KNOXVILLE — An active university president has many roles. Dr. John W. Shumaker’s calendar clearly shows his many tasks involve speechmaking, hosting events and participating in a wide range of meetings as UT-s representative in state and national organizations.
Since June 24, 2002, when Shumaker arrived on the Knoxville campus for his first official day on the
Dr. John W. Shumaker
job, he’s kept a schedule that has taken him across the state, throughout the nation and abroad.
He’s traveled to 13 states, participated as a speaker or host for nearly 150 events, attended 55 alumni and development activities, held more than two dozen meetings with faculty, staff and students, and hosted almost 2,700 people at the President-s residence in Knoxville.
All of these activities drew praise this week from members of the UT Board of Trustees meeting in Memphis.
“You have more than met our expectations to establish a vision for the university and communicate that vision to groups throughout the state and nation,” said Clayton McWhorter, vice chair of the Board.
In explaining his presidential philosophy, Shumaker said that one of the biggest challenges a president faces is deciding which of many compelling invitations to accept.
“We must strike the right balance in the quality time that we spend with all of our key constituencies – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, trustees, state officials and prospective supporters we must cultivate.”
Shumaker calls the state “our largest donor,” and over the past year he has probably spent more time in Nashville, working with state government, than in any place other than UT’s headquarters in Knoxville.
The university has for several years had an office in Nashville, but last fall it leased additional space that is used by UT officials who frequently work in the capital city.
Rare was the week during his first year that Shumaker wasn’t in Nashville at least once, sometimes more often. He had regular meetings with the Governor, legislative leaders and other state officials.
Building relationships in the nation’s capital is a presidential priority, too. In July, Shumaker was in Washington meeting Tennessee’s Congressional delegation and their staffs.
He has made several follow-up visits to the delegation and with federal agencies that provide the lion’s share of UT’s $240 million in research grants and contracts.
Shumaker’s Strategic Agenda for 2010 or “scorecard” calls for raising the research total to $350 million by the end of the decade.
But, hundreds of other groups and organizations that support the university occupy the majority of a UT president’s time. During his first year, Shumaker made regular visits to the campuses in Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis and Tullahoma and other UT-related events appear frequently on the calendar.
Cultivating UT alumni, friends and prospective donors is another important role for the President. Throughout the year, Shumaker spoke to dozens of alumni chapters and civic clubs across Tennessee as well as outside the state.
The schedule also included speeches to a number of groups focused on growing good jobs in Tennessee. Shumaker gave the keynote address at the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development and at the East Tennessee Technology Council Expo and spoke to statewide groups ranging from the Tennessee Business Roundtable to the Tennessee Association of Business and Tennessee Tomorrow.
Trips to China, Japan and Italy reinforce “scorecard” initiatives in international development and relationships. A speech at the Annual Legislative Conference and Retreat at Paris Landing State Park showcased UT-s commitment to equity and diversity.
Shumaker cancelled a plan to join the state Department of Education in a Sino-American school project when the University could not identify a reliable Chinese partner to fund the venture, but the initiative resulted in a large contract for training executives of the China Electronics Corp.
Shumaker said he expects to announce more programs to extend UT into the international community, attract more foreign students, and expand study abroad programs for current students in the coming academic year.
Athletics provides the venue to speak with a variety of constituents, and a home football weekend often begins with breakfast on Friday morning with an academic advisory board and often ends with a reception after the game at the President’s home.
In addition to serving as an active member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Conference, Shumaker is a member of two SEC committees that are studying the future of the league – one on the SEC-s strategic plan and the other on compliance matters.
“John has served as a valuable and active member of the Presidents and Chancellors and, in addition, is serving as a member of the task force to review matters related to compliance and enforcement,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.
“As part of his responsibilities, he is currently in the process of developing the report of the taskforce. His active presence and involvement in conference affairs services both the conference and his university well.”
Shumaker made several trips on behalf of the men’s and women’s athletics programs in addition to traveling to out-of-town games and tournament appearances. And, he devoted considerable time to recruiting a new men-s athletics director for the Tennessee Vols.
Laced throughout the president’s calendar are interviews and calls to reporters and editors and many sessions with faculty, students and staff.
Managing a statewide university keeps Shumaker, and the staff that does his scheduling, on the move. Meetings and travel arrangements change at a moment’s notice.
The most important thing, he says, is to stay in contact with the hundreds of organizations and the thousands of alumni and friends who call UT “their university.”
In the first year, Shumaker said, it was important to spend time meeting as many people as possible and communicating the long-term vision for UT.
“I-ve been impressed with the genuine affection and support so many people have for UT.”