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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Campus Advisory Board met Friday to discuss enrollment and student success, research updates, investment in employees, athletics excellence, and highlights from the UT Institute of Agriculture.

Chancellor Donde Plowman began the meeting by expressing thanks for the proposed continued investment in higher education by Governor Bill Lee and the State of Tennessee. Lee’s recent budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes $210 million in new funding for the campus and campus initiatives.

Additional meeting highlights include:

Enrollment and Student Success

Plowman shared enrollment data from 2017 to 2021 showing a 12 percent growth among the total student body. She attributed the growth to more students choosing UT over other institutions and improved retention of current students.

UT’s fall-to-spring retention rate for first-year students is 96.1 percent—up almost a full percentage point from last year. Retention has also increased among first-generation students, underrepresented minorities, Black male students, and Pell Grant recipients. Fewer than 8 percent of first-year students are on academic probation, the lowest rate in UT history.

Plowman announced a new technology platform—Salesforce—to help centralize information to better serve students. The customer relationship management system will modernize the student experience by integrating information, personalizing communications, and streamlining student services.

“These changes will be transformational for student support staff by giving them access to tools and information to make their jobs easier,” she said.

Research on the Rise

Plowman shared research highlights from 2021, including NSF CAREER Awards for six research faculty members. Seven faculty members were named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Seven others were included among the most highly cited researchers of 2021, and more than 150 were in the top 2 percent of scientists in the world for citations.

Plowman also announced the new Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, a multidisciplinary institute that builds on UT’s internationally recognized talent and capabilities. The institute, housed at UT’s Cherokee Farm research park, brings together more than 150 faculty members with a collective $60 million in existing research expenditures.

“UT already has powerful research partners like the Department of Defense, Oak Ridge National Lab, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Volkswagen,” said Plowman. “This new institute will create opportunities for our world-class faculty to collaborate across disciplines and find new, innovative ways to solve some of society’s biggest challenges.”

Investing in Employees

In 2021, Forbes named UT one of the state’s top 10 employers. Just this week Forbes included the university among America’s best places to work—and first among higher education institutions in the SEC.

More than 3,950 employees saw a pay increase on January 1, when the minimum wage was raised and additional salary adjustments made. The minimum salary for full-time non-tenure-track faculty was raised, and UT implemented a 4 percent merit pool increase. The governor’s budget proposal includes another 4 percent increase for the coming year.

Continued Good News from UTIA

Two finalists have been identified in the search for the next senior vice chancellor/senior vice president of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Candidates will make visits to Knoxville, Columbia, and Jackson for interviews at the end of the month.

Plowman and Linda Martin, interim vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture, touted the institute’s new program to serve high-quality locally sourced UT beef on campus and the opening of the UT Creamery, located in the former visitor’s center, later this semester.

Construction timelines remain on track for both the College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Learning Center and the Energy and Environmental Science Research Building.

Athletics Excellence

Under new leadership, the Department of Athletics is modernizing its office and operations while achieving excellence across its programs. Athletics had its highest graduation success rate in history and produced three Academic All-Americans this fall. Under SEC Coach of the Year Brian Pensky, UT soccer achieved 20 wins, an SEC tournament championship, and a Sweet 16. Head football coach Josh Huepel was the most successful first-year coach in the Power Five and became the first-ever two-time recipient of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award.

UT was the only program to advance to the College World Series, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and a football bowl game in 2021.

Meeting materials and the archived webcast are available on the chancellor’s website.

The board was created in 2018 when the Tennessee General Assembly passed the UT FOCUS Act, restructuring the Board of Trustees and creating an advisory board for each campus in the UT System. The board is charged with making campus-level recommendations to the Board of Trustees on strategic planning, operating budgets, and tuition, as well as advising the chancellor.

Members of the advisory board are Allen Carter of McMinnville, Alexia Poe and Tom Smith of Nashville, John Tickle of Bristol, Tennessee, and Syreeta Vaughn of Knoxville. Beauvais Lyons is serving in his second year of a two-year term as faculty representative on the board. Third-year doctoral student Alexandra Szmutko is the student representative. The next advisory board meeting will be May 13.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,