Priorities and Perspectives

Priorities and Perspectives

Five Minutes with the President

Some members of the University community would like to change MTSU’s name to the University of Middle Tennessee, believing that taking the “State” out of the name would boost MTSU’s prestige.  It’s not a new idea.  What is your position?

As we approach our centennial, there is a natural focus on the progress that MTSU has made during its 100 years of existence.  It speaks well of some of our alumni, students, and friends of this University that they have raised the issue of a potential name change.  I view this conversation very positively.  It is an expression of pride that our supporters have in this University.

It is important that we put this discussion of the name change into perspective.  We must consider many of the other issues facing the University, from the financial challenges that are a result of the economy to our commitment to respond positively to the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010.  The state has identified the act as its priority for higher education.  So, the question becomes, where do we put our energies?

My position is that I am listening to the various voices on this issue, as well as many other issues.  I think it’s a healthy debate to have.  I encourage our alums and supporters to take into consideration all the implications of such a move.

Wouldn’t such a decision require consideration -and approval- beyond our campus?

A change would, in fact, require a legislative action.  That’s part of looking at it from a comprehensive point of view and making sure we understand all the implications.  For example, our number-one need before the General Assembly and the new gubernatorial administration is to secure finding for the Science Building, which would replace our current, inadequate facilities.  I would suggest that the Science Building is more deserving of the immediate attention of our state’s leadership.

We should also consider that, over the past few years, we have achieved a significant amount of regional and national recognition.  Independent outlets such as Forbes, the Princeton Review, and U.S. News & World Report have recognized us as a great university and a great value.  Those are external confirmations of the success -and we did all of that as Middle Tennessee State University.  That’s not to say that changing the name wouldn’t further help the University.  But let’s remember we have made significant progress over the years as MTSU.

The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 connects state funding levels to graduation rates.  What is MTSU doing to fulfill the act?  Is the act equitable?

Our University, faculty, staff, and administrators are very supportive of the goals of this reform initiative.  We do have some concerns about implementation of the new formula and how will it affect MTSU long term.  And we have expressed our concerns to both [the] Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Notwithstanding, however, we will continue working with THEC, the TBR, and the state to monitor the financial impact of these changes on our University.  Our intent is to achieve a fair and balanced consideration that recognizes how successful we’ve been in the last 10 years in the number of graduates we’ve produced for the middle Tennessee region.  And we are particularly proud that 78 percent of our alumni live in Tennessee, which illustrates vividly the role we play in providing a quality, educated workforce for the entire state.

We recognized the need to focus on retention and graduation rates even before the act came to pass.  Our University College, formed last year, is helping us better coordinate the services we offer to keep students on track. The new college has proved to be a good fit within the priorities set forward in the act.  It has been stellar in its outreach, particularly with adult students and veterans, whose access or persistence in higher education is often challenged by family, work, and other demands.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President. MTSU