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UT Executive Leadership Institute Graduates Its First Class

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The first class of the Executive Leadership Institute, at the UTC Library

KNOXVILLE – The UT Executive Leadership Institute graduated its first class this year with 17 faculty and staff members representing each University of Tennessee campus and institute across the state.

With nearly 40 percent of senior leaders across the UT System eligible to retire in the next five years, before UT President Emeritus Joe DiPietro left office in 2018, he created the Executive Leadership Institute to prepare internal candidates for senior leadership roles within the University.

“My goal as president was to leave the University of Tennessee better than I found it,” DiPietro said. “Through the creation of the Executive Leadership Institute and the impressive class it graduated, I believe this goal has been achieved.”

The institute started with its first cohort on Oct. 2 in Knoxville with DiPietro teaching part-time in the program after his retirement.

Robert Smith, UT System senior associate for executive leadership and talent development, designed and led the institute to offer attendees development plans, executive coaching, mentoring and experiential learning. The institute complemented existing training programs within the University.

“If we are not prepared, replacing leadership roles could create a catastrophic leadership shortage,” Smith said. “Through this program, our University is building and training a talented group of people who are ready to take on these significant leadership roles.”

Candidates were nominated by their supervisors and competitively selected by campus and institute leaders. The class met six times throughout the year for multi-day leadership sessions.

UT Martin’s Charley Deal, special advisor to the chancellor; interim director for the Office of Research, Grants and Contracts; and executive director of WestStar Leadership, said that being part of the Executive Leadership Institute was pivotal in his career.

“ELI not only equipped me with the skill sets needed to advance in my field, but it also provided me with in-depth knowledge of how the UT System and each of the campuses operate,” Deal said. “The opportunity to network with leaders from across the System was incredible, and the experience has enhanced my passion for working in higher education.”

Angelia Nystrom, UT Institute of Agriculture director of specialty programs, agreed with Deal, stating this experience was the most meaningful of her career.

“I have been able to pinpoint and refine core competencies necessary for strong leadership, which has been useful not only in my employment but also in my volunteer and personal endeavors,” Nystrom said.

Through the Executive Leadership program, Smith thinks the University can identify strong leaders for years to come.

“Finding qualified leaders is much more than a search,” Smith said. “It’s finding those individuals who can inspire those around them, and then take the organization to the next level of success.”

More information about the institute, including graduates’ biographies, is available at

The graduating class of the 2018 UT Executive Leadership Institute:

UT Chattanooga

  • Tyler Forrest, associate vice chancellor for budget and finance
  • Daniel Pack, dean of the college of engineering and computer science
  • Joanne Romagni, vice chancellor for research and dean of the graduate school


UT Foundation

  • Angelia Nystrom, director of specialty programs for the UT Institute of Agriculture


UT Health Science Center

  • Catherine Womack, interim chair of preventative medicine for the College of Medicine


UT Institute of Agriculture

  • Lannett Edwards, professor and graduate director
  • John Stier, associate dean for the Herbert College of Agriculture


UT Institute for Public Service

  • Macel Ely, director of the Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership


UT Knoxville

  • Frank Cuevas, associate vice chancellor for student life and adjunct assistant professor
  • Jean Mercer, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Programs


UT Martin

  • Charley Deal, special advisor to the chancellor; interim director for the Office of Research, Grants and Contracts; executive director of WestStar Leadership
  • Petra McPhearson, vice chancellor for finance and administration


UT System Administration

  • Rob Chance, director of payroll
  • Stacey Patterson, vice president for research, outreach and economic development and president of the UT Research Foundation
  • Jim Sauceman, director of IRIS administrative support
  • Matthew Scoggins, general counsel
  • Carey Whitworth, assistant vice president for government relations and advocacy


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Category: Employees