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An artist rendering depicts the future Lake Loudoun Boulevard residence hall at night.

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees on Friday voted to allow the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to move forward with plans to build a third new residence hall on campus. The board also approved new academic degrees and departments that will offer students innovative and modern skill sets that meet growing workforce needs.

“UT is here to serve our students and the people of Tennessee,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “We are grateful to the Board of Trustees for their support as we create more capacity to educate students and launch innovative new degree programs that equip graduates with knowledge, skills and credentials to thrive in an evolving economy.”

Degree programs

Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost John Zomchick said four new degree programs approved by the board are student-focused and workplace-directed. He believes they will bring more students to the university and send more of them out into Tennessee to work on important projects and problems.

Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost John Zomchick presents new degree programs to members of the Board of Trustees.
Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost John Zomchick presents new degree programs to members of the Board of Trustees.

“The Board’s actions reflect UT’s continuing commitment to enhancing access, collaboration, and innovation through all aspects of campus life,” he said. “These initiatives create even more opportunities for our faculty to inspire students to pursue big ideas in cutting-edge fields.”

The board approved the first bachelor’s degree programs for the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies, which launched in July 2023 as one of three new academic units. The college provides support for the emerging workforce and addresses the widening talent gap by equipping students with in-demand and sought-after skills needed to excel in careers of the future.

The four-year Bachelor of Science degree programs include:

  • Data Science
  • Applied Artificial Intelligence
  • Innovative Transdisciplinary Studies

The data science degree program will prepare students to transform raw data into meaningful information. Students will learn to extract, prepare and visualize data, which they will model and analyze. A comprehensive list of approved electives allows students to design their focus areas in the vast field of data science. For example, students eager to dive deep into algorithmic development can choose electives in computer science, enhancing their programming expertise. Alternatively, those interested in the narrative power of data can select electives from communications, preparing them to tell compelling stories through data visualization and interpretation.

The degree program in applied artificial intelligence is designed to offer a foundational understanding of artificial intelligence concepts, data sources, and tools in a less technical context than a computer science degree and accentuates real-world applications across various disciplines. Covering AI concepts in a less technical way with real-world applications is expected to make the program more accessible to a broader audience.

The innovative transdisciplinary studies program is CECS’ signature fully customizable degree program designed to enable students the flexibility to forge their own paths and to prepare students for employment through the future-looking stackable certificates and minors driven by industry partners and the need for a workforce skilled in multiple emerging areas of expertise. Student interests across disciplines will be facilitated by an innovative curriculum designed to offer a cohort experience while enabling a personalized education. Each stackable certificate will consist of 12 student credit hours, which students can leverage to develop a customized skill set. For example, a certificate in applied artificial intelligence can be stacked with certificates in game craft and data science to create a specific expertise. The current list of planned stackable certificates, pending Faculty Senate approval, include:

  • Applied Artificial Intelligence
  • Artificial Intelligence Integration in Music
  • Artificial Intelligence and Medicine
  • Applied Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • Game Craft
  • Sustainable Development
  • Literacy on Emerging Topics

“The College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies is on the forefront of changing higher education to adapt to the rapidly evolving future landscape of how we work and live,” said Interim Vice Provost of Academic Affairs and CECS Dean Ozlem Kilic. “With these cross-cutting, customizable degrees of the future, we will continue our commitment, both as a college and as a modern land-grant institution, to be accessible to learners from all backgrounds and help students find rewarding careers upon graduation. We are excited to welcome students into CECS this fall.”

The board also approved a new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering in the Tickle College of Engineering. This will be the first bachelor of science program in environmental engineering in the state of Tennessee. The program will prepare students for careers in environmental engineering by equipping them to solve environmental problems and complete engineering projects. They will also learn to adapt to rapidly changing social and environmental challenges.

All four degree programs are expected to launch in fall 2024, pending final approval by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The board approved adding a Doctor of Engineering program in the Department of Industrial and System Engineering. The program is the first of its kind in Tennessee and the region. It will focus mostly on practice and application rather than research, which is common in a traditional PhD program. The new program is geared toward individuals working full-time and will be offered online starting in August 2024 pending appropriate state approvals.

Academic departments

The Tickle College of Engineering plans to establish two new academic departments. The board approved separating the current Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering into two distinct departments: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering.

A plan to establish a Department of Applied Engineering and Technology also received board approval. The department will admit top first-year students and community college graduates interested in pursuing applied engineering programs and entering the workforce upon graduation. A reduced ACT score requirement will provide access to students who cannot get into traditional engineering programs.

“The Tickle College of Engineering is thriving on all fronts,” said Dean Matthew Mench. “Many of the world’s biggest challenges run through engineering, and the programs we are creating are in great demand. These new degree programs and departments are reflective of our strategic commitment to meeting the state and national need to produce a highly-skilled engineering workforce and conduct research at the highest levels of significance and societal impact. This is a tremendous time to be at the University of Tennessee, and I am truly excited about the impact these new additions will have in making life and lives better for all Tennesseans.”

The new departments are expected to launch July 1 following appropriate state approvals.

Residence hall

The board approved the construction of a new residential community at the intersection of Lake Loudoun and Volunteer Boulevards that will add approximately 1,020 beds to the university’s housing inventory, which currently has about 8,500 beds. The project will also include a grab-and-go convenience store for students. The building is expected to open in fall 2026.

The residence hall represents phase 2 of the university’s public-private partnership with RISE Real Estate, which includes three total housing projects. Phase 1 is currently under construction and includes a residence hall at Andy Holt Avenue and 20th Street and a second residential community between Caledonia and Terrace Avenues. Phase 1 is expected to be completed for the fall 2025 semester.

Nonprofit foundation for Athletics

The board voted to allow the university to pursue establishing a nonprofit foundation for Tennessee Athletics that would support the university’s athletics program and student-athletes moving forward. Chancellor Plowman noted most SEC schools already have their own foundations and establishing one at UT would be beneficial in the fast-changing world of college athletics.


Lisa Leko (865-974-8698,