Don’t miss TBR subcouncil meeting Friday

L. Anthony Wise Jr.
Pellissippi State President

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, I had the opportunity to travel to Tennessee Tech for a meeting between members of the leadership team at Pellissippi State and Chancellor John Morgan and his staff.  The chancellor’s office has organized such meetings between member colleges/universities and TBR staff for each of the last three years. There is an agenda, but it is primarily used to encourage conversations about key initiatives and issues from the perspective of the system and the College. Vice Chancellor David Gregory chaired the meeting. In addition to Chancellor Morgan and Vice Chancellor Gregory, board staff in attendance included Vice Chancellor Tristan Denley, Vice Chancellor Warren Nichols, Vice Chancellor Wendy Thompson, Associate Vice Chancellor Renee Stewart, Communications Director Monica Greppin-Watts, Chief Audit Executive Tammy Gourley Birchett, and Associate General Counsel Elizabeth Martin. The following individuals traveled with me and represented Pellissippi State: Vice President Rebecca Ashford, Associate Professor Denise Carr, Faculty Senate President Alex Fitzner, Vice President Ron Kesterson, Vice President Ted Lewis, Assistant Vice President Renee Moore, IEAP Executive Director Nancy Ramsey, and Vice President Audrey Williams.

The conversation began with a discussion of the system’s progress toward Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 goals. The TBR system will need to award 43,202 credentials in the 2024-2025 academic year in order for the state to have a reasonable chance of 55 percent of its citizens’ having obtained a postsecondary credential at that time. During the 2014-2015 academic year, TBR colleges and universities awarded 34,033 diplomas, certificates, and degrees. The system is still a significant distance from the target goal, but it has made good progress from the starting point of 27,482 credentials in 2008-2009.

If you look at the numbers from an institutional perspective, you’ll find that Pellissippi State awarded 670 associate’s degrees and three certificates in that benchmark year of 2008-2009.  The number of associate’s degrees we awarded that year represented 9.5 percent of the total number of associate’s degrees awarded in the system; the number of certificates represented .2 percent of the total number of certificates awarded in the system. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Pellissippi State awarded 1,366 associate’s degrees and 587 certificates. Those numbers represent 13.8 percent of the degrees and 16.7 percent of the certificates awarded in the system. We have managed to dramatically increase the number of graduates while maintaining our strong placement rate (95 percent) for career programs and seeing an increase in the transfer GPA of our university parallel students.

There was a brief discussion of the target of 2,350 degrees and certificates for Pellissippi State by 2025. The chancellor asked if we were capable of meeting this goal; I told him – given the work we have done and the quality of our faculty and staff – that I expected us to surpass that mark well before then. We also had an opportunity to discuss key initiatives in the areas of information services, academic affairs, and student affairs, as well as the possibility of an increase in adjunct faculty pay and the importance of additional space and full-time faculty and staff in fulfilling our mission.

I would like to share more about the institutional briefing when we host what amounts to our quarterly institutional briefing on Friday, Nov. 13, at 3:30 p.m. in the Cafeteria Annex. Delegates from each of the TBR sub-councils will also be on hand to share their perspectives on their most recent meetings. I hope to see you there.

Legislative changes affect performance evaluation confidentiality

Tennessee legislators passed a number of bills this year that affect Pellissippi State, notable among them, that job performance evaluations of certain state employees will no longer be considered a public record, and thus will not be eligible for distribution under the Freedom of Information Act.

That statewide change applies to employees of public institutions of higher education.

“Job performance evaluations” is defined to mean performance evaluations completed by supervisors and self-evaluations, as well as communications concerning those evaluations and all scores, notes, memoranda, and other records relating to job performance evaluations. In the future, those records will be considered confidential.

The change doesn’t affect records that might be accessed by law enforcement or courts, but it does affect public access and public records requests.

Other legislative bills include new processes for situations that involve cyber hacks and sexual assault, changes to employee insurance and benefits, and

  • The addition of Veterans Day as a holiday.
  • The launch of the Community College Reconnect grant pilot program in the 2016-2017 academic year.
  • The approval of the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support Act.
  • The creation of the Go Build Tennessee program, promoting career opportunities in the construction trades.

To learn more about these and other legislative measures that affect higher ed in Tennessee, click here.