On a sunny, warm day, the brightness followed Chancellor-elect Donde Plowman, as administrators, faculty and students welcomed the ninth chancellor to UT.
“I'm excited to get back to Rocky Top,” Plowman said. “Now is time for all of us—faculty, staff, students and the leadership team—to roll up our sleeves and get to work, to getting this great campus to the next level and serve this state in even more profound ways.”
Previously, Plowman held a faculty position at UTK in the Haslam College of Business where she led the management department from 2007 to 2010, serving as department head for two years.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Plowman operates as the second administrative position for the campus and oversees academic affairs, student affairs, the Office of Research Economic Development and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
She served for more than six years as the James Jr. and Susan Stuart Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before becoming executive vice chancellor. During Plowman's time at the university, the college increased enrollment by 35% in six years, added 70 new faculty and created new academic programs, including the College of Business Honors Academy, the Clifton Strengths Institute and other student services.
Plowman was at the forefront of a fundraising campaign that raised nearly $150 million, including $84 million for a new building that opened in August 2017. Also during that time, the college moved rankings from No. 72 to No. 45 in the US News & World Report rankings of undergraduate business programs.
Plowman was confirmed to replace Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis on Friday, May 3, after a special Board of Trustees meeting. When looking at candidates, Board of Trustees Chair John Compton said he considered the three c's: competency, character and culture.
“In all three of those she got an A plus,” Compton said. “Her character and values of servant leadership will serve us well.”
In addressing the UT community, Plowman emphasized recent accomplishments by the university, such as high graduation rates, first-year retention rates, record year of Fulbright scholars, record year of fundraising and a second Rhode Scholar in five years. Plowman also shared her interests in further relationships, such as with the Oak Ridge National Library.
“I am excited to get here and work on strengthening those relationships further. We have a great partnership with the Oak Ridge National Lab that allows us to do work that advances science and technology and literally improves the world,” Plowman said. “Let's leverage that to touch more lives and provide even greater service.”
Continuing a level of greater service, Plowman added that she'd like to build on the $1.7 billion economic impact UT has on the state.
“For me, being a Volunteer means serving our communities and bearing the torch for others. It means committing to excellence for our students, our faculty, our staff and our alumni, and for the people of Tennessee,” Plowman said. “We're going to think big and accomplish great things together throughout this campus and for our state.”
Growing up as a Methodist minister's kid, Plowman said she's humbled by her selection, knowing that her parents “would be very excited to know about this.”
“I am fully aware of how fortunate I am to be here. I've had amazing opportunities in my lifetime and in my career and every time there has been an opportunity, I've tried very hard to make the most of it and I'm proud of the things I have been able to accomplish,” Plowman said. “There's still plenty of things that I wish I had done, but I'm thrilled about what will happen here.”
Plowman's first day will be July 1.