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Tim Cross and Donde Plowman
Tim Cross, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president for agriculture, and Chancellor Donde Plowman with a plaque from the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has earned national recognition as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University. This designation acknowledges the exceptional ways UT cultivates community engagement, economic growth and workforce development across the state of Tennessee and beyond.

UT is one of only three universities to earn this designation in 2020.

Public universities have a vital role to fill in the creation of resilient communities and healthy economies. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) established the IEP Universities Program to identify and further equip leading institutions that embrace this role through public and private-sector partnerships.

“This designation reflects both our land-grant mission and our Volunteer spirit, opening tremendous opportunities to expand our capacity to serve,” said UT Chancellor Donde Plowman. “We are always looking for new and better ways to increase access to education, make important discoveries, develop our state’s workforce and enhance quality of life for all Tennesseans. This designation recognizes what we are already doing and opens new doors for the future.”

IEP Designation LogoTo be considered for IEP designation, UT completed a multiyear comprehensive self-assessment to identify existing strengths and areas for improvement in economic and community engagement. A cross-functional task force co-chaired by UT and UT Institute of Agriculture administrators gathered data and perspectives from UT faculty, staff, extension agents and students as well as community, nonprofit and business leaders.

“UT has a number of excellent programs designed to cultivate a culture of innovation. The IEP designation highlights those initiatives and will help us leverage lessons learned as we embark on a growth and improvement plan,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah Crawford. “The designation also allows UT to join a community of practice with other IEP Universities that share resources, ideas and best practices.”

Every college and division contributed to earning the IEP designation. UT Volunteers have created hundreds of mutually beneficial partnerships to engage local and international communities.

UT’s annual Engagement and Outreach Conference brings university and community partners together to address local issues. The mission of the Center for Sport, Peace and Society has impacted 225,000 youth and women worldwide. Across the state, the UT Extension network of offices in all 95 counties has direct contacts annually with 4.6 million Tennesseans through educational and problem-solving roles and generated an annual economic impact of $687 million in 2019.

“As a land-grant university, our mission goes beyond educating students and conducting research and Extension programs. We recognize that we are also here to improve lives across the state by advancing the economies in our local communities. That’s why this designation is so exciting—it means we’ll grow as a university and increase our impact on economic and community development, improving our state and country,” said Tim Cross, senior vice president and senior vice chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture.

Industry research partnerships are just as diverse as community outreach efforts. UT is home to more than 80 research centers and institutes that spur economic growth and technological innovation, such as the Global Supply Chain Institute; the College of Architecture and Design’s Fab Lab Studios; the Innovative Computing Laboratory; UT AgResearch and its system of 10 research and education centers across the state; and the Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).

IACMI focuses on manufacturing technologies that improve energy, material and cost efficiency. Thanks to this collaboration, 10 new products are commercially available, and 3,000 jobs have been announced. To date, IACMI has generated $400 million in investment across eight states and has been awarded a $5 million grant from the US Department of Defense to address composite manufacturing deficits in every state.

Other dedicated UT programs address emerging workforce needs. Examples include the Forensic Anthropology Center, Veterans Resource Center, VolsTeach and the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation connects students with the resources, skills and mentors they need to successfully start and grow businesses.

These and numerous other UT programs helped the university generate nearly 43,000 jobs and $2 billion in income for Tennesseans in 2017, according to a 2019 report from the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research. Even more importantly, these programs help UT live its mission and impact lives.

Read more about this designation.

Read what leaders are saying.



Heather Peters (865-974-8674,