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Here we GROW again!

9 Jul

LMU_WordmarkWhen I started work at Lincoln Memorial University on September 15, 2005, the University was a small, liberal arts institution with a main campus in Harrogate, Tenn., and a small handful of extended learning sites where primarily graduate education was delivered. Our student population was under 2,000. At the time that I interviewed for my position there was no mention of possible growth or impending plans to add professional programs. Shortly after I started Vice President for University Advancement Cynthia Whitt, my boss, handed me a brochure on osteopathic medicine and said “oh, learn more about this… we are looking at the possibility of adding a school of osteopathic medicine here.”

The LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

That was almost eight years ago. Today our enrollment is over 4,000 students, LMU operates 10 extended learning sites, and not only do we have the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, it is now one of the largest medical school programs in the state. In addition to osteopathic medicine, LMU-DCOM is home to a top-notch Physician Assistant Program. And the University hasn’t limited its growth to the medical field. In 2009 the LMU-Duncan School of Law opened in Knoxville. As an institution, LMU-DSOL’s Inaugural Class graduation was a highlight of spring. Over my tenure there has also been tremendous physical growth on the main campus as five new residence halls and two new classroom facilities have been built.

One might think that with all that growth, the University would take a breather. However, today is another momentous day for LMU as we announce that the University has been granted a Letter of Reasonable Assurance by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) and can now recruit students to the emerging LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine (LMU-CVM).
As LMU Board of Trustees Chairman Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk said in the press release, “The approval from the COE to open a new school of veterinary medicine in Harrogate, Tenn., will propel this University to even greater heights and establish LMU as a leader in professional studies for the region.”

The University first announced its plans to pursue a college of veterinary medicine in 2011. Since then a dedicated pocket of LMU administrators and newly hired program directors have been working diligently toward the accreditation process. This group has worked tirelessly toward this day. However, there is no time to sit back and bask in the glow of today. It’s time to push forward and work harder than ever on program development. As the admissions team kicks into high-gear, recruiting the LMU-CVM inaugural class, faculty has to be hired and community partnerships lined up.

LMU is now recruiting for the emerging LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.

LMU is now recruiting for the emerging LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.

There is no time to rest because here we grow again!

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The elephant in the room

9 Jul

If you’ve have been following this blog, you may have noticed a big elephant in the room. AbeSquare is intended to be a place where you can drop in and check out all that is happening at LMU. It’s meant to be less formal than a press release, kind of a look behind the scenes on what is happing at the University.

So if this blog is going to live up to its intention, it is time to address the elephant in the blogsphere. That elephant is the John J. Duncan School of Law and its bid to gain provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association. It’s a topic that has been a hot button in certain circles on campus for much of the last year. For me personally, it has been a tightrope I’ve tried to inch across by doing what is best for the University. Aside from the storm damage in Harrogate, it was probably the biggest story for LMU last week.

To step back a little and provide a little background, LMU’s journey to ABA accreditation began in early 2008 when the University took over the lease of the Old City Hall building in downtown Knoxville. Shortly after the lease signing, LMU Trustees announced its plans to found a law school. Initial planning and a feasibility study were performed. In August of the same year, a founding Dean, Sydney A. Beckman, was hired and faculty began to come on board.

All the while, the administration of the new law school was working with the goal that the school would eventually be ABA accredited. However, there were more important steps in their path. First, the University had to gain Tennessee Board of Law Examiners and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approval to start to recruit students. After both bodies gave the okay, LMU announced that it was naming its newest professional studies school after Tennessee Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr., a long time public servant and supporter of LMU. Recruiting the first class was already underway and the Lincoln Memorial University-Duncan School of Law (LMU-DSOL) was just months away from opening its doors.

In August of 2009, LMU-DSOL’s inaugural class was seated and sworn in as first year law students. The University could not even apply for ABA accreditation until their first year of study was complete. So the next year was spent recruiting a full-time cohort to join the part-time students in the second year of operation. All the while, LMU’s administration was preparing for applicant status with the ABA.

As soon as it was eligible, LMU-DSOL applied for and gained applicant status with the ABA. This step, set LMU on the nearly two years and counting odyssey that has resulted in Thursday’s announcement by the ABA that LMU-DSOL has been denied provisional accreditation. The news came after LMU appealed the ABA’s initial denial in December and after LMU filed a lawsuit against the ABA.

LMU administrators are actually in a meeting now as I type this, determining the next steps the University will take.

So here it is, the elephant in the room. LMU-DSOL has been denied provisional accreditation by the ABA. While there is not a lot of inside scoop or behind-the-scenes information I can share right now, I can assure you that LMU still intends to have an ABA accredited law school and we are going to keep fighting the good fight until we reach our goal.

 

 

 

 

Blown Away!

6 Jul

At roughly 4:30 p.m. yesterday, as LMU staff were hitting the door and heading home for the evening, the air was remarkably calm, almost still, even. It truly was the calm before the storm. People who remained on campus at 5 p.m. witnessed the wind cutting through campus downing trees, uprooting landscaping and damaging buildings. The wind was accompanied by some rain, thunder and plenty of lightning.

The severe thunderstorms swept out of the area almost as quickly as they came in, leaving as of yet untold damage. Reports last night included a house that was possibly blown off its foundation in Harrogate. In Knoxville, tens of thousands were left in the dark with widespread power outages. The worst reports trickled in from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where two people lost their lives.

A tree on LMU’s Quad was split in three during the storm.

Early this morning, LMU Maintenance and Grounds crews were working diligently to clear the fallen trees and varied debris around campus. They were inspecting buildings and surveying damage. The line of thunder storms caused damage to several University buildings including the Schenck Center, Farr-Chinnock, Grant-Lee and Avery. A window was blown out in Schenck. Farr-Chinnock sustained the greatest damage as pieces of its roof were torn apart from the building. The outdoor batting cages near the Lamar Hennon Baseball Field were also mangled in the storm.

The strong thunder storms on July 15, damaged the roof of Farr-Chinnock Hall.

Remarkably, the University technology infrastructure remained intact throughout the event with only brief outages of power or internet services. “We were fortunate that the most extensive damage was sustained to our landscaping,” LMU President Dr. Dawson told me. “And certainly, the best news is that there were no injuries.”

LMU Dean of Administration Lisa Blair Cox along with Director of Campus Safety and Facilities Richard Owens were working with insurance adjustors to get the University back to business as usual, but with such widespread damage I think we can all expect this to take a little time.

A film crew from Sigmon Communications Center was on the scene when the storm struck and captured this raw footage of the damage.

For more photos, check out the University’s Flickr photo stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lincolnmemorialuniversity/sets/72157630449915448/ 

LMU Tri-State News filed this report on the storm:

 

 

A close call, close to home.

11 Mar

If you have ever visited Kresge Hall or been to a University Advancement event, then likely you know who Angela Jordan is. If not, you are missing out. This remarkable woman puts all of us at UA first. She never ceases to lend a hand, help out or just listen to whatever may be on your mind. Her official title is administrative assistant to the vice president for University Advancement, but she really does so much more than assist for our entire division. More than just an assistant, Angie mothers us all.

No matter how many times she has been recipient of one of my eye rolls when she fusses at me for carrying too much, she still cares enough to chastise me any time I lift more than I should. She often tells me that she doesn’t care if I think I can do it, she knows that I shouldn’t. There is never a day that I leave work without her telling me do drive safe and take care.

When the devastating storms hit Harrogate on Friday, March 2, 2012, Angie’s house was struck by one of the tornados that ravaged neighborhoods across the street from LMU. She and her husband were thankfully unharmed, but the house and property sustained much damage. Angie asked me to help her thank the community who came to her aid. She said that she felt a thank you card wasn’t enough and wondered if I would print something in our University newsletter, CampusLinc, which I assured her I would. I also encouraged her to share with me her story and the following is just that…

 

Lessons on trust in times of a crisis

30 Sep

Driving to campus yesterday was like driving through a cloud. As it often does on crisp fall mornings, fog blanketed LMU. I found it soothing and hoped it would set the mood for a calm and productive day at the office, one I was hoping would allow me to catch up on a number of outstanding projects. However, one thing I have learned in my six years on the job at LMU, days can get away from you rather quickly for any number of reasons. That was certainly the case by midmorning yesterday.

It all started well. I was able to print 1,500 flyers promoting the upcoming start of the basketball season with Midnight Madness during Homecoming. I started to design a series of newspaper ads for all the Homecoming highlights and accepted a couple of meeting requested and updated my calendar. When my phone rang midmorning, I could see from the caller ID that it was Dean of Administration Lisa Blair-Cox. The call started friendly enough with an easy greeting and an exchange of “how are yous?” Then the soothing, peaceful morning shattered as she revealed the reason for her call. “I wanted to let you know about a situation we are dealing with here,” she said. Lisa went on to tell me that someone had made a threat on a couple of people working at LMU. She said that Director of Campus Safety and Facilities Management Richard Owens was with her and they were convening the crisis management team if I would come down to join them.

Well, there went the morning.

As I left Kresge Hall, I noticed a Claiborne County Sheriff’s department vehicle turning around in the parking lot. In our brief conversation, Lisa had told me that we would see a heightened law enforcement presence on campus.  She was right. As I drove the short distance to the student center I saw a total of five Sheriff’s department vehicles on campus. As I hustled into the President’s office, I knew that the rumors on campus must be already flying. Five police cars would surely spark conversation.

Once, in the office with the rest of the team, Lisa gave an update on what was going on.  She reported that the Sheriff’s department planned to remain on campus until the person who made the threat was in custody or their location could be confirmed in another part of the state. They emphasized that it was safe to continue with our normal activities on campus. That made it easy for the crisis team to make some quick decisions. Dr Dawson was in Chicago for the Duncan School of Law American Bar Association hearing, so after a couple of phone calls with him we had a definite plan of action.

The University was not going on lock down. We would post an announcement on Pathway to explain the added law enforcement presence and we would keep the J. Frank White Academy kids in the academy for lunch. Hoping to keep heads cool on campus, the team decided to disband and return to our normal responsibilities.

When we emerged from the meeting, the President’s office staff told us that calls were already coming in with questions. After crafting a message, I posted it to Pathway, hoping that it would relieve some of the burden on the President’s office. The more people I encountered after the announcement, the more I discovered that the message had not put an end to questions.

A statement I repeated many times yesterday was the simple truth. The University was not on lockdown, because the situation didn’t warrant lockdown. I know that it is easy to get swept into the whirl of rumors and speculation and certainly there were a lot of rumors and speculation afoot yesterday.  I heard everything from bomb threats to actual gunmen on campus. As people continued to question the crisis team’s response to the incident, I started to feel my composure slip and to get frustrated with people. Thankfully, I gave myself a gut-check and didn’t let the frustration get the best of me.

I tried to keep in mind that it is not our job or role in this situation to gather or corroborate information on the incident. Nor was it my responsibility to broadcast largely unsubstantiated reports to anyone. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to public safety. As a campus communicator, I am tasked with following the procedures in place to notify our community in an appropriate time and with an appropriate message providing the information vital to public safety. Likewise, the onus is on the community to seek the information from the proper channels.

The University has an e-2-campus texting program where text alerts are sent in case of emergency. This system is only activated in case of imminent threat, either weather or crime related. The Crisis Team did not use this in this case because the threat was never imminent and we did not want to cause a panic. This incident does offer a good reminder that e-2-campus is service that you have to opt-in to. If you have not registered to receive the e-2-campus alerts, be sure to do so. If the information we are distributing warranted an e-alert, it would have had one. Since it was only posted on Pathway, I had hoped it would have signaled, that yes there was a threat made, but it was not one that should cause panic. Had an imminent, serious threat been in the area, I assure you the University has a plan for that and immediate action would have been taken. Certainly, the community can take their cues from how a message is delivered and what is in the message.

For me, this incident can be summed up with one word. Trust. We as a crisis team had to trust that the Claiborne County Sheriff’s department was providing us with the proper information and guidance when making our decisions. In turn, and I think the breakdown in this situation, the LMU community has got to trust that the administration is doing what the situation demands. The community has got to trust that we would not purposely put anyone in harm’s way. The public is never going to be privy to everything that is happening in a public safety situation. These situations are very fluid and information changes quickly; so it is imperative that the community trusts that information that is being disseminated is credible and pertinent.

Along with trust, it is vital that our community be vigilant about their safety, but also respect that policies and procedures are in place to reinforce their safety. The policies have been tested and rehearsed. It should instill a lot of confidence when officials say these things are being followed.