Tusculum goes from college to university, gets ready for big changes

Brandon Paykamian • Jun 28, 2018 at 10:39 PM

TUSCULUM — Tusculum College, the first higher education institution in Tennessee, will officially transition from a college to a university after 225 years.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds gathered at what will now be known as Tusculum University to celebrate the transition and unveil the university’s new sign and logo.

“Today, we celebrate another milestone. As we know, Tusculum College wasn’t founded as Tusculum College. We’ve evolved,” Tusculum President James Hurley said. “We were Greeneville College — we were once Greeneville and Tusculum College.”

Hurley said the change to university status will allow for a restructuring of academic programs offered, which includes the creation of a new College of Health Sciences.

“The change will be primarily in regards to status, helping to distinguish Tusculum from the community college programs that have gained widespread attention through initiatives such as Tennessee Promise,” Hurley said ahead of Thursday’s event. “The decision to transition to university will provide the right structure for new programs being developed, including a School of Optometry and a physician assistant program.”

The School of Optometry will admit its first students in the fall of 2019 and will offer a doctorate program, according to Paul Pinckley, vice president for enrollment.

Pinckley said these new changes will attract more students to the Greene County campus.

“I think it allows us to accurately say what we are. We’ve had the graduate programs, we’re multi-site with our centers in Morristown and Knoxville and we really have met the expectation,” he said. “But now, especially with adding the College of Optometry, that’s a big enough standard to say, ‘Look, we need go ahead and make this move.’

“There’s been situations where we’ve talked to people and they didn’t consider us because they didn’t think we were what they wanted, which is a traditional four-year residential campus experience. This allows us to get in front of more prospective students and their families.

“It brings a little bit more prestige to us and the community as well, having a university in the town and county.”

And with that new prestige will come some big changes to the institution in the coming years, Pinckley said.

“Our plan is to continue to grow the graduate programs and continue to grow on campus. Our board of trustees has approved exploring the possibility of adding probably two more apartment buildings for campus housing, which will allow us to expand. We’re basically at capacity in the residence halls now,” he said. “By 2022, our goal is to have over 1,500 students living here on campus, and then we’ll have an upward of 1,000 to 1,200 in the graduate programs.”

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