UT Trustees Discuss Strategic Goals, Board Composition

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees heard positive news about its progress toward strategic goals and ratified a purchase of a new residence hall, among other action at the fall board meeting held today in Knoxville.

The board also voted to authorize administrators to convey to Governor Phil Bredesen their interest in adding up to two external members to the composition of the board. Vice Chair Andrea Loughry said the idea came out of a recent retreat and discussion about best practices of both private and public universities.

Adjustments to the 26-member board composition would require a change in state law. All members – excluding ex-officio and faculty and student members – are currently appointed from a congressional district or county of Tennessee. The Governor appoints all members of the board.

UT President John Petersen provided an update to the board on this past year’s progress and about the university’s role in tackling the nation’s most complex problems related to energy, health care and education.

“The future of Tennessee I don’t think has ever been brighter. Our campuses are undergoing strategic planning in terms of their expertise and their mission and where their opportunities are to be successful.

“As those plans finish, I will take great pride in having those chancellors and vice presidents bring those plans to the board and really dovetail what we can do as individual distinct units around the state to complement what we as a system are trying to do,” Petersen said.

Petersen noted that the state budget process begins in a few weeks with the first presentation to the Governor.

“We will continue our strategy of outlining ways we can impact the state and show a return on its investment,” Petersen said.

In an update on the university’s Strategic Plan, Petersen cited progress toward goals, reporting growth in enrollment and an overall increase in need-based aid in 2007.

Improving overall graduation rates, and rates for underrepresented groups and students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, is a key focus for 2008.

The “healthy progress” rating was also given to outreach and economic development goals with broad results in job creation and invention disclosures. All campuses and units must strengthen results in both globalization and research activity and expenditures, Petersen noted.

Petersen said the meeting marked “the end of an era” with the honoring of several departing longtime trustees and Bob Levy, vice president of academic affairs and student success.

Several of the trustees honored have served multiple terms. Those honored were James Haslam III, Susan Richardson Williams, Bill Stokely, Johnnie Amonette and Joseph Sturdivant, a student representative.

Levy, who retires in December, was hired as assistant to the vice president for academic affairs in 1973 and advanced professionally within that office until his July 2004 interim appointment as vice president for academic affairs.

Levy was officially named to the post in June 2006.

“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,” UT President John 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:

*Ratified the purchase of the current Knoxville Place housing facility from the UT Foundation and voted to rename it Volunteer Hall. The proposal is part of an overall plan to upgrade and expand housing on the Knoxville campus and accommodate growing enrollment.

The high-rise apartment complex was built in 2004 and financed with $60 million in bonds. The purchase price is expected to be about $56 million, not to exceed the fair market value of the property as determined by a third party appraiser.

UT plans to open Volunteer Hall for upperclassmen in fall 2008, after a transition from Place Properties, the current managers. Students living there now are allowed to stay under existing leases and will be encouraged to remain there for next fall semester.

“It’s been many years since we have constructed a new residence hall, and it is imperative that we continue to upgrade our offerings for students,” UT Knoxville Chancellor Loren Crabtree said. “This purchase and other ongoing and planned renovations are helping us do just that.”

The building is located on White Avenue behind the College of Law and has capacity for 782 students in seven levels of housing.

*Approved a proposal from Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown to extend for one year a pilot program approved by the board last June that sets a regional tuition rate for junior and senior undergraduates who live in seven counties that are contiguous to Tennessee.

The program allows students to pay in-state rates, plus 25 percent of their out-of-state fee difference. Brown has explained that the program helps UTC fulfill its mission in serving the metropolitan area. The Georgia counties are Catoosa, Dade, Fannin, Murray, Walker and Whitfield. Jackson County, Alabama, is also included.

Brown said the extension will allow for a full recruiting and admissions schedule so that the university can meet its target of enrolling 87 new students. President Petersen pointed out that many of the students enrolled are majoring in education, nursing and biology – all high demand professions.

*Approved by consent UT’s requests for state capital outlay and revenue-funded projects and non-formula improvements.

Highlights include:

• $3.5 million for Governor’s Chair funding to complete UT’s commitment of $10 million (with a $10 million match from Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to recruit eminent, highly active scholars and their support teams.

• $6 million is being requested to attract and support as many as 600 additional highly-qualified graduate students in science, technology and engineering across the state.

• $1 million is being requested for the Tennessee Mouse Genome project of which UT and ORNL are partners in a consortium to enhance research in multiple gene diseases.

• $3 million for start up scientific equipment for the Regional Bio-containment Laboratory being built in Memphis and scheduled for completion in mid-2008.

Requests for building and renovation projects to be funded by the state in 2008-2009 include:

• $28 million to renovate of the Nash Building, comprised of classrooms and research spaces at the UTHSC.

• $36 million to turn the existing Melrose Residence Hall on the Knoxville campus into an academic facility to house the Student Success Center, faculty offices and other programs.

• $14.5 million for the proposed expansion of the large animal clinic at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

• $33 million to turn Strong Residence Hall on the Knoxville campus for offices for the Anthropology department and Forensic Anthropology Center and Vol Card – the campus’ identification card office. Both operations are currently housed on the ground floor of Neyland Stadium.

• $20 million to renovate UTHSC’s Crowe Building, also an academic and research facility.

Contact: Karen Collins (865-974-5186 or 865-216-6862)