Skip to content

Pride Center Vandalism

Early Monday morning, an unidentified person vandalized a rainbow flag on the lawn of the Pride Center and left a vile, hateful note directed toward members of our LGBTQIA+ community.

I find these acts abhorrent, and they are inconsistent with the values of the University of Tennessee. We are Vols. We are better than this.

UTPD is investigating Monday’s incident. Investigators have reviewed security footage and are exploring leads that I hope will lead to an arrest.

If you have information that may assist UTPD in this investigation, please call 865-974-3114.

If you are ever threatened or in danger, call 911. If you ever feel harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against, please report the incident to our Bias Education and Response Team at

Chancellor Cheek with new Vols

Enjoying My Final Firsts

Just before classes began this semester, a group of reporters came to my office for a story about the start of a new academic year. “This is your last first,” one reporter observed.

She was right. It’s a bittersweet thought. I have been enjoying a lot of my favorite events like the first day of classes, Torch Night, and our back-to-school picnic for the last time as your chancellor.

I have been honored to serve as chancellor since 2009.  It has been the best job I’ve ever had and I have enjoyed it immensely!

Together, we’ve celebrated many great successes and made significant progress on our goals for becoming a top-ranked public research university.

We’ve weathered financial downturns and political storms, and we’ve emerged leaner and with a stronger understanding of the challenges still ahead. I have always known that the greatness of our university lies in you—as an alum, a student, or a member of our faculty or staff.

I grew up in Texas and was the first person in my family to attend college. I did my undergraduate work at Texas A&M and earned my PhD there as well. Before coming to UT, I spent thirty-four years working at the University of Florida.

Right after I came to UT someone asked me who I’d cheer for when UT played Florida. Without hesitation, I told them, “I’m a Volunteer.”

After Texas A&M became part of the SEC, someone asked me who I’d root for when UT played the Aggies in football. Without hesitation, I told them, “I’m a Volunteer.”

There’s something special that happens to all of us when we come to live, study, and work on this campus.

There’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but we all know it. It’s respect. Dedication. Love. It’s a sense of family that doesn’t exist on all university campuses. We call it the Volunteer difference.

Although I’ve announced my plans to return to the faculty, I won’t make the transition until your new chancellor has been hired. As we bring a new chancellor on board, I know I can count on you to welcome and support him or her in the new role. I know you will help the new chancellor experience and understand what the Volunteer difference means.

I am looking forward to returning to the classroom as a faculty member and contributing to UT in a new way.

But from wherever I sit or serve, I am a Vol for Life.

Go Vols!


New Vols Slapping the Rock

UT Welcomes Class of 2020

We have had a great time welcoming the newest members of the Volunteer family.

With 4,825 new freshmen, the Class of 2020 is the largest we’ve seen in more than three decades. This is the sixth consecutive year of growth in our freshman class.

Although about 83 percent of freshmen hail from Tennessee, the Class of 2020 has members from forty-one states and eleven countries.

Through the year-round hard work of our admissions team and support from our faculty, staff, current students, and alumni, we’ve been able to meet our freshman and transfer student goals.

This year’s freshmen are impressive; they have an average ACT score of 27 and high school GPA of 3.89. Minority students make up about 18 percent of the class, and about 10 percent of the freshmen are enrolled in an honors program.

We were also pleased to welcome more than 1,300 new transfer students. Recruiting transfer students and helping them make a smooth transition here are critical to our enrollment plans and ensure our leading role in Tennessee’s Drive to 55 efforts.

We expect more students to transfer to UT after completing associate’s degrees from Tennessee’s community colleges through Tennessee Promise. Our regional recruiters in Memphis, Nashville, and East Tennessee have already made a big difference by working with prospective transfer students and our community college partners.

We have opened a new residence hall, White Hall, which houses three hundred men and women. The adjacent Orange Hall will open at the end of this month. Both are part of our ongoing effort to improve and modernize accommodations for the 7,100 students who live on our campus.

We also opened the Volunteer Boulevard Garage. It adds a thousand much-needed parking spaces for our campus, most of them for commuter students.

More New Students Get Extra Help from the Vol Family

Student with parents

Rion Longfellow, a freshman studying aerospace engineering, received the Central Savannah River Area UT Knoxville Alumni Chapter Scholarship for 2016–17. He is pictured here with his parents.

This fall forty-six new students started their college careers on Rocky Top with some extra help from Volunteers who live and work in their home communities.

Nineteen alumni chapters around the country created new scholarships this year to assist Vols with the costs of attending UT.

Chapter-based fundraising engages our alumni to make a very tangible difference in the lives of our students and their families. These chapter-based efforts also demonstrate to our new Volunteers what it means to be a Vol for Life.

I am proud of the progress we have made in reconnecting with alumni, building chapter membership, and facilitating more involvement through local networking and service opportunities.

Alumni engagement is a key factor in boosting our number of annual donors by 30 percent—an increase of more than ten thousand—over the past three years. More than forty-three thousand donors and philanthropic investors supported the university in the past fiscal year with $167 million in private and corporate gifts, marking another year of great momentum and support for our strategic initiatives.

More than half of all UT donors made gifts of $100 or less, and every gift makes a difference.

We are grateful to our alumni, friends, and corporate partners who help impact the lives of UT students, faculty, and staff, and improve our programs and facilities.

Private support for scholarships, in particular, helps bridge the gap between state funding and student tuition. Every dollar is an investment in the state’s goal of raising our percentage of college-educated citizens.


Here’s a list of faculty, staff, and students who have made headlines for their accomplishments in recent months.


Red Bird KioskThe Appalachia Project—a three-year project that helped bring clean drinking water, home safety and sanitation, and emergency preparedness to Clay County, Kentucky—has earned a C. Peter Magrath/W. K. Kellogg Exemplary Program designation. Sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and presented jointly by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Engagement Scholarship Association, the designation recognizes universities’ extraordinary community outreach projects. The Appalachia Project team includes Lisa Davenport and Meghan Hayes from the College of Nursing; David Matthews, John McRae, and Michelle Mokry from the College of Architecture and Design; Jenny Retherford and John Schwartz from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Don Green and Emily Miller from the Law Enforcement Innovation Center; and Stephanie Robinson and Gary Skolits from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

The Office of Communications and Marketing won eight top-tier honors from the Tennessee College Public Relations Association for writing, public relations, design, social media, and video production work, including the Best in Show award for the “Because We’re Vols” video.

The Panhellenic Council was recognized with the Excellence Award by the National Panhellenic Conference. The council was one of twenty-seven councils out of more than six hundred to be recognized.

Sigma Sigma Rho Sorority Inc. Eta Chapter was selected as the Chapter of the Year at the sorority’s national convention.

Faculty and Staff

Sunha Choi, assistant professor in the College of Social Work, has received the 2016 Rose Dobrof Award from the Association for Gerontology in Social Work Education for “Out-of-Pocket Expenditures and the Financial Burden of Healthcare among Older Adults: By Nativity and Length of Residence in the United States,” which was selected as the most outstanding article published last year in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

Marleen Kay Davis and Thomas K. (T. K.) Davis, professors in the College of Architecture and Design, have been named co-recipients of the Samuel Morgan Lifetime Service Award for Contribution to Architecture in the Public Realm by the American Institute of Architects Tennessee.

Val Vojdik, Waller Lansden Distinguished Professor of Law, and Brian Krumm, associate professor of law and director of the College of Law’s Business Law and Trademark Clinic, were selected as Knoxville’s representatives on the sixteen-person Tennessee Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Each will serve a four-year term.

Jioni LewisJioni Lewis, assistant professor of psychology, has received two national awards for helping to advance the understanding of race and ethnicity. The Association for Women in Psychology recently honored her with the Women of Color Psychology Award. She also received the Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship on Race and Ethnicity Award from the American Psychological Association’s Society of Counseling Psychology.

Nan Gaylord and Lynda Hardy from the College of Nursing have been named to the American Academy of Nursing’s 2016 Class of New Fellows. Gaylord is an associate professor of nursing, the director of UT’s Center for Nursing Practice, and the director of the Vine School Health Clinic. Hardy is a professor and the associate dean for research.

College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis has been elected a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education. He joins John Prados, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, as the only two faculty members to be elected ASEE fellows.

Dania Bilal, professor of information science, has been elected to the Association for Information Science and Technology’s Board of Directors.

Jack DongarraJack Dongarra has received two significant computing awards—the High Performance Parallel and Distributed Computing Achievement Award from the Association for Computer Machinery and the Super Computing 2016 Test of Time Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Dongarra, who directs the Innovative Computing Laboratory, is the Distinguished Professor of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Distinguished Research Staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, has received a 2016 Campus Leaders Who Care Award from the Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Association in recognition of his work to enhance laboratory and research safety at universities across the country.

Peter Gross, professor of journalism and electronic media, has been chosen to receive a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award by Northern Illinois University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Donald W. King, adjunct professor in information sciences, received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Wyoming. King co-founded Westat Inc., one of the world’s leading private-sector statistical survey research organizations.

Senior Associate Athletics Director and Assistant Provost Joe Scogin has been named to the NCAA Division I Committee on Academics.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Safety and UT Police Chief Troy Lane has been elected to a three-year term as District 2 director for the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. He will represent Knox, Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Hamblen, Hancock, Jefferson, Sevier, and Union counties.

Jonathan OverlyJonathan Overly, director of the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, part of the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, has received one of Governor Bill Haslam’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. During his tenure with the coalition, he has helped usher in a number of improvements to the region’s eco-infrastructure, from car charging stations to alternative fuel methods.

Joe Jarret, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, won two writing awards from the Public Risk Management Association: Public Risk Magazine Article of the Year for “Overzealous Zoning—Challenges for the Public Risk Manager” and Public Risk Author of the Year.

Tore Olsson, assistant professor of history, has been awarded the Stuart Bernath Article Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for his article “Sharecroppers and Campesinos: The American South, Mexico, and the Transnational Politics of Land Reform in the Radical 1930s,” published in the Journal of Southern History. The annual prize recognizes distinguished research and writing by junior scholars in the field of diplomatic relations.

Karen SowersKaren Sowers, dean of the College of Social Work, recently received Mental Health America’s 2016 George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney Social Work Award for making significant contributions to the care and treatment of people with mental illnesses.

Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the College of Nursing, has been invited to serve as a member of the national advisory council for the Accelerating Interprofessional Community-Based Education and Practice initiative. The initiative will fund up to twenty graduate nursing programs and partner organizations to develop interprofessional community-based clinical educational initiatives.

The Collegiate Sports Video Association has named Joe Harrington, sports technology coordinator for the football coaching staff, the 2015–16 Southeastern Conference Video Coordinator of the Year.

Greg Stuart, professor of psychology, has received the 2016 Toy Caldwell-Colbert Award for Distinguished Educator in Clinical Psychology from the Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association.


Alina ClayAlina Clay, a junior from Memphis, is one of ten undergraduates selected from an applicant pool representing more than 160 universities nationwide to receive a prestigious 2016 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. She is the first UT student to be named a Pickering Fellow.

William Fredebeil, a senior in mechanical engineering, has received the $10,000 Legacy of Excellence Scholarship from the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. SMRP offers scholarships to students aiming for careers in maintenance, reliability, and physical asset management.

Preeti Chandrachud, a fifth-year graduate student in chemistry, had her manuscript chosen as the top story in the well-known industry journal Organometallics. An amateur painter, Chandrachud was also invited to design the cover art for the issue.

Millicent Smith, a graduate student in journalism, spent her summer in a paid internship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, after winning a national wonk tank competition sponsored by the US Department of State.

Can HuangCan Huang, an electrical engineering doctoral candidate, has been honored with the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad.

Taylor Gilmore, a senior in journalism and electronic media, is one of thirty-one journalism students from eighteen universities who will lead an investigation into voting rights as part of the 2016 Carnegie-Knight News21 national multimedia investigative reporting initiative. News21 is headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Jade Hoyer, who is completing her MFA degree this semester, has been awarded the Ann Plato Fellowship from Trinity College for 2016–17. Hoyer will exhibit her work, give a public lecture, and teach classes in printmaking and papermaking and in social practice.

Checking in with the First Members of the Class of 2020

Chancellor Cheek with students from bus tour

In September 2015, Chancellor Cheek invited the newly admitted Volunteers from Dobyns-Bennett High School to take a picture in front of the Big Orange Bus. From left to right are Brandon Gilliam, Parker Wilkins, Alison Kilgore, Avery Aulds, Maci Snodgrass, and Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. Student Hayden Correll was absent on the day this photo was taken.

Meet a special group of six new students. Last September, they were the very first to be offered admission to UT’s Class of 2020.

I had a great time surprising them with their acceptance letters at an assembly held at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee. It was the first of nine high schools we visited on the 1,300-mile Big Orange Bus Tour, which was focused on building awareness of our university.

I’m happy to tell you that all six accepted our offer and enrolled as freshmen last month. We are grateful to Dobyns-Bennett for allowing us to visit and for their strong track record in preparing great students—many of whom become Volunteers.

We recently checked in with these six students to hear about their first few weeks on Rocky Top.

Hayden Correll and Brandon Gilliam were well acquainted with UT before moving onto campus.

Hayden is a third-generation UT student majoring in finance.

Brandon is majoring in accounting and plans to follow his dad’s footsteps and become a CPA. But the Haslam College of Business’s Top 25 ranking in accounting isn’t the only thing he’s enthused about.

“I’m excited about attending football games as a student,” said Brandon.

He’s been attending games with his parents—season ticket-holders since they graduated from UT in 1989.

Maci Snodgrass and Parker Wilkins, also roommates, are both enrolled in the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

Parker, who is majoring in kinesiology and nutrition, said having her acceptance letter delivered by hand convinced her to choose UT over the other schools she applied to.

“The Big Orange Bus Tour stop was what made my decision,” she said.

For Avery Aulds, being accepted to UT was particularly sweet. She has several family members who have attended UT, but none who have graduated.

“I’m determined to be the first person in my family to graduate from UT,” said Avery, who’s majoring in marketing with a concentration in international business.

The sixth student in the Dobyns-Bennett group is Alison Kilgore. A speech pathology and audiology major, Alison said she’s excited about everything UT has to offer, from football games to Greek life to volunteering and meeting new people.

These students remind me how exciting it is to begin college. It’s like opening a new notebook filled with blank pages. The possibilities are endless.

I hope these students—along with the rest of our 4,800-plus freshmen—spend the next four years filling their notebooks with knowledge and memories that will last a lifetime.

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.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.