The Position


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is Tennessee’s land-grant, flagship university and premier public research institution. As the first public university chartered west of the Appalachian Divide, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has been engaging students in research and scholarship for 225 years. Enrolling more than 29,000 students, including 23,000 undergraduates, the university has over 360 undergraduate and 530 graduate programs across 11 colleges. UT Knoxville is part of the University of Tennessee System, included in the highest Carnegie Classification, and is immersed in the Knoxville metropolitan area, which consists of approximately 883,000 residents.


The University of Tennessee is looking for a Vice Chancellor for Student Life who will work to:

  • Articulate a vision for Student Life that enables a flagship campus to deliver inspiring programs and student support for the next generation of Tennessee leaders;
  • Maintain a proactive, highly visible, well-respected, and established leadership presence on and off campus that is credible, collegial, and highly effective;
  • Establish trust with students such that they indicate a high level of satisfaction with their co-curricular experience as reported on institutional survey instruments;
  • Establish a welcoming tone that invites collaboration and encourages students and others throughout the campus community to share in the responsibility for creating a vibrant campus community and seamless learning environment;
  • Develop strong relationships with other senior administrators, faculty, and staff throughout the university—particularly among colleagues in academic affairs and athletics—and these relationships are producing valuable collaborations that support student success and institutional strategic goals;
  • Assess the skills and knowledge of the staff, develop a strong sense of teamwork among staff, and build working relationships that emphasize an engaging and collaborative work environment; and
  • Lead a strong, highly functioning, well-regarded, and resilient team that works with synergy and shared purpose, readily collaborating across departmental and division lines with a demonstrated commitment to student success.


Reporting to the chancellor, the vice chancellor for student life serves as the chief student advocate within the university community. The person in this position supports the development, assessment, and improvement of student life and experiences, which meet and support the university’s mission and strategic plan. The vice chancellor serves as the chief spokesperson for the chancellor on matters related to student life, out-of-classroom learning, and student programming. The vice chancellor collaborates with members of the chancellor’s senior leadership team and other leadership across campus to support student success. The position plays a vital role in developing and implementing short- and long-term organizational goals, objectives, strategic plans, policies, and operating procedures for the division of student life. The successful candidate will be skilled at responding to the changing needs and requirements of the university’s student community and enhancing the university’s viability for student learning and development, as well as student recruitment and retention. The University of Tennessee seeks candidates who have the ability to contribute in meaningful ways to the diversity and intercultural goals of the university.

The vice chancellor oversees an annual budget of approximately $60 million and provides leadership to approximately 500 full-time staff with six direct reports: an associate vice chancellor; three assistant vice chancellors; a coordinator of special projects; and an administrative specialist.

The division of student life consists of the following functional areas: center for health education and wellness; student disability services; student conduct and community standards; student counseling center; student health center; family programs; recreational sports; student life assessment and strategic initiatives; student life communications; student union; university housing; dean of students; center for leadership and service; center for student engagement; multicultural student life; pride center; sorority and fraternity life; student government association; student media; student life technology services; budget and finance; emergency preparedness; facilities planning; and student life human resources/personnel.

Other key responsibilities:

  • Develop partnerships with private and public entities as well as key stakeholders to support the university’s mission and strategic objectives;
  • Take a leadership role in promoting and obtaining grants and scholarships;
  • Manage the development and submission of internal and external reports, assessment and evaluation of programs, and utilize analytical results and data to design, develop, and implement innovative and effective student recruitment and retention programs and procedures responsive to student and community requirements;
  • Ensure the programs of the division of student life fulfill the academic mission of the university and are in compliance with federal and state regulations and reporting requirements;
  • Develop and manage the division of student life’s resources, budgets, and strategic projections of program and staffing requirements and identification and projection of long- and short-range requirements for budget preparation purposes;
  • Review, investigate, and analyze allegations of violation of the student conduct code at the pre‐disciplinary hearing stage, which includes initiating charges, referring cases to the student conduct committee and presenting the case, as appropriate, at disciplinary hearings.


In transitioning to the University of Tennessee the vice chancellor for student life may encounter a number of opportunities and challenges as shared by university stakeholders.

  • University stakeholders repeatedly noted that the campus has an institutional culture that emphasizes a strong sense of team and inclusion, mutual support, accessibility, approachability, and a highly collaborative approach to work. There is a strong work ethic and positive energy—in large part due to a shared commitment to student success. The vice chancellor will find a peer group and colleagues that are welcoming, promote open communication, emphasize an orientation toward service, and share a desire for a progressive and forward-thinking professional.
  • There is a strong desire for the new vice chancellor to strengthen ties with academic colleagues and emphasize the educational mission of the university. The provost and senior vice chancellor is committed to a strong and collaborative relationship with the student life division.
  • Stakeholders shared that there is a desire for increased focus on student mental health. Some of this focus recognizes national trends and a general emphasis on supporting students facing personal or academic challenges, and some of the attention stems from student suicides over the past several years and renewed concentration on providing education and support structures at UT.
  • The University of Tennessee is deeply committed to cultural and ethnic diversity, support of international students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, first-generation students, veterans, and other underrepresented populations and encourages a culture of equity, inclusion, and social justice. The vice chancellor and divisional staff need to continue to develop programs and services that align with those broader institutional characteristics and values. The vice chancellor is expected to continually look for ways to create a welcoming and inclusive campus environment.
  • As the vice chancellor transitions into the position, it will be very important to develop a strong sense of staff “team” and build working relationships that emphasize a collaborative work environment. Transparency, communication, and flow of information were themes that repeatedly arose. Generally speaking, senior-level staff within the division are strong and competent, and campus stakeholders noted that this will allow delegation of general management responsibilities so that the new vice chancellor will be able to focus more meaningfully on strategic initiatives.
  • Several stakeholders mentioned the professional development of staff. The vice chancellor needs to emphasize professional development of staff to enhance broader leadership skills, promote dialog regarding trends and best practices, and encourage participation in professional associations.
  • Campus stakeholders shared that UT is a wonderful place to work, that the students are bright and engaging, faculty and staff are student-focused and connected across the institution, and there is a tremendous amount of cooperative support among university leadership.


The successful candidate will be a strong leader who possesses a master’s degree and progressively responsible work experience related to the above-described duties. Qualified candidates possessing a doctoral degree, terminal degree, or a strong combination of advanced education and relevant experience in higher education are strongly encouraged to apply. The ideal candidate will have deep and broad knowledge of student development; vision and philosophy for defining excellence in student life; significant senior-level professional experience in higher education student life/student affairs at a large research university; significant experience in managing large staff and budgetary resources; and experience leading and working collaboratively with a broad array of internal and external constituents. The ideal candidate will be a recognized national leader with a demonstrated commitment to diversity, including student recruitment, retention, graduation, and advocacy. The successful candidate must also possess deep experience and knowledge of current trends in student life/student affairs management and implementation of best practices.

Additionally, various stakeholders identified a number of characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities as important attributes of the vice chancellor for student life.

  • Exhibit qualities of emotional maturity, genuineness, self-confidence, common sense, judgment, fairness, creativity, discretion, decisiveness, political savvy, diplomacy, tact, resiliency, adaptability, courage of convictions, and tolerance for ambiguity;
  • Someone with an even temperament who is student-centered, mission-driven, and brings passion, high energy, and enthusiasm for moving the institution forward;
  • Someone who will bring a strong and insightful voice to the chancellor’s cabinet with the ability to advocate for divisional and student needs within the context of broader institutional goals but also diplomatically express dissent when appropriate;
  • Expertise in creating partnerships with a broad array of internal and external university constituents, including students, faculty, staff, parents, and the public;
  • Someone who is culturally competent, will be a voice for diversity, and has a commitment to developing inclusive communities across the campus;
  • A sense of patience and diplomacy with a broad array of constituents who have varying perspectives and the ability to be both firm and flexible;
  • Someone who is professionally active and encourages professional development in her or his staff;
  • Strong understanding of contemporary student issues and values and the ability to develop a natural rapport with students and student leaders;
  • An advocate for positive, progressive change and the skill to manage change through collaborative partnerships;
  • A strong record of student affairs/academic affairs collaboration and the ability to establish credibility with faculty;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of judicial affairs, legal issues, and crisis/emergency management;
  • Understanding of student mental health issues, as well as knowledge of preventive and wellness health practices in the collegiate population;
  • Ability to engage faculty in the life of students and support a strong link between academic affairs and student affairs;
  • A good listener, open to feedback, and an open-minded, team-oriented leader;
  • Ability to disagree without being confrontational;
  • Excellent negotiation skills, self-confidence, and a persuasive speaking style;
  • Strong academic values, good judgment, a sense of “fun” with the job, and the ability to be motivational as well as purposeful; and
  • The ability and demeanor to manage stressful or difficult situations calmly and with tact.


Details about the Division of Student Life

The Division of Student Life is charged with improving student life at the University of Tennessee by providing students with an engaging and enlightening atmosphere for living and learning. Each student life department supports the university’s academic mission through strong partnerships with university programs and an uncompromising respect for diversity.

The mission of the division is to foster the intellectual, cultural, social, and emotional development of students by providing a climate conducive to learning and personal growth, enabling them to become fully productive members of a global community.

Student Life consists of the following departments and centers:

Assessment and Strategic Initiatives

The Office of Assessment and Strategic Initiatives facilitates assessment, evaluation, planning, and other research activities that actively contribute to the culture of evidence within the division.

Center for Health Education and Wellness

The Center for Health Education and Wellness develops campaigns and programming to address safety, health, and wellness issues.

Jones Center for Leadership and Service

The Jones Center for Leadership and Service educates and engages all students to lead and serve the global community.

Center for Student Engagement

The Center for Student Engagement contributes to the holistic education of all students by providing programs, resources, and leadership opportunities.

Dean of Students

The Dean of Students Office is student centered and grounded on the values of service, engagement, connection, leadership, support, civility, advocacy, and excellence.

Family Programs

The Office of Family Programs helps all members of the Volunteer Family from the time their student is admitted to the university until they graduate. It provides communications and engaging programs to help families stay connected with their student’s college experience.

Multicultural Student Life

Multicultural Student Life contributes to an inclusive learning environment by enhancing institutional efforts in retaining and graduating students prepared for a diverse global society.

Pride Center

As a physical symbol of UT’s commitment to diversity, the Pride Center provides support, resources, and a community space for UT’s LGBTQIA+ and ally students, faculty, and staff, as well as anyone who seeks to learn about topics related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.


RecSports serves the university community by providing quality programs and facilities for almost any sport or recreational pursuit.

Sorority and Fraternity Life

Sorority and Fraternity Life enriches students’ life experiences and fosters the values that are established through joining a Greek organization.

Student Conduct and Community Standards

The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards advocates for the individual rights and responsibilities of students.

Student Counseling Center

The Student Counseling Center is the university’s primary facility for personal counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological outreach and consultation services.

Student Disability Services

Student Disability Services is dedicated to opening doors of equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities.

Student Government Association

The Student Government Association exists to provide the student body with a means to deal with the affairs of students and as a forum for the expression of student views concerning student life within the university.

Student Health Center

The Student Health Center provides a full range of medical services to UT students.

Student Media

The Office of Student Media benefits the university community through publication of quality student media, including the Daily Beacon newspaper.

Student Union

The new Student Union provides the campus community with quality services and facilities, a sense of place, and a site for student development and engagement.

University Housing

University Housing provides an on-campus living experience, cultivating innovative leadership opportunities, positive learning experiences, and an appreciation of university traditions.

Organizational Chart for the Division of Student Life

Institution & Location

About the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Founded as Blount College in 1794 in the Southwest Territory, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is celebrating its 225th anniversary.

As the state’s flagship land-grant university, the university’s mission includes providing all Tennesseans access to a world-class education, conducting research that improves the lives of Tennesseans, and connecting with and lifting up communities across the state.

UT Knoxville includes the UT Institute of Agriculture and the UT Space Institute. While UT Knoxville and the UT Institute of Agriculture have always had a close relationship that included adjacent campuses and shared faculty and staff within the Herbert College of Agriculture. In July 2019, the UT System announced the Institute of Agriculture would once again become part UT Knoxville, a transition that is currently underway. UT Knoxville also oversees the UT Space Institute, a graduate education and research campus founded in 1964 and located in Tullahoma, Tennessee, adjacent to the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

About 80 percent of the university’s undergraduate student body comes from Tennessee. About 22 percent identify as first-generation college students and 27 percent are Pell-eligible. This fall, the university will offer a new scholarship, called UT Promise, that provides tuition and fees to Tennessee students with a family income of less than $50,000.

The university has been steadily increasing its enrollment in recent years, and added another record freshman class of 5,254 students this past fall. UT Knoxville intends to continue its enrollment growth and is placing even greater emphasis on student success. The university has a graduation rate of 72 percent and retention rate of 87 percent, the highest among public universities in the state. To help continue its upward trajectory, the university recently created a position for and hired a new vice provost for student success.

As a large, public research institution, UT Knoxville offers students a wide range of opportunities to enrich their education outside the classroom. UT has more than 500 registered student organizations and more than 1,350 students studied abroad last year. The Jones Center for Leadership and Service has helped students log more than 600,000 volunteer hours since it opened in 2012. UT Knoxville has also seen exceptional growth in undergraduate research, with more than 20 percent of students participating in research.

In 2018, UT Knoxville reported a record $260 million in research expenditures and UT Institute of Agriculture reported about $70 million, for a combined $330 million. UT Knoxville has a unique and fruitful relationship with Oak Ridge National Lab, the U.S. Department of Energy’s premier national laboratory.

The university supports communities across the state through UT Extension, which has agents in all 95 Tennessee counties and runs the state’s 4-H program, one of the largest 4-H programs in the country. UT Knoxville also promotes community engagement through events and programs at the McClung Museum, Clarence Brown Theatre and UT Athletics. UT Knoxville has a $1.7 billion impact on the state’s economy every year and generates about $166 million in state and local tax revenue.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is part of the UT System, which was formed in 1968 and is comprised of campuses at KnoxvilleChattanooga, and Martin; the Health Science Center at Memphis; and Institute for Public Service.

The UT System has a presence in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Through the combined force of education, research and outreach, the university system serves students, business and industry, schools, governments, organizations and citizens statewide.

UT Knoxville Leadership

Dr. Donde Plowman – Chancellor

Donde Plowman became the ninth chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on July 1, 2019.

She returned to Rocky Top after nine years at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where she served most recently as executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. In that role, she oversaw academic affairs, student affairs, the Office of Research and Economic Development, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She earlier served for more than six years as the James Jr. and Susan Stuart Dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration.

Before going to Nebraska, Plowman was on the management faculty in UT’s Haslam College of Business, where she served for two years as head of the Department of Management. She began her academic career at the University of Texas at San Antonio as an assistant professor of management and advanced to the position of professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research, where she was responsible for the creation of the university’s doctoral degree in business.

Plowman has a doctorate in strategic management from the University of Texas at Austin, an undergraduate degree with a major in English from Southern Methodist University, and an MEd in higher education administration from the University of North Texas.

Plowman is married to Dennis Duchon, a former professor of management and department chair at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She has two grown sons.

Mission, Vision, and Volunteer Values


The primary mission of the University of Tennessee is to move forward the frontiers of human knowledge and enrich and elevate the citizens of the state of Tennessee, the nation, and the world. As the preeminent research-based land-grant university in the state, UT embodies the spirit of excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, creative activity, outreach, and engagement attained by the nation’s finest public research institutions.

UT’s Carnegie Classification is very high research activity (Doctoral Universities R1 category). Most undergraduates are full-time, and admission is selective with a fairly low transfer-in rate. Admission to graduate and professional programs is also competitive. Graduate offerings include master’s, doctoral, and professional programs that focus both on research and practice. Nationally ranked programs, as well as our partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are among UT’s unique characteristics.


We seek to establish the University of Tennessee as a top-tier public research university. Inherent in this vision is an acknowledgment that UT is currently a premier institution. Our vision reflects a desire to contribute to the legacy of the university and its longstanding tradition of excellence. Our journey embraces our Volunteer identity and builds on the strengths that differentiate us from our peers. Our success will depend on a sustained commitment to improvement as part of our culture.

Volunteer Values

Our culture is guided by adherence to core values that define the Volunteer spirit and permeate who we are, what we do, and our approach to living and learning at UT and beyond.

Seeking Knowledge. The Volunteer spirit is intelligent, curious, and honors freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas. This type of inquiry encourages intellectual growth, a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, and a sharing of this knowledge, as embodied by the Torchbearer.

Leading with Innovation and Integrity. We know that solutions to modern problems arise through an understanding and application of existing data but also through creative thinking. Volunteers value character and integrity. The best leaders foster ethical and professional behavior such as open dialogue, transparency, and accountability within their groups.

Advancing Diversity and Inclusion. The Volunteer community encompasses faculty, staff, students, and alumni of different cultures and backgrounds. Respecting the contributions and strengths of each individual is integral to teamwork and to fostering a culture of inclusive excellence.

Engaging Locally and Globally. Volunteers get involved. Whether acting within our local and extended communities or embracing global challenges, the UT community strives to make a difference.

Embracing Responsible Stewardship of Resources. Sustainability of resources, whether in terms of financial resources, infrastructure, or the environment, is key to a healthy institution. Practicing these values at UT builds a lifelong respect for managing resources responsibly.

Strategic Vision

Chancellor Plowman is launching a campus-wide visioning process in February 2020. The visioning process will include input from across campus, the community and the state and will be followed by a strategic planning process.

Currently, the Vol Vision 2020 is the strategic plan for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

It focuses on six priority areas: undergraduate education; graduate education; faculty; research, scholarship, creative activity, and engagement; resources and infrastructure; and diversity and inclusion. It also emphasizes the Volunteer Difference—the unique strengths that set us apart from our peers.

To read the current Vol Vision 2020 strategic plan:

A new website will be established in early 2020 to track the progress of the strategic visioning process.

Organizational Chart for the Chancellor’s Cabinet

Chancellor’s Cabinet

About Knoxville, Tennessee

UT’s 910-acre campus is situated in the heart of Knoxville, population 187,000. Knoxville is a thriving modern city with small-town charm, known for its access to outdoor adventure and a downtown with a diverse music scene and more than 90 restaurants within one square mile. U.S. News and World Report lists Knoxville among the top 100 places to live.

Knoxville is home to major businesses and innovators, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the headquarters of Discovery Communications, Regal Entertainment Group and Pilot Flying J.

Knoxville’s historic and revitalized downtown hosts events that bring in thousands of visitors each year. The region’s rich and progressive music scene features everything from local hip-hop concerts at shoebox-sized clubs to mainstream artists at the 700-seat Bijou Theatre and the historic 1,000-seat Tennessee Theatre. Restaurants, pubs, clubs, eclectic shopping, an outdoor farmers’ market, street festivals, the Sunsphere, art galleries, history collections, and museums like UT’s Downtown Gallery are all just a few short blocks from campus.

Knoxville and the surrounding East Tennessee region are the perfect places to spend a day outdoors. The Urban Wilderness, just south of downtown, boasts 1,000 forested acres and more than 50 miles of trail connecting multiple parks and cultural sites. Lakes and rivers wind through Knoxville, and more than 100 miles of paved greenway trails cover the city, making it an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. It’s easy to plan a day hike or an afternoon of biking, kayaking, or boating. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just 45 minutes away and offers more than 800 miles of maintained hiking trails and beautiful scenery.

Volunteer pride runs deep throughout East Tennessee and beyond, and devoted Vols fans follow our teams in every part of the state. Saturday home football games can draw more than 100,000 fans from all over the nation to campus to cheer on the Vols at Neyland Stadium. With 18 men’s and women’s competitive team sports, you’ll almost always find a meet, match, or game to catch on campus. You can also take advantage of Knoxville Ice Bears professional hockey games and Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball in venues just a short drive from campus.

Knoxville is conveniently located in the upper south. With two major interstates—Interstate 75 and Interstate 40—running through the city, Knoxville is located within a day’s drive of nearly half the U.S. population.  Many airlines offer low-cost flights from McGhee Tyson Airport to beaches in the Southeast and cities in the West.

Benefits Overview

As an employee of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, you have the following benefits, among others, available to you:

  • Health plans
  • Dental plans
  • Vision plans
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Educational assistance and fee waiver
  • Disability insurance
  • Longevity pay
  • Sick leave bank
  • Workers compensation
  • Discounts
  • Paid leave
  • Employee assistance program

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Quincy Martin III at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville website at

All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment and admission without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, veteran status, and parental status, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law. In accordance with the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the University of Tennessee affirmatively states that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or disability in its education programs and activities, and this policy extends to employment by the university. Inquiries and charges of violation of Title VI (race, color, and national origin), Title IX (sex), Section 504 (disability), the ADA (disability), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (age), sexual orientation, or veteran status should be directed to the Office of Equity and Diversity, 1840 Melrose Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996-3560, telephone 865-974-2498. Requests for accommodation of a disability should be directed to the ADA Coordinator at the Office of Equity and Diversity.