State of the University Address - Convocation 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham outlined TU's continued progress during the university's Convocation Sept. 17 in the Lorton Performance Center on the TU campus.
Highlights of the presentation included enrollment trends, an upcoming review of the undergraduate core curriculum, a continued focus on global education, recent revitalization in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, ongoing development on the TU campus, and TU's pending move into the American Athletic Conference.
Early in his presentation, Upham addressed the university's newly announced ranking of #86 in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report survey of national doctoral universities; that ranking is down from #83 the previous year. Despite achieving notable gains in the component categories of student selectivity, faculty resources, alumni giving, and financial resources, TU took an overall loss when U.S. News increased the weighting of student graduation measures in the overall ranking formula, he explained. Given the quality of incoming TU students, U.S. News (and the university) would expect a higher overall 6-year graduation rate; the university will continue to focus efforts on graduation performance, he said.
TU does, however, have much to celebrate in its new freshman class – 869 strong, which brings total full-time undergraduate enrollment to 3,312 (unofficial, pending the Oct. 15 university census).
The 2013 entering class boasts an average ACT score of 28 and an average high-school GPA of 3.8. In addition, 74% of TU's new freshmen graduated in the top 10% of their high school classes.
Retention from the freshman to the sophomore year also improved, with 91% of last year's freshmen returning to enroll for the sophomore year. This advance bodes well for future graduation performance.
Enrollment trends show a slight shift away from majors in the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences and toward engineering, science and business majors, Upham noted – although the total number of course credit hours taught in each college has remained largely comparable over the past few years.
Academic development at TU includes a review this year of the undergraduate core curriculum, which has not undergone a major revision in some years, Upham said. In particular, the university is focusing on writing skills development throughout the undergraduate curriculum, the cultivation of science literacy, math requirements for students not in science or engineering programs, the development of key professional/workplace skills, the engagement of international students, and the first-year experience at TU. Committees are being formed for the review.
TU also is participating in the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), organized by Harvard University. COACHE conducted a survey of TU faculty and found that strengths include the overall teaching and research environment, personal and family policies, departmental collegiality, and promotion policies. The survey revealed, however, that tenure standards are not as clear as they could be among tenure-track faculty; Upham said the university would engage colleges in further conversation about these findings.
On a lighter note, Upham announced the publication of a compilation of 31 brief faculty writings, titled A Life of Inquiry. These reflections on the life of the mind, which span the inspirational and the humorous, show faculty in a more personal light and help reach students in a different way. Attendees received copies of the book at the event.
Global education at TU reached a milestone in 2013, as the university sent its 1,000th student abroad, Upham said. Global education remains a high priority – both in terms of sending students abroad and facilitating global experiences on campus. More than 22% of the TU student body comes from abroad, with China, Saudi Arabia, India, Angola, and Oman among the top sending nations.
TU is one of only four institutions chosen by the Institute for International Education and the U.S. Department of State to host a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar, Upham said. In October, 75 Fulbright Scholars will visit Tulsa to learn about U.S. history, land use, and the future of the West. The seminar will be held with Gilcrease Museum and Tulsa Global Alliance.
Having launched its first international alumni club in India earlier this year, TU is focusing on new connections in that nation; a university delegation traveled to India last March and began discussions with six universities there. In addition, TU is developing connections with Brazilian universities and has a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Portuguese for this academic year.
Finally, TU is launching a new staff development program to raise understanding of international cultures and better serve TU's international students, Upham said. The yearlong program was developed by TU Human Resources and the Center for Global Education.
TU continues to deliver on the community service front, especially through the ongoing True Blue Neighbors initiative serving the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood. During the 2012-13 year, the TU community performed 55,394 hours of service, valued at $1.2 million. This work included packaging more than 17,000 pounds of food.
The TU family's service contribution last year continued a six-year trend of increasing hours – a nearly five-fold increase since 2006-07.
Upham shared images of the revitalization taking place in the West Park area of the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has led this renewal, which includes new townhomes and apartments, as well as TU's anchor building on Lewis Avenue at East Fourth Place. The building includes student housing, commons space, and the leasing office for the development.
As part of the West Park effort, there has been a dramatic improvement at Kendall-Whittier Park. TU is taking a lead role in maintaining the park.
In 2013-14, the True Blue Neighbors initiative will focus on two key priorities: food security for the neighborhood, and reading achievement at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School and Sequoyah Elementary School, Upham said.
With both schools at 100% free or reduced lunch, it is vital to intensify work with the Kendall-Whittier Emergency Food Pantry and with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
In addition, with new state-mandated grade retention guidelines coming into effect, many neighborhood students are poised to be held back because of reading performance. At Sequoyah Elementary, 19% of third graders read on grade level, and at Kendall-Whittier Elementary, 25% of 6th graders read on grade level. To address this looming crisis, TU is partnering with Growing Together and Reading Partners to mount an aggressive one-on-one tutoring program.
Upham gave special kudos to the members of Golden Hurricane Athletics, who have committed to read with kids the first Saturday morning of every month through next April.
Those wanting to help True Blue Neighbors this year can call Kathy Shelton, 918-631-3535 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Upham reminded the audience that all TU employees receive 8 hours of paid service leave each month.
Although the pace of campus development has calmed from what it has been in recent years, there are still projects ongoing, Upham said.
To cope with rising enrollments, TU is planning to build a three-floor residence hall on the site of the existing Holmes Student Center, between McFarlin Library and the Allen Chapman Activity Center. Financing and design efforts are under way.
Another major project will be extensive renovation of Keplinger Hall, the longtime home of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. Most spaces will receive work, with much of the building undergoing total renovation. The work will keep Keplinger on pace with the newer additions of Rayzor Hall and Stephenson Hall, which have transformed TU's science and engineering infrastructure in recent years. Fundraising for the Keplinger project is beginning.
The University of Tulsa continues as managing partner at Gilcrease Museum, which is owned by the City of Tulsa. Construction of the Helmerich Center for American Research is changing the landscape at the museum and is setting the stage for new exploration of the Gilcrease documents archive. Thanks to the generous support of many partners, the building is scheduled to open in 2014.
Upham concluded his review by noting that TU is preparing for a strong entry into the American Athletic Conference in 2014. During his first months on the job, Derrick Gragg, TU's new Vice President and Director of Athletics, has covered extensive ground in building the internal and external relationships that will move TU forward.
Among the advantages of membership in the American Conference, Upham noted that TU stands to benefit from increased exposure in Eastern television markets.
Recent months have also brought a number of athletics facilities improvements on the TU campus, including new turf on Skelly Field in H.A. Chapman Stadium, a new floor in the basketball practice gym, new volleyball courts, and a resurfacing of the tennis courts in a striking new blue color scheme.