The University of Tennessee’s interim president Randy Boyd delivered his second State of the University Address on Feb. 14. He spoke of the successes over the past year and goals he has for the future. Students were able to listen via live stream.
The speech began with a brief overview of historical events in UT’s history, like becoming Tennessee’s land grant university and the creation of the UT Space Institute. Boyd also commemorated the acceptance of the first female and African American students to the university.
“In almost every measure, you’d have to say that the 1960’s was one of the most incredible decades in the history of the University of Tennessee,” Boyd said, “but I believe that this next decade could be even greater.”
He announced three initiatives to carry UT into the next decade. They corresponded with three aspects of the university’s mission: education, discovery and engagement.
To further access to education, Boyd announced a dedication to improve online classes. In order to accomplish this, every UT branch will need to share a program rather than work independently.
Additionally, he expressed that mental health resources will receive more attention. This is in part due to growing levels of mental illness on campus.
Lastly, Boyd spoke of ways to lessen student debt.
“It [college] is expensive as hell,” a UT student Lauren Chan said. “I think we should lower student debt, so we can live our lives after college.”
The main solution Boyd highlighted was the UT Promise. This initiative seeks to support students whose family income is less than $50,000, in hopes that students will have the ability to focus on their education without a financial burden.
“Student debt at the University of Tennessee is manageable,” Boyd said. “At the University of Tennessee system, 46% of the students that graduate, graduate with zero debt.”
Next on the agenda, Boyd wants to expand research done by UT with a partnership through Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He explained the need for research efforts to expand even more than they already are. The Department of Energy conveyed a demand for research in areas such as artificial intelligence and bioinformatics.
“They have identified the Knoxville area with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Labs as one of the best areas in the world, or the country, to be able to develop centers of excellence” Boyd said.
Working with the Department of Energy can bring in more funds and more jobs.
Boyd’s final point conveyed UT’s commitment to serving their state. He is working with the commissioner of tourism to bring tourists to rural areas. Support for the commissioner of education is done through UT’s high production of teachers.
Boyd also took time to address the growing opioid epidemic in Tennessee. His solution to combating this issue is for UT health sciences to work on creating new prescriptions and train more doctors on alternative procedures. Another solution is for the College of Social Work to study causes and warning signs of opioid addiction. Boyd hopes to push UT campuses, doctors and nonprofits to work together to fight this crisis.
Featured photo courtesy of The University of Tennessee System Office of the President
Edited by Donna Mitchell and Ashley Depew