Quest for Student Success 2025

Quest 2025 logoMTSU’s Quest for Student Success 2013–2016 set ambitious goals to improve student retention and graduation rates. The University transformed advising through the hiring of 47 additional academic advisors and the application of data analytics.


Our faculty promoted student engagement by redesigning 27 gateway courses. including. Learning support was championed across campus through a more robust system of tutoring, the introduction of supplemental instruction, the launch of a student-faculty MakerSpace in James E. Walker Library, and specialized programs and activities, such as the Scholars Academy and the Presidential Student Success Award Program.  

These investments have significantly improved our students’ successes. Since the launch of the Quest, MTSU’s institutional fall-to-fall retention rate for first-time, full-time freshmen increased from 69.0% to 75.8%; the four-year graduation rate increased 12.1 percentage points, from 18.1% to 30.2%; and the University graduated more than 25,000 students.

These achievements have set the stage for us to reimagine our Quest and to commit ourselves more fully to student learning, the cornerstone of student success. Now the question is: How does the University better define student success as its core commitment by creating an inclusive culture that fosters all students’ capacities to be active learning partners as students, alumni, and engaged citizens?

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Our Goal

Middle Tennessee State University will graduate students who are prepared to thrive professionally, committed to critical inquiry and lifelong learning, and engaged as civically, globally responsible citizens. 

Next Steps

The Quest for Student Success 2025 focuses on student success marked by a deeper, broader, and more equitable academic and student life experience that extends learning beyond graduation. Students who learn how to learn, how to ask the right questions, and how to take risks and learn from their mistakes succeed personally and professionally. They take ownership of their own education and become critical thinkers. Thus, we seek to develop lifelong learners with the capacity to discover, create, recreate, innovate, and break new ground as they address their own professional development and the challenges of the world.

The University now refines its focus to shape a distinctive experience that supports engaged learning, builds self-confidence in learning, inspires lifelong learning and civic engagement, and rewards learning successes. Engaged learning, when expected and practiced by all of us in the University community, becomes the catalyst for creating a distinctive and successful student experience—and the bedrock for our students’ future learning and successes in their careers and civic lives.

The Quest and its call for a distinctive and successful student college experience is central to the goal of MTSU’s academic master plan, The Reach to Distinction.

Strategic Path I - Enhance the quality of the academic experience.

The core of a quality academic experience is the mutual engagement of students and faculty in learning, scholarship and creative activity, and service. Such an enterprise acknowledges the pivotal role of faculty in leading, guiding, and engaging students in intellectual pursuits and recognizes that a commitment to an enriched faculty experience lies at the core of an enriched student experience. It is the faculty who create academic and professional pathways and actively engage with students. Therefore, a key to enhancing the quality of the academic experience lies in helping the faculty engage in innovative joint pursuits with students.

Consequently, the University will:

  • Leverage the quality of academic programs to recruit, enroll, educate, graduate, and link a diverse body of students to a future of professional and civic engagement.
  • Invest in a diverse faculty to develop creative curricula embedded with high-impact learning practices to heighten active, collaborative learning and achieve equity in student achievement. 

Objective: Leverage the quality of academic programs to recruit, enroll, educate, graduate, and link a diverse body of students to a future of professional and civic engagement.

  • Incorporate a required high-impact learning experience into every major.

  • Grow graduate college enrollments by 3% to 5%, with a long-term goal of reaching 20% of MTSU’s student body as graduate students paralleling our peers.

  • Launch new undergraduate and graduate degrees that meet a market demand for Tennessee; modify graduate degrees to meet market demand, including content and delivery of the degree programs that will ensure access, equity, and quality.

  • Expand civic engagement opportunities and establish a Free Speech Center as a national leader in First Amendment advocacy and civic engagement.

  • Expand experiential learning and implement MT Engage, in partnership with MTSU’s neighboring communities, to further facilitate and support student learning, scholarship, and career development.

  • Eliminate achievement gaps by utilizing analytics, refining and expanding student support programs, and increasing the diversity of faculty.

  • Increase online, hybrid, and off-site cohort offerings, adaptive scheduling, and curricular flexibility responsive to a dynamic higher education environment.

  • Build program-based academic communities for on-campus, online, and dual-enrolled students that connect them to the faculty, other students, alumni, and professionals in their major such as peer mentoring within a major, virtual learning networks within majors, and curricular professional events.

  • Review and revise academic policies and practices to ensure greater equity, effectiveness, and efficiency, e.g., CPOS pressure points and catalog inconsistencies, discussions of required minors in degree programs, multi-term registration, probation criteria, and course repeat policy.

  • Establish a President’s or Provost’s Colloquia to strategically connect students and community members with leading thinkers and innovators across a broad spectrum of intellectual and educational arenas.

Objective: Invest in a diverse faculty to develop creative curricula extensively embedded with high-impact learning practives to heighten active, collaborative learning and achieve equity in student achievement.

  • Complete a cohesive, integrated general education program that connects student learning to major fields of study and to professional and civic engagement.

  • Develop and redesign courses in the major to link learning activities to students’ professional development and civic engagement.

  • Enhance financial and academic support for faculty and student scholarship to increase scholarly production and extramural financial support for scholarship (grants and contracts).

  • Create and sustain a comprehensive Faculty Development Program. 

Strategic Path II - Enhance the quality of the student life experience.

Linking a student’s academic and student life experiences is essential to student success. Active student life and cocurricular learning deepen engagement inside and outside the classroom, ground a student in an inclusive University community, and set the stage for a student-learning practice that carries forward to and beyond graduation.

Strong, integrated links between cocurricular activities and curricula, campus spaces and learning, students and peers through mutual interests and pursuits, and students and alumni—these are key ingredients of an environment that supports learning and allows students to shape their own experiences and celebrate their own successes.

Consequently, the University will:

  • Address the wellness, financial health, and safety needs of students.
  • Invest in an inclusive campus-wide environment, including a virtual environment, that fosters informal living-learning opportunities for on-campus, off-campus, and online students.
  • Expand MTSU academic and student support to eliminate achievement gaps and address critical student success points (informed by data analytics) for students as they move through their college careers into their professional lives.

Objective: Address the wellness, financial health, and safety needs of students.

  • Implement an Open Education Resources Program to ensure all students have timely access to academic program and professional development materials.

  • Double available funding over the next 10 years to support the University’s scholarship/financial resources portfolio.

  • Revise the summer schedule to make financial aid more accessible to students who wish to pursue coursework in summer.

  • Biennially rebalance the University’s scholarship and financial resources portfolio for need, merit, and emergency funding to support student success.

  • Create a student-centered website that provides one-point access to comprehensive, integrated wellness, financial health, and safety programs and services.

Objective: Invest in an inclusive campus-wide environment, including a virtual environment, that fosters informal living-learning opportunities for on-campus, off-campus, and online students.

  • Implement the Facilities Master Plan to expand both academic buildings and residential living-learning spaces.

  • Create student-friendly academic and accessible gathering spaces throughout campus, e.g., social, recreational, technological, and maker spaces.

  • Create student-friendly and accessible virtual academic and gathering spaces for off-campus and online students, e.g. information sources and livestreamed campus events.

  • Establish user-friendly designated visitor parking on campus to facilitate student/faculty/community collaboration.

Objective: Expand MTSU academic and student support to eliminate achievement gaps and address critical student success points (informed by data analytics) for students as they move through their college careers into their professional lives.

  • Implement an integrated program of career development services that coordinates services to students and to employers and uses institutional research resources to track career outcomes.

  • Develop a comprehensive system to track graduates/alumni professionally through designated touchpoints in their careers, including their professional successes.

  • Create and support a culture of student-centered service through all divisions of the University.

  • Leverage technology to enhance communication and services systems related to recruitment, enrollment, instruction and delivery, and student and academic support services, e.g., establish a student-specific MTSU portal with each student at their initial touchpoint with the University for continuity in communication.

  • Use data analytics to determine course scheduling to meet student demand.

  • Launch a Quest 2025 communications plan that will continuously inform students, faculty, staff, and community audiences.

  • Implement a Student Evaluation of Advisor process.

  

Strategic Path III - Establish MTSU as an educational, cultural, and economic hub to support student success and lifelong learning.

An academic and professional network that facilitates student learning underscores the University’s core responsibility. MTSU students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, and friends will continue to build a University support community that encourages students to learn inside and outside the classroom, to engage in research and creative expression, and to connect with their broader communities through service. Central to doing this is our recommitment to student-centered decision-making in the crafting and delivery of University programs and services that anticipate and acknowledge students’ learning needs across their academic careers, through their transition into the professional world, and through the advancement of their professional careers.

Consequently, the University will:

  • Create enhanced learning networks, in strong partnership with the University’s neighboring communities as well as business and industry, to support student academic and professional success.

Objective: Create enhanced learning networks, in strong partnership with the University’s neighboring communities, as well as business and industry, to support student academic and professional success.

  • Develop, in partnership with the City of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, an educational, cultural, and commercial district for learning, performance, entertainment, and commerce.

  • Establish an educational hub for business and corporate partnerships in the Nashville/ Davidson County SMSA to support student learning and increase access to career development and career advancement.

  • Construct a performing arts center, in partnership with neighboring communities, to serve as a regional educational and cultural hub for learning and performance.

  • Leverage completion of Middle Tennessee Boulevard and new entrances to campus; complete the MTSU Athletic Plaza project; and implement a destination activities program to enhance community access to and engagement with the student life of the University. 

Conclusion

The Quest for Student Success 2025 underscores the University’s core mission: to produce graduates who are prepared to thrive professionally, committed to critical inquiry and lifelong learning, and engaged as civically, globally responsible citizens. In placing student-centered learning at the forefront of the student experience, the University seeks to create and sustain a learning environment where students themselves, in joint intellectual pursuit with faculty, become responsible decision-makers and active participants in learning. Their knowledge and skills, combined with their capacity for continuous learning, will serve them well and immeasurably affect their communities. Their successes also will affirm the University’s success in honoring its commitment to meet the higher educational needs of all students, and thus, of the state of Tennessee and its citizens.