Making an Impact

Robert Hinde poses for an outdoor photo on campus

It is a great time to be a Tennessee Volunteer and if you’ve heard from UT Chancellor Donde Plowman, you probably know we are a “university on the rise!” I am proud to report that demand for UT academic programs is higher than ever before, which is reflected in the record number of applications and enrolled students for the 2024-25 academic year. In our college, we are excited to introduce several new academic programs that support our role as a vibrant center for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, scholarship, and creative activity across the arts and humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences. 

New Academic Programming

As part of our partnership with the UT College of Law to stand up the new Appalachian Justice Research Center (AJRC), we are pairing students and faculty from our Justice Studies interdisciplinary program with faculty from the AJRC to conduct field work aimed at solving difficult societal problems in Appalachia, such as obesity, the opioid crisis, and bringing good-paying green jobs to the area.

Housed in our newly-named Denbo Center for the Humanities and the Arts, our digital humanities program is at the intersection of computational science, big data, and the humanities. Projects range from digitization of archival material for broader access and using artificial intelligence to analyze texts and images to 3D mapping of archeological sites and educational applications of new technologies such as artificial reality. We are excited to bring humanities disciplines into conversation with the digital world to open new ways of doing humanities research.

Other new academic programs we are excited to start in the fall include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in actuarial sciences, which aims to help fill a workplace need for risk assessment in several professions.
  • Computational social sciences, which will teach students how to harness big data to help make life and lives better.
  • Interdisciplinary program in science, technology, health, and society, which will help our students learn about the intersections of these disciplines and provides opportunities for them to engage with our faculty on multidisciplinary research projects across campus. 

Faculty Research Excellence

We are excited to have several of our faculty involved in two research initiatives supported by the strong partnership we have with Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL). College of Arts and Sciences faculty in the natural sciences and mathematics division are prominent in a project to develop next-generation radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine. 

Faculty from our natural sciences and mathematics and social sciences divisions will join a project powering the circular bioeconomy, which emphasizes the use of renewable natural resources and minimizing waste to stimulate economic growth.

Undergraduate Student Achievements

Our undergraduate students made an impact this year by participating in the college’s inaugural undergraduate research symposium (ASUReS), which celebrated research, scholarship, and creative activity by our students. 

Three of the seven students named Torchbearers – the university’s highest student honor – are from our college. Congratulations to Jack Duncan, Sarah Lange, and Harrison Van Eaton! 

Harrison Wade was named a Goldwater Scholar, which is regarded as the most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarship in the United States. Calista Boyd and Jerry Custalow received Boren Awards, which provide funding for language and cultural study in countries critical to the security of the U.S.

Our students have also received Fulbright awards, graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation, and Critical Language Scholarships from the United States Department of State. We are extremely proud of our students and look forward to watching them take on the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s world and make an impact in their geographic and professional communities. 

Access to Education

You may have heard of the historic partnership between UT and Arizona State University to expand access to higher education. This groundbreaking initiative will help us fulfill our land-grant mission by reaching thousands of Tennessee residents who do not have a college degree or have some college credit and want to complete their degree at UT. Here in the College of Arts and Sciences, we were ready with our interdisciplinary online degree completion programs we launched a few years ago. Now, we are working to lift up other fully online programs for place-bound adult learners. Follow us on our new LinkedIn platform to stay up-to-date on our online program developments!

While all this growth means great things for our college, UT, and the state of Tennessee, we do have some growing pains in our campus infrastructure. For our college, this means bringing the Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre and our chemistry building into the 21st century.

In closing, I hope you enjoy the stories we share in this Impact edition of Higher Ground. Please keep in touch with us on social media or drop us a line and share your successes. We are proud to have as you part of our College of Arts and Sciences community. Your financial support helps us make an impact on the lives of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the lives of people throughout Tennessee and beyond our borders. Thank you. 


Robert Hinde
Interim Executive Dean