The University of Memphis Board of Trustees met on Aug. 25 to discuss new initiatives and to give an overview of how the pandemic has affected the university. 

Here are the highlights: 

Despite A Drop In Enrollment, Graduation Rates Still High  

During the meeting, Dr. David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis, gave a presentation to update the board on how the pandemic has affected the university. 

Rudd highlighted a 1.7 percent drop in enrollment overall, claiming that it was a result of the almost 20 percent drop in continuing freshmen over the past year. 

“Imagine trying to transition as freshmen to your college experience, to university life and doing that online, doing that virtually without the ability to have face-to-face contact. That was a challenge not just for us but nationally,” he said.  

Despite the drop in enrollment, Rudd said that graduation rates are still reaching 54.3 percent—marking five consecutive years of improvement—and that the university  is continuing to work towards closing graduation performance gaps across student subpopulations. 

 “If you look at students of color: our graduation rate is 49.5 percent. That’s a five percent gap, that’s still too much but eight years ago, that gap was 20 percent,” Rudd also acknowledged the current graduation rates of Pell-eligible and first-generation college attendees to be 47.7 percent and 48.8 percent respectively. 

Rudd also didn’t shy away from continuing to discuss the negative impact that the pandemic had on the students at the university.  

73 percent of students reported an impact on general stress and mental health as a result of COVID-19. 40 percent lost part-time jobs and 23 percent lost full-time jobs. 

47 percent of students had either a family member or friend contract COVID-19 and 13 percent had a family member or friend die from the virus. 

Rudd also discussed plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory—hoping to add it to the list of required immunizations to be allowed on campus alongside measles, chickenpox, meningitis, and hepatitis—once the FDA grants their approval. 

Veatch Teases Big Plans For Tiger Athletics   

Laird Veatch, university vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, discussed both the athletics department’s new strategic plan for the future as well as the renovation of Park Avenue Campus now dubbed “Tiger Park.” 

Veatch also said that the development of the Housing & Student-Athlete Success Center is the department’s top priority.  

The building that will provide academic support, dining, and mental health services to student athletes: 

 “All housed in one place right across from where they live and right next to where they train.” 

Same Places, New Names 

The meeting concluded with the announcement that the university’s alumni mall will be renamed to honor Luther C. McClellan, the first African-American graduate of the University of Memphis.

The renaming ceremony will take place Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. 

The University Center, which was recently renamed in honor of civil rights activist and academic Maxine A. Smith, will be rededicated to her on Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. 

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