TBR Centers Celebrate 10 Years of Excellence

Despite their substantial contributions to the economic, environmental and cultural well-being of the state, TennesseeUs 26 Centers of Excellence remain one of the "best kept secrets" of higher education. They have accumulated professional acclaim and brought millions of dollars in research contracts to the Volunteer State; yet, the irony is that after ten years, they are better known in international circles than they are in their own communities.

The Centers of Excellence program was launched in 1984 to focus the research capabilities of the stateUs universities on issues that would serve the citizens of Tennessee. As part of former governor Lamar Alexander's vision for Better Schools for Tennessee, the state established centers of excellence at universities across the state in a cross section of research fields, including art, music, history, sociology, psychology, education, engineering, physics, biology and geology. Of the original centers, 26 continue today, 16 of which are within Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) universities. Tennessee Technological University has three: the Center for Electric Power; the Center for Manufacturing Research; and the Center for the Management, Protection and Utilization for Water Resources.

The three engineering-related centers at Tennessee Tech were created in 1984 and 1985. Their directors recently met with Tennessee Tech President Angelo Volpe and Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Barker for a special presentation. Charles Hickman, Power Center director; Ted Lundy, Manufacturing Center director; and Dennis George, Water Center director, presented Volpe and Barker with copies of A Decade of Excellence, a limited edition book recently published by the TBR to commemorate the tenth anniversaries of the centers under its jurisdiction.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this book has the potential to greatly enhance the visibility of all the TBR Centers of Excellence," Hickman said.

Enhancing visibility is an important issue, Hickman added. When all 16 of the TBR center directors met for the first time in August 1994, one of the top agenda items was how to build Tennesseans' awareness and understanding of the Centers of Excellence. Peter Consacro, TBR's associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and the center directors formed a commemorative committee to develop an advertising campaign and guide associated projects. Hickman, a member of the committee, volunteered to coordinate the production of A Decade of Excellence. The book is the first publication that brings together information on the mission, accomplishments and future plans of all 16 of TBRUs Centers of Excellence.

"Thanks to the cooperation of all the directors involved, our three Center editors were able to complete the project in less than a year," Hickman said. "We have received several very positive comments on the finished product."

The book is one of several publications planned to honor both the tenth anniversary of the program and the bicentennial of the state of Tennessee. Copies of the volume are available at Tennessee Tech's library and in the Tennessee Room at the Putnam County library.