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Reflection Message from Dean Lee

Congratulations to the end of the spring 2023 semester! Thank you for your work teaching our students, encouraging their research and creative activities, and supporting them at each step of the way.

This Saturday, May 20, we will celebrate the Class of 2023. Hats will be tossed; tears will be shed; and expectations for the future will be high and top of mind for many. I always look forward to commencement, but this year is especially poignant for me. Saturday is the last time I will stand on stage with my colleagues and congratulate our graduates as dean of the college.

When I arrived on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in January 2012, I was excited to step into the role of dean for the College of Arts and Sciences – the most diverse college on campus. In the past 11 years, we’ve grown our undergraduate population, invested in faculty and graduate students, increased research funding and philanthropic support, and brought several buildings online.

Our undergraduate population grew from 8,000 majors and minors to 10,500. The most spectacular growth is in the number of minors. About 40% of our minors are students in other colleges, which makes me happy and speaks to the legacy of a liberal arts education – its sensibilities and training that all students, including those in professional colleges, enjoy and find useful.

In response to the growth of undergraduates across the campus, we hired more faculty and have more graduate students who teach as part of their path to an advanced degree. We have new buildings and several renovated spaces that improve our students’ experiences. These state-of-the-art facilities impact faculty research productivity as well, which is evident in the fact that our research funding proposals have tripled and new awards have increased from $15 million to nearly $40 million per year.

Thanks to our advancement team and donors, we moved from raising about $7 million a year in philanthropy funding to more than $30 million.

I am proud of the expansion of programs for students, including adding programs like sustainability, neuroscience, global studies and cinema studies to our catalogue and elevating our Africana studies program to its own department. We have worked hard to create an inclusive environment that welcomes and supports students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds and situations.

As I reflect on my 11+ years as dean, I am proud of the work we have done. I know there is plenty more to do and I wish you all the best as you move into the divisional structure pilot. I leave the college in good hands and I am excited to see what the future brings.

Theresa M. Lee
Herbert Family Dean
College of Arts and Sciences