Skip to content

A Personal Note: Meeting the Challenge of Change

John Zomchick

Interim Provost John Zomchick

We are in the midst of change. With our chancellor and provost both moving back to the faculty and several other administrators retiring or leaving, this will be an exciting and dynamic year of transition.

I’m honored to be serving as your interim provost and senior vice chancellor. Matthew Theriot, formerly associate provost for teaching and learning innovation, has stepped into my former slot and taken on the added responsibilities of interim vice provost for faculty. How long we remain in these interim positions will depend on how quickly we find a new chancellor and then complete our search for a new provost and senior vice chancellor.

We have a strong leadership team to see us through this time of transition. Although I’m new in the interim post, I’ve been in the Office of the Provost for more than four years. Vice Provost for Academic Affairs R. J. Hinde has been in his position for a year, and Dixie Thompson, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, brings extensive administrative experience to her new role. Finally, Matthew, though new to his interim post, has been in the office for a year. I’m confident that our combined experience and our commitment to UT will help us provide stability and continuity in the months ahead.

We are also fortunate to have Vol Vision 2020 to keep us moving forward in our journey to make UT a top public research university. We’ll be enlisting your help as we work on meeting our goals in undergraduate education; graduate education; research, scholarship, creative activity, and engagement; faculty and staff; and resources and infrastructure.

In addition to these goals, Vol Vision 2020 adds a priority area that was not in the previous version of the plan: diversity and inclusion. I will work closely with the faculty and my fellow vice chancellors to find ways to increase dialogue and understanding in order to make our university a supportive and welcoming place for all who live, work, and study here.

I want to thank former Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Martin. During her seven years as provost, she helped our university make huge strides in its journey to the top. She has left the provost’s office and our campus poised for continued success.

We’re going to be busy and challenges exist, but we are moving forward with confidence and enthusiasm. I look forward to working with all of you.

Undergraduate Education Infographics

Vol Vision 2020 Sets Course for Next Five Years


Vol Vision 2020, the refreshed version of our campus’s strategic plan, received final approval from the Board of Trustees this summer, and we’re now ready for faculty and staff to help us put plans into action.

At this point, Vol Vision 2020 is a high-level document that provides a framework for future improvement in our five priority areas: undergraduate education; graduate education; research, scholarship, creative activity, and engagement; faculty and staff; and resources and infrastructure. It also adds a new priority area: diversity and inclusion.

As a first step in moving forward, we’ve created supporting implementation action plans, which outline initiatives that will help us achieve our goals, assign cabinet-level leaders for each, and provide high-level timelines.

This fall, leaders and working groups will be assigned to each of the six priorities to guide these campus-level actions. We’ll be asking colleges, departments, schools, and units to review and refresh their own strategic plans to align them with Vol Vision 2020. At each level, faculty and staff will determine their path to continued excellence and provide metrics to measure their success.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to engage the campus community for feedback and provide regular progress reports.

Please check the Journey to the Top 25 website for new updates, including a helpful summary of Vol Vision 2020. We’re also building a strategy dashboard for the website that should be in place soon.

As we look toward some major changes, including welcoming new campus leadership, Vol Vision 2020 will continue to serve as a roadmap—chronicling how far we’ve come and where we want to go.

Experience Learning in a mountain stream

Experience Learning Resources Available

Experience Learning, our initiative to enhance students’ educational experiences through experiential learning, has shifted into high gear.

This fall, there will be more staff support to help you develop Experience Learning courses, and we’re working with the Undergraduate Council and Faculty Senate to finalize the process for designating courses that meet the definition of Experience Learning. We also hope to roll out a faculty fellows mentoring program and offer grants to faculty members who want to revamp existing courses or create new courses to incorporate Experience Learning activities.

Staff support

John Walker

John Walker

Over the summer, John Walker began work as our Experience Learning assessment coordinator. He is tasked with measuring the impact of Experience Learning efforts in faculty-led courses, co-curricular activities, and extracurricular activities.

Walker came from Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, where he was the assessment specialist for the school’s performance-based learning initiative, Core Abilities. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and his master’s degree in policy studies from the University of Sydney in Australia.

He joins Experience Learning Director Christopher Lavan, who has been on board since January.

Training and information

Throughout the year, the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center will offer workshops to introduce interested faculty to Experience Learning.

An encore of the Foundations series will be offered twice:

  • “Collaboration” will be offered from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on September 14 and from 2:10 to 4:10 p.m. on September 15.
  • “Reflection” will be offered from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on October 12 and from 2:10 to 4:10 p.m. on October 13.

The final two courses, “Motivation” and “Real World Problem Solving,” will be offered in November, with dates and times to be announced soon.

We also have a new resource guide that explains what Experience Learning is, how it benefits students, and how faculty can integrate it into their classes. It can be picked up from the Experience Learning office, 618 Greve Hall.

Grants and mentors

Later this fall, we will roll out faculty development grants and a faculty fellows mentoring program. These grants will help faculty integrate experiential learning to existing courses or create new courses. Faculty fellows who have led experiential learning activities will mentor colleagues who are interested and want to know more.

Experience Learning is our Quality Enhancement Plan, a requirement of the reaffirmation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It was approved in 2015.

Honors student being interviewed

New Honors Programs Taking Shape

We are completing plans for two new Honors and Scholars programs that will debut in fall 2017, allowing us to enroll more than four hundred additional honors students and bringing us more in line with the honors enrollment at our peer institutions.

“We have 1,600 students in honors programs this year and we’ve seen our applicants’ academic credentials rise every year. As a result, there is a whole segment of academically accomplished students we are currently missing,” said Associate Provost Timothy Hulsey, who directs Honors and Scholars Programs. “Adding these two new programs will help us offer honors programming to more high-performing students, pushing our honors enrollment over two thousand, which is more in line with that of our peers.”

Here’s a look at the two new programs, which are expected to get Undergraduate Council approval this fall.

Honors Leadership Program

We’re emphasizing unique leadership training opportunities through this new honors program. Students in the Honors Leadership Program will complete an honors version of the new leadership minor, as well as a community service requirement. They also will have their own living and learning community.

Honors and Scholars Programs is working closely with the Center for Leadership and Service and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies on program details.

The program will have the same academic requirements as the Chancellor’s Honors Program—an ACT score of 31 or higher and a high school grade point average of 4.0 or better—and will cater to students with a record of leadership experience and a vision for being future leaders.

Honors Leadership Program students will be eligible for the same institutional scholarships as Chancellor’s Honors students.

The goal is to enroll 125 students per class into this new program.

1794 Scholars Program

Named after the year UT was founded, the 1794 Scholars Program is a two-year program that allows us to extend honors programming to students whose ACT scores range from 28 to 31 with a high school GPA of 3.8 or higher.

The program will give participants the full Volunteer experience through academic engagement and activities that focus on global and cultural awareness, campus involvement, and the Volunteer spirit.

Students in the 1794 Scholars Program will qualify for the HOPE Scholarship and may be eligible for other institutional scholarships. After the two years, these students can transition into the Chancellor’s Honors Program or the honors program within their discipline.

We hope to admit about three hundred students per class to the 1794 Scholars Program.

These two new programs will complement our Haslam Scholars Program and Chancellor’s Honors Program, neither of which will change.

Honors and Scholars Programs is located in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and has a staff that handles admissions, recruiting, living and learning communities, and alumni relations. Each program has its own director. Associate Director Sylvia Turner is over the Haslam Scholars Program, and Associate Director Rebekah Page is over the Chancellor’s Honors Program. Assistant Director Virginia Stormer has been hired to oversee the 1794 Scholars Program and another assistant director is being recruited to head the Honors Leadership Program.

Teacher and students in humanities classroom

New Student Evaluation of Instruction to Launch this Fall

With your input, we are making significant progress in the way we gather useful student feedback about teaching.

As we continue to refine our new process of collecting this feedback, we are creating a policy about how it should be used in faculty evaluations.

Our transition from the old Student Assessment of Instruction Survey (SAIS) system to a new survey began two years ago when a task force of faculty, staff, and students recommended building a simpler survey to replace SAIS and began working on a new survey. Last year, a new online delivery system, Course Evaluation by Campus Labs, was put in place to make it easier for instructors and students to use the survey.

A research team led by Jennifer Ann Morrow, associate professor of educational psychology and counseling and coordinator of the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement PhD program, has been gathering input from faculty and students to refine the questions for the new survey.

Jennifer said the effort was a “resounding success.” Faculty and students provided constructive suggestions about the survey content, how the assessment data should be used, and how we can get better participation in the survey.

Last spring, we piloted the survey using the new delivery system with about three hundred faculty members and about five thousand students. Based on the results of the pilot, we are making necessary adjustments to the system. We will implement the plan this fall.

At the same time, we are developing a policy to standardize how the student survey is given and how its results are used. The new policy will address the way instructors administer the survey as well as how the results should be used in evaluating faculty.

Concert choir class

STRIDE Takes Academic Approach to Advancing Diversity

As one part of our commitment to increasing campus diversity, we are continuing to explore ways of increasing the diversity among our world-class faculty.

STRIDE, which stands for Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence, is a faculty-led committee that uses academic research on diversity to improve our hiring practices in order to recruit and retain a diverse faculty.

Soren Sorensen

Soren Sorensen

Led by Professor of Physics Soren Sorensen, STRIDE studies the latest research about all types of diversity—racial and ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, geographic, age, and other forms. The group shares its findings during presentations to campus groups and offers workshops for campus search committees.

STRIDE got started several years ago after some University of Michigan faculty visited campus to talk about a diversity effort they had undertaken.

Soren attended that presentation and afterward expressed interest in doing the same thing here.

“One of the two Michigan professors who made the presentation was a physicist and, like me, an older white male,” Sorensen said, explaining what had piqued his interest. “The ones you have to convince about the importance of diversity are not typically the younger faculty, the minority faculty, or the female faculty. You need to convince the powerful white males in many departments.”

After visiting the University of Michigan to learn more, Soren and the others spent the first year doing their own research.

Two years ago, Soren and Rhonda Reger, director of the Organizations and Strategy PhD program and director of research in the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, made a presentation at the Provost’s academic leadership retreat. Soon after, STRIDE began offering workshops for interested faculty and staff and search committee chairs and members. This year, STRIDE will be taking a closer look at the retention of minority faculty, how diversity affects the tenure process, and the diversity climate in departments.

“At a STRIDE presentation, faculty are hearing presentations from us, their peers—not management,” Soren said. “We hope this is a good way of trying to influence our colleagues to adopt some best practices.”

STRIDE isn’t focused on legal issues; rather, Soren said, the committee is trying to challenge our long-standing ways of looking at things.

In addition to Soren, STRIDE committee members are Craig Barnes, professor of chemistry; Roberto Benson, professor of materials science and engineering; Judy Cornett, professor of law; Paul Frymier, professor of chemical engineering; Camille Hall, associate professor of social work; Sarah Lowe, professor of art; Michael Olson, associate professor of psychology; Bonnie Ownley, Faculty Senate president and professor of entomology and plant pathology; Jay Whelan, professor of nutrition; and Lisa Yamagata Lynch, associate professor of educational psychology and counseling.

Faculty Pub Logo

Faculty Pub to Kick Off on September 8

Please mark your calendar to join us for fall semester Faculty Pub, which kicks off on Thursday, September 8.

The pub will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the West Club of Neyland Stadium. Free appetizers and a cash-only bar will be available, with discounted drinks offered from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Please respond if you plan to attend so we can plan appropriately.

For easiest access, enter the stadium at Gate 19. Limited parking will be available for vehicles with a UT parking tag in Lot 9 on Phillip Fulmer Way beginning at 5:00 p.m.

The Faculty Pub has been around for five years and is a great place to meet and network with fellow faculty members. These events are casual gatherings for all faculty, including tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track, and retired faculty.

The second fall semester Faculty Pub will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on October 27 in the West Club of Neyland Stadium. Free appetizers and a cash-only bar will be available, with discounted drinks offered from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

On December 1, the Faculty Pub will be held at Club LeConte, 800 South Gay Street,  for an end-of-the-semester celebration. Free appetizers and an open bar will be provided by Club LeConte.

Theriot Named Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

I’m pleased to announce that Matthew Theriot will become interim vice provost for faculty affairs on August 1. He also will continue to serve as associate provost for teaching and learning innovation.

Matthew Theriot

Matthew Theriot

This appointment completes a series of administrative changes prompted by my return to the Department of Classics faculty. John Zomchick, who has been vice provost for faculty affairs, will become interim provost and senior vice chancellor.

As interim vice provost for faculty affairs, Matthew will oversee and facilitate processes related to faculty recruitment, retention, evaluation, promotion, and professional development. He will also lead campus efforts on faculty-related aspects of the Vol Vision 2020 strategic plan.

A year ago, Matthew took on a three-year half-time appointment as associate provost for teaching and learning innovation. In this role, he’s been leading the implementation of Experience Learning. The Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center and UT Service-Learning also report to him.

In his role as associate provost and leader of the Quality Enhancement Plan team for our reaccreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Matthew has been an effective liaison between administration and faculty. We’re confident he’ll use his skills to keep us on the journey outlined in Vol Vision 2020 during this time of transition.

Matthew received his doctorate in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley. He received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. He came to UT in 2003. He served as director of the College of Social Work’s undergraduate program from 2006 to 2013 and then served for three years as director of the college’s PhD program.

Please join me in thanking and congratulating Matthew for taking on this additional set of responsibilities.


Susan D. Martin
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

John Zomchick Named Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

John ZomchickChancellor Jimmy G. Cheek announced today that John Zomchick, vice provost for faculty affairs, will serve as interim provost and senior vice chancellor beginning August 1, when Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Martin will return to the classics faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Zomchick has been serving as vice provost for more than four years. Prior to joining the provost’s staff, he was executive associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. He came to UT in 1985 as an assistant professor of English and earned the rank of professor in 2000. He has held a number of administrative appointments including associate dean for academic personnel, interim associate dean for academic programs, and department head.

He is an award-winning teacher and a gifted scholar of eighteenth-century English literature. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s and a doctorate in English literature from Columbia University.

Provost Susan Martin Announces Her Return to the Faculty

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Martin has announced that she will return to her faculty position in the Department of Classics on August 1.

Susan MartinMartin has worked for UT for more than thirty-five years and has served as UT Knoxville’s chief academic officer since 2009.

“I am sad and we will miss her greatly on my team, but I know that UT is in a much better place because of her superb leadership,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “I credit her leadership and her vision for so many of the transformational changes we’ve been able to make in recruiting, supporting, retaining, and graduating our students.”

A national search to fill the position will begin soon.

Cheek said Martin helped to hire nearly all of UT’s current college deans and has recruited many world-renowned scholars to the UT faculty. Her leadership has helped UT make more strategic data-driven decisions that have led to better service for students and greater support for faculty and academic programs.

Martin oversaw the development of the Vol Vision strategic plan as well as UT’s reaccreditation and subsequent development of the new Experience Learning initiative. She also led large-scale improvements to student advising and academic support services and the creation of the One Stop Student Services Center, the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, and UT Service-Learning.

Martin said, “I will be forever grateful to Chancellor Cheek for the opportunities he has afforded me to move the university forward. Our strong partnership has resulted in many successes as we have worked to strengthen academics at UT.”

In 2014, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities honored UT with its Trailblazer award for the university’s big steps to improve graduation and retention rates. The association noted UT’s innovative approaches that can be modeled and replicated by other universities.

Martin said she is grateful to have worked with many talented professionals who helped improve the undergraduate and graduate student experience.

“I look forward to returning to my starting point at UT, the Department of Classics, to re-establish the connection with teaching and research that I have really missed,” she said.

Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Martin joined the faculty in 1981. A scholar of Roman law of the classical period, she has two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.