During the last six months as interim president of the University of Tennessee system, I have had the opportunity to listen and learn from hundreds of UT stakeholders, from students to faculty to staff, legislators to alumni and from many higher education leaders around the country.

The impact we are making in every corner of the state, and literally around the world, is immeasurable. I am honored and humbled to serve.

One observation is that while we have great teams across the state doing amazing things, we are not organized and aligned to take full advantage of our strengths.

One of the most obvious examples is our Institute of Agriculture and our flagship campus in Knoxville; we are unlike any other land-grant in the country.

While we share the same accreditation, provost, faculty handbook and facilities, we are organized and report separately.

This not only hurts us in rankings and reputation, but also is an impediment to collaboration and sharing of resources.

At our recent board of trustees meeting, it was unanimously approved to strategically combine the efforts of our UT Knoxville flagship campus (UTK) and the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) in a way that allows us to become a true comprehensive research-extensive institution and have the ability to fully leverage our statewide and national presence.

In addition, the change allows us to a foster a culture of greater collaboration, and more fully deliver on our three-pronged mission of education, research and outreach to benefit the State of Tennessee.

To facilitate a closer partnership between UTK and UTIA, we added a reporting line between UTIA and the Knoxville campus.

Chancellor Tim Cross still has a direct reporting line to me with the title of senior vice president for agriculture.

In addition, Cross is now also a member of the UT Knoxville chancellor’s cabinet, taking on the title of senior vice chancellor for agriculture.

Cross and Donde Plowman, our new UTK chancellor, have organized a team to lead upcoming town hall meetings and listening sessions to gather input from stakeholders both inside and outside UT.

We believe there are many opportunities for improved alignment, impact and effectiveness, and that our faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters across the state will have the best insights.

Cross, Plowman and I will review the input and share more details on future plans with the Board of Trustees at our November meeting.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by a team of campuses and institutes that understand that we can accomplish more together than we ever could separately.

Quite simply, we are better together. I truly appreciate Chancellor Cross, now Vice President Cross, for his willingness to engage in this unique partnership, and I look forward to seeing this relationship grow to historic heights.

To learn more about the UTK-UTIA partnership, please visit tennessee.edu/transparency/utk-utia-unification.

 

RANDY BOYD is interim president of the University of Tennessee. His email address is utpresident@tennessee.edu.

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