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Second Executive Leadership Institute Class Graduates

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Zoom windows of the E L I class

KNOXVILLE – Eighteen University of Tennessee leaders have graduated from the 2020 Executive Leadership Institute.

The second Executive Leadership Institute class, with members representing each UT campus and institute, responded to COVID-19 challenges and worked to combat the issues of racial discrimination and social justice failures within higher education.

“Some of our most intense and emotional conversations were around the topics of racial discrimination,” said Robert Smith, UT System senior associate for executive leadership and talent development. “It’s important our senior leaders know how to address these issues.”

Smith designed the 12-month program after UT President Emeritus Joe DiPietro created the institute to prepare internal candidates to meet the continuous need for diverse, qualified executive leadership members across the UT System. The institute offers participants the benefit of research and peer-driven learning through active exchanges and innovative scholarly thought on leadership, as well as access to influential policy makers and campus opinion leaders.

“Developing and growing people is critical to the success of our organization,” said Randy Boyd, president of the UT System. “I am inspired by how the Executive Leadership Institute prepares our future enterprise leaders, and I am confident the experience these graduates have had through the program will greatly impact our university system and its ability to serve the state at the highest level.”

Group photo of 2020 ELI graduates
Left to right: Yancy Freeman, Laure Pou, Bruce LaMattina, Melissa Tindell, Dan Harder, Keith Barber, Blake Reagan, Michael Ebbs, Amy Belew, Shadow Robinson, Margaret Norris, Steve Catlett, Mary McDonald, Rick Scarbrough, Michael Carter, Angela Gibson, Mojdeh Dehghan, David Mills.

The graduates also completed research on the topic of overcoming obstacles to progress. Their research can be found at

Participants were nominated by their supervisors and competitively selected by campus and institute leaders. The class met six times throughout the year, both in-person and virtually, for multi-day leadership sessions.

Angela Gibson, UT Institute of Agriculture chief information officer, said she benefited personally and professionally.

“The introspective portion of this program taught me about myself and my leadership style and encouraged me to have personal and professional growth,” Gibson said. “Growth was fostered through mentoring, reading assignments, class discussions and coaching.”

Gibson also left the program with a heightened awareness of the importance of cross-campus collaboration.

“Our University leaders do not operate in silos. They must collaborate, share knowledge and work toward common goals to further the institution as a whole,” Gibson said.

Michael Carter, UT Foundation assistant vice president for advancement services, agrees.

“The ELI experience provides a blueprint for developing core competencies in leadership and preparing participants to identify and solve ‘wicked problems,’” Carter said. “In addition, the program fosters genuine camaraderie among UT’s leaders by pushing us to challenge and encourage one another.”

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


Members of the graduating class of the 2020 UT Executive Leadership Institute are:

UT Knoxville

  • Steve Catlett, associate vice chancellor, advancement
  • Bruce LaMattina, associate vice chancellor, strategic research initiatives


UT Chattanooga

  • Yancy Freeman, vice chancellor, enrollment management and student affairs
  • Laure Pou, assistant vice chancellor, human resources


UT Martin

  • Amy Belew, chief information officer
  • Shadow Robinson, dean, College of Engineering and Natural Sciences


UT Health Science Center

  • Mojdeh Dehghan, interim chair, department of general dentistry
  • Michael Ebbs, associate vice chancellor, finance
  • Dan Harder, vice chancellor, information technology, chief information officer


UT Institute of Agriculture

  • Keith Barber, vice chancellor, institutional advancement
  • Angela Gibson, chief information officer


UT Institute for Public Service

  • Margaret Norris, executive director, Municipal Technical Advisory Service
  • Rick Scarbrough, executive director, Law Enforcement Innovation Center


UT Foundation

  • Michael Carter, vice president, advancement services


UT System Administration

  • Mary McDonald, controller
  • David Mills, director, health sciences, government relations and advocacy
  • Blake Reagan, director, procurement services
  • Melissa Tindell, director, communications


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Category: Headlines