UT Daily Beacon: UT report looks back at accomplishments, ahead toward goals

UT System President Joe DiPietro recently released his 2016 report, describing challenges and improvements of the past academic year while outlining plans to shape 2017 administrative action.

Joseph-DiPietro

University of Tennessee System President Joe DiPietro

To further Tennessee’s pathway to success, DiPietro targeted shrinking a $377 million budget gap, enhancing disability services, prioritizing diversity, pursuing research and progressing UT towards the Top 25.

The report began with a description of how the UT System was planning to close the budget gap without significantly raising tuition. This was done through the Budget Advisory Group, responsible for reallocating $61 million from low priority and productivity programs into other programs.

“In general, the reallocated money has funded programs and activities that would otherwise have been cut back or required tuition increases. By creating efficiencies in some areas, we’ve been able to maintain or expand programs in other areas,” Jennifer Sicking, UT system assistant director of media relations, said. “As examples, money saved through reallocations at the UT Knoxville campus have been, or will be, used for hiring additional Title IX coordinator and investigator positions; buying public safety and emergency management equipment and hiring police officers; experiential learning opportunities for students; and increasing funding for graduate students.”

As part of the reallocation, fees for diagnostic services within the College of Veterinary Medicine are under review and are projected to boost revenue by $1.2 million in the next two years.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was recognized in College Choice’s list of top 50 universities for its disabilities services. College Choice took notice of the MoSAIC program, which serves students with autism spectrum disorders by providing accessibility to mentors and life coaches.

“Each campus has departments that continue to work to make higher education accessible to all students to help them succeed,” Sicking said.

A result of UT’s Journey to the Top 25 is the Experience Learning Initiative, which focuses on real-world problem solving as a means of learning. The Journey to the Top 25 has been refreshed into a new five-year plan, named Vol Vision 2020 after meeting the previous five-year mark in 2015. During that time, there was a 9 percent increase in the six-year graduation rate and a 3 percent increase in retention. Vol Vision will continue the improvement efforts of the original plan while adding diversity and inclusion as focus areas.

DiPietro identified diversity as a core value, and named Noma Anderson as the new diversity and inclusion advisor as part of the system initiative to diversify on the student and staff levels.

“My initial ‘biggest goal’ has been learning about and understanding diversity and inclusion at each of our campuses across the UT System. In order to do that, I’ve been visiting all the campuses, talking with students, faculty, staff and administrators,” Anderson said. “Each campus has welcomed me warmly, and my conversations with them about diversity and inclusion have been enlightening. Unequivocally, communication, intentionality, civility and improved engagement are outcomes I hope to work towards.”

Research on UT’s campuses is also on the rise. Production on the Oak Ridge Additive Manufacturing and Integrated Energy project, which seeks to integrate energy use between a 3D printed building and vehicle, is one example of Tennessee’s reach towards new possibilities.

After securing a $20 million grant in federal funding in 2005 for a joint research center between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT, called the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus, construction began. The report noted that the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus has opened the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials and began building its first privately funded building.

JIAM

The $56 million, 142,632-square-foot Joint Institute for Advanced Materials includes an Electron Microscopy Center, enabling leading-edge materials science research.

“We have a unique mission and role that we’re proud of, and the university is performing at a higher level than we’ve seen in decades. We’re attracting more talented faculty and researchers, graduating more students and delivering more services to communities — and we’re achieving all this despite a challenging financial climate,” Dipietro said. “My goal for 2017 is to continue the momentum.”

From the UT Daily Beacon, Jan. 31, 2017.