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Chancellor Plowman 1
Chancellor Donde Plowman delivers her flagship address from the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall in the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center on September 14, 2023. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Chancellor Donde Plowman delivered her fifth annual Flagship Address Thursday, using the moment to celebrate a year of record achievements while urging the campus to continue building on that success.

“The University of Tennessee refuses good enough. We choose great,” she told the packed crowd at the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall inside the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center. “That matters for the students we teach, the communities we serve, the state we love.

“Because a state that has a great university — particularly a great public flagship land-grant university — has opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”

Faculty, staff and students were on hand for the speech along with representatives from community and industry partners. Plowman’s remarks highlighted UT’s achievements over the past four years, which include a 20 percent growth in enrollment, a record 91 percent retention rate, an 8-point increase in graduation rates, a doubling of sponsored project funding, and deepened relationships with industry and community partners.

Those accomplishments are evidence that UT is a university on the rise, she said.

Weaving together a series of stories throughout the speech, Plowman demonstrated the importance of the university’s mission of teaching, research and service and the ways UT is making an impact.

She described her interactions with students at a Flagship high school in Nashville, conversations with the director of the National Science Foundation about work happening at UT Knoxville, and her reaction to watching the provost present to the Board of Trustees on the university’s first new academic colleges in 50 years.

“This is the blueprint for a new kind of land-grant university — one that partners, leads, shares and strives for impact,” she said.

A full recording and transcript of Plowman’s Flagship Address is available online.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,