Three months of progress (Employee email) - The University of Tulsa
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Three months of progress (Employee email)

Colleagues –

I hope that you are settling in to the new semester. As I finish my first three months on the job as president of TU, I wanted to let you know how grateful I am for your hard work and dedication to our students and to our school. Coming back to the university after a year online is not easy for anyone – faculty, staff, or students. Please have compassion and grace for the many challenges others on campus are experiencing.

Despite the hardships of COVID-19, I believe we have made lots of progress in the past three months. I would like to make a couple of announcements and alert you to some promising signs of success.

First, the personnel changes:

  • Kathy Taylor is being named the permanent dean of the Collins College of Business. Kathy has done a great job as the interim dean, and I’m pleased that she has agreed to accept the role as the permanent dean.
  • Jennifer Bennett, currently interim chief of staff, is being named to that same position permanently.
  • Tom Adelson has been named chief innovation officer, where he will provide advice about rapidly emerging ed-tech programs.
  • Dr. Jennifer Airey is being named interim vice provost for faculty affairs. In this role, she will be replacing Dr. Elizabeth Smith, who will return to the faculty on Oct. 31.

Many of these names are familiar to you, even if their title or role has changed.

More broadly, I am in the process of meeting with every academic department. I have just begun this effort, but I have already learned a lot from these discussions, and I look forward to making my way around campus. In these meetings, I have no agenda other than to hear from you. Of course, you can always schedule individual meetings using my calendar, or you can call or text my phone. I want to hear your ideas, hopes, and concerns. I appreciate the time many departments have already spent with me.

Recruiting more students is essential. To that end, we have completely re-organized our recruiting efforts, and completed applications are up 46% year to date. That’s very good news and a sign that our increased ambition is finding increased success. But, of course, we need to get the students to choose TU from among the other schools to which they are accepted. Much work remains, but we’re off to a great start.

We announced last week our job guarantee, which we believe will attract students (and parents!). We are working to communicate consistently and persuasively with applicants, advertising our unique programs in engineering, science, social sciences, business, and the humanities. TU needs everyone to act as a recruiter. This could be as simple as spreading the good word about the great things happening at TU; others of you might be asked to talk to prospective students or parents.

We are also looking for new ways to retain students who enroll at TU. I have established a working group that monitors at-risk students. We are re-organizing our advisers and success coaches, building on best practices of other universities. This is an unprecedented effort that is, truly, a model for the nation, as it integrates predictive analytics, curricular reform, case management, survey data, and much more. I have set lofty retention and graduation rates for TU, and I believe we are now prepared to achieve these goals.

In all of these efforts, we are using data analytics, a project led by Dr. Victor Soe, to improve processes, services, and projects at TU. Dr. Soe’s work has already had a major impact on recruitment and retention, and we are just getting started. Better use of data is critical to improved operational execution. We are trying to ensure that everyone at TU is trained to access the data that is collected by the university, and I encourage you to reach out to Dr. Soe if you would like assistance in searching the Tableau database.

We are making progress in our search for a new provost. Interviews with candidates (on Zoom) begin in the next few weeks. I hope to announce a new provost by the conclusion of the first semester. I have also chosen a new dean, Oren Griffin, for our College of Law. Dean Griffin is the perfect leader to take the law school to greater heights.

We are beginning to recruit in the Middle East and China. I am hopeful we can begin to re-establish a pipeline of international students to TU. I am also developing plans to greatly increase our study abroad programs. In a global world, we must be a global campus.

Finally, we continue to implement the strategic plan. Progress is being made on every pillar of that plan. TU is increasing its engagement with the City of Tulsa. TU is building out its cyber programs with new undergraduate and graduate degrees. TU is working with state and federal leaders to receive funding for energy transition research. TU is focusing on student success. This is our mission: excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public impact.

There is much, much, more that I could talk about, but I hope you feel confident and hopeful that a better future is close at hand.

Thank you for placing your trust in me. I look forward to continuing this momentum and to seeing so many of you at our TU Homecoming events this week.