Oldham added to Drive to 55 steering committee

Higher education leaders to provide guidance on Drive to 55 alignment plan

Dr. Phil Oldham.
Dr. Phil Oldham.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday members of a transition task force to help guide his recent proposal to restructure Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

The group will help shape the Focus On College and University Success (FOCUS) Act during the legislative process and aid in its potential implementation if approved by the General Assembly.

The FOCUS Act is the next step in the Drive to 55: ensuring that colleges and universities are organized, supported and empowered in efforts to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 by 2025. Haslam last week unveiled sweeping changes to the state’s public higher education system as a means to achieving that goal.

The transition task force will have two components: a steering committee to provide high-level implementation guidance to the governor, and a working group that will offer technical assistance and report back to the steering committee.

 Tennessee Tech President Dr. Phil Oldham was named to the 14-member steering committee. He is the only Upper Cumberland representative.

“The Drive to 55 is changing the landscape for Tennessee students and public higher education in our state,” Haslam said in a release. “The conversation has brought us to this point: making sure our colleges and universities are aligned in support of student success, and I want to thank these leaders and professionals from Tennessee higher education for helping work through the details of this proposal.”

As charged by the steering committee, the working group will research implementation issues and provide detailed recommendations to increase efficiency in data systems, policy processes and other issues involving state higher education alignment. Drive to 55 Executive Director Mike Krause will chair the working group, which will also include:

  • Dr. Mary Lou Apple, Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) member, former Motlow State Community College president
  • Dr. Keith Carver, University of Tennessee (UT), executive assistant to the president
  • Dr. Russ Deaton, Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) interim executive director
  • Dr. Tristan Denley, TBR vice chancellor for academic affairs
  • David Gregory, TBR vice chancellor of administratio
  • Dr. Brian Noland, East Tennessee State University president
  • Roland Rayner, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Memphis director


The transition steering committee is charged with evaluating key operational areas that will need adjusting under the FOCUS plan announced last week and ensuring all sectors of Tennessee public higher education are positioned to maximize student success under the new governance structure.

Haslam will chair the steering committee. In addition to Oldham, appointees include:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville)
  • House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson (R-Clarskville)
  • Emily Reynolds, TBR vice chair
  • John Morgan, TBR chancellor
  • Evan Cope, THEC chair
  • Dr. Russ Deaton, THEC interim executive director
  • Raja Jubran, UT Board of Trustees vice chair
  • Dr. Joe DiPietro, UT president
  • Dr. Glenda Glover, Tennessee State University president
  • Dr. Sidney McPhee, Middle Tennessee State University president
  • Dr. David Rudd, University of Memphis president
  • Dr. Alisa White, Austin Peay State University president


The transition task force will also seek feedback from a variety of stakeholders including students, parents, higher education leaders, higher education practitioners and advocacy groups.

By 2025, 55 percent of the jobs available in Tennessee will require a postsecondary credential, and currently only 33 percent of Tennesseans qualify. The governor launched his Drive to 55 two years ago to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate.

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