The Journey Continues: Approved by UT Board, Vol Vision 2020 Now Moves to Implementation

Vol Vision 2020, which provides the framework for the next phase of our strategic plan, has been approved by the Board of Trustees.

This document is the roadmap for the next five years of our journey to become a top-tier public research university. You can read Vol Vision 2020 here. Look soon for an updated website that will include a metrics dashboard and more detail about each priority area.

In the coming weeks, implementation guides will be drafted for colleges and divisions to use as they map out specific actions needed to achieve our goals and adopt metrics to measure our progress.

Vol Vision 2020 is the culmination of a year’s worth of work during which our Milestone Review Committee, led by Steven Smith, dean of UT Libraries, reviewed our progress and met with dozens of stakeholder groups. The committee heard from more than 1,400 people—staff, students, parents, alumni, community members, and others as they refreshed the objectives and direction of our strategic plan.

In addition to setting updated goals in our five original priority areas—Undergraduate Education, Graduate Education, Faculty and Staff, Research and Engagement, and Resources and Infrastructure—the updated plan adds a sixth priority: Diversity and Inclusion.

This new priority area recognizes our need to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds, as well as improve our campus climate to support and retain our students and employees. Also, it reinforces our desire to prepare students to succeed in a diverse and global workplace.

The other major change is an emphasis on the “Volunteer Difference.”

“If UT is to be successful in the long run, we must differentiate ourselves rather than imitate other universities,” it states in the executive summary. “Our objective is to define and build on the unique strengths that set UT apart from peers. Vol Vision 2020 outlines the Volunteer Difference and imbeds these themes throughout the plan.”

Several themes that emerged during stakeholder discussions that helped define the Volunteer Difference:

  • UT is in the unique position of being both a flagship and land-grant university.   We value a comprehensive education; access and engagement are part of our mission.
  • Our faculty expertise, academic programs, and research center represent broad excellence across a multitude of disciplines. Our partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in addition to other government, corporate, and nonprofit entities, provides unique opportunities for research and academic collaborations.
  • We are a great educational value. Our students get a quality education with a wide variety of opportunities and experiences at a good price. Our students’ debt load is lower than the national average.
  • Alumni connections are important to our students. We have more than 200,000 Volunteers across the globe, and students understand the value of being part of this network.
  • The Knoxville region is rich in culture and has a healthy economic base. We’re an “urban wilderness” in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Here’s a look at our original priority areas and the broad description of the goals we’ll try to achieve over the next five years:

  • Undergraduate Education—Increase enrollment through recruitment and retention. Improve academic quality through Experience Learning and innovative approaches to general education. Improve advising and do a better job connecting students to campus early in their college careers.
  • Graduate Education—Grow graduate programs in areas demonstrating excellence. Improve recruitment and financial support to attract excellent students and improve outcomes by focusing on career placement and timely completion of degrees.
  • Research and Engagement—Recognize faculty contributions beyond sponsored research and include accomplishments in scholarly output, creative activity, and engagement.
  • Faculty and Staff—Continue addressing the salary gap to support recruitment and retention, and also reward excellence through merit increases.
  • Resources and Infrastructure—Implement our master plan to modernize campus. Diversify revenues through philanthropy and managed enrollment growth; Improve operational efficiency through greater space utilization, business process modernization, and shared resources.