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Campus-wide Initiatives

The UT System Board of Trustees has affirmed the following:

One of the principle missions of The University of Tennessee is to provide quality educational opportunities for the people of this state. One measure of the quality of an educational experience is the extent to which it enables the recipient to compete and be productive in society and contribute to the quality of life. The Board of Trustees recognizes that diversity in the educational environment, including an outstanding and diverse student body, faculty, staff, and alumni, and an environment conducive to learning, adds value to the educational experience and the degree earned. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives augments the curricular experience and affords every student the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be a productive and contributing citizen of this state and nation, capable of competing in a global society. Thus, diversity is fundamental to a sound twenty-first century education.

The Board affirms the educational value of a diverse and fully inclusive campus community, one that is enriched by persons of different backgrounds, points of view, cultures, socioeconomic status, and other diverse characteristics. The Board expects the University to engage in a variety of initiatives to advance diversity in all aspects of University life.

The following lists of initiatives represent the breadth of efforts underway across the UT Knoxville campus to help make our university a more diverse and welcoming place. These initiatives help us achieve our goals of ensuring the academic success of all our students, supporting the faculty and staff who help them succeed, and effectively engaging with the communities we serve.

Student Support Initiatives

Flagship High School Expansion The university’s Flagship Scholarship Program was expanded in fall 2020 to include eight new high schools. Students from 38 high schools across Tennessee are now eligible for the Flagship Scholarship, which funds a student’s tuition and mandatory fees for eight semesters. The university is looking for additional high schools, particularly in areas of the state that are not currently represented.
UT Success Academy This pilot program is designed to transform the UT experiences of men of color, and support student retention and persistence to graduation. Beginning with the incoming fall 2021 class, participating student scholars will attend a summer institute; first Friday events with faculty, staff, and community members; peer mentoring, community building, educational, and social support; and a study abroad experience.
Marva Rudolph Scholars More than 30 academic scholarships ($1,000 each) have gone to students involved in building a more accessible, equitable, and welcoming campus community.
Tennessee Doctoral Fellowship UT’s Graduate School provides a fellowship to a limited number of under-represented minority students with funding from a grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Access and Diversity Fellowships These annual fellowships are provided through the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to recruit students to UT to advance the university’s mission and promote inclusive excellence.
REAP Academy This partnership between Project Grad Knoxville and the Africana Studies Program will provide a virtual summer program experience to learn about diversity, equity and inclusion, beginning July 2021.
The Bottom Sponsorship Named after the Black neighborhood and business center in East Knoxville, the Bottom was established in January 2020 as a multi-use community space. Our partnership will support programmatic initiatives such as the Community Fellowship and Sew It Sell It program, which will provide recruitment opportunities for Black students.
Centro Hispano Scholarship Our multi-year partnership with Centro Youth LEAD program was established in February 2021 to help with pathway programs to UT for LatinX students.
Let’s Talk Vol to Vol In 2020, 184 small-group dialogues were hosted for students from diverse identities, communities, and social perspectives to discuss engaging in meaningful dialogue that respects our university community and creates communication across groups.
Additional Mental Health Services The Student Counseling Center is continually working to diversify the staff and recently hired and contracted therapists of color in order to serve the needs of a diverse student body.
Vol is a Verb Campaign UT’s Vol is a Verb campaign will expand for fall 2021 to initiate a support first-year students’ development of identity, purpose, and awareness. Those steps will involve the New Vol Experience, a one-day Vol is a Verb Campus-Level Celebration and the Power of Perspective program, and the Vol First-Year Experience inclusion module. This initiative is a collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the divisions of Student Success, Student Life, and Access & Engagement.

Faculty and Staff Initiatives

Challenge Grants This opportunity, announced in August 2020, is available to help advance teaching or research projects that focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, racial injustice, class, human dignity, or social justice.
Research Development Academy This program was started in 2019 to support the success of underrepresented faculty who have the potential to contribute to the university’s research and discovery mission. The academy focuses on empowering each participant to advance their research, scholarship, and/or creative activities, especially those activities identified in departmental promotion and tenure guidelines.
Faculty and Administrative Fellows Program Five existing faculty and administrators with significant knowledge and education have been selected as fellows to support diversity and engagement efforts across campus.
Inclusive Leadership Academy The academy started in fall 2019 to provide a thoughtful and intentional learning experience that will equip leaders with the content knowledge, leadership behaviors, and support to effectively lead our diverse workforce and create a culture of inclusive excellence.
UconnecT This inclusive leadership and professional development program for non-exempt staff started in fall 2019. Cohort members impact their department by supporting leadership development and strengthening a pipeline of talent for the campus community.
Leadership Retreats In 2020, a series of retreats were held to identify ways the university can enact changes that support equity and inclusion on our campus.
National Coalition Building Institute Our campus became an NCBI affiliate campus in February 2020. The institute is a capacity building initiative that trains faculty, staff, and students to cultivate inclusive communities. Presently, we have 18 trained facilitators who help lead campus workshops.
Opportunity Hiring Program A task force was formed in fall 2020 to make recommendations for improving faculty mentoring practices through faculty review and promotion, equity, and invisible labor.
Membership in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity The university joined as an institutional member in spring 2021. Membership provides sponsorship for junior faculty to attend the Faculty Success Program and for associate professors the attend the Post-Tenure Pathfinders Program.

Campus Initiatives

Diversity Action Plans Every college and administrative division submitted diversity action plans to the Vice Chancellor for Access and Engagement in spring 2021. Plans identify important objectives to foster a more inclusive campus and to support the success and retention of students, faculty, and staff.
Academic Diversity Initiative Every academic college received funding support in fall 2020 to advance efforts in one or more of the following areas: strategic planning through diversity action plans; gauging and fostering a more inclusive campus climate; diverse student recruitment, advancement, and retention efforts; diverse faculty recruitment, advancement, and retention efforts; and/or developing an inclusive curriculum.
Campus Survey We will conduct a survey to measure how welcoming our campus is. Survey results will provide key information about our students’ sense of belonging and will help campus leaders enhance action plans.
Staff Performance Review Updates As outlined by the UT System, a new “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” category will be added to the staff performance review tool beginning in the 2021 review year. Diversity Action Plans will be used as a data point for senior level administrator performance reviews.
Taskforce on Namings A committee was commissioned to review all building names, particularly those that might have ties to the KKK and the confederacy. Their report, released in September 2020, showed no major concerns. However, we are now in the process of adding context to four buildings.
[Download a pdf version of the Campus Names Committee September 2020 Report]
Land Acknowledgement A committee was formed in November 2020 to review our history as it relates to the original stewards—Native Americans—of the land we now occupy and to recommend ways to pay homage and respect to them. Next steps include forming a Native and Indigenous Advisory Council.
Residence Hall Renaming Orange and White residence halls were officially named in honor of Rita Sanders Geier and Theotis Robinson, Jr. on February 25, 2021. We plan to hold a celebration in spring 2021.

Community Outreach Initiatives

Community Conversations Community conversations are one-hour facilitated public discussions around specific subjects. These began in fall 2020. Spring 2021 conversations are focused on health and wellness.
Community Engagement Academy This interdisciplinary professional development program began in fall 2020. It is designed for new faculty and graduate students who wish to learn the foundations of community engagement and engaged scholarship and apply knowledge to research and practice.
Community Engagement Seminar Series This monthly series, which began in 2018, is open to all members of the campus community. It focuses on topics such as best practices of community engagement and cultural competency when you engage with the community.
Engagement and Outreach Conference This annual conference was first held in October 2018 to showcase university engagement projects with community partners. Through presentations and interactive sessions participants gain new insights into how public research universities can address complex social challenges facing our diverse communities.