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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee marked a momentous day in its history Tuesday by gathering more than 3,600 employees for a first-time ever, six-way simulcast and university-wide celebration.

UT President John Petersen gave an overview of the university’s strategic plan and unveiled a new image campaign that highlights the university’s future, emphasizing the distinct attributes of each operation across the state.

Petersen addressed UT employees gathered on the Martin, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Tullahoma campuses as well as a group of agriculture, social work and public service employees in Nashville.

The history-making event culminates two long-term research efforts; one that gauged Tennesseans’ perceptions and knowledge of the university; another that measured the strength of UT’s internal communication with the goal enhancing employee engagement.

The effort is closely linked to the university’s largest fundraising campaign in history. The campaign is now in its initial phase.

“Whether you work in the classroom, an outreach program, or keep our daily operations running — your service makes a difference in the lives of others in some way,” Petersen said. “And whether you’ve been with the university for one year or 30 years, you will always be our most credible spokespersons. That’s because you see firsthand the incredibly positive impact that we have on lives, everyday.”

UT employs more than 16,000 people who work in all 95 of Tennessee’s counties.

“We’ve experienced several years of a growing momentum that have resulted in great strides in enrollment, public and private support, research dollars and strengthening of our overall image,” Petersen said. “As we proceed with our first comprehensive fundraising campaign in more than a decade, it’s critical that we tell our story, encourage all of our stakeholders to tell it, and reinforce those messages as often as possible.”

Chancellors and administrators led celebrations across the state, and employees at each site viewed the crowds gathered at each location through the simulcast.

UT Knoxville Chancellor Loren Crabtree told the assembly that they are vital to the university’s mission to educate the public.

“In our classrooms, labs, libraries and residence halls, we help shape our students into the next generation of leaders, critical thinkers and productive citizens,” Crabtree said. “UT faculty and staff play a critical role in that mission. It’s an awesome responsibility, and I appreciate the work that each of you does.”

Petersen conveyed key goals in the new strategic plan that emphasizes improving student access and success, research and economic development, and outreach and globalization. Celebrations featured pep bands, prize giveaways, mascots and multi-media shows.

Petersen told employees that the long-term branding campaign would not involve large-scale changes in what most people see, but will provide more prominence to the brand icon created in 1986, which represents the state of Tennessee. The effort will give more consistency and prominence to the brand icon, so that it gains even broader recognition and stronger appeal, Petersen said.

“Higher education is a competitive industry. We compete for students, faculty and staff and must maintain widespread support from our stakeholders — alumni and donors, the General Assembly and the residents of Tennessee,” he explained. “Creating, promoting and reinforcing a compelling identity is critical to our competitive advantage and ensures that we influence what people think when they hear or see our name.”

Internal communication research efforts were led by a task force that conducted employee interviews to determine what the best information and the most effective method of reaching employees. A UT employee suggested the event to Petersen several months ago; and he chose to launch many of the university’s new initiatives with today’s kickoff event.

For more information on the FUTURE campaign, highlights from the celebration, an image slideshow, the new commercial for the marketing campaign and an archived Web cast of the event, visit

Contact: Karen Collins (865-974-5186 or 865-216-6862) or Beth Gladden (865-974-9008 or 865-771-1284)