There's a new kid on the block.
On Wednesday, UT welcomed Timothy Hulsey, Ph.D, as the new associate provost of the Chancellor's Honors and Haslam Scholars programs.
After 22 years working for various honors programs across the country, Hulsey is coming home, having completed his Ph.D in clinical psychology at UT.
"It was time for new challenges," Hulsey said. "The quality of the undergraduate students here is phenomenal. When you look at the incoming students we are getting now, they are as good as anywhere in the country. So, there is a real upside here. The opportunities to take these students and give them a world class education are very exciting to me."
For more than a year, the Chancellor's Honors and Haslam Scholars programs have functioned under an interim director, whose job was simply to maintain and sustain them. With Hulsey filling the post, the honors community now has the opportunity to expand and improve.
"One of the benefits of having Dr. Hulsey on board is we get to look at our current structure and see where we can make improvements," said Sylvia Turner, an assistant director of the Chancellor's Honors and Haslam Scholars Programs. "We can now look at the best practices and implement them into the program.
"We can finally look at what we want the program to be and point it in that direction."
Already pioneering ideas for honors students, Timothy Hulsey hopes to create a more interactive experience for students, spending less time in a structured, classroom environment. Hulsey also hopes to accomplish this goal without prolonging graduation.
"The challenge here is to do it in a way that doesn't compete with their majors, because students shouldn't have to go to school longer just to get an honors degree," Hulsey said.
One idea is currently under administrative discussion. Perhaps his most revelatory initiative, Hulsey hopes to make an entire year of study abroad available for students in the Haslam Scholars Program.
"I think we have an opportunity for the Haslam Scholars Program to be kind of world class college program that the Haslam family intended when they first began donating the money by creating a program where the students have the kind of experiences, on a national and international stage, that prepares them to go and be difference-makers, very important people that hopefully return to Tennessee to do their work so that they help all of us in the process," he said.
In Hulsey's opinion, working with the honors program at UT is a critical step for UT's improvement as a whole.
"We need people who can think in sophisticated ways about complex problems and teaching people to think about the context in which problems exist I think will help them do that," Hulsey said. "The purpose of public higher education in this country was to make the best education available to everyone. I believe firmly in that mission and I believe honors programs are uniquely positioned to do that for the very best students and hopefully to have a ripple effect on the rest of the undergraduate teaching mission."