Dear Colleagues and Friends:
As we near the completion of our first semester of the 2013-2014 academic year, I want to report on the progress on some of our strategic initiatives, outline the planning assumptions we will use for the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget, and share some general observations.
Halfway through my expected term of service, I understand better than ever before that the University of Memphis is a treasure of our community and our region. The talent of our faculty, the commitment of our staff, and the enthusiasm and dedication of our students is extraordinary. The loyalty of our alumni and neighbors is deeply felt, and the significance of our mission widely understood. Whether one is part of the immediate University family or not, all who know the University are indeed "rooting" for the U of M.
The need for a University of Memphis education is widespread. The disciplines that we train, and the skills and understanding that we impart, are increasingly critical for success in the dynamic 21st century world. Accordingly, we have been entrusted with hundreds of millions of dollars of physical and intellectual assets to use wisely, and in doing so, change the lives of individuals, families, and communities for decades.
We can reach many more students than we currently serve at the University of Memphis, and we can help more of them succeed—to graduate, to find employment, and to be of service. We can accelerate our research focus and create more knowledge and solutions. That's our opportunity, and it's our responsibility. But to meet this responsibility, we must do some things better and some things differently. That understanding is reflected in our priorities and our strategies.
Eight Strategic Areas
As I reported in August, the President's Council established eight key areas for which cross-functional teams would develop strategies and target outcomes. Here is a summary of the progress to date on each.
Enrollment and Complete College
As our team delved into these areas, they concluded that enrollment and completion were really part of one continuum. As a result, we have created our first integrated enrollment plan, incorporating recruitment, enrollment and retention plans into one document, all based upon empirical data. We have taken inventory of the current resources and efforts in these areas, and are re-positioning them to align with the goals established in the plan. This plan with its associated responsibilities and accountabilities will be executed.
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
The College is creating a plan to form a new honors program for aspiring teachers. We will seek a broad base of philanthropic support for this honors program and the associated innovation that will create the top teacher preparation program in the country. More rigorous admissions standards will be adopted, and there will be further alignment of our teacher preparation program with local, state, and education reform initiatives.
Organizational Effectiveness and Efficiency
We are making progress to assure our resources are strategically and efficiently focused on the priorities of student success and research. Attached you will find two graphs which reflect the significant opportunity we have to improve.
Integrated Master Plan
The Smith Group in conjunction with Looney Ricks Kiss Architecture has been selected to assist in developing the University's next 10 year Campus Master Plan. Activities are in the initial data gathering phase, with on campus meetings scheduled for the first week of December. A website is being created to provide for campus and community input. The University is also exploring collaborating with the City of Memphis and the community to further enhance Audubon Park and the Fairgrounds.
Customer service strategies have been developed to improve the service quality of our student services. Initial areas of focus include Recruitment and Admissions, Registrar, Advising, Transfer Student Services, Bursar, Financial Aid, and Housing. We are reviewing strengths and weaknesses with each area, analyzing the data from student surveys to establish benchmarks and responsibilities, developing a communications plan, and providing highlights of best practices.
An important part of our mission is to produce graduates who meet the workforce needs of the major employers in our community. To ensure that the University has a clear understanding of those human capital needs, a cross-functional team is collaborating with key employers. Early discussions have revealed the need for more strategic, effective, and coordinated relationships between employers and the University.
A comprehensive inventory of existing advisory boards has been completed. A "white paper" on best practices and recommendations has also been created to share with current and new boards in order to establish accountability and guide volunteer placement and community engagement.
2014 – 2015 Academic Year Budget Planning
As was extensively communicated, our colleagues at the University of Memphis worked hard to reduce the 2013-2014 spending plan to compensate for the decline in enrollment from that which had been expected this year. Please recall that approximately 62% of the revenues to operate the University of Memphis are generated by student tuition and fees, and about 32% come from State appropriations. Both of these funding categories are driven by enrollment and student success, so our focus on these priorities is obvious. Growing the number of students we serve and improving student success is the responsibility for which we have been entrusted and is critical for us to have a thriving enterprise.
While we have built aggressive plans to achieve enrollment increases in fall 2014, we will not build a budget based upon such assumed growth. We have seen the effects of a multi-year "wishful" enrollment assumption and the subsequent disruption caused by the associated revenue shortfalls. That will not happen in 2014–2015.
The planning assumptions that will be used in the development of the 2014-2015 budget are as follows:
Enrollment will be the same as 2013-2014.There will be no increase in tuition.Resources will be allocated consistent with our focus on outcomes in student achievement and acceleration of the execution of our research mission.
We will continue to make organizational changes designed to improve efficiency and outcomes. These plans will be developed in consultation with all units of the University, will be fact-based, and will be communicated in a transparent fashion.
As was announced last week, Chancellor Morgan of the Tennessee Board of Regents has formed a Search Committee which will assist in the selection of the new President of the University of Memphis. The Search Committee represents an outstanding and diverse cross-section of faculty, staff, students, TBR, Board of Visitors, and community leaders. I am confident that the search process will lead to the selection of a great leader for the University of Memphis.
Thanks for all you do to execute our special and important mission.
R. Brad Martin
*The Board of Visitors/Foundation Board of Trustees meeting was held on November 21, 2013, and a copy of the presentations used at the meeting may be found at http://www.memphis.edu/presweb/archive.php.