FOCUS Act Information

Updated September 12, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

At the request of Faculty Senate President Dr. Joey Gray, I will prepare an executive summary after every full and committee meeting of our Board of Trustees to assist with efficient communication of their actions. Please share any feedback you may have with me at

Sidney A. McPhee

Updated June 1, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare for the next regularly scheduled meeting of the MTSU Board of Trustees on June 5, I thought it would be informative to share an update of the committee activities since the first meeting held on April 10.  Matters approved by these committees will go to the full Board for consideration at its upcoming meeting. View background materials.

Listed below is a summary of each of the committee’s work:

  • The Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics Committee met in regular session on May 15, 2017.  Dr. Mark Byrnes, Interim University Provost, and Dr. Debra Sells, Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost for Enrollment and Academic Services, provided the Committee information concerning academic affairs and student life policies.  Faculty member recommendations for tenure and promotion were presented and a new degree program, B.S. in Interactive Media, was recommended for approval.  The Committee approved each of these items.  An overview of the Athletics department was given by Director of Athletics, Chris Massaro, highlighting both the academic and athletic achievements of our student athletes.  The Committee also discussed metrics for academic performance and suggested some additions to metrics proposed by the administration.
  • The Audit and Compliance Committee held its first meeting on May 17.   Ms. Brenda Burkhart, director of audit and consulting services, provided the Committee with information from state law and the internal auditing standards pertaining to audit committees and the internal audit function.   The Committee approved the audit charter for the Office of Audit and Consulting Services and the 2018 Audit Plan.   The Committee also approved a list of proposed university policies to be recommended to the Board for approval with the remaining proposed policies recommended to be approved by the President.
  • The Finance and Personnel Committee met three times over the past six weeks. It was presented and approved a list of proposed University policies for Board approval with a recommendation that the remaining proposed policies be approved by the President.  Mr. Alan Thomas, vice president for business and finance, provided the Committee first with an overview of the prior University budget; a summary of Gov. Bill Haslam’s approved 2017-18 budget; and the University’s existing tuition and student fee rates.   The Items presented and approved by the Committee included the university’s proposed budget, tuition/ fee increases and new housing rates. The Committee also approved personnel matters including my recommendation of a 3% across-the-Board salary increase with a $1,000 minimum payment for all regular employees, both full and part-time, on the payroll as of June 30, 2017 (effective July 1, 2017).  All of these items will be recommended for approval by the full Board in its upcoming meeting next week.

The full Board of Trustees will meet at 2 p.m., Monday, June 5, 2017, in the second-floor ballroom of the Student Union Building. Agenda items, drawn from the actions of the committees, include approval of university policies; tenure and promotion recommendations; audit items; compensation items; estimated and proposed budgets; and, maintenance fees, tuition, mandatory/non-mandatory fees and housing rates.

The meeting is open to the public and will also be streamed live on our Board’s website.  You can also find the full agenda and background materials on the Board site.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Sidney A. McPhee

Updated April 3, 2017

Middle Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees, created as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s FOCUS Act that became law last year, will hold its inaugural meeting at 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 10, in the second-floor ballroom of the Student Union Building on the MTSU campus.

The board is scheduled to vote on several items at this initial meeting, including the adoption of bylaws, election of officers, approval of board policies that includes board committees, reservation and delegation of authority, and adoption of a code of ethics and conflict of interest policy.

The board also will select a student representative.

The meeting is open to the public and will also stream live.  To watch the meeting live, or to view meeting materials, such as the agenda, visit

Off-campus visitors attending the meeting can find a searchable campus map at

Details on temporary parking permits as well as free parking areas and shuttle service.

Updated Feb. 15, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to report that the Tennessee General Assembly on Monday confirmed the appointments of the new governing board for our university, along with separate boards for the five other universities that had previously been overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

This is the final, perhaps most important, component to Governor Bill Haslam’s transformational FOCUS Act, which was approved by the legislature last year.   Our new Board will meet for the first time on April 10, 2017, at which time the Board will assume general responsibility for the overall governance of our University.  They will have the responsibility to establish priorities consistent with our mission and the needs of the State and the region.  The Tennessee Board of Regents will continue to manage the state’s network of community and technical colleges.  There will also be a transitional period of time during which the functions of data systems, capital projects planning and management, and procurement will be maintained by TBR while they are transitioned to MTSU.

I am excited about our new board and deeply appreciate the commitment of these new trustees to serve our University. These newly confirmed trustees include:

  • W. Andrew Adams, chairman, National Health Investors (3-year term)
  • J. B. Baker, owner and CEO of Sprint Logistics (3-year term)
  • Pete Delay, executive in Forterra Building Products’ Nashville office (4-year term)
  • Darrell Freeman, executive chairman of Zycron Inc. (6-year term)
  • Joey Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Acadia Healthcare Co. (4-year term)
  • Chris Karbowiak, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc. (4-year term)
  • Stephen Smith, board chairman of Haury & Smith Contractors (4-year term)
  • Pamela Wright, founder, retired owner and CEO of Wright Travel (3-year term)
  • Dr. Tony Johnston, a professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Agriscience in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, selected by the University Faculty Senate as the first faculty representative of the Board (2-year term)
  • Student representative to be selected by the Board at its first called meeting (1-year term)

“I want to thank the General Assembly for confirming these 48 appointments and supporting higher education in Tennessee,” the governor said in a statement. “I asked people to serve who will be champions for their respective universities and provide the schools more focused support, and I appreciate these men and women giving their time and talents to help our universities thrive.”

You can read the governor’s entire statement here:

Sidney A. McPhee

Updated Jan. 24, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, our FOCUS Act Transition Team continues its work reviewing Tennessee Board of Regents and MTSU policies in preparation for the transition to an institutional board of trustees. As of Jan. 24, approximately 90 percent have been reviewed, and the campus has been kept apprised of its work via email.

This campus FOCUS Act Transition Team, divisional working groups, and subcommittees are working extremely hard to review all MTSU policies and TBR policies and guidelines to determine which ones will be applicable subsequent to the transition to a local board of trustees.

On Nov. 21, alongside MTSU’s executive team, I met with TBR Chancellor David Gregory, Vice Chancellor Wendy Thompson, and other TBR administrators for our annual institutional briefing. Preparation for and implementation of the FOCUS Act was the central discussion topic.
In October, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the eight nominees to the newly created MTSU local governing board, a result of his FOCUS Act passed by the legislature in 2016 to give the former TBR universities increased autonomy. The move is aimed to support student success as the state continues its initiative to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a degree or credential by 2025. It is anticipated that the trustees will be confirmed by the General Assembly in January or February with the first called meeting of the MTSU Board likely to occur in March 2017.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me by email at if you have thoughts or concerns about the transition.

Sidney A. McPhee

Updated Oct. 14, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

There has been an important development in our transition to the new Board of Trustees that I wanted to make sure you knew about. Gov. Bill Haslam on Oct. 13, 2016, announced eight appointees to the MTSU Board. The appointments, subject to approval by the General Assembly, are anticipated to become effective early next year. They are:

  • W. Andrew Adams, chairman, National Health Investors
  • J. B. Baker, owner and CEO of Sprint Logistics
  • Pete Delay, executive in Forterra Building Products’ Nashville office
  • Darrell Freeman, executive chairman of Zycron Inc.
  • Joey Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Acadia Healthcare Co.
  • Chris Karbowiak, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc.
  • Stephen Smith, board chairman of Haury & Smith Contractors
  • Pamela Wright, founder, owner and CEO of Wright Travel (retired)

The University Faculty Senate chose Dr. Tony Johnston, a professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Agriscience in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, to be the first faculty representative of the Board. The Board will determine a process for the selection of a student representative.

The appointees will undergo orientation and professional development delivered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, then the board will assume responsibility upon the first called meeting by the governor.

I am thrilled and very excited by the appointees put forward by Governor Haslam for our Board. I am very familiar with them and know well the broad range of experience and expertise they would be able to offer our university. Also, I have personally made contact with each appointee and each one has told me they are excited to begin their service to our university and the communities we serve.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me by email at if you have thoughts or concerns about the transition.

Sidney A. McPhee


Updated Sept. 21, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to share with you this memo, dated Sept. 15, 2016, from Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which provides additional insights and information about the implementation of the FOCUS Act.

Download the Document

Mr. Krause said this document provides additional insights and information about “specific policies and procedures, with the primary aim of providing operational detail for each of the functional areas embedded” within the act, specifically:

  • THEC interaction with University and Systems;
  • University Board Operations;
  • and University Operations in the areas of Academic Affairs, Fiscal Policy, Data Policy and Government Relations.

Mr. Krause said, “THEC issues this guidance to facilitate a conversation that will be the foundation of a smooth transition.”

Please feel free to share with me your thoughts or concerns at

Sidney A. McPhee


Updated July 15, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

I hope you are having a productive summer.  I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with several updates regarding MTSU’s work in preparing for the implementation of the recently authorized FOCUS Act by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.

On June 29, I attended an informative meeting of the FOCUS Act Transition Task Force, chaired by the governor, where he presented the timeline for implementation of the new governance structure.  Here is a summary:

  • Late September 2016: The governor plans to announce his appointments to the six boards of trustees for the former Tennessee Board of Regents universities (MTSU, Austin Peay, East Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech);
  • Fall 2016: Faculty Senates at MTSU and the five other former TBR universities will be asked to develop processes for selection of faculty members for the boards;
  • October 2016: MTSU and the five other former TBR institutions transmit Substantive Change Review proposals to our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC). The body requires such notification when there is a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution;
  • February-March 2017: The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) presents and reviews appropriation, capital and tuition recommendations to legislative committees. Also, during this time period, THEC will work with the UT and TBR boards, as well as six boards that are forming, to understand campus revenue needs and prepare binding tuition recommendations.
  • Late March 2017: The state will offer professional development sessions for the members of the six new boards of trustees.
  • April 2017: The six new boards of trustees will meet for the first time.

Note the other issues discussed by the transition committee included:

  • SACS
  • RODP
  • Future government relations
  • and institutional collaboration.

With regards to our internal preparation for the new governance changes, our campus FOCUS Act Implementation Transition Team, divisional working groups and subcommittees have been busy reviewing MTSU policies and TBR policies and guidelines to determine which ones will be applicable subsequent to the transition to a local board of trustees.

As revisions are proposed by the MTSU Transition Team, they will be posted on a new FOCUS Policy webpage.   As with our current policy review process, policies reviewed by the FOCUS Act Transition Team will be emailed to the campus for review.  This will begin on Friday, July 15.  The normal 30-day comment period will be expanded in order to provide faculty adequate time for review upon their return to the campus.  Thus, any policies put out for review prior to August 20 will have a comment deadline of September 19.  Thereafter, it will revert to the standard 30-day period.

Finally, in early June, several MTSU administrators joined me in a meeting with Dr. Russ Deaton, acting executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. I was pleased to review THEC’s priorities during this transition and its commitment to a smooth changeover.

I wish to extend my deepest appreciation for the work that is being done to facilitate this exciting transformation in our governance and I will continue to keep you updated on this page as we prepare for the start of the new academic year.

Sidney A. McPhee

The FOCUS Act Transition Team

The FOCUS Act Transition Team is chaired by University Legal Counsel Heidi Zimmerman. Duties include:

  • Reviewing policies and procedures of the university as it will exist under the new governing structure;
  • Seeking clarification and interpretation when necessary from state officials and entities on the FOCUS Act;
  • Making recommendations to the President, when deemed appropriate, for the addition, deletion or modification of existing policies or creation of new policies;
  • Reviewing the recommendations of the divisional working groups and, when appropriate, making recommendations to the President to be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for consideration;
  • And serving as a primary communications conduit on the university’s work on the transition.

Here are the team members:

  • Chair: Heidi Zimmerman, University Counsel
  • Alan Thomas
  • Andrew Oppmann
  • Mark Byrnes
  • Brenda Burkhart
  • Bruce Petryshak
  • Bud Fischer
  • Chris Massaro
  • Connie Huddleston
  • Deb Sells
  • Heather Grebe
  • Jeffry Porter
  • Joe Bales
  • Kathy Musselman
  • Lindsey Pierce 2015-2016 SGA President
  • Madison Tracy 2016-2017 SGA President
  • Marian Wilson
  • Mary Martin
  • Patrick McCarthy
  • Stephen D. Morris
  • Tricia Farwell

Divisional Working Groups

Divisional Working Groups, each chaired by the Provost, Vice Presidents or an appropriate member of the President’s Cabinet. Divisional Working Groups report to the FOCUS Act Transition Team. Duties for these working groups include:

  • Reviewing every existing policy and procedure specific to each division or area;
  • Establishing sub-groups as appropriate, and as determined by the chairs, to assist in the policy review;
  • Determining which existing TBR and MTSU policies and procedures should be continued in the new structure;
  • Determining whether the addition, deletion or modification of existing policies or creation of new policies are necessary;
  • And reporting the results of the review, along with any recommendations for addition, deletion or modification of existing policies or the creation of new policies, to the FOCUS Act Transition Team for consideration.

Here are the groups and their membership:

Academic/Faculty Affairs Divisional Working Group

Chair: Mark Byrnes, University Provost

Chair: David Schmidt, Vice Provost
Grover Baker
Jeng (Jane) Lim
Olivia Young
Scott Boyd

Chair: Faye Johnson, Asst. to Academic Support Services
Christy Groves
David Gotcher
John Vile
Marva Lucas
Rick Vanosdall
Steve Morris

Chair: Becky Cole, Assoc. Vice President, University Provost
Jill Austin
John Sanborn
Kyle Butler
Patrick McCarthy
Roger Heinrich

Chair: Tina Johnson, Vice Provost
Alfred Lutz
Larry Burriss
Ron Henderson
Sherri Stevens

Chair: Peter Cunningham, Associate Dean
Amy Sayward
Michaele Chappell
Susan Fieldhouse
Vince Smith

Chair: Chris Brewer, Asst. Vice Provost, IEC
Andri Friedli
Dwight Patterson
Jeff Porter
Jennifer Caputo
Scott Handy

Chair: Rick Sluder, Vice Provost

Business and Finance Divisional Working Group

Chair: Alan Thomas, Interim VP, Business and Finance
Brenda Burkhart
Chris Massaro
Janine Brink

Budget and Financial Subcommittee
Chair: Kathy Thurman, Asst. VP, Budget and Financial Planning
Becky Bussell
Ben Jones
Carol Rozell
Carroll Lewis
Denise Hollowell
Jennifer Coppinger
Justin Gardner
Keith Stokes
Philip Smith
Rita Whitaker
Zackie Sanderson

Administrative and Business Services Subcommittee
Chair: Kathy Crisp, Asst. VP, Administrative and Business Services
Cathy Watts
Janine Brink
Leigh Walls
Mary Jane Staples
Will Pritchett

Campus Planning Subcommittee
Chair: Patti Miller, Asst. VP, Campus Planning
Anne Maples-Vaught
Janine Brink
J Wallace
Kathy Crisp
Philip Smith
Shane Stone
Vicki Eastham

Events and Transportation Subcommittee
Chair: Ron Malone, Asst. VP, Events and Transportation Services
John Hall
Nate Callender
Theresa Toy
Tracy Read

Facilities Services Subcommittee
Chair: Joe Whitefield, Asst. VP, Facilities Services
Alan Parker
Doug Brinsko
Jason Young
Linda Hardymon
Ramona Taylor

Human Resources Subcommittee
Chair: Kathy Musselman, Asst. VP, Human Resource Services
Carol A. Clark
Dan Pfeifer
Debbie Givens
Gayle Barker
Lisa Batey

University Police Subcommittee
Chair: Buddy Peaster, Asst. VP, University Police
Jason Morton
Jason Wofford
Kristen Smalley
Roy Brewer

Informational Technology Divisional Working Group

Chair: Bruce Petryshak, VP for Information Technology
Brian Holley
Chad Mullis
Connie Huddleston
Derek Frisby
Lisa Rogers
Tom Wallace
Tricia Farwell

Legal Working Group

Chair: Heidi Zimmerman, University Counsel
Bill Canak
Jeff Farrar
Marian Wilson
Mary Martin

Marketing and Communications Divisional Working Group

Chair: Andrew Oppmann, VP for Marketing and Communications
Colby Jubenville
David Foster
Drew Ruble
Ed Arning
Jack Ross
Jimmy Hart
Joey Gray
Kara Hooper
Kris McCusker
Madison Tracy (student)
Mark Owens

Student Affairs Divisional Working Group

Chair: Deb Sells, VP, Student Affairs
Andrienne Friedli
Danny Kelley
Laurie Witherow
Mary Ellen Sloane
Sarah Sudak

Student Records Subcommittee
Chair: Laurie Witherow, Associate Vice Provost
Heather Grebe, Graduate Student
Melinda Thomas
Susan Fieldhouse
Teresa Thomas

Student Housing and Judicial Affairs Subcommittee
Chair: Sarah Sudak, Assoc. VP, Student Affairs
Laura Lightsy
Lindsey Pierce, Graduate Student

Financial Aid Subcommittee
Chair: Laurie Witherow, Associate Vice Provost
Heather Grebe, Graduate Student
Leann Eaton
Dr. Scott McDaniel (Faculty Financial Aid Committee)
Stephen White

Student Organizations Subcommittee
Chair: Danny Kelley, Asst. VP, Student Affairs
Brandon Loso, Student Rep.
Cynthia Stone
Jackie Victory
Josh Stone
Leslie Merritt
Mary Sloane
Quintina Burton

University Advancement Divisional Working Group

Chair: Joe Bales, VP for University Advancement
Jim Calder
Louis Kyriakoudes
Murat Arik
Pat Branam
Ronda Vaughter

Please feel free to contact me directly with feedback. You can reach me by email at

Official Documentation of FOCUS Act

Information from the Governor

2016 Legislation: Focus On College and University Success (FOCUS) Act

Press Releases

FOCUS Act Questions and Answers


What are the expected benefits of this change?

Governor Haslam said he believes the TBR universities need individual boards that will focus solely on making their local institutions more responsive to the needs of students and the communities they serve. Local boards will have greater speed and agility to respond to the changing dynamics of higher education and the specific needs of the institutions.

What challenges do we anticipate with the transition?

MTSU’s Quest for Student Success, which complements the Governor’s Drive to 55 initiative, will remain the University’s No. 1 priority. As a result of the FOCUS Act, MTSU will need to establish policies, procedures and processes that will support and center upon the direction of a local board, rather than a board that serves multiple institutions.

How quickly will this change take place?

The FOCUS Act calls for a transition period starting July 1, 2016. Board members will be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. We anticipate the boards to be functional by mid-2017.

Does this affect how MTSU gets funded by the state?

No. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission will continue to determine the state’s funding formula.

Will this affect MTSU's tenure process?

The Act requires MTSU’s board to “promulgate a tenure policy or policies for faculty.” The Act requires the “policy or policies shall ensure academic freedom and provide sufficient professional security to attract the best qualified faculty available for the institutions.”

How is MTSU engaged in the FOCUS Act discussions?

President McPhee was named by Governor Haslam to serve on a special steering committee he established shortly after the announcement of the FOCUS Act. Tricia Farwell, former president of MTSU’s Faculty Senate and faculty regent on the TBR Board, has been tasked with gathering input from faculty members from MTSU and other TBR institutions.

Will this change impact the current tuition fee waivers for employees and discounts for children and spouses?

The short answer is that fee waivers and tuition discounts for children are statutory so that FOCUS should not change that. Since state statute says this benefit can be taken at any state institution, it does not appear that any institution can limit where an employee can utilize this benefit aside from the conditions already stated in the law. Note, however, that both TBR and MTSU policy currently provides for up to 50% and includes a discount for spouses. We cannot find any statutory basis for the spousal discount or for the 50% amount; apparently that is based only on institutional policy.

University Board Questions

Will there be faculty representation on the university board?

Yes. The Act provides that each university board will have an active faculty member who will be a voting member of the board. The Act states that the faculty member will have a one-year term and will be selected by the Faculty Senate.

Will there be student representation on the university board?

Yes. Each university board would have a student who would be a nonvoting member of the board. The bill proposes each student member will have a one-year term and will be appointed by the university board.

Who else will be on the university board?

The university board will have 10 members (nine voting and one nonvoting). The governor would appoint eight of the 10 board members. At least six of the voting members must be Tennessee residents, and at least three of the governor’s appointees must be alumni of the institution.

How long are board members' terms?

Initial appointments will be for staggered terms of three, four and six years. After the initial terms, all terms will be six years.

Is the university president a member of the board?

No. The President will be a nonvoting attendee, but not a member. The university board will select the president, as well as assess his or her performance.

What will be the powers of the university board?

The Act specifies that board will have extensive powers, including to:

  • Select and employ chief executive officers;
  • Confirm appointment of administrative personnel, teachers and other employees and set salaries and terms of office;
  • Prescribe curricula and requirements for diplomas and degrees (but each board must maintain alignment across state higher education by advancing the Tennessee Higher Education Commission state master plan);
  • Establish “reasonable and appropriate” rules defining residency used to determine whether or not out-of-state tuition is charged;
  • Approve operating budgets and set fiscal policies. The board of regents shall have authority over, and must give final approval to, the operating budget of each state university.  I think at this time the bond issue my just confuse people.
  • Establish policies and regulations regarding campus life;
  • Assume general responsibility for operation, delegating to the President’s powers and duties as necessary and appropriate.

Tennessee Board of Regents Questions

What will the Tennessee Board of Regents govern?

The Tennessee Board of Regents will maintain control over the community colleges and Tennessee College of Applied Technology locations.

Is there anything that TBR will continue to do for the universities?

During the transition period, TBR will continue the following functions on behalf of the state university boards:

  • data systems
  • capital project planning and management
  • procurement


Our thanks to the Office of the Governor, MTSU Office of the University Counsel and our colleagues from Tennessee Tech University for assistance with information contained on this webpage.