The state of the University of Tennessee is as strong as the depth and breadth of its impact, UT President Joe DiPietro said in his first-ever State of the University address Tuesday, February 16.
Before a capacity live crowd and hundreds more watching a streaming webcast, DiPietro also declared UT’s position on recent issues.
“Despite the many recent challenges that have created some very public distractions from our success, the true state of your University is very, very strong,” he said. “And, we are accomplishing more and more, each and every day as we educate, discover and connect.”
DiPietro spoke to a live audience at Saint Thomas West Hospital – a location highlighting a growing partnership between Saint Thomas Health System and the UT Health Science Center. That 30-year partnership expanded in 2015 to increase research and education, and the UT Health Science Center announced plans to build a $40 million facility adjacent to Saint Thomas in Nashville earlier this year, and to increase the number of medical residents from 32 to 200 during the next three years.
Among other University achievements DiPietro highlighted:
- System-wide, the UT graduation rate increased 7 percent and the number of degrees awarded increased 11.5 percent since 2011.
- University retention is near 80 percent.
- In the most recent fiscal year ended, the University generated almost $436 million in research and sponsored projects, reached out with services or expertise to 4.7 million people statewide and raised a record $303 million in gifts, pledges and bequests.
- In 2014, UT generated an economic impact of $4.8 billion and impacted 75,000 jobs across the state.
- A public-private partnership secured $259 million in funding, including a $70 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, to establish the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, which is led by UT Knoxville.
- The United States President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which highlights the role universities play in solving community problems and fostering civic engagement in students, recognized UT at Chattanooga with distinction for community service and engagement.
- UT Martin operates more off-campus centers than any other public, four-year university in the state and is the UT System’s largest provider of online education.
- UT Institute of Agriculture produced $54.5 million in research, served 3.3 million Tennesseans through educational outreach, and provided veterinary services to more than 21,000 animals in 2014.
- UT Institute for Public Service responded to more than 28,000 requests for assistance and trained nearly 15,000 people in government, business and law enforcement in 2015. Its experts helped generate more than $817 million in economic impact during 2015.
“And, this is only a fraction of who we are and what we do,” DiPietro said.
In also addressing some of the University’s recent challenges, DiPietro spoke candidly about the value of diversity and inclusion to fulfilling the education mission.
“To all those who make up the UT community and those who are looking at us from afar, let me be clear when I say that the University of Tennessee values and is committed to the fundamental tenets of advancing diversity and inclusion,” he said.
Campus environments that are diverse and inclusive also prepare students for their careers, he said.
“Companies have an expectation that today’s graduates will be prepared with the proper competencies to live and work in diverse, global environments where there are great differences in ideas, cultures, opinions and lifestyles,” he said.
In reference to University governance, structure, policy decisions, facilities maintenance, and programs to support students and campus communities, DiPietro said the University must protect its position.
“We have to be vigilant,” he said. “Otherwise, we jeopardize our long-term ability to ensure that decisions about our University are made by those who know our communities best and are being held professionally accountable for their ongoing success.”
Tuesday’s live event was intended as a means of communicating directly with the UT community and the public about the University’s current and future outlook, DiPietro said.
National UT Alumni Association President Alan Ledger agreed, “We read so many different things in the news and hear about so many different bills in the legislature. It’s important to hear directly from Dr. DiPietro about what is happening with our University.”
Following DiPietro’s address came a newly established program to recognize employees whose exceptional contributions have helped fulfill one of the University’s three mission focus areas: education, research and outreach. The inaugural President’s Awards went to two faculty members at UT Martin and one from UT Knoxville.
The education category award winner was Julie Hill, director of percussion studies at UT Martin. UT Martin Interim Chancellor Bob Smith nominated her “for reinvigorating UT at Martin’s music department and attracting students from across the nation.” This award honors accomplishments that enhance educational offerings and diverse learning environments.
The research category award winner was Harry “Hap” McSween, Distinguished Professor of Science at UT Knoxville. UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek nominated him because he has pushed the boundaries of science and innovation into solar system. This award honors discoveries and applications of knowledge.
The outreach category award winner was David McBeth, professor of art at UT Martin. In his nominating letter, UT Martin Chairman of the Department of Visual and Theatre Arts as he uses his art “as a force for good.” This award honors outreach, engagement and service efforts and programs.
Each of the winners received and commemorative plaque and a $3,000 cash award.
DiPietro’s address, the presentation of the President’s Awards, and the entire webcast are archived athttps://tennessee.edu/stateofut/.
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 360,000 alumni around the world.