It’s been a big news year in Big Orange Country.
We looked at what people were reading on Tennessee Today. We hunted for the UT news that got the best media play. We thought about momentous events. We tossed all of that together and compiled this list of our greatest hits of 2014.
1. Campus Makeover—Look almost anywhere on campus and you’ll see construction underway as campus continues its unprecedented makeover.
Among this year’s highlights were the opening of Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall, the campus’s first new residence hall in forty-five years, and the restoration of our link to the Hill with a new pedestrian bridge. Also this year, Stokely Athletics Center and Gibbs Hall were demolished and another new residence hall is taking shape on site. Sorority Village on Morgan Hill was completed just in time for fall recruitment and its thirteen houses are now home to more than 500 women.
Construction has commenced on a long-awaited and much-needed science classroom and laboratory building on Cumberland Avenue.
Work is still continuing on our biggest construction project, the new Student Union. The first phase of the new building will open in 2015.
2. Haslam College of Business—For the first time in its history, UT named a college in recognition of an alumnus and donor—James A. Haslam II, founder of Pilot Corp. LLC. The Haslam family also announced a landmark gift of $50 million to the college.
3. Vol Nation—The Volunteer football team will return to a bowl game for the first time since 2010 when it takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the TaxSlayer Bowl on January 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. It will be Tennessee’s fiftieth bowl appearance. The bowl game was one of several athletics highlights for the campus this year.
In October, Volunteer fans organized #CheckerNeyland, a campaign to replicate Neyland Stadium’s checkerboard end zones throughout the stadium’s stands. The impressive results brought national attention.
4. Largest Freshman Class— Nearly 4,700 freshmen, the largest first-year class in at least thirty years, began classes this fall. About 7,400 students lived on campus this semester, 300 more than last year.
5. Trailblazer—Our Top 25 journey efforts to improve graduation and retention rates garnered national accolades this fall when the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities honored UT with its “Most Visible Progress” Trailblazer award.
6. A Great Statesman Passes Away—Howard H. Baker Jr., the former US senator known as the “The Great Conciliator,” died on June 26 at the age of eighty-eight. A 1949 UT graduate who received UT’s first honorary doctorate in 2005, Baker helped found the campus’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan institute devoted to public policy and civic engagement.
7. Animal Magnetism—Animal news was big this year. Among the critter stories that got national coverage: Discover magazine reported psychology faculty Gordon Burghardt and Vladimir Dinets’s research on fish play; the Discovery channel featured Dinets’s research that showed how crocodiles work as teams in their attacks; and The Christian Science Monitor shared the news that crocodiles can climb trees—another discovery by Dinets.
8. Making the World a Safer Place—Several UT researchers are involved in work that could make our world a safer place. Among the studies that got national attention: Time wrote about UT and ORNL researchers who found a squid enzyme that may be effective in breaking down nerve gasses and other deadly chemical weapons. The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet featured work led by Howard Hall, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for nuclear security, to develop a mobile, low-cost device to locate dirty bombs and other radiological threats. Meanwhile, Joshua Emery, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, studied near-Earth asteroid 1950 DA and learned things that could help protect the earth from collisions with asteroids.
9. White House Summits—Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek was invited to Washington, DC, to participate in two educational summits with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and education leaders from across the country.
10. Power T—Beginning in January, the university will use the “Power T” instead of the system “UT” icon, and an updated word mark to represent our campus.