Donde Plowman has served since 2019 as chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the state’s flagship land-grant research university. The campus includes the University of Tennessee Institute for Agriculture and the University of Tennessee Space Institute.
Plowman oversees a campus budget of $1.3 billion as well as 30,599 students, 1,626 faculty members, and 5,732 staff members. The campus includes 11 colleges offering more than 900 degree programs and a physical plant consisting of 910 acres and 294 buildings.
Plowman is recognized as a transformational leader in higher education and is known for building effective high-energy teams that deliver meaningful results. Before returning to UT as chancellor, she held leadership roles at UT and at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, guiding the development of innovative programs that expanded enrollment, budget, reputation, and philanthropy. She is recognized for building collaborative cultures that drive strategic change and outstanding performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit just seven months after Plowman became chancellor, and her focus shifted to leading the campus through a major disruption. UT opened for the return of students in fall 2020 and successfully delivered programs that kept students safe and on track for graduation. The campus was recognized by Campus Magazine as one of the top 10 universities in the country for its COVID-19 response, and Plowman was named among the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Healthcare Heroes for leading through the pandemic with clear and innovative communication.
In her first two years as chancellor, she has led the university in increasing first-year enrollment by more than 5 percent each year—at a time when the national average is a decline of 16 percent—as well as the development of a new strategic vision, a new branding campaign, the launch of the UT – Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, and a new partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory for growing research collaborations.
Her role as chancellor includes oversight of Tennessee Athletics, a $130 million operation where 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.