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UT President DiPietro Presents Vision for Next Four Years

Steps Proposed to Repair the University's 'Broken' Business Model

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President Joe DiPietro delivers his remarks to the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees on October 3, 2014.

KNOXVILLE – Over the next four years, the University of Tennessee will have better prepared incoming students, higher graduation rates, expanded research funding, enhanced outreach and increased fundraising. That is the vision UT President Joe DiPietro presented to the Board of Trustees and board chair, Gov. Bill Haslam, on Friday.

DiPietro, whose employment agreement was extended through June 30, 2019 by the board, provided a “state of the university” message to trustees that looked at the past, present and future of his tenure.

“I think we have considerable momentum moving forward, and as I enter this next term, we’re going to utilize that momentum, the sense of teamwork and sense of commitment to the institution and leave a legacy that will be very positive for the institution,” DiPietro said.

In a historic move, the board also voted to name UT Knoxville’s College of Business in recognition of James A. Haslam. The naming of the James A. Haslam II College of Business marks the first time a UT campus has named a college in recognition of an alumnus and donor. The Haslam family, of Knoxville, announced a landmark gift of $50 million to the college.

During his report, DiPietro noted that the undergraduate campuses at Knoxville, Martin and Chattanooga have improved their graduation rates over the last four years, but he would like rates to increase to 85 or 90 percent. This year, UT conferred 11,150 degrees in 2014, and DiPietro said he would like to see that number grow.

Research expenditures are slightly down in FY14 to $422.07 million system-wide, but UT is maintaining its competitiveness with peers, DiPietro said. In the future, the University needs to expand partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and private sector companies.

In outreach, DiPietro said he is pleased with the numbers of contacts being made throughout the state by the Institute of Public Service and UT Extension. Overall, UT’s economic impact on the state economy was $3.75 billion for FY14.

DiPietro said his vision also includes better preparation for students who come to UT, putting a spotlight on K-12 education and standards. Another aspect of his vision is increased fundraising, which will be important as state revenue and appropriations continue to decline. In FY14, System-wide gifts, payments, pledges and bequests totaled $179 million, and DiPietro said first-quarter returns for FY15 were very positive.

The board approved an extension of the president’s current agreement that runs through June 30, 2015 for another four years. DiPietro was elected president by the board in October 2010 and took office in January 2011.

Recommendation for the extension came after completion of the president’s performance comprehensive review that was compiled by Terrance MacTaggart, senior fellow with the Association of Governing Boards. It covers DiPietro’s tenure from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2013. After interviewing more than 70 stakeholders across the state, MacTaggart wrote in his report that DiPietro is a “remarkable leader who has earned the trust and confidence of a wide spectrum of Tennesseans. He possesses not only ‘the right stuff’ not only to manage this complex and very important university but to lead it in positive new directions going forward.”

At the June board meeting, DiPietro introduced the beginnings of an initiative included in his performance review to address the importance of higher education in Tennessee, funding trends and the University’s business model. The board further discussed the multi-year initiative at its workshop in September. DiPietro said he is forming the President’s Budget Advisory Group to help define the changing business model, identify needed data and metrics, determine whether to undergo a strategic academic portfolio analysis and to review System and campus processes. The group will consist of trustees, faculty, staff, students and chancellors, and it will be chaired by trustee Raja Jubran.

In approving the president’s performance review and extension, the board also approved the goal of pursing a systematic and comprehensive initiative to address unfavorable financial realities and trends by aligning the University with the state’s most compelling economic and educational needs and priorities.

DiPietro said his next term as president also would be marked by stronger advocacy.

“I will be the cheerleader and voice leading the charge for higher education and education in our state,” DiPietro said. “I will lead us through this challenge of reframing our business model and making tough decisions that have to be made. It’s what’s right and good for everyone.”

“I will not stand idly by and watch our moment pass. This is the time for the University of Tennessee to step forward, speak up, flex our muscles and be leaders.”

The governor opened the board meeting by talking about the state’s push to encourage college attendance and degree attainment through his “Drive to 55” initiative and Tennessee Promise, a last-dollar scholarship program for community college students. He said the state has received more than 32,000 applications for Tennessee Promise. And while he strives to improve education in Tennessee, he is faced with revenue challenges.

“The president’s comments and others about making certain the state understands how important higher education should be—we get it and I think the Legislature does as well,” Gov. Haslam said. “The trick is how to adequately fund that in a very challenging revenue environment.”

The UT Knoxville College of Business is named after Jim Haslam, a 1952 graduate of the college, former vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees and a UT Distinguished Alumnus. A former Vol football captain, Haslam founded the Pilot Corp. LLC, which is now Pilot Flying J. Pilot Flying J is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America and one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

The $50 million gift is from three generations of the Haslam family and brings the college into an elite group of America’s top named business schools. Jim Haslam, noting the state provided 70 percent of University funding when he first joined the board in 1980, said fundraising is critical to the future of the University in the face of dwindling state appropriations.

“Our family hopes this will inspire others,” Haslam said. “We need a lot of people to give a lot more money.”

For more information about the naming of the college, visit

UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek gave an update on the Top 25 initiative. The six-year graduation rate for the campus in 2008 was 60 percent and has risen to 69.3 percent this year with a target of 75 percent. Fundraising is up 81 percent since 2009, and $131 million was raised last year. Cheek said the Bredesen Center, created at the time of the Top 25 journey beginning, is in its fourth year of operation and has 104 students, who “are among the very best on our campus and is a pride point for Oak Ridge and DOE across the country,” Cheek said. The momentum of the journey has led to many important faculty hires recently, and Cheek also mentioned several current construction projects.

The board also recognized former trustees Karl Schledwitz, Betty Ann Tanner, Monice Moore Hagler and Don Stansberry with honorary resolutions.

In other business, the board approved:

  • A resolution on integrity in research that expands upon policies and procedures in effect since 1990 and amended in 2005 that relate to research misconduct. The resolution affirms the University’s commitment to research integrity and directs the administration to revise policies and procedures as needed to ensure ongoing compliance with federal regulations.
  • UT Knoxville transfer admission policy that allows a student who earns an associate degree from a Tennessee community college with 60 or more transferable hours and a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher is guaranteed admission to UT Knoxville as long as the student otherwise meets any non-academic requirements for admission. Students who do not meet these standards are invited to apply for admission under the regular transfer admissions process. This process is designed to ease transfer from a Tennessee community college to UT Knoxville.
  • Policy on process for submitting legislative proposals and funding requests to the General Assembly
  • Annual report to the General Assembly
  • FY15-16 operating budget appropriations request for non-formula units
  • FY15-16 capital outlay and capital maintenance projects
  • FY15-16 revenue/institutionally funded projects
  • FY14 annual flight operations report
  • Grant of tenure to six UT Knoxville faculty members under expedited procedures
  • Grant of tenure to an Institute of Agriculture faculty member under expedited procedures

To view a link to the webcast of the full meeting of the Board of Trustees, visit

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