Donde Plowman has served since 2019 as chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the state’s flagship land-grant research university. In that time, the university has seen record enrollment, student retention rates, alumni giving, state support, and research expenditures.
UT has a footprint that spans the entire state, including the main campus in Knoxville, the Space Institute in Tullahoma, and the Institute of Agriculture and its Extension offices in all 95 counties. Plowman oversees a campus budget of $1.3 billion as well as more than 33,800 students, nearly 7,000 staff, and more than 1,800 full-time faculty.
Her role as chancellor includes oversight of Tennessee Athletics, a $130 million operation to which she has provided decisive and timely leadership. In 2020, she was selected by her peers in the Southeastern Conference to represent the SEC as a member of the NCAA Presidential Forum.
Shortly after her arrival, Plowman created the Division of Student Success to implement a strengths-based approach to helping students transition to college life. The university saw immediate results in its retention, persistence, and graduation rates and captured the attention of peers across higher education. In 2022, Gallup recognized the university’s work with the Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award.
Around the same time, Plowman also challenged the campus to develop a new shared vision for its future. Following months of collaboration across all colleges and divisions, the university unveiled a new strategic vision in fall 2021 that focused on cultivating the modern land-grant university. This vision, along with a new branding campaign titled “It Takes a Volunteer,” centered on a shared commitment to discovery, creativity, learning, and engagement in community where every Volunteer matters and belongs.
In her first three years as chancellor, Plowman oversaw the unification of the Knoxville campus and the UT Institute of Agriculture, the launch of the UT–Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, the rollout of a new university-wide branding campaign, and the growth of research partnerships with organizations such as AT&T, Eastman, and Volkswagen.
Plowman was recognized for her leadership and communications through the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck just seven months into her tenure as chancellor. Throughout the pandemic, the campus remained focused on successfully delivering programs that kept students safe and on track for graduation. College Magazine named UT among the top five universities in the country for its response to the pandemic.
Prior to becoming chancellor, she served as dean of the College of Business and then executive vice chancellor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was previously a department head at UT. Plowman is a globally recognized organizational scientist whose scholarship includes the topics of leadership, change management, and strategic decision making.