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Fisher discusses growth and facilities at convo

The refrain from the “Ask Dr. Fisher” convo was one word: quality.

“The legacy was quality in everything we do. Belmont had an amazing reputation in the quality movement,” said Fisher. “If we grow, it cannot only not hurt quality, but it has to help quality.”

Students gathered in the Curb Cafe at 10 a.m. today to partake in the once-a-semester Q-and-A convocation with university President Bob Fisher.

While the first half of “Ask Dr. Fisher” presented a Vision 2020 PowerPoint to show some history of Belmont and how far the university has come, the second half was full of questions of what is to come.

Questions began with the traditional concern of not having enough practice rooms, but this time, before answering, Fisher was literally jumping with joy.

“When you get back from spring break, there will be 16 new practice rooms,” said Fisher, following it up with a request for questions he wouldn’t want to answer.

While the questioning student wasn’t entirely impressed, this was only one of the ways Fisher discussed growth the university will see.

Requests throughout the year from students to expand the fitness and recreation center have not fallen on deaf ears, but while the lawn may be open more frequently and there are hopes of adding access to an offsite aquatic location, Angie Bryant, director of fitness and recreation, said there are no real plans to expand the workout facility.

“We are not beyond capacity,” said Bryant. “There are still windows where there are less people.”

However, Fisher hopes one area will not be seeing growth any time soon: student-teacher ratios.

Following a student question about maintaining that ratio with the continuously increasing student population, Fisher referred back to a previous illustration in the Vision 2020 powerpoint that showed the hiring of faculty and staff.

“You saw the increased hiring of faculty; we’re going to keep doing that,” said Fisher. “I don’t think there’s much wiggle room in this vision statement not to do that.”

Along with the other areas of growth, Belmont has been steadily increasing the graduation and retention rates.

“We pay really careful attention to how we develop the curriculum,” said Provost Thomas Burns, brought in by Fisher to help answer the question.

After noting that a low student-faculty ratio contributes to student success, Burns also said that there is a focus on having the right classes at the right times with the right faculty in hopes of moving more students into a four-year college career versus five or six-year tenure.

“You don’t want to spend any more money or time here than you have to,” said Burns.

With the move to the Wedgewood building on 15th Avenue, future programs will also be added involving STEM teacher education in order to help fill a void that Middle Tennessee schools currently have.

Before these future aspects were ever discussed, Fisher proudly showed off strides the university had made over the past 13 years through a slideshow full of “Then and Now” concepts.

Belmont’s numbers in almost every way have grown. Average ACT scores have gone from a 24.4 to a 26.4, the number of full-time faculty has increased from 196 to 364 and the salary for professors is in the 77th percentile.

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