TBR committee appoints four executives to help lead unified community and technical college system

A Tennessee Board of Regents committee approved four administrative appointments recommended by Chancellor Flora Tydings on Thursday as part of a strategic reorganization of the TBR system office to reflect its streamlined mission as a unified community and technical college system under the state’s FOCUS Act.

The chancellor outlined the reorganization in a special called telephone meeting of the Board's Personnel and Compensation Committee. The committee unanimously approved the plan, which under TBR policy allows the appointments to be effective immediately. The full Board will act on the appointments at its June 23 meeting, through its review and approval of the committee's minutes.

The committee approved appointment of James King as executive vice chancellor. King joined the college system in 1983 and has been vice chancellor of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology since 1999. In his new role, he reports directly to the chancellor and will help lead various initiatives for student success and to unite the community and technical college systems.

The reorganization plan replaces two separate departments – the Office of Community Colleges and the Office of Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology – with a new Office of Student Success. King will also serve as the interim vice chancellor for student success, leading that office until a search for permanent vice chancellor is concluded. The two offices had been led by two vice chancellors – King as vice chancellor for technical colleges and Warren Nichols, who left in February to head a community college in Texas, as vice chancellor for community colleges. The new office will also work on student services across the system.

The plan also creates a new Office of Economic and Community Development that will work closely with state agencies to more quickly and efficiently provide for the workforce training needs of business and industry. It will serve as the college system’s first point of contact for businesses in need of workforce training and will coordinate how the system’s campuses provide it. The committee approved appointment of Dr. Carol Puryear as vice chancellor of economic and community development. 

Dr. Puryear joined the TBR system in 1994 as coordinator for professional development at Middle Tennessee State University and has been associate vice chancellor for instruction and special projects at the colleges of applied technology since 2012. She was also director of TCAT-Murfreesboro from 2007 to 2012.

The committee approved Tydings’ recommended appointment of Dr. Randy Schulte as interim vice chancellor of academic affairs until a national search is concluded for a successor to Dr. Tristan Denley, who is leaving next month to become vice chancellor for academic affairs at the larger University System of Georgia. Schulte, whose career in education began in 1976, has been TBR’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs since 2014, after six years as assistant vice chancellor.

TBR’s Office of Academic Affairs is nationally recognized for its cutting-edge initiatives and research on student academic success, including co-requisite remediation, guided pathways and high-impact practices.

The restructuring also creates a new Office of External Affairs to consolidate outreach, communications, marketing and government relations functions that were spread through other offices. The committee approved Tydings’ recommended appointment of  Dr. Kimberly McCormick as vice chancellor of external affairs.

McCormick joined the system office as special assistant to the chancellor in February, after working in Chattanooga State Community College’s administration from 2008 through 2016. She was the college’s vice president for economic and community development in 2015-16, after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs, associate vice president for academic affairs, interim dean of the business and information technology division, and associate vice president for student affairs, admissions and school relations. Before joining Chattanooga State, McCormick was an educator in the Hamilton County Schools from 1991 to 2008, rising from high school teacher to administrator.

Reorganization of the college system’s administrative structure was prompted largely by its changing mission under the FOCUS (Focus on College and University Success) Act approved by the state legislature last year. The act created new governing boards for each of the six former TBR universities. The new boards assumed administration of their campuses from TBR when the boards convened for the first time in March and earlier this month.

When Gov. Bill Haslam announced the FOCUS Act legislation in December 2015, he said the plan would give TBR “a concentrated focus on the state’s 13 community and 27 technical colleges,” including student success.  In his 2016 State of the State address, the governor elaborated further on his vision for the community and technical college system as the main vehicle in his Drive to 55 initiative to increase the percentage of working-age Tennesseans with college degrees or postsecondary certificates and diplomas to 55 percent by 2025.

Tydings, who became chancellor on Feb. 1, told the committee that “after careful thought and consideration on how we move forward in making the Tennessee Board of Regents the premier technical and community college system, I feel these appointments are necessary to accomplish that vision.”

Regent Parker Smith of Kingsport, the committee chairman, said the new appointees will help move the college system forward. Board of Regents Vice Chair Emily Reynolds of Nashville said, “Chancellor Tydings has made great progress in her first three months in her new role as chancellor. With the appointments she brings us today, I am excited about the future of the TBR system.”

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.