One of Beverly Davenport’s first meetings on her first day was with student reporters of the Daily Beacon newspaper—an indicator of what she considers a top priority as the new UT Knoxville chancellor.
“I love seeing the students, because they are really why we are here,” she said. “The students will lead us—their inspiration, their energy, and their enthusiasm. They are going to . . . put Tennessee on the map where it belongs among the premier and preeminent universities in this country and in the world.”
On Wednesday, Davenport met with local media following her interview with the Beacon to share her vision for UT’s future. She addressed topics including student success and safety, supporting faculty, philanthropy, community partnerships, and the filling of senior-level positions.
Davenport said she will make herself accessible to students. Within the first couple of minutes on campus Wednesday morning, she stepped into an elevator full of students and introduced herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Beverly.” She said she looks forward to engaging more students as she is out and about on campus.
She also said she’s committed to funding programs that will support all students. “I will only be on a campus where every student is supported and made to feel welcome and important and safe,” she said.
Davenport said she was attracted to UT in part because of its upward trajectory—including increased retention and graduation rates—and she is thrilled to continue that progress.
“We want students to succeed at even higher rates,” she said. “We want our university to have more of a national and even global reputation.”
She lauded UT’s faculty and their work in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as water shortages and nutrition. Her mission will include boosting current faculty and attracting new top faculty to UT.
“I want you to know that I am at heart a teacher,” she said. “That’s what drew me to this work. I’m a researcher. I’ve spent my time in the trenches grappling with issues that there are not always answers to. So I know what the life of a researcher is like.”
Davenport said she plans to capitalize on partnerships in the city and state, including UT’s long-standing relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and will build relationships to advance the university.
Nationwide, colleges are grappling with the problem of sexual assault, an issue that keeps her up more than any other, she said.
“It is on us. It is on every one of us. It is on you, it is on me, it is on the student, on the staff, on the faculty, it is on this community, and it is on this nation to change the culture,” Davenport said. “We must have a culture of consent.”
Davenport highlighted the important role alumni play in helping UT go from good to great. “We cannot do it alone,” she said. “It takes donors who are generous and have capacity.”
She pointed to the gifts that led to the naming of the Haslam College of Business and Tickle College of Engineering, calling them “a remarkable academic legacy.”
“We will do more of that,” Davenport said.
She also answered questions about the search for a new athletic director. She said she is working with the search committee and search consultant to fill the position as quickly as possible.
Davenport said she is grateful to the Knoxville and UT communities for making her feel embraced and welcomed to her new home.
“I thank you all for believing in me and having the confidence in me to take this university to where I know it can be, where you aspire to be, and for being with me on this journey—the alumni, the community, and the students,” she said.
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)