As House Education Committee members gathered for their summer study, an item of significance on their agenda was a presentation by UT Knoxville Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis about recent accomplishments of the campus, its students, and faculty.
The presentation was made at the request of retiring House Education Instruction and Programs Committee Chair Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens). Forgety, who has been a strong advocate for higher education throughout his legislative career, sought the hearing as an opportunity for the campus to showcase “the rest of the story” to the legislature after a series of controversial issues played out during the legislative session.
“I have visited UT Knoxville on a couple of occasions. Like you, I have heard a great deal about the culture… [and] I had a number of preconceived notions about that culture. I gladly say today that I was positively wrong,” Forgety said to his fellow Committee members. “There are a number of exceptionally positive things happening at the state’s flagship university that I am exceptionally proud of. And in the spirit of fair play, I felt like if we were to discuss the things that we disagree with, we certainly need to focus on the positive things that are occurring.”
Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis showcased recent and projected undergraduate enrollment growth at UT Knoxville, noting that by growing the student body, more Tennesseans will be offered the opportunity for a world-class education. He also noted the caliber of students enrolling, with an average GPA of 3.96 and ACT score of 28. Over 85 percent of Tennessee applicants are offered a pathway to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Davis pointed to graduation and retention rates, where record metrics are expected this fall. UTK’s second-year retention rate is estimated to be 87 percent, with an estimated 72 percent six-year graduation rate.
Davis also cited record figures in competitively-awarded, externally-funded research, totaling over $204 million for FY2017. He highlighted notable research being done on campus including a major project in advanced manufacturing to benefit the U.S. Navy. He also brought attention to the economic impact of the campus—a whopping $1.7 billion. This represents a return on investment of $8 to every $1 invested in state appropriations.
All of these accomplishments signal momentum at the state’s flagship campus. Chairman Forgety also took time to ensure recognition of recent student-led support of the U.S. military on campus. Forgety recounted his experience attending the UTK College of Arts and Sciences 2018 commencement ceremony, where newly commissioned officers in the U.S. Military received an unprompted, unrehearsed standing ovation from their graduating peers. “As an old soldier, I was quite impressed with that. You know and I know that same culture does not exist in some of the postsecondary institutions in our great nation,” he stated.