President Briefs Trustees on Plans For Future Growth

MARTIN, Tenn. — University of Tennessee President John Petersen announced new initiatives, budget adjustments, administrative changes and a renewed effort to raise the pay of university employees at the UT Board of Trustees winter meeting Wednesday.

Petersen discussed the new Cherokee Campus in Knoxville, to be located on the Tennessee River south of campus, on the current UT Dairy Farm. The 200-acre development will be the home for research facilities in areas such as materials sciences and nanotechnology.

“These buildings will generate research capabilities system-wide to build the enterprises we’re going to need in order to support our research growth over the next decades,” Petersen said.

Petersen also discussed the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative, a UT research and business model that could position the state as a leader in the nation’s efforts to reduce dependence on imported petroleum. An important element of the initiative is the cultivation in Tennessee of switchgrass, a plant that can be converted into ethanol and used as fuel.

“This is going to be an exciting transformational opportunity that helps us on a number of fronts, and puts money and jobs in places within the state where we really need them,” Petersen said.

Another transformational growth opportunity for the university, Petersen said, was in pursuing National Science Foundation grants for supercomputing research.

“Our joint appointment faculty with Oak Ridge National Laboratory puts us in a position to compete for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants,” he said. “Getting even one of the grants would make us the top computational enterprise in the world.”

Governor Bredesen has proposed a $48.3 million increase in higher education across the state, with $18.4 designated for UT. Part of this allocation would pay for a 1 percent increase in salaries for UT employees and a 2 percent one-time bonus. Petersen said while he’s grateful for the funding, he’s committed to making the case for a 5 percent increase in the salary pool for all UT employees, coupled with equity and merit increases.

“Some of our best faculty and staff are being lured away to other schools because of higher pay,” Petersen said, “so compensation is a big issue for us as we work to recruit and retain the best employees while avoiding putting an onerous burden on students and their parents with tuition increases.”

Following Petersen’s presentation, the board approved the revised FY 2007 system budget of $1.515 billion, a 1.5 percent increase over the proposed budget. The revised numbers reflect an increase in unrestricted funds of $13.1 million over the FY 2007 original budget and $45.1 million more than actual FY 2006 funds.

State appropriations continued as the largest single source of unrestricted funding, totaling $471.3 million, an increase of $10.2 million over the original budget estimates and accounting for 50 percent of total revenues not intended for specific uses.

The board approved the naming of UT Vice President for Research David Millhorn to replace Jack Britt as executive vice president for the university system. Britt is retiring at the end of March.

A Glasgow, Ky., native, Britt became vice president for agriculture at UT in 1998, and was elected executive vice president in 2004.

Petersen said Britt had contributed much to the position.

“When I asked Jack to take the position, I did so because it was clear to me that in terms of strategic planning and implementation, Jack is the best you can get.

“We had a vision of institutional changes, strategic partnerships, and critical issues to make sure we had access to more and better students and that our graduation rates went up. I can’t tell you how valuable Jack’s efforts were in putting together that planning effort,” Petersen said.

Trustees also approved adding “Senior Vice President” to the title of UT Chief Financial Officer Gary Rogers.

The board passed honorary resolutions saluting Britt and UT Martin Chancellor Nick Dunagan, who is retiring at the end of June.

Dunagan, a native of Caruthersville, Mo., graduated from UT Martin in 1968, joined the UTM staff in 1973 and worked his way up through several administrative positions to become chancellor.

“Nick was the steady hand that Martin needed during a time of transition,” Petersen said, “and he has gone on to lead Martin to dramatic growth and unprecedented heights. We’re all grateful for his leadership and service to the university.”

Robert Levy, UT vice president for academic affairs and student success, announced his intention to retire in December. A search for Levy’s successor is expected to begin later this spring, Petersen said.

Levy joined the university staff as assistant to the vice president for academic affairs in 1973, after earning a doctorate in English from UT. He advanced professionally within that office until his July 2004 interim appointment as vice president for academic affairs. He was officially named to the post in June 2006, and with the launch of a five-year strategic plan in September 2006, Levy’s title was changed to reflect his office’s expanded responsibilities for student success, a strategic focus area.

“Bob Levy’s career has been dedicated to the University of Tennessee, and in more than 30 years here, he has been a passionate educator, earned the respect of his colleagues, and provided solid leadership to the institution,” Petersen said. “His understanding of the university, his insight and his counsel were invaluable to the strategic planning process, and to me, personally.”

“I am grateful for Bob’s many years of service and commitment to the University of Tennessee.”

In other action, the board:

Approved the naming of the baseball field at UT Knoxville as the Robert M. Lindsay Baseball Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The renaming comes in honor of Lindsay’s recent contribution to the university for baseball facility upgrades.

Approved the awarding of an honorary doctorate to former U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. The degree, Doctor of Healthcare Leadership, was awarded by the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.

Approved changes in academic departments at UT Chattanooga, pending THEC review. The changes include creating a department of social work, making electrical engineering a separate department, and separating the current accounting and finance department into two separate entities.

Archived video of the board meeting is available at http://bot.tennessee.edu.

The board’s next meeting is set for June 21 in Knoxville.


Contacts:

Gina Stafford (865-974-0741 or 865-705-9819)
Beth Gladden (865-974-9008 or 865-771-1284)