Research creates knowledge, which rejuvenates university faculty members and ultimately helps “the state to prosper,” Donald C. Daniel told members of the Middle Tennessee Technology Corridor Council when they visited The University of Tennessee Space Institute Sept. 21.
After reviewing the Institute’s various areas of research – ranging from applied fluid dynamics and biomedical physics to computer mechanics and flight systems – Daniel emphasized that “You can’t be a great university unless you are a great research university.”
Andrea Loughry of Murfreesboro, vice chairman of the UT trustees and chair of the Corridor Council, accompanied the delegation to UTSI where they had lunch, heard various presentations, and then journeyed to Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) for a tour.
“We need more students – especially full-time,” said Daniel, UT associate vice president and UTSI’s chief operating officer since June. “We’ll have between 400 and 500 counting part-time and Short Courses, but we only have about 60 full-time students. I want to increase this by at least 50 percent.”
With more research funding, more graduate research assistantships can be awarded, he said, noting that this is the number one reason students choose a university. Responding to questions, he said about 80 percent of UTSI’s students are from the United States – a lower percentage of international students than most universities.
He emphasized that UT’s strategic plan stresses “student success and access,” which he said is urgently needed in Tennessee, which ranks 44th in the nation re: education.
“We have a lot of outreach to kids in this area,” Daniel said, noting that several courses were offered to area high school and younger students this summer including an ASM Materials Camp.
“The kids’ eyes would really light up on the last day when they fired rockets in the circle out front,” he said. “I’d press my nose to the glass watching.”
Briefing the visitors at AEDC, Edward Kraft, a two-time graduate of UTSI and technical advisor to the Center’s commander, said of the 58 major test facilities at AEDC, 14 are “unique in the world.” He stressed AEDC’s $500-700 million “economic impact” on surrounding communities and reviewed the role of Arnold’s engineers and scientists over the past 55 years. They are “on the front edge of developing planes and rockets,” he said, adding that “much of what you see (re: technology) on CNN came through AEDC.”
Kraft marveled that within two years of Chuck Yeager’s breaking the sound barrier in 1947, AEDC had several major new aeronautical projects “on the drawing board.”
A presentation by Diane Bryant, executive director of the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce, featured Tullahoma’s strengths, including its close proximity to Huntsville, Nashville, and Chattanooga.
Daniel noted that of UTSI’s nearly 2000 graduates, more than 500 of these hold, or have held, responsible positions at AEDC. He invited civic clubs in need of speakers to contact UTSI, noting that he and others at the Institute are eager to speak in the community. He thanked Dick Farrar of Fayetteville, chairman of the Support Council, for his leadership since taking office this year.
Other Support Council members at the meeting were Dick Austin, Jim Woodard, Dan Pierre, and Ed Kraft. Corridor members in addition to Ms. Loughry and others attending included Rick Peters, executive director of AEDC, Steve Benefield, president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce; Holly Sears, director of economic development, Laurel Baes, and Tara Stone, all with the Rutherford Chamber; Bob Bell, president, and Ken Currie, both of Tennessee Technological University; John Black, executive director of Smyrna Airport, Michael Schulz, representing U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, Dan Wheeler with UT Extension Service in Columbia, Mike Boyle, Dean of Continuing Education at Middle Tennessee State University, and Clint Gwin, Southeast Community Capital. Attending with Daniel were Joel W. Muehlhauser, UTSI assistant vice president and research dean, and Daniel’s personal assistant, Scott Van Zandbergen.