The year 2016 marked a challenging time and environment for higher education—and a time of big change, overall.
The University of Tennessee, like other universities across the nation, addressed well-documented concerns around sexual assault and campus civility, diversity and inclusion, and long-term sustainable funding.
The new year won’t bring an end to tough issues, but it will bring new UT leaders on board, and new opportunities for sustaining great momentum in fulfilling our unique mission to educate, discover and connect for the benefit of all Tennesseans.
2016 President’s Report
Since I began serving as president in 2011, the number of bachelor’s degrees we’ve awarded is up 16 percent; our six-year graduation rate, system-wide, has increased 6.6 percent; and both the high school GPA and ACT scores of incoming freshmen have continued a decade-long trend of improvement. We are educating more students, more quickly and at institutionally record-high numbers.
On the discovery front, research proposals are up almost 12 percent, system-wide; and in 2015, the University, in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, won a five-year, $259 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy, the largest single such award in UT history. New inventions and discoveries that provide solutions to important problems are up 33 percent, and 25 new startup companies in Tennessee and based on UT technology have been established since 2011.
As for how we connect, UT non-credit programs increased 28 percent, as did the number of clients or customers we served since 2011. More than 900,000 non-credit program hours have been delivered since then, and the number of medical and veterinary patients UT served increased 27 percent in the same period.
In the meantime, we began attacking a projected funding gap looming in the absence of increases in revenue or state appropriations—a gap I wasn’t going to allow drastic tuition increases to fill. Today, the University is closing out a two-year trial period of self-imposed budget restrictions and I’m bringing together and re-constituting our Budget Advisory Group to develop another two-year set of constraints to follow the current ones.
We’ve certainly benefited from and are grateful for an unanticipated increase in state appropriations since 2014—2016 appropriations were 4.5 percent over 2015. But we’ve also re-allocated more than $61 million—by cutting or avoiding costs, or added revenue—toward our internal target of $68 million re-allocated by June 30, 2017.
We’re heading into the new year for the first time with an executive-level focus on diversity and inclusion in Dr. Noma Anderson, who began serving as a special adviser to me in that role in July. Since then, she and I have logged many hours and miles across the state meeting with government officials and policymakers in making the case for the value of an environment of diversity and inclusion in Tennessee.
UT Martin welcomes its 10th chancellor, Dr. Keith Carver, on Jan. 3, and we’ve just formally confirmed the next chancellors for UT Knoxville, Dr. Beverly Davenport, and the UT Institute of Agriculture, Tim Cross. I look forward to working with these accomplished individuals in their new leadership roles in the year ahead and for years to come.
I also look forward to bringing you my second annual State of the University address in February, and to honoring our second class of President’s Award honorees at that time. You can read about the 2016 honorees here.
I’m grateful for the privilege of leading an institution critical and beneficial to the entire state, and that I get to do so in partnership with a workforce committed to excellence in everything we do. While the University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with facilities and a presence in every county, our unique mission unites us. You, our alumni, also impact and change your communities and worlds, wherever you live in the state, nation and world. We hope that our ongoing efforts continue to make you proud to be part of the University of Tennessee family. We are one.
All the best to you in 2017.