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Academic Structures

In September 2022, Chancellor Donde Plowman and Provost John Zomchick announced the outcomes of a 15-month-long exploration of our academic structures: creation of a college as an incubator and home for new degree programs drawn from multiple colleges and disciplines (working title, College of Innovation and Convergent Studies), a College of Music, a Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, and a pilot divisional structure within the existing College of Arts and Sciences.

Projects

College of Innovation and Convergent Studies (working title)

About: The college will be an incubator and home for new degree programs drawn from multiple colleges and disciplines while responding to changes in fields of inquiry and emerging workforce opportunities.

Approval by the Board of Trustees and Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) is required.

Upcoming actions

  • Complete proposal for the creation of a new academic unit
  • Present to Board of Trustees at its February 23-24, 2023, meeting
  • Present to THEC at its Spring 2023 Quarterly Meeting
  • New college to begin operations on July 1, 2023

Completed steps

  • Drafting of proposal for a new academic unit is underway.

College of Music

About: The School of Music will leave the College of Arts and Sciences and become a stand-alone college. The change will increase the visibility of the music programs, improve recruitment of music students, and provide music faculty with greater autonomy in all matters related to music education and scholarship.

Approval by the Board of Trustees and THEC is required.

Upcoming actions

  • Complete proposal for the creation of a new academic unit
  • Present to Board of Trustees at its February 23-24, 2023 meeting
  • Present to THEC at its Spring 2023 Quarterly Meeting
  • New college to begin operations on July 1, 2023

Completed steps

  • Drafting of proposal for a new academic unit is underway.

Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs

About: The Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs will fill a need for both public policy and public administration professionals by having the capability to offer degree programs. It will also be home to our new Institute for American Civics.

Approval by the Board of Trustees and THEC is required.

Upcoming actions

  • Complete proposal for the creation of a new academic unit
  • Present to Board of Trustees at its February 23-24, 2023 meeting
  • Present to THEC at its Spring 2023 Quarterly Meeting
  • New school to begin operations on July 1, 2023

Completed steps


Pilot divisional structure within College of Arts and Sciences

About: The college will be organized into three broad divisions: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. This divisional structure will be a pilot, and its effectiveness will be assessed after two years.

The pilot does not need to be approved by the Board of Trustees or THEC.

For more information and updates, go to the College of Arts and Sciences information page about the divisional structure pilot.


Questions about the structures initiative are welcome and may be sent to provost@utk.edu.

2021-2022 Engagement Process

  • Engagement meetings were held with the following groups in May-August 2022: department heads in math, science, theatre, music, art (May 11); chemistry faculty (May 25); working group (May 26); humanities and social sciences department heads (June 9); physics and astronomy faculty (June 9); earth and planetary sciences faculty (June 9); math faculty (June 15); ecology and evolutionary biology faculty and biology faculty (June 15); microbiology faculty (June 17); biochemistry & cellular and molecular biology faculty (June 17); nutrition, kinesiology, and public health department heads (August 5), music faculty (August 9); theatre faculty (August 22); arts faculty (August 22) English, classics, and philosophy faculty (August 29); history, MFLL, and religious studies faculty (August 29); science and math department heads (August 31); psychology, anthropology, and Africana Studies faculty (August 31); geography & sustainability, political science, and sociology faculty (August 31);
  • The provost hosted open office hours in the spring 2022 semester on February 21, March 4, March 11,  March 21, April 5, April 21, May 6, and May 23 as part of an ongoing series of office hours dedicated to discussion of academic structures.
  • Michael Diamond and Mark Robison, who facilitated the engagement process for the campus strategic vision, led an engagement session with College of Arts and Sciences on April 7, 2022.
  • Michael Diamond and Mark Robison led eight small group sessions on March 9-10, 2022.
  • The Office of the Provost hosted a Town Hall on Thursday, February 10, 2022. Bill Fox, Chancellor’s Professor and director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, discussed the potential impact of state and national trends on UT. Doug Blaze, chair of the working group, moderated a panel discussion of the report.
  • The Office of the Provost hosted meeting with deans, chancellor’s cabinet, vice provosts, and department heads on December 14, 2021. Meetings were facilitated by Michael Diamond and Mark Robison.


September 2022: Announcement of plans

Based on the input throughout the process, Chancellor Plowman and Provost Zomchick announced academic restructuring plans. View the message on next steps on academic restructuring.

May 2022: Update on evaluation goals, timeline

Chancellor Plowman and Provost Zomchick shared an update on the academic structure evaluation goals and timeline. View the message.

April 2022: Feedback report

The report includes analysis and notes by facilitators Michael Diamond and Mark Robison from the engagements sessions they hosted in spring 2022 and comments submitted online.
View the report.

February 2022: Faculty Senate leadership ideas and suggested timeline

Faculty Senate leadership developed three examples on academic structures related to process, overlay, and affinity, and drafted a suggested timeline.

November 2021: Working group update

The Academic Organization Review Working Group’s report represents the collective efforts by 20 faculty members to reimagine our structures to build on our strengths and advance our shared vision in the strategic plan. The next step will be a period of campus engagement to evaluate and discuss the ideas in the report.

August 2021: Working group update

We hope everyone has had a great summer!
The Academic Organization Review Working Group has been busy this summer. But first, a quick review: On May 14, 2021, Chancellor Plowman emailed the campus community to share that a working group has been formed to take a high-level look at our academic organization, which is comprised of representatives from each college. We met for the first time on May 17 and have been working together throughout the summer.

Our work continues to be guided by five guiding principles:

  1. Creating a strong, coherent sense of identity, community, and focus through disciplinary alignment that enhances a sense of belonging for students, faculty, and staff
  2. Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration
  3. Allowing for agility and effective self-governance in curriculum revision and program creation
  4. Enabling greater college control over resource generation and allocation; and
  5. Empowering colleges to innovate in order to accomplish the five goals in the strategic vision

Our meetings have been filled with data to review, ideas to be challenged, and possibilities to be carefully considered. We have:

  • reviewed the university’s successes and challenges
  • learned what is projected for the future of higher education
  • explored our current colleges and considered the opportunities and obstacles they must address.
  • considered organizational structures of peer and aspirational universities
  • developed approaches for understanding our structure and the value it brings to the UT community and providing creative ideas to improve what we can achieve as scholars, teachers, and vibrant community members.

Our next step is to consider how our current organizational structure meets the five principles and imagine how we might fine-tune our organization to do an even better job of meeting those principles. When our work is done, it will serve as a starting point for all of you, the university community, to share your ideas as well. We wish everyone a wonderful start to the new semester!

June 2021: Working group update

The group met with Chancellor Plowman and Provost Zomchick on May 17, 2021 to kick off the initiative.  Since then, the group has met three times.  Bi-weekly meetings are scheduled through September 2021.

Preliminary efforts have focused on the following activities:

  • Confirm the process and approach to guide the review
  • Establish an informed understanding of the current situation
  • Understand future needs and implications of UTK’s strategic direction
  • Identify opportunities for organizational development and improvement
  • Evaluate current roadblocks and challenges to progress

The group will continue to focus on these topics through July.

A more structured plan for stakeholder engagement will be shared with the community in the future.

May 2021: Working group formed

In May 2021, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced a working group to examine the current organization of our academic colleges. This move is to ensure that we have the best structure in place to support the goals in UT’s strategic vision and carry the university into the future.