UTC to invest in teacher education, consider use of artificial intelligence

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga / Chancellor Steven Angle talks with students Chamyra Teasley, Aria Beloate and Braden Stillwell, from left, after delivering the State of the University speech Friday in the University Center.

Chancellor Steve Angle, in his annual State of the University address Friday, reflected on his past 10 years as chancellor and set his vision for the future, centered around innovation, health, economic development and teacher education.

"As we look to the next decade, our actions must be relevant, easily understood and difference-makers. We must be innovating as we stay true to our values and who we are," he said. "Our plans must be bold and inch forward, not incremental steps down the same path of the past."

Beyond admitting the largest freshman class in school history this fall, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's six-year graduation rate has increased to 53%, Angle said. When he became chancellor in 2013, it was at 37%.

He also touted the 91% six-year graduation rate for student athletes.

In his Friday speech, Angle proposed a new Center for Innovation and Excellence in Teacher Education. He said teacher education was an area where the university could make a difference, citing the effect teachers have on literacy, third-grade advancement and post-secondary preparation.

"Teacher preparation is the key, and that means being on the cutting edge and challenging the norm," Angle said. "This is important work. Our partnering school systems, community and students are counting on us to get this right, and we will."

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He also announced a $30 million gift to the addition to Fletcher Hall, which will help double the size of the Rollins College of Business, and an $8 million gift to the new UTC School of Nursing building. The new building will help increase the number of nursing graduates and house a simulation facility, Angle said.

"Our vision is not scaled by what we think we can afford. Our vision is based on the investments required to drive student success in community impact," he said. "Our aspirations will define our budget."

UTC is also considering its use of artificial intelligence, Angle said. The university will host two open campus forums later this month on how it should use AI in its instruction, business operations and research.

"This is the future, and we need to find our place and how it best fits our focus on students and excellence," Angle said. "Our greatest asset is our people, and we will empower and invest in them. Our faculty and staff will lead the way in finding innovative opportunities to integrate these new tools into everything we do."

In a previous interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Associate Dean of Students Brett Fuchs said he expected the growing use of AI would lead to a large focus on academic integrity this school year.

"We're having lots of conversations on campus both with faculty and students about the positive or negative uses of AI," he said in an August phone interview. "It can be great, especially in certain fields, but it's also not the most accurate in areas."

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UTC will also focus its work around four rallying points — creating the Moc experience, leveraging its special place as Chattanooga's university, cultivating a culture of innovation and operating with excellence – for the next decade, Angle said in his speech.

"As we teach and infuse lifetime learning into the next generation, there are difficult questions that challenge the norm and push us to be inquisitive and at times contrarian," he said. "Our students are prepared to be problem solvers and critical thinkers."

Contact Shannon Coan at scoan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.