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Name For Campus Expected by Jan. 2

The Martin Methodist and University of Tennessee System boards of trustees each voted yesterday to move forward with the proposed merger of the MMC campus with the UT System.

The proposed merger would make Martin Methodist the fourth undergraduate campus in the UT System and the first new campus in the UT System in more than 50 years. It would be the only public four-year institution of higher education between Chattanooga and Memphis, serving a southern Middle Tennessee region of 13 counties near the Alabama border.

The Pulaski campus would join the University of Tennessee Knoxville, the University of Tennessee Martin and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in the UT System.

Yesterday the boards of trustees at MMC and the UT System took the next step in the process by giving their approval to continue negotiations and seek necessary approvals.

“Our mission here is to provide education to the people of Tennessee and to support the state so the state can achieve its mission,” UT Board of Trustees Chair John Compton said. “The people of southern Middle Tennessee deserve access to public education.”

 After lengthy discussions regarding UT’s mission as a land grant university, the lag in postsecondary attainment in the southern Middle Tennessee region, unmet labor needs and the opportunities and challenges associated with the potential acquisition of the college, the trustees approved continuing the acquisition process. 

 The approval was subject to the UT leadership reporting back to the UT Board of Trustees in January regarding specific student demographic information for southern middle Tennessee and the strategy for growing the campus; the academic disciplines where the campus can excel; the economic considerations associated with enrollment, retention and academic success; and plans for engaging stakeholders, including faculty and staff, in ongoing discussions regarding the proposed acquisition.

 “We’ve said all along that we want the University of Tennessee to be known for its inclusivity, not exclusivity,” UT President Randy Boyd said in remarks during the meeting. “In fact, the land grant mission calls us to serve all people of this great state. We are here to provide a ladder up to the working and middle class, to give them the opportunity for a better education, a better job and a better life.”

 The Martin Methodist Board of Trustees, which also met yesterday, unanimously approved the transaction. Approval from the Tennessee General Assembly, the regional accreditor Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the United Methodist Church of Tennessee and the Tennessee Building Commission are required for the acquisition to proceed. 

 “They voted to acquire us and we voted to be acquired,” MMC President Mark La Branche said, stressing that the votes allow the process of approvals from the state legislature and accrediting organizations to move forward. “If that happens there will be one more vote that is a final approval of the acquisition.”

 La Branche said the next hurdle for the proposed merger is the Tennessee General Assembly, noting that letters of support from individuals and resolutions of support from governing bodies are being received from  throughout southern Middle Tennessee to show Tennessee legislators the importance of the merger to the region.

 “There are a lot of little details to be ironed out,” La Branche said. “But it’s nothing that can’t be ironed out.”

 Among those details is what the campus will be called, which La Branche said will be determined before Jan. 2.

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