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Welcome Back to Campus!

Welcome back to campus! I hope each of you had a wonderful summer.

This is my favorite time of year, when everyone arrives on campus excited to begin a new academic year.

At more than 4,800 strong, our freshman class is the largest it has been in at least forty years. I am also pleased to welcome 1,300 transfer students and more than 1,500 graduate students to the Volunteer family.

Let’s make these new members of our community feel at home on Rocky Top. Take a moment to exchange a greeting or help a new Vol find their classroom.

This week is filled with more than forty Welcome Week events to help our new Vols settle in to campus life. From Monday’s visit by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly to Vol Night Long on Friday, there are many opportunities to get involved and have some fun.

I know everyone is glad that a thousand parking spaces were added to campus when we opened the new Volunteer Boulevard Garage. And just last week we opened White Hall, a new residence hall and the first completed building in our west campus redevelopment.

Our campus is improving in many ways, and we continue to find opportunities to be even better.

Our strategic plan, Vol Vision, includes a new priority on diversity and inclusion, and we have established a diversity work group to begin immediate implementation of that priority. We share a responsibility to look after one another and do all that we can to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all Volunteers.

This time of year reminds us of the many people, places, and traditions that help make Rocky Top special.

I wish everyone a great semester of success, the company of wonderful friends and colleagues, and experiences that create memories to last a lifetime.

Rabenold Leaving for Texas; Bryant Named Interim Vice Chancellor

I have important news about a leadership change in our Office of Alumni Affairs and Development.

After fourteen years at UT, five of those as our vice chancellor for alumni affairs and development, Scott Rabenold will be leaving to become vice president for university development at the University of Texas at Austin.

Scott has been an energetic supporter of our university and a highly successful fundraiser. Under his leadership, our fundraising has reached unprecedented levels. We appreciate Scott’s strong leadership and exemplary service, and we wish him well in his new endeavor.

I am very pleased that Chip Bryant, executive director of development for the Haslam College of Business and director of campus-wide campaigns, has agreed to serve as interim vice chancellor for alumni affairs and development.

In addition to leading campus fundraising efforts, the vice chancellor for alumni affairs and development is part of the leadership team of the UT Foundation, the nonprofit corporation that collaborates with each campus to raise money for scholarships, professorships, research, outreach programs, and other initiatives.

Chip is a proven leader with a strong record of successful fundraising, and I’m confident he will guide us through this transition period and continue our upward momentum in alumni and fundraising efforts.

Under Chip’s leadership, the Haslam College of Business development team has received more than $200 million and the Haslam College of Business endowment has grown from $42 million to $102 million.

Chip led the college’s development office during the Campaign for Tennessee, through which the college received over $122 million. During its current campaign, Investing in the Journey to the Top 25, the Haslam College of Business has received $145 million toward a $175 million goal.

As director of campaigns, Chip has been leading the campus-wide campaign strategy to secure the key funds for the university to become a Top 25 public research. More than $640 million has been received toward the campaign’s priorities since 2012.

Chip has been at UT for more than twenty years. He arrived as a freshman in 1988 and graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in education. He spent eleven years with UT Athletics as assistant athletics director for marketing, managing the corporate partner program and contracts.

Please join me in wishing Scott well and welcoming Chip into this important new role.

Jimmy G. Cheek

Celebration of Life Service for Pat Summitt

We are honored to be hosting a Celebration of Life service for Lady Vol Basketball Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, July 14, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Pat was a record-setting coach, an inspirational leader, a pioneer for women’s athletics, and a friend and mentor to so many people. To us, she was and always will be a treasured Volunteer.

The event is the Summitt family’s public memorial and is open to all. We anticipate welcoming a large crowd of people to honor her life and legacy. Doors to the arena will open at 5:30 p.m.

If you plan to attend, we encourage you to leave your vehicle parked in your assigned lot on campus and walk to avoid traffic around the arena. Shuttles will run from the ag campus beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The service will be streamed live on and on An archived video of the event will be available after the service on

Please visit Tennessee Athletics’ Celebration of Life website for more information and specific instructions about the event.

Update on Title IX Lawsuit and Improvements

This week the university entered into a settlement agreement for the Title IX lawsuit filed by eight plaintiffs earlier this year.

We believe the settlement is a positive resolution for all of the parties involved and allows us to focus on our ongoing efforts to raise awareness, improve support, and strengthen our processes for investigating and resolving cases involving sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.

Our first priority is the safety and well-being of every member of our university community.

I have committed additional recurring funds and resources to expand the staff and training within the key offices that work together on our goals. A total of four new positions have been added to the Office of Equity and Diversity and the Center for Health Education and Wellness. A fifth position will be added later this year to focus on training, prevention, and support for employees. Athletics will be contracting for two new professionals to enhance its training and programming for student athletes. Read more in the press release.

Over the past several years, we’ve revised and improved our sexual assault policy, increased training and programming, and improved awareness of the options for reporting sexual assault and receiving care and support from the university.

Our goal as the state’s flagship university is to be a leader in awareness, education, response, and support and to continue to evolve our framework for serving students based on best practices, new research, and shared knowledge.

Update on Two Administrative Appointments

I am pleased to announce the appointment of two talented and experienced individuals to serve in leadership roles in two critical areas for the university.

John Zomchick, vice provost for faculty affairs, will serve as interim provost beginning August 1, when Provost Susan Martin returns to the classics faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.

John has been serving as vice provost for more than four years and has played a large role in many of the changes and improvements in faculty affairs. Before joining the provost’s staff, he was executive associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. He came to UT in 1985 as an assistant professor of English and earned the rank of professor in 2000. John has held a number of administrative appointments, including associate dean for academic personnel, interim associate dean for academic programs, and department head.

John is an award-winning teacher and a gifted scholar of eighteenth-century English literature. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Penn State and a master’s and doctorate in English literature from Columbia University.

Jacob Rudolph, marketing director in the Office of Communications and Marketing, will begin serving as interim vice chancellor for communications on July 1. Vice Chancellor Margie Nichols will begin her transition to retirement in early July.

Jacob came to UT in 2011. He has served as marketing director for three years and has played a critical role in strategic communications planning and campus branding and marketing initiatives. Before coming to the university, Jacob spent seven years in public relations and marketing in the tourism industry. He has bachelor’s degrees in journalism from UT and in film studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a master’s in educational media from Appalachian State University.

As you know, I recently announced my plans to step down as chancellor and return to the faculty in this next academic year. As a result, I decided to suspend the searches for these two positions. Your next chancellor should have the opportunity to fill these two critical positions once he or she takes office.

In the meantime, I am confident that John and Jacob will be strong leaders and continue the progress we’ve made in both academic affairs and communications and marketing.

A Statement on the Passing of Pat Summitt

It is a very sad day on Rocky Top. Volunteers around the world are mourning the loss of the legendary Pat Summitt. Pat was the greatest coach of all time; her fierce spirit will live on through her players, and through all of us who were inspired by her on a daily basis. Our sincerest sympathies go out to Tyler and all her family and friends.

Read Pat Summitt’s Volunteer Story on

Read more from UT Athletics.

Read more from The Pat Summitt Foundation and sign a guest book.

A Message of Gratitude

Dear Colleagues,

When I started my career in higher education, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to serve as chancellor of one of the best land-grant universities in the country, a university that subscribes to our three-part mission of education, research, and outreach. This is the best and most enjoyable job of my career; it is a tremendous privilege to serve and to work with each of you to make this university a better place.

It’s now time for me to step aside and return to the faculty. I’ve been in discussions with my family and President DiPietro for months about this decision. It’s important to have a smooth transition; for that reason, the president and I have agreed that I will stay on as chancellor until the new chancellor arrives.

We all began this journey together with a firm commitment to enhance the educational experiences of our students, to enhance research and outreach, to build partnerships, to increase diversity, and to become more global and sustainable. I believe that together we have accomplished this and more. We have worked hard and we’ve struggled at times; we’ve experienced great joy and great accomplishment and always maintained the Volunteer spirit.

We have attracted stellar faculty and staff, improved the campus infrastructure, boosted private fundraising, strengthened recognition of UT, and secured additional resources. Our athletics department is stronger financially. Our student-athletes are making great progress in the classroom with the highest grades ever while also training to be champions.

We have increased enrollment while still attracting the best and brightest students. Our graduation rates have shown exceptional growth and our retention rates are moving up as well. We have launched major building and renovation projects; our great team has worked hard to transform the look of our campus, and new buildings and improved grounds have made it more beautiful and inviting. We have also achieved greater consistency with our branding. Whether you’re looking at our publications, our signage, or our buildings, you definitely know you’re in Big Orange Country.

Serving as your chancellor has truly been the capstone of my career, and I thank President DiPietro and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity and their support. Ileen and I are grateful to each of you for the chance to serve the University of Tennessee and become a part of its great traditions.

Go Vols,


A Statement on the Tragedy in Orlando

On behalf of the UT community, I would like to express our profound sadness and outrage at Sunday’s events in Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, loved ones, and friends.

We stand with the LGBTQA+ community. We are a stronger society when we stand together arm in arm to resist hatred and intolerance.

A gathering organized by our own LGBTQA+ community will take place at 6:00 p.m. today on the second floor of Hodges Library. Counselors from the Student Counseling Center, staff from the Center for Health Education and Wellness, and clergy from Tyson House will be on hand to offer support.

New Executive Director for the UT Space Institute

I’m pleased to announce that Mark Whorton, chief technologist of Teledyne Brown Engineering and president of Teledyne Optech Inc., has been named executive director of the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma.

Mark will begin on July 18. I hope you will join me in wishing him well in this new role and welcoming him to the UT family.

With a strong background in government, higher education, and private industry, he has the skills to lead the institute well into the future.

Mark has extensive experience in designing navigation and control systems for aerospace vehicles at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and for private industry. He also was an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence in Information Systems, working on next-generation ground-based telescopes.

Mark has a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama.

I want to thank the members of the search committee for their work in finding the right candidate for this critical role. I also want to thank Associate Executive Director James Simonton for serving as acting director over these past few months following the retirement of Robert “Buddy” Moore, who passed away in May.

Jimmy G. Cheek

Impact of State Law on Office of Diversity and Inclusion

It saddens me to share with you that a new state law requires us to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. This means that no funds can go to operate the office. Vice Chancellor Rickey Hall has announced that he is becoming the vice president for the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at the University of Washington and chief diversity officer for the UW system. One of the employees in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has been offered another position with the university, and the university continues to assist the other employee whose position is being eliminated. As the law requires, the university will reallocate the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s budget to minority engineering scholarships.

The new law does not permit us to reallocate money to continue to fund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from another budget. As a result, there will be a reorganization of the units that reported to the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. The Office of Multicultural Student Life will report to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Life; the Office of Equity and Diversity will report to the chancellor; the Educational Advancement Program will report to the Office of the Provost; and the Commission for Blacks, the Commission for LGBT People, the Commission for Women, and the Council for Diversity and Interculturalism will report to the chancellor. The Pride Center will remain a gathering space for students, but it will no longer be staffed by university employees.

We are still attempting to determine how other portions of the law affect the university.  I know there will be more questions, some of which have not been resolved.  The vice chancellors and I will communicate further when we have more information.

This in no way diminishes our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The new law doesn’t impact most of the funding for those efforts. We will use the coming year to determine how to more effectively advance diversity and inclusion on our campus, how to measure the effectiveness of our efforts, and who should lead those efforts in the future.

Diversity and inclusion are priorities in our Vol Vision 2020 plan. I am committed to making sure each person is respected for who they are and that each person feels safe and valued on our campus. It’s my responsibility to make sure that we’re providing access, accountability, opportunity, and education.

Over the past year, I met with students from the Black Student Union and UT Diversity Matters to listen to their concerns. We resolved some problems and disagreed about others, but we were listening and talking and I learned a lot from our students. As a result of these meetings, we have improved our bias protocol, increased our commitment to inclusivity training, and addressed diversity issues in our Student Counseling Center.

I know there is still much work to do to create and maintain a welcoming work and educational climate. I am committed to continuing the conversation, listening, and taking positive action steps. I am asking for your help in these efforts.

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