Monday, August 24, 2015

[060] McPhee hails improved MTSU retention rates in ‘State of the University’ speech

MURFREESBORO – Accentuating the positive, Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee delivered his 15th “State of the University” address before a packed house Friday, Aug. 21, at the 2015-16 Fall Faculty Meeting at Tucker Theatre.

McPhee emphasized the university’s continuing drive to improve student retention and graduation rates, symbolized by the Quest for Student Success initiative implemented by the university in the 2014-15 academic year.

“Within the first six months of implementing just two key components of the quest — a new advising model and a predictive analytics software system to better monitor student progress — encouraging increases in student persistence rates were observed,” McPhee told the several hundred faculty and staff in attendance.

McPhee noted that persistence, a measurement of the rates at which students stay in college and return for future studies, increased by 2.2 percentage points for new freshmen, 4.5 percentage points for transfers and 2.1 percentage points for sophomores.

“The quest is helping redefine and refocus our efforts and investments in classroom teaching, recruitment and advising to better meet the needs of our students,” the president said.

In fact, the advising corps impressed McPhee so much that he decided to honor the entire university advising team throughout all colleges and departments with the 2015 President’s Student Success Award.

As documented by the Office of Student Success in the six months between October 2014 and last April, advisers:
·      conducted more than 19,000 in-person discussions with students;
·      participated in more than 5,700 email or online advising sessions;
·      advised more than 700 students by phone; and
·      reached out to assist more than 12,000 students after scrutinizing their files.

In all, the president said, the advisers made more than 40,200 contacts with students during that brief initial usage period.

McPhee noted that the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities also named MTSU one of five national finalists for its Project Degree Completion Award. The honor recognizes institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion.

McPhee also praised the Division of University Advancement for making fiscal year 2015 one of the top five fundraising years in MTSU history.

Gifts to MTSU in that time period exceeded $11 million, including the establishment of an international scholarship program and major donations to the University Honors College, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences and the Blue Raider Athletic Association. 

In looking ahead, McPhee addressed upcoming work on reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which sets standards to assure academic credibility and effectiveness in higher education in the Southern states.

Representatives of the accrediting body are scheduled to visit MTSU in March 2016. In preparation for that visit, McPhee noted that MT Engage, a plan to help faculty infuse their classes with more stimulating teaching, was initiated in fall 2014. Plans are underway for a full-scale launch of MT Engage in fall 2016.

“Clearly, the university is committed to the success of every student, and we have committed considerable resources to making MTSU a success-oriented institution,” McPhee said.

That commitment includes facility upgrades, he said, noting among other projects the ongoing renovations to the Davis and Wiser-Patten science buildings and the Bell Street multipurpose building as well as the recently opened Adams Indoor Tennis Complex at Old Fort Park that will be home to Blue Raider tennis.

You can read the president's address in its entirety via PDF at

The Fall Faculty Meeting is also a time where outstanding faculty awards are presented. Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee State Historian, received the Career Achievement Award.

You can view the 2015 MTSU Foundation Awards program, which includes more details about the award winners and their work, via PDF at

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