My second semester as dean has been nothing short of exhilarating. Responding to the coronavirus as a college and institution has been challenging on many fronts; like when we had to tell our graduating seniors their commencement would be an on-line experience with options to participate in future in-person ceremonies, or when we informed faculty that they would be teaching online with one week to prepare. At the same time, it has also been an inspiring and dynamic time filled with shared expertise and best practices, creativity and new ways to provide student support, and increased communication and teamwork at all levels. Throughout this crisis, I am most thankful for the people of this college and their commitment to getting us through this incredible situation.
What has most humbled me throughout this experience is the way our Volunteer community continues to quickly respond to the needs of others. Many faculty, staff, and students answered Governor Lee’s call for help by printing thousands of face shield bands. Other faculty have received an NSF RAPID grant to research the impact of the coronavirus on mass transit.
Closer to home, our students have bravely continued their studies remotely. The university embarked on a calling campaign to check in on each and every student, and even our alumni got involved—several notable alums, including John D. Tickle, Josh Dobbs, and Chad Holliday, called in to “crash” online courses to surprise students and share words of encouragement and wisdom. Learn about ways you can help our students during this time.
While the coronavirus has been a swift and pervasive agent of disruption, progress nonetheless continues on our long-term goals. We continue working on a new strategic plan that will align with Chancellor Plowman’s strategic visioning process, and our new Engineering Complex continues to take shape with plans still in place to move in next year. As you will see by browsing our most recent stories, we have many reasons to celebrate new industry partnerships and research contributions and achievements of our talented faculty and students.
Back on Rocky Top, we recently convened a new Staff Advisory Council for the college. As one of its first orders of business, a new STAR fund was initiated to help cover expenses for staff to attend professional development conferences. I am also proud that Nicole McFarlane has been named our first NSF ADVANCE Professor—a meaningful step in part of our larger initiative to promote a more diverse and inclusive faculty. TCE also hosted the annual TLSAMP research conference, bringing hundreds of minority students and their faculty to campus for engaging break-out sessions, poster presentations, networking, and more.
Throughout this coronavirus and beyond, I am grateful for the input and support of our colleagues across the nation, our industry partners, and our alumni. Your ideas and counsel have been and continue to be critical to our success.
My best wishes,
Dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair