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An artist’s rendering shows a future residential community on Caledonia Avenue that is expected to open in fall 2025.

The Campus Advisory Board of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, gathered Feb. 2 to hear updates on university priorities for 2024, capital projects and Student Life initiatives.

Chancellor Donde Plowman opened the meeting by outlining objectives for the year that directly tie to the university’s strategic vision, including supporting access to the university and enhancing the Volunteer experience.

She said the strategic vision supports the development of ideas, taking action and embodying the Volunteer spirit.

We are trying to enrich our world with better ideas,” Plowman said. We believe 100% as a land-grant university that means taking action. The Volunteer spirit is what guides us.”

The chancellor also celebrated new university records tied to graduation and retention:

  • Almost 1,800 students graduated in fall 2023.
  • Almost 3,000 students participated in the winter mini-term.
  • Spring 2024 enrollment is the highest ever for a spring semester (although official numbers will not be available until after Feb. 6).

Access, academics and student success

Academic goals outlined by Plowman include launching Digital Learning at UT and expanding the university’s capacity to deliver accessible quality online learning opportunities for all Tennesseans while supporting the state’s workforce needs.

The chancellor said the university will continue to support the growth of its three new academic units. Plowman highlighted the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies, which is putting together pieces of curriculum that exist across campus in new ways. The college is working daily to discover industry needs and prepare students for the workforce.

The UT Institute of Agriculture is developing a new strategic plan and is gathering feedback from industry leaders, alumni, faculty and other stakeholders across the state. Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice President of UTIA Keith Carver said the goal is to determine how UTIA can best serve the institution and the state as a whole.

The newly renamed Division of Access and Engagement is committed to improving access to the university and is collaborating with the Division of Enrollment Management to reach students in all corners of the state and support their journey to the state’s flagship university. That includes cultivating productive connections with the communities that are home to UT’s 38 Flagship high schools and reaching students in rural communities. Vice Chancellor for Access and Engagement Tyvi Small shared the importance of providing access to the university and supporting students once they get here.

The chancellor noted that the university will continue to support its goal of enhancing interdisciplinary research and will work to complete its cluster hiring initiative. Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development Deborah Crawford said the hiring initiative allows the university to build research expertise in particular areas and has the potential to spawn new academic programs. She said the initiative is important to external partners who want to access multidisciplinary research fields and are interested in hiring graduates with skills directly related to industry needs.

Campus improvements

Chancellor Plowman said parking enhancements are a priority. The university hired a new traffic engineer, and new strategies are under development for fall 2024.

Plowman said the university will continue to work with the City of Knoxville on its proposed pedestrian bridge project. The bridge would span the Tennessee River, connecting the campus and downtown with South Knoxville.

The university is in the early stages of exploring the development of a child care center for faculty and staff and has issued a request for proposals.

An artist rendering depicts the Energy and Environmental Science Research Building that is expected to open in fall 2024.

Interim Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Allen Bolton shared updates on improvement projects in construction and design phases:

  • The Energy and Environmental Science Research Building is expected to open in the fall on the UTIA campus.
  • The Regional Stormwater Park is expected to be completed in the spring. It will collect stormwater and provide outdoor seating.
  • The Croley Nursing Building at the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Peyton Manning Pass is on track to open in 2025.
  • The Haslam College of Business expansion is in the design phase and is expected to be completed for fall 2027.
  • The university continues to plan for a new chemistry building.
  • Groundbreaking for the Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre is planned in February, with performances expected to start in the new building in fall 2026.
  • A new student success building in the footprint of Melrose Hall is in the design phase and is expected to open for fall 2027.
  • A library storage facility with environmental and humidity control for historic and rare texts is scheduled to open on Middlebrook Pike in August 2025.

Construction continues at several athletics facilities:

  • Enhancements to Haslam Field, including expansion of the football practice field and locker room upgrades, are expected to be completed in May 2025.
  • Renovations continue at Neyland Stadium, and construction is expected to be completed on a new south concourse and founders’ suites in early 2025. Gate 10 Plaza enhancements are expected to be finished in late 2025.
  • Fans will experience expanded seating capacity in Lindsey Nelson Stadium at the start of the 2024 baseball season. Additional improvements are planned over the next two years. Upon completion of the project, the stadium capacity is expected to increase from 7,500 to 10,000.

New residential communities

An artist’s rendering shows the exterior of the future residential community that will be built along Andy Holt Avenue.

Construction is now underway on new residential communities that are being built through a public-private partnership. This is the first-of-its-kind partnership at a university in Tennessee. Plowman said the new halls are key to the university’s strategic enrollment growth plans.

The first two halls — one at the intersection of Andy Holt Avenue and 20th Street and the other between Caledonia and Terrace Avenues — are expected to open in fall 2025. The new residential communities will add approximately 1,900 beds to the university’s housing inventory, which currently has about 8,500 beds.

A third residence hall at the intersection of Lake Loudoun and Volunteer Boulevards is in the design phase and expected to open in fall 2026.

Student Life initiatives

The board heard from Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Cuevas, who explained how the Division of Student Life is working to provide a transformational experience for students.

“The physical space – the facilities – can help transform the look of campus. They can also help create different learning opportunities and social opportunities,” Cuevas said. “This is why we are making investments across our campus. We believe if we can create that environment using space creatively, it starts to build a sense of community. People feel connected and develop a sense of belonging.”

In addition to new residential communities, space enhancements include renovations at the Frieson Black Cultural Center. The university will also be moving forward, pending state approval, to expand the center. Updates include additional student meeting space.

The Presidential Courtyard Building will be reimagined as a satellite Student Union annex, and upcoming renovations will include space for a center for basic needs.

Cuevas said Student Life is providing wraparound care for students in need. That includes connecting students with resources on campus and in the community to provide basic needs as well as using technological upgrades to support health promotion programming. Student Life is leveraging artificial intelligence to expand the Volunteer experience for students with disabilities.

Large-scale events allow the division to connect with thousands of students. Engaging in these activities helps students find their community on campus. Events include programs centered on student concerns and on leadership and service.

Student Life is investing in its staff to provide career development opportunities that make them proud to come to work and have the skills needed to support students.

About the board

The Campus Advisory Board was created in 2018 when the Tennessee General Assembly passed the UT FOCUS Act, restructuring the UT 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 UT Board of Trustees on strategic planning, operating budgets and tuition, as well as advising the chancellor.

Public members of the advisory board are Allen Carter of Niota, Alexia Poe of Nashville, Tomi Robb of Knoxville, Tom Smith of Nashville and John Tickle of Bristol.

The Faculty Senate appointed Joan MacLeod Heminway, Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law, to serve as the faculty appointee to the board.

The student appointee is Jessica Barfield, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information Sciences.


Lisa Leko (865-974-8698,