At 5:10 p.m. on April 16, 2002, Dr. Shirley Raines paused,
just outside the Ned R. McWherter Library. Clad in blue and
gray academic regalia adorned with golden trim, The University
of Memphis president reached out and gently squeezed the hand
of an elderly woman.
The occasion was the official investiture of Raines as the
11th president of The U of M; the woman, her mother. A poignant
moment, yes, but also a defining one for Raines.
Since assuming the presidency in July of 2001, Raines has
developed a plan to build upon an already strong foundation
at The U of M in the midst of myriad challenges. Reaching
out to people whether faculty, staff, students, alumni
or the community is a major component to all facets
of her plan to create new success stories while continuing
those already in progress.
As easy as 1, 2, 3
With an eye toward the future, Raines is quick to point to
a trio of priorities on campus. Not surprising, all contain
three words that resound through many of her speeches: people,
data and accountability.
We believe our future will be forged by investing in
people, building productive partnerships with people in the
community and creating interdisciplinary initiatives among
our academic programs and people, says the president.
Investing in people, Raines believes, is an idea that goes
straight to the soul of the University. We deal in ideas,
she says, but our resources are our people the
faculty, students and staff. The hallmarks of a university
include introducing students to new ideas and different ways
of thinking, to meaningful careers and learning as
a lifetime pursuit.
Raines shares a moment of happiness with her mother, Irene,
outside the McWherter Library after the inauguration ceremony.
An investment in people also means securing scholarships
and paid internships for our students, Raines continues.
Data that we have gathered indicate that more honors
students would select The University of Memphis if we could
provide more merit scholarships.
Data also indicate that at least 69 percent of the Universitys
students work. By connecting students present work needs
to future career opportunities through internships, co-ops
and other corporate partnership arrangements, Raines believes
more students will be able to remain in the Mid-South for
their future careers.
The president says that she is dedicated to the idea of investing
in people by retaining and adding other top faculty
members to the campus. We must find ways to increase
the salaries of faculty and staff so that we can excel
not to just remain competitive, she states.
Forming partnerships with civic, social and business leaders
is also of great importance to The U of M.
By building partnerships, we as educators are in a
better position to judge the realities our graduates will
face, she says. Our partners are able to affect
the education of students so that we prepare them as fully
as possible for their professions and their lives.
Partnerships with FedEx Corporation, Methodist Healthcare,
LeBonheur, and the Plough and Assisi foundations are already
paying dividends for everyone involved. Partnerships with
city and county governments are also flourishing.
Ten years from now, when we celebrate the Universitys
100th anniversary, we will have made partnerships as much
a part of the Universitys life as commencement, convocation
and the first day of class, Raines says.
A third priority vital to The U of Ms success is focusing
on interdisciplinary work that results in stronger academic
programs and nationally recognized research initiatives.
Raines and Charles Lee, U of M vice president for
business and finance, converse while examining one
of the many exhibits set up by the colleges on campus
during the weeklong Celebration of Learning.
We are creating many interdisciplinary initiatives
by taking advantage of the expertise we have in our five Centers
of Excellence and our 25 Chairs of Excellence, Raines
says. We are creating initiatives that reach across
our strong departments, schools, colleges, where people from
different areas research across interdisciplinary lines.
The Memphis Joint Program in Biomedical Engineering has brought
together the resources and faculty of the Herff College of
Engineering at The U of M with the University of Tennessee
Health Science Center. The program has become a model for
interdisciplinary programming and research in the fields of
biomedical engineering and technology.
Students in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy
(SUAPP) engage in study and research that combines the fields
of public administration, health administration, social work,
city and regional planning, criminology, and criminal justice.
A recently developed data-based, geo-mapping system extends
the interdisciplinary nature of the program.
Many other interdisciplinary initiatives abound at The U
of M, with more planned for the future.
Located in an urban setting surrounded by bountiful resources,
the University has made gains as a research institute. Raines
says she plans to continue that focus.
We are the research university of the Tennessee Board
of Regents system, Raines says. We are making
strides in research and will continue that. At a time when
state appropriations are diminishing in Tennessee and in other
states, securing competitive funding is
The University received a record $27 million in grants, contracts
and awards last fiscal year. Continued research productivity
will depend upon increased grants, contracts and research
Anyone who has read the local newspaper in the last few months
knows the answer to the question, What is the most serious
issue facing the University? Funding.
Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy and Dr. Raines discuss issues
related to higher education. A focus of Dr. Raines' is
building strong bonds with community organizations.
The biggest challenges facing the University are fiscal
ones, says Raines. With fewer state-appropriated
dollars, we must raise revenue for our operations through
increased tuition and fees, more grants and contracts, and
We must help the citizens of Tennessee to understand
the importance of higher education in their future and in
the economic development of this community, she continues.
The data are clear. College graduates earn four to five
times as much and pay back into the system three to four times
as much as non-graduates. Every student, faculty and staff
member must become an ambassador for higher education.
One of the greatest challenges, according to Raines, is keeping
morale high among faculty and staff while facing tough fiscal
challenges. The president and members of her administrative
staff have been in constant contact with legislators in Nashville,
helping legislators recognize the need for more revenue sources
to fund this and all aspects of higher education.
Another area the University should strive to improve concerns
image, Raines says.
We have not communicated well about our accomplishments,
she says. As the data indicate, we are a far better
university than we claim and we have higher achieving students
than is known to the outside community.
Remedying that, Raines says, will demand an effort by many.
We need every alumnus, friend of the university, student,
faculty member and staff person to tell our success stories,
she says. We need ambassadors. I have made over 160
speeches in 11 months and every time, people tell me that
they did not know about our great successes in our programs.
We need to find ways to tell of our successes.
Raines says it is important to show the community that the
University is doing all it can to meet challenges.
I have high standards of accountability for the operations
of the University, she says. Thus, it has been
a tremendous task to review the data and to select the leaders
who will hold their operations accountable. The citizens of
this state, our students, employees and donors deserve this
high level of accountability.
of a president
Raines reads to second-graders at the McWherter Library
Raines was appointed president in January 2001, following
the resignation of Dr. V. Lane Rawlins.
Anyone who knows me understands that I am passionate
about the importance of a good educational system, says
Raines, a lifelong advocate of higher education. She says
the job took some getting used to.
Being president is different than other administrative
positions because some of every facet of this University,
from A to Z, from athletics to zoology, comes to my desk,
The president is quick to note that the positive aspects
far outweigh any negatives.
Becoming the president of The University of Memphis
has been a life-changing and life-enriching role, she
says. Every day, I have the opportunities to interact
with the most engaging students, the brightest professors,
and enthusiastic community leaders. No day is ever dull for
me. My husband, Bob, and I feel tremendous support, both on
and off the campus.
Every day, we know that we are making a difference
for the citizens of the Mid-South by helping to provide better
educational opportunities, Raines says. It is
not only The University of Memphis mission, it is my
mission in life, as well.