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Search Under Way for Vice Chancellor for Research

A national search is under way for the next vice chancellor for research for UT Knoxville.

As a member of my senior leadership team, the vice chancellor for research serves as the chief research officer of the university and works to promote research and economic development activities, particularly in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory through UT-Battelle LLC and other research and development institutions in the state and region.

Candidates should have the demonstrated vision and leadership and management skills necessary to drive the growth of scholarship, research, and creative activity at our research-extensive university. See the job description on the Human Resources website.

Stacey Patterson, interim vice president for research, outreach, and economic development for the UT System, is chairing the search. Committee members are Suzie Allard, professor of information sciences and associate dean for research for the College of Communication and Information; Suresh Babu, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing; Chris Cimino, senior vice chancellor for finance and administration; Mickey Curtis Jr., an undergraduate who serves as vice president of the Student Government Association; Wayne T. Davis, professor and dean of the Tickle College of Engineering; Amy J. Elias, professor of English and director of the UT Humanities Center; Heidi Goodrich-Blair, professor and department head of microbiology; Jamie Alexander Greig, a graduate student and vice president of the Graduate Student Senate; Jean Mercer, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Programs; Jeffrey Nichols, associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences at ORNL; and Soren Sorensen, professor of physics.

I encourage you to refer or nominate qualified candidates to Brooke Swart, associate executive recruiter in UT Human Resources, 865-974-5942 or

The committee’s review of candidate materials will begin September 20. Recruitment for the position will continue until it is filled. To apply electronically, visit the position announcement and application page.

Together on Rocky Top

Watch the Video Message from the Chancellor

In light of events taking place on college campuses around the country as well as in our own community, I want to share a message with our Volunteer family about civility, free speech, and safety.

Beverly Davenport

Reminder: Solar Eclipse Viewing Party Monday

Please join the UT community for a solar eclipse viewing party on the Hill in front of Ayres Hall from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Monday. We will have Moon Pies, other snacks, and free eclipse viewing glasses for the first 5,000 people. We also will stream the NASA feed of the total eclipse. Knoxville will have a 99.75 percent partial eclipse.

Circle Drive will be closed Monday for the eclipse watch party. No handicapped parking will be allowed on the Hill, but T Access vans will be available to access buildings on the Hill.

To maximize your enjoyment of this celestial phenomenon, consider these safety tips:

  • Solar glasses are required to view a partial eclipse.
  • Sunglasses are not safe for viewing the eclipse.
  • Using optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars, to view the eclipse is dangerous—even with solar glasses. The concentrated solar rays could burn a hole through the solar glasses and damage your eyes.

Watch this video for more safety pointers from Paul Lewis, director of space science outreach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

For more information, visit the eclipse viewing party page.

See you Monday!

Featured Image collage of UT photos

Welcome Back, Volunteers!

Every year I look forward to the days when students and faculty return from summer, fresh off internships, research projects, study abroad, sabbaticals, and relaxing vacations.

Your excitement and enthusiasm are contagious, and I am thrilled to see campus getting busier by the day. I hope you are as excited as I am to kick off the 2017–18 academic year.

This summer the campus team worked hard to lay the foundation for another fruitful year at UT. From the physical landscape to exciting new additions to our staff to long-range planning, the work of countless people made sure campus was better than ever for the upcoming year, and I am so grateful for their hard work and dedication.

Thank you for your patience as we transform UT and strive to provide the best learning and living environments possible.

Now we are ready to welcome more than 6,000 new students to Rocky Top! With an incoming first-year class of more than 4,800, we are seeing healthy enrollment and steady growth.

Our new students have the most impressive academic profile on record, and they bring leadership, community service, and life experiences that will add to our vibrant campus community.

This fall we will also welcome 100 new world-class graduate scholars who come to us as part of the Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence program, a $4 million investment we have made to recruit the best and brightest to our campus.

Many new Volunteers are already on campus and diving into pre-semester programs. More will join us this weekend. I am looking forward to being on campus Saturday to welcome them and their families.

Instagram screenshotBe sure to check the campus Instagram account on Saturday morning during move-in. I’ll be taking over and posting photos of our newest Vols as they arrive at their new home away from home.

Making Progress

Beautiful landscaping and new buildings are not the only enhancements we have made this summer. There are new people, new living spaces and learning spaces, and new opportunities for reimagining our future.

I am continuing to make progress on filling senior-level administrative positions and addressing some critical staffing needs.

On June 30, Chip Bryant was named vice chancellor for development and alumni relations after serving in the interim role for the past year.

He continues to grow our strong momentum for private support by engaging alumni, forging new partnerships, and broadening our donor base. Under his leadership, UT was fourth in the SEC in overall dollars raised last fiscal year. This is the best finish UT has ever had.

Congratulations to the advancement team! Their work results in more scholarships, faculty support, facilities improvements, and more unique opportunities for our honors students and others.

I am especially pleased that Ashley Blamey, former assistant vice chancellor for student life, is now serving as Title IX coordinator for the campus. Since I have arrived I have voiced my commitment to providing the resources needed for continuous improvement of our Title IX efforts. Her oversight will continue our work to build a national model for providing support to students as well as training and awareness to our community to help prevent sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and retaliation.

We will also be working closely with Human Resources this fall on an organizational structure that better serves the needs of our campus faculty and staff.

In bittersweet news, Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, is leaving to be president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Nothing is a stronger testament to the great work being done here than when our team members take leadership positions at the highest level. He departs on August 31 and Robert Nobles will begin serving as interim vice chancellor on September 1.

This fall I will launch searches for the provost and vice chancellor for research and engagement.

New Spaces

As you walk around campus, I encourage you to check out some of the newest spaces. In June, beautiful Strong Hall opened. The building houses classrooms and laboratory space, and most undergraduates will take a least one course in the state-of-the-art learning spaces and laboratories.

Our veterans also now have a vibrant and comfortable space to gather, meet one-on-one with veteran service coordinators, and get the support they need to transition to civilian life in the Veterans Resource Center, located on the ground floor of Hodges Library. I am so proud to have a space dedicated to those who have bravely served our country and so pleased to have waived out-of-state tuition for eligible veterans.

You will also notice significant progress on the second phase of the Student Union and the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building. Both are slated to open during the next academic year. 

Onward and Upward

In the coming months, you will be hearing from me more often through a series of letters and video messages. My goal is to share highlights and keep you informed about the progress we are making at UT.

I am here to serve the entire campus community and look forward to engaging with you to discuss our strategic direction and initiatives that help us capitalize on our strengths to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship, student and faculty success, and our ability to address some of the world’s greatest challenges.

I want to end by thanking you for your help and support since my arrival on Rocky Top. It is truly an honor to lead this university. The kindness and support I have received from this community are overwhelming.

As Volunteers, we expect every member of our community to be treated with dignity and respect. All new students will feel at home with their new family where faculty, staff, and students alike will think beyond their wildest imaginations—the special place we call Rocky Top!

I cannot convey how hopeful I am for our future and how grateful I am to be working with you.

Here’s to another great semester. Thank YOU for making the University of Tennessee such a special place!

In the Volunteer Spirit,


Beverly Davenport

Robert Nobles to Serve as Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Nobles as interim vice chancellor for research and engagement.

Robert has served as the associate vice chancellor for research since 2013. He will begin the interim role September 1 as Vice Chancellor Taylor Eighmy leaves to become president of the University of Texas at San Antonio.

I will appoint a search committee in the coming weeks so we can begin the search process for the next vice chancellor for research and engagement early this fall.

Robert is well qualified to help us continue the great momentum for increasing research grants and contracts, strengthening our partnerships, and supporting the research, creative activity, and outreach efforts of our faculty and students.

He brings great knowledge, passion, and optimism to the role and has worked closely within the division and across the university around many important matters.

His time here, at Texas A&M, and at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as a senior research administrator has prepared him well for this opportunity to lead the discovery enterprise. I look forward to collaborating with him on advancing our goals and aspirations.

Robert will continue to serve as chair of the Campus Institutional Compliance Committee, the Campus Safety Committee, and the Commission for Blacks.

He is the co-investigator on a five-year $4.9 million National Institutes of Health award for the Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER).

He has a bachelor’s in molecular biology and a master’s in public health from Florida A&M University and a doctorate in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Please join me in welcoming Robert in this new interim role and wishing Taylor the best of luck with his presidency.

Updates about Title IX Oversight

When I came to the University of Tennessee in February, I promised the campus community that we would make Title IX a top priority. We are determined to make UT Knoxville a leader for all UT campuses and a model of best practices nationally.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ashley Blamey as Title IX coordinator. Ashley has been with UT since 2008 and most recently served as the assistant vice chancellor for student life.

Ashley brings a wealth of professional experience, academic preparation, and leadership to this role. I am confident she will create a national model for sexual assault awareness and prevention. I have made it a priority to train every student, faculty member, and nonexempt staff member on our campus in sexual assault awareness, reporting responsibilities, and prevention. Read more about Ashley’s appointment and background.

Jenny Richter will continue in her role as associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. Her responsibilities include ensuring that the university is in compliance with all state and federal nondiscrimination laws. With the appointment of a Title IX coordinator, Jenny and her staff will be able to expand their focus on issues of harassment and discrimination.

Please join me in congratulating Ashley on her new role and thanking Jenny for her past service as Title IX coordinator.

Our Next Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs

I am pleased to share that Chip Bryant has been named vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs. Chip has served as interim vice chancellor since August.

Chip serves as a core member of my Cabinet and the UT Foundation President’s leadership team. He joins us at a critical time as we prepare for the official public launch of the campus capital campaign. He plays an integral role in building relationships between the university and its alumni and coordinating our capital and programmatic campaigns.

Chip has more than 20 years of marketing and fundraising experience. Prior to serving in the interim vice chancellor role, he was executive director of development for the Haslam College of Business and directed our campus-wide campaigns. He also spent 11 years as UT’s assistant athletics director for marketing, managing the corporate partner program and contracts. He has a bachelor’s degree in education from UT Knoxville.

I want to extend my gratitude to the members of the search committee for their work throughout this process. I hope you will join me in congratulating Chip on his appointment.

Announcing Two Important Policy Reviews to Begin Fall Semester

I wanted to give you an update on a few initiatives I am laying the groundwork for this fall semester. I will be appointing and announcing task forces to provide an independent review and analysis on two important campus policies that have a significant impact on our students, faculty, and staff.

Legislation passed by the General Assembly this spring authorized the leaders of all state colleges and universities to adopt policies to regulate smoking and tobacco use on campus-owned or operated property.

Student Government Association President Morgan Hartgrove, a senior College Scholars major with a concentration in health and public policy, played a key role in advocating for the legislation, and we appreciate her work. Chris Cimino, senior vice chancellor for finance and administration, will lead a task force to review our current smoking policy and make recommendations for updates in consideration of the health and wellness of our campus community. The task force will provide updates throughout the process and solicit your feedback on any proposed changes.

Additionally, Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for student life, will chair another task force charged with reviewing and analyzing the university’s current alcohol policy.

The task force will include students, faculty, an academic dean, staff, alumni, and community members. They will be asked to review and evaluate peer institution policies, consider current research, and identify best practices. The task force will conduct interviews and public meetings to gather feedback from impacted groups and individuals. The task force will also receive feedback online and host open forums so members of our community can express support or share their concerns regarding potential policy changes.

Over the last several years, the Student Government Association has asked the administration to conduct a policy review, and we recognize that it has not been reviewed or updated in many years. This process will give us all an opportunity to collect broad-based input and to have informed conversations about this complicated and multifaceted matter. The task force will prepare a report to summarize its work, make recommendations for policy changes, if any, and provide relevant information regarding the potential impacts of any recommended policy changes.

I look forward to sharing more information with you in the coming months and engaging the community on these issues throughout the fall semester.

Campus Free Speech

I was invited to participate in a panel assembled by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 20, to discuss free speech and student activism on college campuses.

Colleges and universities nationwide, including ours, are facing a variety of free speech issues.

In May, a comprehensive campus free speech bill was signed into law by the Tennessee state legislature. The bill reaffirms free speech on our campuses and ensures all viewpoints are protected speech. It also recognizes faculty’s academic freedom to teach and research.

Read more on Tennessee Today.

Our Next Vice Chancellor for Communications

I am pleased to announce that Ryan Robinson will be the university’s next vice chancellor for communications.

The vice chancellor for communications is the university’s chief communications and marketing officer and advises the chancellor and senior leaders on communication-related matters. As vice chancellor, Ryan will oversee the Office of Communications and Marketing and WUOT-FM 91.9, the university’s public radio station.

Ryan has more than 20 years of public relations experience. He currently serves as the senior associate athletic director for communications in the Athletics Department and leads the media relations, internet communications, creative services, and broadcasting teams.

Prior to working in UT Athletics, Ryan served as director of public relations for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, executive director of the PeyBack Foundation, and assistant director of public relations for the Indianapolis Colts.

Ryan is from Ashland, Kentucky. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky.

I’d like to thank members of the search committee for conducting a national search and advising me throughout this process.

Please join me in welcoming Ryan to this important role.

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