After just a week on the job, the University of Tennessee's Ninth Chancellor Donde Plowman met with members of the press. During the event at the Howard Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy on Tuesday morning, Plowman shared her first impressions of UT and her plans for its future.
Plowman says her first priorities have been meeting one-on-one and in groups with students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders in the university community. She greeted 700 of this autumn's incoming freshmen this week and is holding roaming office hours one day a week at various locations around the Knoxville campus.
"It's been a great first week, this place has been so welcoming," she said. "I'm thrilled to be here."
Plowman said that as the university approaches its 225th anniversary, she is focused on UT's history and is determining how the community can celebrate the event. She said it's also an excellent time to take stock of the institution's acheivements and to decide how to continue growing. That growth is a strength that Plowman said she'll continue to cultivate.
"We are growing at a time when a lot of universities, a lot of public universities, are struggling to maintain their enrollments, let alone grow," Plowman said. She singled out UT's nuclear engineering, supply chain management, and printmaking programs as examples of nationally-acclaimed curricula that are drawing new students not only from throughout Tennessee, but also from across the U.S.
Plowman's priorities include expanding research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students and broadening the school's partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as an umbrella for those research efforts. She'll also focus on strengthening the relationship with the University of Tennessee's Institute of Agriculture as UTIA is brought under the leadership of UT's flagship Knoxville campus this year. Overall, Plowman wants to be accessible and visible not just on campus, but in the community at large, and she wants to improve how those affiliated with the University of Tennessee tell the story of that relationship.