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A crowd of students cheers in Thompson Boling Arena during Rocky Top Rally

Student Life Expands Capacity to Meet Student Needs

A year into a new strategic plan, the Division of Student Life announced the addition of new positions to our team. The recent growth is a key component to the division’s strategic plan to provide services and resources to a growing student population, including an additional assistant vice chancellor to lead student engagement and leadership development.

The addition of the new positions follows a recent division realignment, focusing the division’s work around several key areas:

  • Health and wellness
  • Strategic priorities and residential experience
  • Student advocacy, support, and mattering and belonging
  • Student leadership and engagement
  • Administrative services

The strategic plan centers on these focus areas, creating a climate where learning, belonging, engagement, inclusivity, and care can thrive on campus. Key elements of the plan include streamlining and centralizing division services, expansion of the division workforce, brand development, finding opportunities to collaborate effectively and efficiently utilizing technology, and exploring opportunities to develop diversity education.

Vice Chancellor Frank Cuevas reflected on the division’s progress to date. “I am proud of the strategic steps our division took to evaluate our current practices and develop a new path forward,” said Cuevas. “The 2021–26 strategic plan is directly informed by the feedback from a comprehensive program review we conducted in 2020 to identify ways to strategically enhance the student experience outside of the classroom. The division realignment and subsequent positions we were able to add to our team is a direct result of the incredible work we have invested to prioritize an experience where students learn, lead, and serve on our campus.”

The previous strategic plan ended in 2020, providing an opportunity to revisit strategic goals and practices to realign the division with the university’s vision. To prepare for the development of the new plan, the division participated in a holistic and comprehensive program review process to inform new priorities.

Making Data-Informed Decisions

The Division of Student Life partnered with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) in fall 2020 to participate in a comprehensive program review of the services and support offered to students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The program review included a custom review, analysis, and recommendations conducted both on campus and remotely by a team of expert reviewers from comparable programs at public, land-grant universities. Reviewers met with every functional area of Student Life to evaluate current policies, practices, and resources. This provided the review team critical context when identifying areas of strength and new opportunities for growth.

This was the first program review in which the Division of Student Life had participated in more than ten years. Director of Assessment and Strategic Initiatives Melissa Brown shared, “The program review helped redefine our voice and purpose, restructuring the way we work together. As a result, the division has become a leader in strategic planning at the University of Tennessee.”

Following the program review, division leadership developed a new strategic plan to address the recommendations of the reviewers, as well as align the division with the university’s new vision. Staff serving as strategic plan leads meet quarterly to ensure the progression of the strategic plan, evaluate metrics, and make recommendations for further advancement to ensure efforts are effective and are positively impacting the student experience.

NASPA Program Review

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) program review utilized a framework for guided self-assessments and reviews called P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E.S. This framework consists of nine foundational elements focusing on essential areas for a division of student affairs or services as it strives to facilitate and support student success.

Policies – Evaluation of policies to ensure they are relevant, current, and appropriate

Resources – Determine appropriate funding methods and opportunities for development

Academics – Review policies, practices, and goals. Align with and support academic affairs, student success, retention, and persistence.

Compliance – Ensure policies and practices adhere to requirements and identify gaps related to risks and liabilities

Technology – Ensure the use of adequate and current technology to support operations and services

Inclusion – Utilization of practices, policies, and procedures to ensure an inclusive, caring campus community

Community – Review of opportunities for students to have a sense of safety, belonging, and campus pride, relationship with external involvement (e.g., city, town, county, local area) supporting the institution and its students

Evidence – Evaluate the division’s culture of assessment and data-driven results

Students – Review how the division engages with students, is responsive to current trends in the field, and the current services provided