Goals for CBAS

Goals for CBAS
By Tom Cheatham

My goals for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS) include
  • A change in college culture
  • A greater role in improving education in K-21 in the disciplines housed in the college
  • A college that is the first-choice resource for middle Tennessee
I will elaborate on each of these goals and tie them to the MTSU Academic Master Plan (AMP) and President McPhee's goals for MTSU. I believe many things can fit under these three general goals for the college , and, clearly, we may not accomplish all that needs to be done under any one of these during one academic year. I believe that working to reach these goals will make the college better.

College Culture

In many ways, CBAS has operated as nine (9) independent departments. I would like to see this culture changed and see the college operate more like a unit. First, we must get to know and trust each other. Some progress is being made with initiatives begun this year, including (1) the first-ever state-of-the-college address, (2) a monthly Chair's meeting during which each department chair/school director has a chance to describe his/her department/school to the other chairs/directors, (3) monthly college-wide innovation seminars with up to two faculty from each department, (4) monthly college-wide research seminars during which each department/school will have a chance to describe current research projects in that unit and, (5) the upcoming Basic Highlighter CBAS Magazine. We are just beginning to get to know each other. Last year, as Interim Associate Dean, I arranged for three teams of public relations students to study our college and make recommendations on how we might improve internal communication. Several good ideas from their study have yet to be implemented due to budget constraints. Better internal communication and awareness will allow the college to develop more interdisciplinary programs at the borders of science, medicine, and technology (AMP strategy), help develop a more student-centered environment with college-wide mentoring programs (AMP Goal 3), and make it easier to develop partnerships inside and outside the university (AMP Goal 1).

CBAS has many rich traditions including (1) a faculty committed to teaching who care for and give individual attention to students, (2) graduates who are well equipped to contribute to their profession as well as to society, (3) programs that are current and cutting-edge, and (4) excellence in service to the university and the community. The CBAS I envision would care no less for students and teaching, but would attach greater importance to research and grantsmanship. To improve our image in the broader academic community we must increase our research and expand our grant-related activities. I would like to see college faculty win enough external grants and contracts so the indirect costs would equal 20% of the college budget. This would provide enough money in the college budget to keep faculty computers current and allow us to purchase one major piece of equipment ($200 K) for one of the departments each year. We can reach this goal in five (5) years.

I would like to see a change in the culture of the academic-business relationships to the point where faculty members are developing ideas into products and starting companies in which the faculty member and the university are stakeholders. This cultural change is related to my third goal of being a resource for the mid-state region.

Improved Education in K-21

There is a national shortage of K-12 science and math teachers, and particularly in Tennessee, there is concern about the performance of K-12 math and science students on national exams. CBAS should be a leader in meeting this national need and improving science and math education (Dr. McPhee's goals for academic excellence, partnerships and AMP Goal 2). The new NASA Center for the Enhancement of Science, Math, and Technology Education will help build partnerships that will bring success to our efforts in this area (AMP Goal 1). Working with the College of Education, CBAS should be able to win many grants to help improve science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) education in K-16. We already have a nationally recognized program in Aerospace, but it can be better, and the faculty and students can engage in pilot training research to help develop the curriculum for the next generation of pilots. With the addition of the Miller Coliseum, the USDA funded Horse Science Center, and two chairs of excellence in equine science, our horse science program is poised to become a national leader.

It takes dedicated faculty interested in undergraduate education to keep our programs current. The work being done by the Physics and Astronomy faculty to help develop a new national model for the introductory physics sequence is a good example of what we can do. At the masters level, we should find a way to combine several of our education-oriented programs under one college-wide umbrella with department concentrations, decreasing the problem of low-producing graduate programs in the college. A similar approach at the doctoral level would be best for the collegeā€”a Ph.D. in science education with concentrations in Chemistry Education, Biology Education, Mathematics Education and, if desired, Computer Science Education and Aerospace Education. MTSU trains more teachers than any other university in the state. CBAS should be a national leader in improving STEM education at all levels. We must work diligently to attract and retain minority and disadvantage students in the STEM fields. Existing efforts such as the NSF Scholarships in Computer Science, Math, and Engineering Technology, the wonderful Expanding Your Horizons Program, and the NSF STEM Gender Equity grant are making a difference. The Tennessee LSAMP program (joint with TSU and others) to double the number of African-American graduates in STEM is encouraging.

While I feel individual faculty members in the college do a good job of advising, I believe we can improve and I would like to see more mentoring of students, especially in relation to undergraduate research. I would like for undergraduate research to become a hallmark of the college experience for good undergraduate students.

First-Choice Resource for Middle Tennessee

Bill Rawnsley, President of Procon Products, likes to say that MTSU is "an extension of Procon's resources."; Through the partnership with Biology professor Dr. Marion Wells, MTSU has been the "first-choice"; when Procon has a problem beyond their employee's expertise. I think such partnerships are critical to small companies in the region and central to our mission. An ad hoc Partnership Committee for the college is looking for ways to cultivate such win-win partnerships that match faculty expertise with community needs. The committee has planned a series of monthly breakfasts where focused corporate/industry groups can learn what CBAS has to offer and how such partnerships have been helpful to other similar companies. The Russell Chair in Manufacturing Excellence is also exploring ways to build stronger partnerships with manufacturers. A Center through which faculty and students provide solutions to technical problems for business and industry in the region would foster long-lasting partnerships and allow CBAS to serve the region.

We are equally equipped to be the resource of first-choice for K-14 schools in the state, and for the government. The NASA "Linking Leaders"; program that will be developed through our new NASA Center will provide great visibility for our programs and talented faculty. The new NASA program to provide "just-in-time"; technical support for NASA projects should allow CBAS faculty and students to build valuable partnerships with NASA researchers. Knowledge gained by students working on real-world projects is a powerful tool.