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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.

Introducing the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research

Boyd family

Randy Boyd (center) and his wife, Jenny (second from right), pose for a photograph with their sons, Thomas Boyd, with his wife Lindsey (left), and Harrison Boyd (right).

Last month, I was honored to be a part of the re-naming celebration for the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, one of the university’s most longstanding and impactful research enterprises.

Earlier this spring the UT Board of Trustees voted to name the Center for Business and Economic Research after Randy and Jenny Boyd. It’s a fitting tribute to the Knoxville couple, who share a demonstrated commitment to improving the quality of life for all Tennesseans. The Boyds, both UT alumni, recently made a significant investment in the center.

The center was established in 1937 and is housed within the Haslam College of Business.

Bill Fox, director of the center and the inaugural recipient of the Randy and Jenny Boyd Distinguished Professor appointment, said the Boyds’ investment will make the center an even stronger asset to the state and the nation.

“At its heart, the Boyd Center is a dedicated group of researchers focused on the application of policy,” he said. “It’s a group that has spoken to the state legislature, testified to Congress, and worked around the world.”

For seventy-nine years, the Boyd Center has focused on state and national economic trends for government and private organizations, helping to inform policy considerations on topics such as taxation, health care, education, workforce needs, capital investments, and welfare. Fox, associate director Matt Murray, and their team work closely with the state on a variety of topics. The center has provided the economic report to the governor of Tennessee annually since 1975.

Randy Boyd is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He graduated from UT in 1979 with a degree in industrial management. He founded Radio Systems Corporation, which produces more than 4,600 pet products under brand names such as PetSafe, Invisible Fence, and SportDOG. He took a leave of absence from his company in 2013 to be a special advisor on higher education to Governor Bill Haslam. During that time, Boyd helped develop the Drive to 55 initiative and the Tennessee Promise scholarship. Years ago he was instrumental in establishing the Knox Achieves program, which helped to lay the foundation for the statewide Tennessee Promise.

“If you name the people who make the most impact on the state of Tennessee, near the top of the list, if not the top of the list, are Randy and Jenny Boyd,” Haslam said during the ceremony.

Randy Boyd was pleased to tell the many people gathered for the ceremony that they had just learned that Tennessee’s unemployment had dropped to 4.5 percent for the first time since the Great Recession.

He talked about Tennessee’s vast economic potential and said that investing in education is the best way to have the largest impact on peoples’ lives.

He also encouraged guests to invest in the Haslam College of Business.

“If you want to make a change in the world, invest in education. If you want the best return on your investment, invest in business education,” he said.

Randy Boyd with Governor Haslam and University of Tennessee administrators

Celebrating the dedication of the Boyd Center (from left) are Director Bill Fox, Chancellor Cheek, Governor Haslam, Randy Boyd, Dean Steve Mangum, and UT System President Joe DiPietro.

Happy graduates

UT Student Debt Is Well Below the National Average

As the Class of 2016 makes the transition from students to alumni, we can take pride in the work we have done to prepare them to meet their aspirations. We can be equally proud of our efforts to help them be well-positioned financially for the next phase of their lives.

We’ve worked hard on many fronts to help more of our students graduate within four years, emphasizing how on-time graduation helps to minimize the need for student loans. We have also helped more students bridge financial gaps by offering more need-based scholarships.

Five out of ten UT undergraduates leave here with some level of student loan debt. Nationally, seven out of ten undergraduates incur student loan debt.

The total average debt our students incur is well below the national average: UT students have an average debt of $24,000, compared to the national average of $29,000. Our students also do a much better job than most in paying off their loans. UT students’ default rate is 5.5 percent, compared to the national average of 12 percent.

Through our Center for Career Development, we are integrating students into the workforce sooner through internships, practicum experiences, and part-time jobs related to their majors. A large part of the center’s focus has been on connecting with undergraduates much earlier in their college careers to help them build the kind of experiences that can give them the edge in competing for full-time jobs after graduation.

Based on the 2014–15 academic year, about 85 percent of our graduating seniors get jobs within six months of graduating, with an average annual salary of $45,000.  Salaries vary by major, with some reporting up to $110,000 annually.

Leaders in Science, Global Delivery, and Design Receive Honorary Doctorates

Honorary degree recipients with President DiPietro and Chancellor Cheek

UT System President Joe DiPietro, Thom Mason, Robin Klehr Avia, Fred Smith, and Chancellor Cheek gather at a brunch held for the honorees.

Thom Mason, Fred Smith, and Robin Klehr Avia know a lot about bringing big ideas to life.

All three have changed the world with their ideas: Mason is the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Smith is the founder of FedEx, and Avia is regional managing principal at Gensler, one of the world’s leading architectural firms.

This month, I had the pleasure of awarding each of them an honorary degree from our university.

After receiving their degree, each spoke at a commencement ceremony, challenging graduates to be innovators and to make their life’s work count.

Thom Mason

Thom Mason receiving his honorary degree

Mason, who received an honorary doctorate in science at our graduate hooding, encouraged students to “look for a challenging problem to solve. It’s very rewarding and is the best use of your education.”

Through UT’s strategic partnership with ORNL, we share joint institutes, faculty, and research centers, including the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, which is one of the fastest-growing graduate programs in the country and brings some of the brightest minds here to pursue PhDs in energy sciences and engineering.

Faculty from UT and ORNL have collaborated on breakthroughs in supercomputing, understanding and combating climate change, and developing alternative fuels.

As president and CEO of UT-Battelle LLC, which manages ORNL for the US Department of Energy, Mason was instrumental in the discussions that led to the creation of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation.

An experimental condensed matter physicist, Mason said his personal quest has been finding ways to meet the energy needs of people while mitigating the impact of those energy choices.

Although he has received two honorary degrees from universities based in his native Canada, we were the first American university to honor him in this way.

“We need transformational science to remove the roadblocks to carbon-free energy,” he said. “As you take the next step in your career, I encourage you to consider ways to be part of this effort.”

Fred Smith

Fred Smith receiving his honorary degree

Founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, Smith received an honorary doctorate in business and addressed Haslam College of Business graduates.

“Innovation is the holy grail of successful business and is key to ensuring the prosperity of our society,” he told them. “For FedEx, it’s been the key to keeping millions of customers satisfied.”

Smith was born in Mississippi and moved to Memphis as a boy. While completing a degree in economics at Yale University, Smith outlined a business model for an overnight delivery service designed to accommodate time-sensitive shipments for a term paper. He received only an average grade.

After graduation, Smith served in the US Marine Corps for three years before returning to Memphis to focus on his term paper idea. In 1971, he founded Federal Express.

Now the top global courier delivery services company in the world, FedEx is a $45-billion-a-year enterprise.

Smith’s success is a great lesson in staying true to yourself and believing in your ideas.

His leadership brought many firsts to the industry—advancements that made faster package sorting and tracking possible and made shipping much more convenient for customers. He pushed for changes to archaic shipping regulations meant for railroads to allow the company to grow its air cargo service to serve 220 countries and territories.

He told graduates that continuous improvement, creating a positive corporate culture, and workforce training are essential for fostering innovation in the organizations they join.

“A culture of innovation makes the United States more competitive, gets new ideas to the international marketplace quicker and creates a better society for us all,” he said.

Robin Klehr Avia

Robin Avia receives her honorary doctorate

Avia, regional managing principal and chair of the executive committee of the board of directors for Gensler, received an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

She told graduates from the College of Architecture and Design that being a part of their day marked a poignant moment for her.

Forty years ago, when she graduated from our interior design program, she didn’t get to attend commencement ceremonies because her father had recently died and her mother needed her at home.

It was great to see her enjoy the ceremony and to share that special moment with her.

Gensler employs five thousand architects and designers in forty-six locations. Avia supervises the firm’s offices in New York City, Boston, Toronto, São Paulo, Costa Rica, and Mexico City.

“More than 200 million people experience a Gensler design every day,” she said. “Design provides us every day with the opportunity to change lives and make a difference.”

Avia urged graduates to find the synergy between their work and their personal lives and to live a life of significance.

“Significance is not about what you did yesterday or last week; it’s about your life’s work and your reputation over the course of your entire career,” she said.

Avia is a wonderful advocate for our architecture and design program. Gensler has hired nearly fifty UT graduates in recent years, and one of our recent graduates is working on Gensler’s prestigious Shanghai Tower project.

Dean of Students Gatherings Connect with Students

Chancellor Cheek with students at Orange Plate Special

Chancellor Cheek catches up with a few seniors at an Orange Plate Special lunch in April.

Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Melissa Shivers has been working hard to dispel the myth that students can interact with her office only when they are in trouble.

In its role of challenging, engaging, and supporting students, the Office of the Dean of Students has launched several creative initiatives to interact with a broader range of students in more casual settings. The gatherings have helped us learn more about our students and how we can improve the overall student experience.

Dean of Students Melissa Shivers

Dean of Students Melissa Shivers

Through monthly Orange Plate Specials, students can join us for lunch and casual conversation at a predetermined Volunteer Dining location. We’ve hosted up to twelve students at a time. With no set program, we are free to ask each other all kinds of questions.

I always enjoy asking students about how they decided on their major and how they plan to use it to build their career. The students I’ve met never fail to impress me with their level of maturity and self-awareness. Most are very clear about their goals and the steps they need to take to achieve them. They are also quite curious. They wonder about what it is a chancellor does. How do you spend your time every day? How do you get to be a chancellor? Are you the person who sends me all of those e-mails?

At our last Orange Plate Special, we hosted a group of seniors. I learned about where several were headed after graduation. They asked me about my family and I had a chance to show them pictures of my four grandchildren.

Orange Plate Special graphicDean Shivers puts on a pair of very bright Big Orange tennis shoes for Vol Talks and Walks, a similar initiative. She tweets where she plans to be on campus and encourages students to stop by. Last time she and the deans gave out doughnuts on the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway. Earlier this year, she was on the ag campus after a student invited her over to share his frustrations about parking on the west end of campus.

The office’s new Take Your Faculty/Staff to Lunch program aims to connect students with people they may see only in a classroom or laboratory. Students can invite their professor or a staff member to lunch and pick up passes for two free meals. So far 126 students have taken a faculty member to lunch and had the chance to connect on a different and more personal level.

Fun kids of the Class of 2016

New Grads Are Poised to Change the World

Earlier this month, I performed one of my favorite tasks as chancellor—standing on the commencement stage and congratulating our newest alumni as they embarked on the next phase of their lives.

Celebrating our students’ achievements and seeing their families’ pride is special and rewarding to me.

This spring we awarded diplomas to nearly five thousand undergraduate and graduate students. These diplomas represent years of hard work and self-discipline.

Family members and friends provided graduates with many forms of support, from monetary assistance to daily encouragement. Our faculty and staff did a superb job of ensuring they had experiences—in and outside the classroom—to equip them for whatever they have chosen to do next, whether they begin full-time work, go to graduate school, or devote themselves to service.

Many of our Volunteer graduates leave here with plans to make our world a better place, and we’re confident they will. Let me introduce you to a few who have already started:

Jordan Roach at work in the labJordan Roach, of Englewood, Tennessee, wants to be a surgeon and work with pediatric cancer patients, especially those with certain types of brain tumors.

He graduated with a degree in biological sciences, and he got firsthand experience working in Professor Engin Serpersu’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology. The lab team’s research could lead to the development of new drugs to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This summer, Jordan will be an intern in the Pediatric Oncology Education Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. His research there will focus on a specific type of childhood cancer.

“I will be applying to a variety of medical schools this coming June,” he said. “While I am open to all medical specialties, I have special interests in pediatric neurological surgery and translational research.”

Courtney Dennis in cap and gownCourtney Dennis, of Jonesborough, Tennessee, is passionate about encouraging other young people, especially minority students, to pursue careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

She earned her degree in materials science and engineering and is starting a full-time job as a production engineer at DENSO Manufacturing in Maryville.

During her time on campus, Courtney held leadership roles with the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the National Society of Black Engineers. She was also active with the Society of Women Engineers.

She tutored students at Knoxville’s Austin-East Magnet High School in math, science, and English. She also helped organize an event that brought 150 youngsters from East Tennessee to UT to learn about engineering.

“I like to be an example to them to show them that minorities and females—and minority females—can be successful in STEM and engineering,” she said.

Courtney understands how important mentors can be because of the support she received from a mentor, Travis Griffin, director of engineering diversity programs.

“He has been an academic advisor, a life coach, a job agent, and so much more to me since before I even stepped foot on campus my freshman year,” she said. “Without his consistent advice and support throughout these years, I doubt I would have made it to the end.”

Brandon McKenna Warner photoBrandon McKenna-Wagner, originally from Sitka, Alaska, has joined the Peace Corps and will soon head to Senegal, where he’ll spend two years helping villagers learn to grow sustainable crops and use their land to its full potential so they can have a more reliable source of food.

Brandon earned his degree in natural resources and environmental economics.

“If I have the ability to make a difference, then it is my duty to do so,” he said.

Eventually he’d like to work for an environmental organization or in renewable energies—“anything that gets me outside to make this world a better place for everyone.”

Brandon, too, credits others for encouraging him to chase his dreams.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to my professors, friends, and family that have helped me through this process,” he said. “Being a student at UT has truly given me the tools and experience to go on this adventure.”

Honoring Our Outstanding Students, Faculty, and Staff

Last month I enjoyed hosting the seventh annual Chancellor’s Honors Banquet.

The event is a wonderful tradition. I always look forward to it because of what I get to learn and share about our amazing students and talented faculty and staff.

Seven exceptional seniors received the Torchbearer award, the highest honor given to a UT student. The coveted award is based on leadership, academic achievement, and an approach to service that truly embodies the Volunteer spirit.

Cayce Davis photoCayce Davis, a Haslam Scholar who earned his bachelor’s in architecture this spring, was named a Torchbearer.

In addition to completing his program’s rigorous coursework, Cayce traveled to Costa Rica, Italy, and Poland to research architecture built during times of social upheaval. The work earned him a number of scholarships and awards.

A battle with brain cancer helped to shape his desire to serve in ways that improve the lives of children. He has volunteered with Pond Gap Elementary School, Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He also taught English to children in Poland and China.

He’s had quite a career at UT and leaves here well prepared for this next phase of his life. Cayce has accepted a job at SLAM Collaborative and will be based in the company’s Atlanta office.

Read more about Cayce and our other outstanding honorees here.


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


The Daily Beacon, UT’s editorially independent student newspaper, won multiple awards in the 2016 Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors’ annual college media contest. The publication won first-place awards for news graphic or illustration, news story, newspaper reporter, and sports reporting.

VOLeaders Academy, a partnership between the Center for Leadership and Service; the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society; Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; and Athletics, has been honored by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as a 2015­–16 Gold Award winner in several categories.

The debate team brought home more than twenty awards and claimed the title of national champion for the third consecutive year at the International Public Debate Association National Debate Tournament.

The dance team recently won top honors at the UCA and UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship. The team beat the University of Minnesota and Arizona State University, which finished second and third respectively, in Division Jazz 1A. This win accompanies previous wins in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2015.

UT’s chapter of Delta Tau Delta has received a Hugh Shields Award from the international fraternity for being one of the top ten chapters in the fraternity. The award recognizes excellence in chapter finance, recruitment, membership education, academics, alumni relations, and community service.

The Office of Communications and Marketing received several awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The group received awards of excellence for the 2014 Chancellor’s Annual Report and the consent campaign; and a grand award for Tennessee’s Energy, the 2014 halftime spot with Candace Parker and Governor’s Chair for Power Electronics Yilu Liu. The office also won sixteen American Advertising Federation ADDY awards. Gold awards were received for the When I Became a Vol Big Orange Give Video; the Experience Learning campaign; Vol Minute featuring Tennessee Rowing; and the Make Orange Green calendar.

Faculty and Staff

Susan Riechert has been honored with a 2016 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award. The Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology has worked to make science education more accessible to public school students.

Yilu LiuYilu Liu, Governor’s Chair for Power Electronics, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.

Two faculty members received the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER awards, honors given to promising young faculty members to support their research. Brian O’Meara, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is developing computer software that will allow researchers to create and test realistic models matching their hypotheses without having to know many details of computer coding. Jon Hathaway, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, works for sustainable urban water management. Two other UT faculty members who recently received CAREER awards are Cong Trinh, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Donatello Materassi, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Steven Wilhelm, the Kenneth and Blaire Mossman Professor in the Department of Microbiology, and Frank Loeffler, Governor’s Chair for Microbiology and Civil and Environmental Engineering and professor of microbiology, have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Carcello PhotoJoseph V. Carcello, department head and Ernst and Young and Business Alumni Professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Management, and co-founder and director of research at the Corporate Governance Center, has been appointed to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s Investor Advisory Group for the 2015–2018 term.

Brotman photoStuart N. Brotman, the Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication and Information, has received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement in Scholarship Award from the Broadcast Education Association. He is the first UT professor to receive this honor. He also has been named an affiliated researcher at the Media Management Transformation Centre, Jönköping International Business School, Sweden. He is one of only two Americans serving in this capacity.

Mary McAlpin, professor and associate head of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, has received a Camargo Foundation fellowship for fall 2016. Located in Cassis, France, the foundation accepts eight fellows each semester and provides them with funding to work exclusively on their proposed projects and present their work once during the eight-week residency.

Erin Hardin, associate head and director of the undergraduate psychology program, received the 2016 Robert S. Daniel Teaching Excellence Award given by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

Terri Combs-Orme, Urban Child Institute Endowed Professor in the College of Social Work, has been invited to teach at Texas Christian University as the Cecil and Ida Green Honors Professor for fall 2016. She will visit the campus for several days to lecture and share her experience with students and faculty.

Nick Wierschem, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, was recently selected as an American Society of Civil Engineers ExCEEd 2016 teaching fellow. He will attend the ASCE ExCEEd Teaching Workshop at the US Military Academy this summer.

Brett Compton, assistant professor in mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, was awarded a fellowship from the Air Force Research Laboratory Summer Faculty Fellowship program. He will spend two months at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base lab researching the use of additive manufacturing in producing survivable electronics and sensing applications.

Tina Shephardson, professor of religious studies, and Tore Olsson, assistant professor of history, have received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Shephardson is studying the origins of anti-Chalcedonian Christian tradition and the history of early Christian conflict. Olsson is studying the interaction between American and Mexican efforts to modernize agriculture in the 1930s and 1940s, and the attempt to reform third-world agriculture during the Cold War. Olsson also recently received the Wayne D. Rasmussen Award from the Agricultural History Society for a related article that appeared in the Journal of Southern History.

Megan Bryson, assistant professor of religious studies, has been named a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. The fellowships allow scholars to spend six to twelve months researching and writing full time.

Williams photoShannen Dee Williams, assistant professor of history, will be a scholar in residence next academic year at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City and will be working on her upcoming book, Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America.

Kate Jones, an associate professor of physics, has been appointed to the US Department of Energy/National Science Foundation Nuclear Science Advisory Committee, a twenty-one-member panel that provides recommendations about nuclear science to the two agencies.

Digital humanities librarian Ashley Maynor has been named a “mover and shaker” in the library world. Library Journal recently profiled her as one of fifty-four information professionals who are shaping the future of libraries.

Kronick photoBob Kronick, professor of educational psychology and counseling, was honored as a visionary of Knoxville community schools at the Community Schools Celebration co-hosted by the League of Women Voters and South Knoxville Elementary School.

Shellen Wu, assistant professor of history, has been awarded a residential research fellowship from the National Humanities Center for the next academic year to work on her book Global Frontiers and the Geopolitical Making of Modern China.

Taylor photoLarry Taylor, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute, has been elected an honorary fellow of the Russian Mineralogical Society and Russian Academy of Sciences. Taylor is known for his research on planetary rocks from the moon, Mars, and asteroids, as well as terrestrial rocks and diamonds from deep within the earth.

Brothers photoErnest L. Brothers, associate dean of the Graduate School, is president-elect of the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools.

Ed Cortez, professor of information sciences, has been appointed chair of the American Libraries Association Committee on Education.

Holzman photoJustine Holzman, an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Design, has been selected as the 2016 Maeder-York Family Fellow in Landscape Studies at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. She will be in residence this summer.

Wendy Tate, associate professor of supply chain management, was recently named co-editor in chief of the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Chain Management.

Scott Poole, dean of the College of Architecture and Design, was elected to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.

Will Jennings, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, was named the inaugural recipient of the American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Award.

Holly Mercer, associate dean of libraries, will participate in the 2016–2017 Leadership Fellows program sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries. She is one of twenty-eight fellows selected from the United States and Canada.

Adams photoFay Adams, associate professor of piano, has been named the Music Teachers National Association Teacher of the Year.

Henri Grissino-Mayer, a geography professor, has been certified as a senior wildland fire ecologist by the Association for Fire Ecology.

Four people affiliated with the university were on this year’s “40 Under Forty” list published by the Knoxville News Sentinel. This list recognizes “a group of young leaders who are leaving their mark on Knoxville through their professional and philanthropic efforts.” Those honored included David Byrd, managing director, Clarence Brown Theatre; Kyra Elzy-Lander, associate head coach and recruiter, women’s basketball; Greg Hulen, associate athletics director and chief development officer, UT Foundation; and Tyvi Small, director of diversity and community relations, Haslam College of Business.

Marvelene Moore, professor emerita of music, has received the University of Michigan School of Music’s Hall of Fame Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society and their profession. Moore, who earned her doctorate from the Michigan School of Music in 1977, is a prolific writer who helped to define the field of general music education.


Several students and recent graduates have been named Fulbright Scholars for 2016–17: Desiree Dube, a senior in history and Russian studies, who will be going to Russia to teach English; Kathleen “Kassie” Ernst, a doctoral student in energy geography at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, who will be going to Sweden to study how climate information gleaned from models can be made more useful for urban policy makers; Kenna Rewcastle, a 2015 College Scholars graduate, who will be going to Sweden to complete research on the impact of climate change on the food source for reindeer herds managed by the Sami indigenous people; and Lydia Walker, a doctoral student in history, who will be going to Belgium to study the sermons of Jacques de Vitry. Taylor Cox, a 2015 graduate in chemistry, was named a Fulbright alternate.

Mickayla Stogsdill, freshman in public administration, beat more than sixty other competitors to win the title of 2015–2016 National Novice Champion in the International Public Debate Association National Debate Tournament.

Taylor Odom, a third-year student in the School of Interior Design, has earned a 2016 Gensler Brinkmann Scholarship. Scholarship candidates are evaluated on their analysis and problem-solving skills, design development, graphic presentation, communication skills, and passion.

Four doctoral students have been selected to be a part of the 2016 National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship program: Benjamin Brock of Johnson City, Tennessee, who studies computer programming languages and computer architecture; Andrew Orekhov of Morristown, Tennessee, who researches control techniques for flexible robotic systems in minimally invasive surgical applications; Jayde Aufrecht of McCook, Nebraska, who studies the effect of extreme weather events on plant roots and other below-ground life; and Nicholas Coles of Longwood, Florida, who studies whether happiness and sadness can co-occur.

Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs received the Amateur “Peach of an Athlete” Role Model Award at the thirty-second annual Peach of an Athlete Role Model Banquet at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The event honors amateur and professional athletes who exemplify good character and athletic achievement. Other honorees included University of Georgia women’s golfer Sylvie Brick; Dikembe Mutombo, former professional basketball player; and Mike Plant, executive vice president of the Atlanta Braves.

Caroline Knight, a junior majoring in cinema studies, has won an award from the College Media Association for her film Visionary, made in Associate Professor Paul Harrill’s film class last fall. A documentary about a Knoxville woman who formed a support group for adults who have lost their vision, the film has also been accepted into the Nashville Film Festival.

Vice Chancellor for Communications Finalists to Hold Open Forums

Two finalists for the position of vice chancellor for communications will visit campus next week.

The finalists are Robbin Morrison Taylor, vice president of public affairs at Western Kentucky University, and Stephen P. Ward, executive director of university communications at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

This position is open because current Vice Chancellor for Communications Margie Nichols is retiring this summer.

As part of their visits, Taylor and Ward will lead an open forum for the campus community and respond to questions. Archived recordings of each forum will be posted online.

I invite you to join us for the open forums:

Robbin Taylor
Tuesday, May 17, 3:00 p.m.
Scripps Media Center, Room 402, Communications Building

Stephen Ward
Thursday, May 19, 3:00 p.m.
Scripps Media Center, Room 402, Communications Building

The vice chancellor for communications is our university’s chief communications and marketing officer and advises senior leadership on communications-related matters. The position oversees the Office of Communications and Marketing and WUOT-FM 91.9, the public radio station licensed to our university. You can see the complete job description here.

Resumes and more information about each candidate, a link to the archived recording of the forums, and the online form to submit feedback can be found here.

Chris Cimino, vice chancellor for finance and administration, is chairing the search.

The committee members are Kari Alldredge, interim associate provost for enrollment management; Steve Smith, dean of libraries; Jacob Rudolph, marketing director in the Office of Communications and Marketing; Ryan Robinson, senior associate athletics director; Maxine Davis, assistant vice chancellor for student life; Candace White, professor of advertising and public relations; and Mario Grant, a sophomore in supply chain management.

Please contact Chris Cimino at or 865-974-4204 if you have questions about this search.

2016 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting one of my favorite events of the year—the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. This annual tradition celebrates the hard work and achievements of our students, faculty, and staff.

We honored students who I am certain will someday change our world. Among them were this year’s Torchbearers, the highest student honor we award: Jalen Blue, Cayce Davis, Madison Kahl, Willie Kemp, Bradford Reszel, Sahba Seddighi, and Wayne Taylor.

We also celebrated the faculty and staff who make a difference in the lives of our students every day:

Soren Sorensen is this year’s Macebearer, our top faculty award. He is a professor of physics who has been a member of the faculty for thirty-one years. He also holds a research affiliation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Geoff Greene, joint faculty member in the department of physics and ORNL, received the Alexander Prize for superior teaching and scholarship. Charles Sanft, associate professor of history, earned the Jefferson Prize for a well-established record of research and creative activity, and Lee Han, professor of civil and environmental engineering and collaborating scientist with ORNL, was awarded the L. R. Hesler Award for exceptional teaching and service.

These are just a few of our honorees. I encourage you to read the special insert in today’s Daily Beacon or view profiles for all those honored online on the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet website.

I want to thank everyone who submitted nominations, served on an awards committee, or helped to make this year’s banquet a memorable evening.

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