Facing another year of shortfalls within the university's operating budget, Bell took office and immediately began restructuring the university's central administration, creating new opportunities for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
"Given the current budget uncertainties, it's been a difficult time to take office, but that hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for this new role," Bell said. "It's a challenging time for all of us, but adversity creates an opportunity to change and improve."
In considering what changes needed to be made in his first act as president, Bell decided to start at the top. Restructuring his office staff and eliminating two senior-level administrative positions were among the changes he announced last week.
Bell transferred responsibilities of the executive assistant to the president position in his office to a temporary role in the library. The move, which frees half of a salary line, will allow the new president to evaluate his administrative support needs during his first year in office.
Also among the cuts was the vice president position in Administration & Planning, which was left vacant at the end of June after David Larimore announced his desire to return to full-time teaching. Faced with a vacant position, Bell transferred the offices under Administration & Planning to other areas to streamline administrative responsibilities.
Larimore, who served in a dual role as a vice president and director of Athletics, agreed to continue as Athletics director. However, a few other personnel transfers and changes will occur within Athletics as the administrative support for the program transitions.
Bell will also soon recommend to the Tennessee Board of Regents a merger of the university's Research Office and Graduate School. The merger will result in the elimination of another senior-level administrative position on campus.
The two top positions in those offices Ñ associate vice president of Research and dean of the Graduate School Ñ will become one as the offices combine. The research position has been vacant since last September when Jerry Ayers passed away. William Goodwin, who ran the Research Office before his retirement in 1994, returned to manage the office on an interim basis through June.
Rebecca Quattlebaum, who's led the university's Graduate School since 1989, will now also serve as interim associate vice president of Research while a search for the new associate vice president of Research and Graduate Studies is conducted."The budget situation is forcing us to take a hard look at who we are," Bell said. "If we're willing to use this as a time of learning, we have an opportunity here to take Tennessee Tech to the next level Ñ and I know we'll get there."