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A Time for Civility

Last night marked the end of a long presidential election process.

As is the case across the country, members of our campus community represent a variety of viewpoints and opinions. Whatever opinions we hold, we are all Volunteers.

I want to take this moment to share advice from the late UT alumnus Senator Howard Baker, who said, “Be civil, and encourage others to do likewise.”

We have a unique opportunity in the coming days, weeks, and months to embody the Volunteer spirit. I encourage each of us to lead by example and to engage our peers and colleagues, even those we disagree with, in respectful and constructive dialogue.

Continued Aggression Toward Our LGBTQ+ Community

This semester, the Bias Education and Response Team has received reports of four separate incidents at the Pride Center, including acts of vandalism and harassment. Additionally, other incidents of intimidation and violence have recently been directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community on our campus and in the local community.

These continued acts of aggression are unacceptable, and I am deeply troubled by the fact that any member of our community feels unsafe here. Our campus should be safe and welcoming for all of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

UTPD is actively investigating the two most recent vandalism incidents at the Pride Center. Many of you have expressed concern and frustration that those cases remain unsolved. I understand your frustration, and I expect these matters to be resolved.

Police investigators are confident that there are members of our campus community who know and can identify the two individuals involved. We need your help. If you have any information about either of these incidents, please contact UTPD at 865-974-3114 or Any information you provide will remain confidential.

We have made and will continue to make surveillance improvements around the Pride Center and elsewhere on campus to increase safety and security.

These improvements, however, will not solve hate and prejudice. We must work together as a community to create an environment where acts of bias are not tolerated.

As such, I invite you to submit ideas and propose solutions for how to improve and promote civility on our campus. All submissions will be provided to the Vol Vision 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Working Group to help guide their recommendations for how the university should address issues related to campus climate.

Our values and principles of civility are inclusive of everyone, regardless of family background, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.

We’re all members of the Volunteer family. Let’s celebrate what makes each of us unique and help each other reach our greatest potential.

Alan Alda Mossman Lecture

Please mark your calendar and plan to attend the second Mossman Lecture, featuring actor and science educator Alan Alda, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1, in the Cox Auditorium of the Alumni Memorial Building.
We are pleased to offer this free program to our campus and the greater community. Free parking will be available in the G-10 Parking Garage.
Alda is best known for his 58-year career in entertainment and his role as Captain Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H. An actor, writer, and director, he has received six Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards.
He now applies his talents and skills to help further the public’s understanding of science. He has a passion for science communication and helping scientists share their stories effectively with the public. Alda served for 14 years as host of Scientific American Frontiers, a television show that explored cutting-edge advances in science and technology.
In 2009, he founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, based in the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. The center works to enhance understanding of science by helping train the next generation of scientists and professionals to tell their stories more effectively with the public, officials, and the media. Alda also serves as a visiting professor in Stony Brook’s School of Journalism.
The Mossman Lecture Series is made possible by a generous endowment provided by the late Ken and Blaire Mossman. The couple met when they were students in 1968 and were married for more than 40 years. They established the series to share the power and wonder of science with the campus and greater community.
The Mossman Lecture should be an informative and entertaining evening. I hope to see you there.

Naming College of Engineering a Sign of Growth, Strength

I am pleased to tell you that the UT Board of Trustees has approved naming our engineering college the John D. Tickle College of Engineering.

We are proud to name the college for John D. Tickle to honor his commitment and impact on the university. It is the second UT college to be named for an alumnus and benefactor.

John is president of the Strongwell Corporation, a company he helped become a global leader in advanced composites manufacturing.

John made his first gift to the university in 1966, just a year after earning his industrial engineering degree. Through the years the Tickle family has invested in many academic, athletics, and student enrichment programs. Our newest state-of-the-art engineering building bears his name, and the small animal hospital is named for John and his wife, Ann.

The transformative nature of John’s most recent gift will help the college attain the next level of excellence by providing resources that will benefit the college’s students, faculty, and staff for years to come.

The naming and the foundation of support it reflects better align the college with its aspirational top-ranked public university peers.

We are extremely grateful for the Tickles’ support and honored that the Tickle name will forever be a part of UT history.

Please mark your calendar for a public celebration at 4 p.m. November 3 at the quad near Ferris and Perkins Halls.

The event will give the campus community an opportunity to thank John and his family, and Dean Wayne Davis will share an update about the college’s bright future.

Jimmy G. Cheek

Volunteer Value admissions program

Dear Colleagues,

Many of our best and brightest future Vols live in the Knoxville area. Your own children are among them, and we want them to continue their education at our great university.

I invite you to attend Volunteer Value, a unique undergraduate admissions program designed for UT employees and their high school or college-aged children.

The program will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 25, at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. While you enjoy dinner with your UT family, admissions staff and a panel of students will give an overview of the admissions process and the benefits for children of UT employees.

One of the great perks of working here is the family tuition discount. Dependent children of regular employees can receive up to 50 percent off in-state tuition.

Whether your daughter or son is a high school student or a prospective college transfer student, we look forward to sharing more information about the opportunities available to them as Volunteers.

I hope to see you there. For details and to register for this event, please visit the program page. For questions, call 865-974-1187.

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.

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