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Academic Structures: Working Group Updates

In May 2021, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced that a working group has been created 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.

Learn more about the group’s charge and membership.

The working group delivered its recommendations to the chancellor during the fall 2021 semester

Chancellor Plowman and Provost Zomchick shared an update on the academic structure evaluation goals and timeline on May 27, 2022. View the message.

Share your feedback

Feedback form

Faculty and staff are invited to share their feedback and ideas through the feedback form. We welcome your input and ideas for campus engagement.
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Previous engagement opportunities

  • The provost hosted open office hours 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.
  • Engagement meetings were held with the following groups in May-June 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.

View Feedback

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.

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.


Progress reports and information

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.