Significant Accomplishments in the College This Year

HG: With resources tight and activity-paring in the offing, it would seem difficult to launch any new programs or initiatives, yet you are quoted as saying you still are determined to advance excellence within the college. Can you tell us about any initiatives launched or success stories since the last issue of Higher Ground?

Dean Bursten talking with international studentsBB: There is a lot of unrecognized excellence in both our university and our college. One of my goals has been to increase external recognition of our faculty and students. I think we need to take pride in our excellence, particularly the accomplishments of our faculty.

In 2008 the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, had 10 new fellows of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and that was the fourth-highest number in the nation. We trailed only the University of California system, the University of Illinois, and Ohio State University. Proudly for us, all 10 of UT Knoxville’s 2008 AAAS Fellows are from the College of Arts and Sciences. That is, in part, recognition of how wonderful our faculty is, but it also suggests that they have not gotten the recognition they deserve in the past.

Let me mention some other similar recent successes.

Over the past 5 years, our humanities faculty has been very competitive for prestigious national fellowships, and we rank sixth nationally in the number of faculty members receiving fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, trailing only Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, Ohio State, Harvard, and Princeton. We are very, very proud of that accomplishment.

On the science front, we bested the competition from 18 of the nation’s most prestigious research institutions to win a $16-million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. NIMBioS is led by Professor Lou Gross, who is doubly ours, with appointments in two departments of the college—ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics.

Ramping up our graduate programs is another of my more-challenging goals. Due to the hard work of our faculty, UT Knoxville has two IGERT [Integrative Graduate Education for Research and Training] programs funded by the National Science Foundation. One is based in Arts and Sciences and directed by Professor Cynthia Peterson of our Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology. The other is actually centered in the College of Engineering, with a lot of contributions from our faculty.

IGERT programs specifically fund graduate students, so these two should attract some of the nation’s best and brightest graduate students to our research and help us meet our goal of training the nation’s next generation of scientists. The faculty’s success in attracting these grants gives us good opportunities to advance our graduate program without spending our own operating budget.

Our undergraduate students are also accomplishing great things. This year four UT Knoxville students have been honored by the Barry S. Goldwater Foundation. Brad O’Dell, Jamie Troupe, and Casey Williams were named 2008 Goldwater Scholars [named after the late former senator Barry Goldwater], and Elizabeth Jacobs was named a Goldwater Honorable Mention. All four students are in the College Scholars Program, an interdisciplinary honors program in the College of Arts and Sciences; O’Dell, Troupe, and Williams are also in the Chancellor’s Honors Program. There are in-depth articles about these students in this edition of Higher Ground.

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