UT Martin Advisory Board discusses student-athletes, diversity plan, enrollment

The University of Tennessee at Martin Advisory Board met Friday, Sept. 18, to discuss the Skyhawk athletics program, the university’s diversity and inclusion plan, as well as enrollment.

The annual fall advisory board meeting served as the first meeting for two new advisory board members: Dr. Philip Smart, professor of natural resources management; and Emma Hilliard, a junior health and human performance major from Bells.

UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver acknowledged that while the world is in the midst of unrest, and the university is learning how to educate its students from afar, he remains excited and hopeful for the future. Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic had affected enrollment, but Carver announced the university’s full-time equivalency rate was only down by 38 since last fall. Full-time equivalency, or FTE, is calculated by dividing the total number of enrolled course hours by 15 for undergraduate students and 12 for graduate students and is used to allocate higher education funding statewide.

“I am real encouraged by what we’re trying to do with the university,” Carver said.

Kurt McGuffin, UT Martin intercollegiate athletics director, gave an overview of intercollegiate athletics concerning the university’s response to COVID-19 and what programs have been implemented to help student-athletes succeed academically. According to McGuffin, all fall sports were postponed due to COVID-19 because of safety concerns for athletes and staff, but fall sports will be allowed to compete during the spring.

“The spring will be fun if we get to play everything, but it will also be difficult. We’re going to try to play football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, cross county, track, baseball and softball in six months. Our staff is going to be pushed to the limits, but I have faith in them, and I think we will get a lot of help in pulling that off for the good of our kids,” said McGuffin.

Academically, the athletics department boasted 285 student-athletes on the Ohio Valley Conference Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, which McGuffin said was achieved in part by the newly renovated study spaces created through a NCAA grant the university received last year.

Dr. Mark McCloud, interim chief diversity and inclusion officer, discussed the 90-day diversity campus plan, which included the drafting and signing of the “Skyhawk Creed,” as well as the “Beyond Colorblind Tour” and the campus diversity plan. The 90-day plan was created to establish a guideline of goals for the university in order to ensure campus is welcoming and open to all students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“Never before in recent history have we dealt with a global pandemic and a national racial epidemic at the same time, and we had the opportunity for over 100 students, faculty and staff to have a conversation around race to talk about the things we need to do to move forward as well,” said McCloud concerning the development of the campus’s diversity plan.

The advisory board also approved the dates for future meetings, which can be found at utm.edu/advisoryboard, along with the rest of the meeting materials. The annual winter advisory board meeting will be held Jan. 22, 2021.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.

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