Letter from President Rudd

Dear Colleagues:

It is an honor to have been selected as the 12th president of the University of Memphis. Although challenging, this past year has been tremendously rewarding. Because of your hard work and dedication, we have made great progress in resolving one the most significant financial challenges in the history of the University of Memphis. In doing so, we have positioned the University for future growth, empowering academic leaders and faculty at the college, department and program levels. We are working to implement a strategic resource investment budget model (www.memphis.edu/sri) that we expect will enable us to respond more effectively to a rapidly changing higher education landscape.

The university has a bright future and is poised to make great strides for our students, our employees, the local community, the state of Tennessee, and beyond. We are making progress on achieving the operational goals of growing enrollment, increasing graduation rates, expanding funded research, along with establishing and strengthening partnerships with the community. As has already been shared, this past year witnessed impressive numbers of graduates, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We have held tuition flat for the first time in more than two decades. Please join me in thanking President Martin for his leadership, generosity and grace exhibited over the past year.

Meeting our enrollment goal is a critical strategic focus. As you are likely aware, one of the metrics that we use to predict enrollment for the upcoming academic year is the number of admission applications. I am pleased to tell you that, as of today, applications received were at the highest point in the history of the University of Memphis. Well over 14,000 students have applied to the U of M, an increase of 82% over the 2013-14 academic year. We anticipate that these numbers for the upcoming year will continue to increase. Now the challenge is to translate these admission applications into a greater number of students enrolled at both of our campuses, along with those participating remotely. Orientation registrations are currently well ahead of last year (up 400 as of this week). As you know, with improved graduation numbers we'll be challenged to bring in greater numbers of first-time freshman and transfer students, both of which look promising.

Although a bold goal, I genuinely believe we can increase the six-year graduation rate to 55%, above the national average. In 2010, the U of M had a rate of 37.10%. Changes to support programming and curriculum redesign efforts have increased this rate to 44.2% as of fall 2013. This year we experienced significant gains that will certainly move the six-year rate even higher. Achievement of this goal is critical to our overall mission and essential for our students. Our efforts will continue to expand as we develop a range of programs (peer mentoring, academic coaching, writing center, degree pathways and a co-op program) targeting the diverse groups of students we serve: first-time freshman, students with 90+ hours of coursework, veterans, online learners, part-timers, returning adults, and other non-traditional students.

It is important for the University of Memphis to realize funded research of $100 million in order to achieve the highest research classification awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching – Research University/Very High Research Activity. This designation is consistent with our goal of being recognized as one of America's great metropolitan research universities. We have the faculty talent in place to make this happen and we are making new investments in improving our research infrastructure to better support their work. Not only is realizing this goal consistent with our core mission, it will have significant impact on Memphis in general and result in improved long-term state funding levels for the University.

Engagement is at the heart of a great metropolitan research university. We will continue to expand our connections to Memphis, building on existing relationships and developing new ones. As you know, our Key-30 effort (targeting the top 30 employers in Memphis) will grow to Key 50 this year and to Key 75 next year. Our development efforts will also expand, including efforts to grow our relationships with national foundations. Chief among our efforts are to build a new research facility and a music building.

Your leadership team is committed, talented and passionate about the University of Memphis, our mission, students and the community. Please join me in thanking and welcoming: Interim Provost, Dr. Karen Weddle-West; Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Rosie Phillips-Bingham; Vice President of Business and Finance, Mr. David Zettergren; Interim Vice President of Research, Dr. Andy Meyers; Chief Information Officer, Ms. Ellen Watson; Legal Counsel, Ms. Melanie Murry; Athletic Director, Mr. Tom Bowen; and Consultant to the President, Mr. Charles Burkett. We are currently working on our core leadership values statement, something we'll share with the campus before the academic year begins. Brief biographies and photos of each are included below.

University leadership will rely on input from faculty, staff, students and constituents to identify issues, suggest improvements, and develop strategies to help us achieve our goals. I will follow up with subsequent communications as planning unfolds. We have a great opportunity to be bold, innovative and strategic in our thinking and approach. I look forward to working with you and hearing from you in the coming years.

Please feel free to contact me at president@memphis.edu with suggestions, concerns and questions.