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Records Made, Broken Top University of Tennessee’s Biggest Stories of 2017

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KNOXVILLE – A record-low tuition increase and dramatic reduction in a projected funding gap top the University of Tennessee’s biggest stories of 2017.

Also in 2017, more than a half-dozen senior UT leadership posts saw new faces, and enrollment trended upward or broke records on multiple campuses. More than 4,000 faculty, staff and students broke a Guinness World Record in Knoxville on live, national television; and UT research achieved a record, system-wide $481 million in research and sponsored program expenditures.

UT scientists—making news in everything from honey bees to dogwood trees—produced research that also led to the filing of 98 patents, 166 new invention disclosures and 17 new license agreements in the most recent fiscal year ended.

Almost 12,000 new graduates earned UT degrees and, system-wide, UT graduation rate is up 7 percent and degrees awarded up 14 percent since the Complete College Act of Tennessee was implemented in 2011. All of which prompted UT President Joe DiPietro to declare in his 2017 State of the University address that now is a landmark time in Tennessee history.

“I said that because I believe that one day, future generations of Tennesseans will look back at this point in history as the moment when our state took a tremendous leap forward,” DiPietro said. “And I’m very proud that the University of Tennessee is leading the way in that leap.

“We’re producing graduates that businesses want, with the ability to thrive in diverse workplace environments. That’s part of our leadership in developing the workforce Tennessee needs to attract industry and investment.

“And thanks to the vision and leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee has achieved a nationally recognized focus on workforce development through educational attainment.”

The year brought important firsts for the University: from UT Health Science Professor Altha Stewart’s election as the first African-American woman to serve as president of the American Psychiatric Association, to UT Knoxville launching the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history, with a $1.3 billion goal.

The independent Title IX Commission DiPietro charged in January with helping the University enhance efforts to be a national model for Title IX compliance on UT campuses statewide completed its work, and the University began implementing its recommendations over the summer.

The University also took a national leadership role in combating opioid deaths with the UT Health Science Center’s first-in-the-nation Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine, and the UT Institute for Public Service partnered with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to prevent overdose deaths.

The year marked a major milestone for the system-wide alumni magazine, Tennessee Alumnus, which has published continuously since 1917. The magazine celebrated its 100th anniversary throughout 2017’s three commemorative issues and capped off the festivities with a celebration of the most accomplished graduates of any UT campus over the last 100 years.

“This year didn’t bring an end to tough issues, but it brought new UT leaders on board, and new opportunities for sustaining great momentum in fulfilling our unique mission to educate, discover and connect for the benefit of all Tennesseans,” DiPietro said. “We’re certain to face challenges in 2018, which will also bring important new opportunities to serve our state, and I look forward to seeing the University make the most of all of them.”

More on 2017’s biggest stories for the statewide UT system can be found:

The University of Tennessee is the state’s land-grant higher education institution and flagship public university. It is comprised of campuses at KnoxvilleChattanooga, and Martin; the Health Science Center at Memphis; the Space Institute at Tullahoma; and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service. The UT System has a presence in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties and, through the combined force of its education, research, and outreach, the University serves students, business and industry, schools, governments, organizations, and citizens throughout the state.


Gina Stafford
817 Andy Holt Tower, 1331 Circle Park, Knoxville, TN 37996-0142


Category: Headlines