President's Letter to Campus - Fall 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Steadman Upham, President

Dear Colleagues,

Think globally; act locally. I came across an interesting example of this maxim in a recent issue of the online edition of Science (October 26, 2006). One hundred twenty-one scientists from eight different countries (Germany, Armenia, France, U.K., South Africa, Ireland, Czech Republic, and Namibia) published an article that represented a truly global approach to the detection of TeV (1012 eV) γ-ray flux from the radio galaxy M87. The number of co-authors on this scholarly article may not be a record, but the interdisciplinary, multi-country collaboration certainly sets a contemporary standard that reflects the globalization of higher education.

I begin my fall message to the TU Family this way, because global education and research are very much on my mind these days. In addition to our efforts to infuse global perspectives into the Tulsa Curriculum and to have more TU students study abroad, we are also interested in creating connections to the best universities around the world. To this end, I have been invited by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to accompany her and eleven university presidents on an educational mission lead by the Department of State to Japan, South Korea, and China. I am hopeful that the connections made during this mid-November trip can serve as a basis for establishing faculty and student exchange relationships with select universities in these countries. Dr. Cheryl Matherly, TU’s associate dean for global education, will be following up on my contacts, and will be traveling to Asia later this academic year to further discussions on cooperative agreements and other arrangements with these universities.

Much closer to home, I have a series of very positive reports for you:

  • Our strong undergraduate enrollment this year is consistent with our planning and projections. Graduate enrollment are strengthening, especially the recruitment of international graduate students. This year the number of new international students is back to pre 9/11 strength. Importantly, the academic quality of entering Law students has risen again, mirroring the dramatic improvement in bar exam passage rates. In all, we have much to be proud of in the students who have recently joined the TU Family.

  • Our many constructions projects remain on schedule and within budget, and we are poised to break ground on the new addition to McFarlin Library in the late spring 2007.

  • Fundraising for the “quiet phase” of our capital campaign is going exceedingly well with pledges and commitments from June 1 through October 31, 2006 totaling more than $44 million. This sum includes:

  • $14,959,570 for endowed faculty positions.
  • $ 7,000,000 for Building I in the Engineering and Natural Science Complex that will be the new home of the Departments of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, and Electrical Engineering.
  • $ 6,943,500 for student scholarships and programs.
  • $ 3,000,000 for McFarlin Library and computing.
  • $ 2,000,000 for the new Performing Arts Building.
  • $ 9,775,000 for capital projects currently underway.
  • $ 374,934 for athletic programs and facilities.
  • $ 239,000 for college/department and non-endowed programs.
  • Faculty achievements continue to bring great distinction to TU, including the publication of noteworthy books, awarding of significant research funding (grant funding is currently running about $2,000,000 ahead of last year at this time), and delivery of critically acclaimed performances and exhibits.

  • The two initiatives pertaining to graduate education that I described in my recent “State of the University” address (interdisciplinary research seed grants and efforts to improve the production of Ph.D.s) have been launched, and are receiving the diligent attention of Provost Blais, Vice President Soltow and Graduate Dean Haggerty. The success of these programs is vitally important to maintaining our position as a national doctoral university.

  • Significant funds have been allocated to create new doctoral fellowships that will include a generous stipend, tuition award, and housing allowance. This new initiative, known as Bellwether Fellowship Program, will be launched and administered by the Graduate School. Details will follow shortly from Dean Haggerty. In addition, Vice President Soltow is currently awaiting a response from the faculty to his call for proposals for interdisciplinary research projects. Both of these initiatives will bolster and strengthen doctoral education at The University of Tulsa.

  • TU’s NCAA Division I fall sports programs continue to enhance the reputation and stature of the university. TU volleyball is dominating conference play, and (as I write today) boasts a 23-6 record overall, 10-3 in C-USA. Our academically acclaimed champion golfers and our nationally competitive rowing program are additional bright spots in TU’s fall sports line up. One of our men’s tennis players has won a national tournament championship, TU’s first ever. And when ESPN does a story on our football team in conjunction with their recent national broadcast of the TU-UTEP game, they chose to focus on the fact that our football players go to class on game day, something that is unheard of at other NCAA Division I schools. I might point out that we also win football games.

Our progress this fall is encouraging, yet the gains we are making are matched equally by the very significant challenges we face. First among these challenges is the university’s upcoming 10-year reaccreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission - North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCA). We are currently preparing the university’s self-study.

In working on this self-study, it is apparent that The University of Tulsa is behind in several key areas that the NCA will examine. First and foremost among these deficiencies is the university’s lack of a systematic approach to assessment of student learning.

NCA has mandated that assessment of student learning be integrated into the teaching activities of faculty, and be a part of departmental and college strategies to monitor and improve student learning outcomes. Although we measure and evaluate a wide variety of indicators on student learning, we do not have a coherent, overarching strategy to determine if we are actually delivering on the promises of the Tulsa Curriculum. We are a teaching organization to be sure, but because of the absence of a university-wide strategy on assessment, we have not yet become a “learning organization” in the sense intended by NCA. This means that we have real work to do over the next several months in preparation for the site visit team.

To add energy to this process, I have called an all faculty meeting on December 1st that will also involve several key administrators. Faculty members, please mark your calendars, and plan on attending this lunch meeting in ACAC. We will have a discussion about the university’s approach to assessment, as well as an update on the status of the NCA self study and the work that remains to be done.

I have also scheduled an all-faculty retreat with key administrators on January 4th, 2007, just prior to the beginning of the spring semester. The purpose of the retreat is to again focus our attention on assessment and student learning outcomes, along with measures of student satisfaction. There will be presentations on the recent results of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), as well as an update on the progress of TU’s capital campaign. Details will follow, but please mark your calendars for this important faculty gathering.

Finally, I want to thank you for your continuing forbearance and patience with disruptions caused by campus construction and the City of Tulsa’s realignment and improvement of Delaware Avenue. TU’s construction and the City of Tulsa’s Delaware Avenue project will provide significant enhancements to our already beautiful campus.

I wish you the very best for an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving holiday, and the rest of the fall semester.