Fund raising steady despite slow economy
  • Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010
  • Raiders win in sports, athletics
  • New college unites ‘service’ disciplines
  • Safety matters
  • Employee charitable campaign sets record
  • News of Note
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