Pictured above – Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham speaks at the Board of Trustees meeting.

Tech’s program will provide a new pathway for future nuclear engineers to address demand

Cookeville – In order to address the demand for nuclear engineers across the country, Tennessee Tech University is preparing a new Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering degree. At its March meeting, the board of trustees learned that Tech has notified the Tennessee Higher Education Commission of their plans for a new nuclear engineering program.

“No other state in the country comes close to Tennessee’s legacy, resources, and potential to be a leader in nuclear energy,” said Governor Bill Lee In his 2023 State of the State address. “And there is no long-term national strategy that doesn’t include nuclear energy.”

Gov. Lee is also proposing the state invest extensively in establishing a nuclear development and manufacturing ecosystem in Tennessee. Tech’s program will provide a new pathway for future nuclear engineers to address the demand, as the average age of nuclear engineers is currently over 50 years.

According to Provost Lori Mann-Bruce, Tech’s College of Engineering has a “very aggressive” timeline to start the new program. Pending THEC approval, students will be able to enroll in the nuclear engineering program for Fall 2024.

Throughout the daylong meetings, the board of trustees also acted on a compensation plan, housing rates and amended the university’s master plan to add a student event center.

Budget/Financial Information

Governor’s 2022-2023 proposed budget

Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed 2023-2024 budget included an increase to Tech’s annual operating appropriation of $6.76 million. The budget proposal includes funding for Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center ($1 million recurring; $200,000 non-recurring).

Compensation plan

The board approved a plan for the expected 5% salary pool increase. For 2023-2024, 3% of the pool will be recurring salary increases based on an employee’s 2022-2023 evaluation. Permanent benefitted employees with a satisfactory or better rating will be eligible for these raises, which will range from 1% to 7% to provide supervisors and department chairs with flexibility to reward performance. These increases will be effective July 1.

The other 2% of the pool will be used to provide a one-time $650 bonus for permanent benefitted staff, effective July 1, and to address market equity adjustments that will be identified by a comprehensive compensation study. The university has contracted with Mercer Financial Services Company to perform the study, which is expected to be completed this summer and fall, with the final structure and implementation plan expected in Nov. Equity adjustments will be effective Jan. 1 2024.

This compensation plan is pending approval of the governor’s budget by the state Legislature.

Non-mandatory fees

The board approved rate increases for the traditional-style residence halls on campus for 2023-2024. There will be a 2% increase in rates for double- and triple-occupancy rooms and 5% for single-occupancy rooms. This increase will not include New Hall North and South or Tech Village apartments. The increase is to cover inflationary costs and major maintenance and renovations to the older halls.

For Tech Village, there will be a $100 per month increase, with funds from this increase used to pay utility costs for residents. Currently, students renting apartments in Tech Village must contract directly with the City of Cookeville for utilities. This increase will remove this step from the rental process and is expected to be cost neutral for students.

University Master Plan and Disclosed Capital Projects

The board approved an amendment to Tech’s master plan. A new student event center was added to the plan, which will be located at the south end of the football field and northwest of the Volpe Library. The proposed event center will house the university bookstore, a dedicated banquet hall space and a satellite food court. This will allow space currently occupied by these functions in the Roaden University Center to be used for other student service and activity needs.

This multi-phased project would also include facade improvements to the library and the creation of an exterior courtyard.

A five-level parking garage, which was already part of the master plan, is expected to provide 545 parking spaces, a net gain of 156 spaces. 

The university also disclosed two capital projects, which will be funded by the university, for 2023-2024: the previously mentioned student event center and the revised project for the J.J. Oakley Innovation Center and Residence Hall. 

While the board approved the amendment to the master plan, and learned of the disclosed projects for 2023-2024, it has not approved any future construction. All individual capital projects are brought before the board as they are proposed.

In other business

  • The board heard from a group of students leading the upcoming Remote Area Medical Clinic. RAM is a major nonprofit provider of free pop-up clinics designed to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality health care to those in need. The students who addressed the board were Alex Stovall, Alex Coker, Dominick Coker, Maggie Teat and Austin McCowan (PHOTO).
  • Provost Lori Mann-Bruce recognized the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Research Unit at Tech. There are 41 units at universities across 39 states. This co-op is focused on the successful management of fishery resources and, according to Bruce, helps Tech attract top graduate students from across the nation and provide world-class research experiences.
  • Karen Lykins, vice president for Enrollment and Communication, provided the board with an update on enrollment, communication, recruitment and yield strategies. She also announced the university’s fall-to-spring first-time freshman retention rate was 91.5%.
  • Michael Aikens, director of the Center for Rural Innovation, shared an update about Tech’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge.
  • During his report to the board, President Phil Oldham shared that last week’s engineering career fair hit a record high in the number of employers in attendance to recruit Tennessee Tech students, along with recognizing Tech’s men’s and women’s basketball teams (PHOTO).

Materials from today’s meeting and the webcast of the full board meeting are available at the board’s website, www.tntech.edu/board

The board’s next meeting is June 22.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.