2019 Self Study - Part II, Standard 1: Mission, Governance and Adminstration

Executive summary:

The department adopted a new mission and strategic plan in 2017 and is hard at work fulfilling strategic goals related to facilities and technology, assessment, curriculum, engagement, diversity, and faculty research and creative works. Recent achievements include a year-long curriculum review that led to the department proposing a change from a B.A. to a B.S. in Communication; the revision and full implementation of the department’s assessment plan, with assessment data informing the curriculum review; the purchase of new audio and video equipment; the creation a professional advisory board; the reformation of a PRSSA chapter; and a decrease in class sizes for lecture courses.

The faculty is active in the governance of the department and the university. At the department level, the faculty regularly vote on major decisions related to the department, including curricular decisions, hiring recommendations, the awarding of scholarships, and more. In Fall 2019, the faculty began revising the department’s bylaws to address changes made to policies at the college, university, and system levels.

At the university level the department has two members serving in executive positions in the Faculty Senate and regularly has members serving on university-level committees. Department faculty also serve on system-level committees.

In the years since the last accreditation visit the department, college, academic affairs, and the UT system have seen changes of leadership. The department’s previous head, Dr. Betsy Alderman, retired in July 2016 and was replaced by Dr. John Zibluk, following a national search. Dr. Felicia McGhee was appointed interim head of the department in May 2018. The College of Arts of Science is currently headed by an interim dean. A national search for a dean is ongoing, with hopes that a permanent dean will in place beginning July 2020. A new provost started at the university in June 2019. The UT system is currently headed by an interim president. The UT Board has yet to decide how it will proceed with selecting a permanent president. The only direct administrator who was here during the last reaccreditation cycle is Chancellor Dr. Steven Angle.


  1. Describe the administrative structure of the unit, including to whom the unit administrator reports to within the university. Include names and titles. The information should extend from the lowest level of administrative responsibility within the unit to the institution’s chief executive officer.

The department is led by a department head appointed by the college dean. Our current, interim department head is Dr. Felicia McGhee. Responsibilities of the department head are outlined in section I.D.1 of the college’s bylaws (https://www.utc.edu/college-arts-sciences/pdfs/cas-bylaws-approved-20181115.pdf).

The department head reports to the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. The interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences is Dr. Joe Wilferth. Responsibilities of the dean are outlined in section I.A.1 of the college’s bylaws (https://www.utc.edu/college-arts-sciences/pdfs/cas-bylaws-approved-20181115.pdf).

The dean reports to Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Jerold Hale. Responsibilities of the Provost are outlined in section of the Faculty Handbook (https://www.utc.edu/faculty-senate/pdfs/fhandbook82019.pdf).

The provost reports to Chancellor Dr. Steven Angle. Responsibilities of the chancellor are outlined in section 1.3.3 of the Faculty Handbook (https://www.utc.edu/faculty-senate/pdfs/fhandbook82019.pdf).

The chancellor reports to the president of the University of Tennessee system. The interim president is Randy Boyd.


  1. Describe the unit’s process for strategic or long-range planning. Provide a copy of the unit’s written strategic or long-range plan. This plan should give the date of adoption/revision and any timeline for achieving stated goals. Discuss how the plan provides vision and direction for the unit’s future and how it is has encouraged and contributed to quality and innovation in the unit.

Strategic planning is led by the department head, with input from and final approval by the department’s full faculty. The department’s current strategic plan was adopted in September 2017 and revised in October 2018.

The current plan sets forth a vision in which the department seeks to integrate teaching, scholarship and service, including engagement with the community and communications professions in Chattanooga and the surrounding area, in order to maximize opportunities and outcomes for faculty, staff, students, the college and university, and external constituencies.

The plan identifies four major values for the department: engagement; diversity; professionalism and ethics; and free speech. In service to those values, the plan outlines specific strategic goals and time frames in the following areas:

facilities and technology;




diversity; and

faculty research and creative works.

The plan has led the department to:

significantly upgrade the technology and equipment used by students;

implement new assessment measures, report findings from long-standing assessment measures, and use assessment findings to inform a review of the department’s curriculum;

conduct a year-long curriculum review culminating in the proposal of a new BS in Communication;

reconnect with our alumni, re-establish a PRSSA chapter, and explore the possibility of establishing other student groups; and

decrease class sizes in lecture courses to allow for more interaction between students and faculty and to allow faculty more time to devote to research and creative works.

The full strategic plan is available below:

Strategic Plan 2017-2022

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Department of Communication’s strategic plan aims to be a guideline to help faculty and staff set priorities and goals as it looks forward to its 2019-2020 ACEJMC accreditation visit and beyond.


The principal mission of the Department of Communication is to provide a strong preparation in communication practice and research based on a firm grounding in the liberal arts and sciences. The department aims to provide its students hands-on opportunities to help them develop into thoughtful, caring, engaged, and skilled communication professionals and global citizens. We accomplish this by offering our students a flexible curriculum that allows them to pursue their own interests and professional goals under faculty guidance. The faculty is committed to making contributions to the discipline of communication through scholarship and professional practice. 


The department seeks to integrate teaching, scholarship and service, including engagement with the community and communications professions in Chattanooga and the surrounding area, in order to maximize opportunities and outcomes for faculty, staff, students, the college and university and external constituencies.


In accordance with the university and college strategic plans, the department particularly values:

Engagement: Working with on-campus and off-campus constituencies, including student development, other departments in the college and in the university, professional and scholarly organizations and others in order to maximize opportunities and outcomes for faculty, staff and students.

Diversity: Ensuring that diverse voices, particularly those of underrepresented groups, are represented in all activities, including teaching, research, service, personnel and curriculum. Diversity ensures a maximum benefit to all students as they are exposed to different perspectives, ideas, and opinions, a concept that remains at the core of the academic enterprise. Attention to diversity also remains at the core of governance to ensure that diverse voices are considered as part of the decision-making process.

Professionalism & Ethics: In a rapidly changing field, it is essential that the Department of Communication uphold and promulgate professional values and best practices, emphasizing ethical decision-making and an adherence to truth, transparency and respect for faculty, staff and students.

Free Speech: We value free expression within the curriculum, including upholding principles of the First Amendment. This includes both open expression of ideas in the classroom and the practice of free expression in society.

Strategic Goals

Facilities & Technology

Secure new facilities to ensure continued success. The department’s longtime home, Frist Hall, is slated for demolition, so there is no incentive for major upgrades. At the same time, a new facility can ensure continued steady growth and provide the opportunity for synergies with student media and campus media outlets. ACEJMC has twice cited the department for lack of progress on this issue.

Provide students with up-to-date technology and equipment.

Work with university administrators to identify a location for the department’s future home. (Spring 2018).

Develop floor plans that meet the needs of the unit (Summer 2018).

Purchase equipment to support audio production (Summer 2018).

Create an online system for reservations and management of equipment (Summer 2018).

Purchase equipment to support video production (Fall 2019).

Secure funding to upgrade computers in Metro (Summer 2019).

Secure funding to upgrade computers in Frist 203 (Summer 2020).

Maintain equipment (ongoing).

Move into new facilities (Fall 2020).


Use assessment data to improve and inform curriculum.

Collect all existing assessment data (Summer 2018).

Enact new measures introduced in revised assessment plan (Fall 2018).

Report assessment data on an annual basis (Fall of each year).

Use assessment findings to inform curriculum review (2018-19).

Review and revise assessment plan based on curriculum changes (2019-2020).

Continue assessment on a yearly basis (ongoing).


Revisit curriculum to ensure maximum student success both professionally and academically. 

Create an ad hoc committee to conduct a full review of the curriculum (2018-2019).

Use assessment data to inform curriculum review (2018-2019).

Submit curriculum revisions to the university (Fall 2019).

Implement curriculum revisions (Fall 2020).

Use assessment data to annually review and improve curriculum (ongoing).


Provide students with opportunities to engage alumni and professionals. 

Work with alumni affairs to update alumni contact information. Make initial contact with alumni (Fall 2018).

Reestablish alumni council (Spring 2019).

Establish a chapter of SPJ (Spring 2019).

Reorganize a chapter of PRSSA (Fall 2019).

Reorganize a chapter of NABJ (Fall 2020).

Maintain yearly contact with alumni (ongoing).


Strengthen the department’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.

During the curriculum review explore ways to strengthen diversity across the curriculum (2018-2019).

Revisit department’s diversity plan (Spring 2019).

Strive to increase diversity in the faculty and staff through hiring practices (ongoing). 

Faculty Research and Creative Works

Increase departmental support of faculty research and creative works.

Continue to fund faculty travel to conferences (ongoing).

Provide new tenure track faculty with course releases during their first year (2018-2019).

Explore possibility of transferring tenure/tenure track faculty to a 3/3 workload as other departments in the College of Arts & Sciences have in the last few years. 

 Adopted Sept 2017, revised October 2018.


  1. Describe the unit’s policies and procedures for faculty governance. Provide in a digital format or make available in the site team workroom a print copy of faculty policy manuals, handbooks or other documents specifying policies, procedures, and the roles of faculty and students in governance and in development of educational policy and curriculum. (Note the passages and pages specific to the directive.)

All members of the department’s full-time faculty play a role in the governance of the department and in the development of educational policies and curriculum. Major decisions related to the department, including everything from curricular decisions and hiring recommendations to the awarding of scholarships, are regularly put to faculty votes.

The department’s curriculum is the responsibility of the entire full-time faculty. Changes to the curriculum require the approval of the majority of the department’s full-time faculty. Once approved by the department, curriculum proposals must also be approved by the following: college-level curriculum committee, college dean, associate provost, provost (when lab fees are involved), and the Faculty Senate’s curriculum committee.

The department’s policies and procedures for faculty governance are outlined in the department’s bylaws available at: https://www.utc.edu/communication/bylaws.php

The college’s policies and procedures for faculty governance are outlined in the college’s bylaws available at: www.utc.edu/college-arts-sciences/pdfs/cas-bylaws-approved-20181115.pdf (see section II.D for a description of the CAS Curriculum Committee).

The university’s procedures for faculty governance are outlined in two documents:

Faculty Senate Bylaws available at: www.utc.edu/faculty-senate/bylaws.php (see Article 3 for a description of the Curriculum Committee)

Faculty Handbook available at: www.utc.edu/faculty-senate/pdfs/facultyhandbook_11_02_2018.pdf (see section 1. 4 for decision of the faculty’s role in shared governance).


  1. How often did the faculty meet during the most recent academic year?

The faculty met 12 times during the 2018-19 academic year.


  1. List faculty committees and chairs. List any ad hoc committees in operation at the time of the self-study.

During the 2018-19 academic year the department had three standing committees and three ad hoc committees.

The standing committee included:

Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion Committee – Dr. David Sachsman, chair

Scholarship Committee – Dr. Felicia McGhee, chair

Internship Committee – Ms. Nicole Brown and Dr. Chandler Harriss, chairs

The ad hoc committees included:

Bylaws Committee – Dr. Elizabeth Gailey, chair

Curriculum Committee – Dr. Chandler Harriss, chair

Lecturer Search Committee – Dr. Michael McCluskey, chair

Lecturer Search Committee – Dr. Elizabeth Gailey, chair


  1. Describe the faculty’s contributions to the administration and governance of the university.

The faculty are active contributors to governance at the university level. One faculty member is currently serving as president-elect of the faculty and will serve as president of the faculty in 2020-2021. Another faculty member is serving as vice president of the Faculty Senate in 2019-20. In the past six years several faculty members have served as senators in the Faculty Senate and one faculty member served as Faculty Senate secretary.

Faculty members have also served on university-wide committees, including the Curriculum Committee, Faculty Administrative Relations Committee, General Education Committee, Undergraduate Petitions Committee, Student Media Board, Handbook Committee, Classroom Technology Committee, Walker Center for Teaching and Learning Advisory Board, and Marketing and Communications Committee. Faculty members have also chaired the Curriculum Committee and the Student Media Board. 

The department has a faculty member serving on the college’s post-tenure review committee.

At the system-level the department has a member serving on the President’s Compensation Advisory Board (CAB).


  1. Describe the process for selecting, appointing and evaluating unit administrators.

The department head is appointed by the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Permanent appointments are made through a formal search process involving a search committee that includes some members of the department’s faculty. The search committee helps identify finalists for consideration. The final hiring decision is made by the dean.

The department head is evaluated on an annual basis. Each spring, members of the department are asked to complete an anonymous survey that includes both Likert-Scale questions and open-ended, short-answer questions. The questionnaire is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses of the department head. The results of the annual survey are provided to the department head and to the dean.

The dean formally evaluates the department head’s performance based on an annual performance report, the results of the faculty survey, and other variables or values intrinsic to the individual department head.


  1. Describe the unit’s process for timely and equitable resolution of complaints and concerns expressed by faculty, staff or students.

The unit head has an open-door policy.  Students with complaints about specific courses or teachers are asked first to speak with the teacher of the course.  If the issue is not resolved at that level, students may then take the issue to the department head. Once a student brings the complaint to the head, the head contacts the affected faculty member.  After the head has heard both sides, she makes a decision and informs both parties. If the student is still not satisfied with the decision, he/she may reach out the Dean of Students (https://www.utc.edu/dean-students/index.php).

When a faculty or staff member has a complaint, it is brought to the head.  The head then vets the complaint.  If needed the head will seek advice from the university’s Human Resources Department, the Faculty Administrative. Relations Committee, and/or the university’s ombudsperson.


2019 Self-Study