University of Tennessee

Coordinates: 35°57′6″N 83°55′48″W / 35.95167°N 83.93000°W / 35.95167; -83.93000
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University of Tennessee
Other name
Tennessee (colloquially)
UT Knoxville
Former names
Blount College (1794–1807)
East Tennessee College (1807–1840)
East Tennessee University (1840–1879)
MottoVeritatem cognoscetis, et veritas vos liberabit. (Latin)
Motto in English
"You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free."
On seal: "Agriculture, Commerce"
TypePublic land-grant research university
EstablishedSeptember 10, 1794; 229 years ago (1794-09-10)
Parent institution
University of Tennessee system
Academic affiliations
Endowment$1.34 billion (2020)[1]
ChancellorDonde Plowman[2]
ProvostJohn Zomchick[3]
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students36,304 (Fall 2023)[5]
Undergraduates28,883 (Fall 2023)[5]
Postgraduates7,421 (Fall 2023)[5]
1212 Volunteer Blvd
, , ,
United States

35°57′6″N 83°55′48″W / 35.95167°N 83.93000°W / 35.95167; -83.93000
CampusMidsize city[9], 600 acres (240 ha)[4]
Total, 2,128 acres (861 ha)[6][7][8]
NewspaperThe Daily Beacon
ColorsOrange and white[10]
Nickname Volunteers & Lady Volunteers
Sporting affiliations
MascotSmokey XI

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (or The University of Tennessee; UT; UT Knoxville; or colloquially UTK or Tennessee) is a public land-grant research university in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state, it is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, with ten undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges. It hosts more than 30,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. It is classified among "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity".[11]

UT's ties to nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, established under UT President Andrew Holt and continued under the UT–Battelle partnership, allow for considerable research opportunities for faculty and students. Also affiliated with the university are the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, and the University of Tennessee Arboretum, which occupies 250 acres (100 ha) of nearby Oak Ridge. The university is a direct partner of the University of Tennessee Medical Center, which is one of two Level I trauma centers in East Tennessee.

Nine of its alumni have been selected as Rhodes Scholars and one alumnus, James M. Buchanan, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economics. UT is one of the oldest public universities in the United States and the oldest secular institution west of the Eastern Continental Divide.[12]


The Hill. The University of Tennessee was established in 1794, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the U.S.

Founding and early days[edit]

On September 10, 1794, two years before Tennessee became a state and at a meeting of the legislature of the Southwest Territory at Knoxville, Blount College (named for Governor William Blount) was established with a charter.[13] The new, non-sectarian, all-male, white-only institution struggled for 13 years with a small student body and faculty, and in 1807, the school was rechartered as East Tennessee College as a condition of receiving the proceeds from the settlement devised in the Compact of 1806. When Samuel Carrick, its first president and only faculty member, died in 1809, the school was temporarily closed until 1820. When it reopened, it began experiencing growing pains. Thomas Jefferson had previously recommended that the college leave its confining single building in the city and relocate to a place it could spread out. In the summer of 1826 (coincidentally, the year that Thomas Jefferson died), the trustees explored "Barbara Hill" (today known simply as The Hill) as a potential site and relocated there by 1828.[14] In 1840, the college was elevated to East Tennessee University (ETU). The school's status as a religiously non-affiliated institution of higher learning was unusual for the period of time in which it was chartered, and the school is generally recognized as the oldest such establishment of its kind west of the Appalachian Divide.[15]


Tennessee was a member of the Confederacy in 1862 when the Morrill Act was passed, providing for endowment funds from the sale of federal land to state agricultural colleges. On February 28, 1867, Congress passed a special Act making the State of Tennessee eligible to participate in the Morrill Act of 1862 program. In January 1869, the Reconstruction-era Tennessee state government designated ETU as Tennessee's recipient of the Land-Grant designation and funds.

As a land-grant institution, ETU was bound not to exclude any citizens of the state on the basis of color or race. To get around the requirement, the university chose to pay tuition for Black students to attend a separate institution, Fisk University.[16] The following year, in 1870, the Tennessee Constitution was ratified with a provision, Article XI § 12, that prohibited public schools from enrolling both Black and White students, a policy that remained in place until the 1950s.[16]

In accepting the land grant funds, the university would focus upon instructing students in military, agricultural, and mechanical subjects. Trustees soon approved the establishment of a medical program under the auspices of the Nashville School of Medicine and added advanced degree programs. East Tennessee University was renamed the University of Tennessee in 1879.[17]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, UT was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[18]

Civil rights era[edit]

Although the university was required to enroll students of any race or ethnicity as a public, land-grant institution, the Tennessee state constitution prohibited integrated education.[16] Only white students were accepted until 1952, when the first two Black students were allowed to enroll in a graduate program. Even after educational segregation was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, the university resisted desegregation. Black students could first enroll as undergraduates in 1961.[16]

African-American attorney Rita Sanders Geier filed suit against the state of Tennessee in 1968, alleging that its higher education system remained segregated despite a federal mandate ordering desegregation. She alleged that the opening of a University of Tennessee campus at Nashville would lead to the creation of another predominantly white institution that would strip resources from Tennessee State University, the only state-funded Historically black university. The suit was not settled until 2001, when the Geier Consent Decree resulted in the appropriation of $77 million in state funding to increase diversity among student and faculty populations among all Tennessee institutions of higher learning.[19]


Ayres Hall


UT Knoxville is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, which is governed by a 12-member board of trustees appointed by the Governor of Tennessee. The Board of Trustees appoints a president to oversee the operations of the system, four campuses, and two statewide institutes.[20] Randy Boyd is the current president following the retirement of Joseph A. DiPietro.[21] The president appoints, with Board of Trustees approval, chancellors for each campus. The Knoxville campus has been headed by Chancellor Donde Plowman since 2019.[22] Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick is responsible for the academic administration of the Knoxville campus and is a member of the Chancellor's Cabinet.[23]


On December 15, 2016, the UT Board of Trustees confirmed Beverly J. Davenport as the next Chancellor of the Knoxville campus, succeeding Jimmy Cheek. She was the first female Chancellor of the university.[24] On May 2, 2018, UT President Joe DiPietro fired Davenport, citing poor communication and interpersonal skills, among other reasons. The decision received criticism from the student body and faculty, as these reasons were also listed as Davenport's strenghts, and why DiPietro chose to hire her a little over one year earlier. She was rehired.[25]

University Medical Center[edit]

The University of Tennessee Medical Center, administered by University Health Systems and affiliated with the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, collaborates with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to attract and train the majority of its medical staff. Many doctors and nurses at UTMC have integrated careers as teachers and healthcare professionals, and the center promotes itself as the area's only academic, or "teaching hospital".

The University Medical Center is the primary referral center for East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and Southeastern Kentucky. It is one of three Level I trauma centers in the East Tennessee geographic region. Extensive expansion programs were embarked upon the 1990s and 2000s (decade) and saw the construction of two sprawling additions to the hospital's campus, a new Cancer Institute and a Heart Lung Vascular Institute. The new UT Medical Center Heart Hospital received its first patient on April 27, 2010.[26]

Tennessee Presidents Center[edit]

The University of Tennessee is the only university in the nation to have three presidential papers editing projects.[27] The university holds collections of the papers of all three U.S. presidents from Tennessee—Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.




Undergraduate admissions statistics
2023 entering
class[28]Change vs.

Admit rate40.5
(Neutral decrease −37.3)
Yield rate33.2
(Increase +6.7)
Test scores middle 50%
SAT Total1240–1400
ACT Composite26–31

The 2022 annual ranking of U.S. News & World Report categorizes UT as "more selective".[29] For the Class of 2025 (enrolled fall 2021), UT received 29,909 applications and accepted 22,413 (74.9%). Of those accepted, 5,948 enrolled, a yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend the university) of 26.5%. UT's 2023 freshman retention rate is 91.1%, with 73.5% going on to graduate from the university within six years.[28]

The enrolled first-year class of 2025 had the following standardized test scores: the middle 50% range (25th percentile – 75th percentile) of SAT scores was 1180–1340, while the middle 50% range of ACT scores was 25–31.[28]

Fall First-Time Freshman Statistics [28] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]
2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Applicants 49,790 36,290 29,909 25,423 21,764 20,457 18,872 17,583
Admits 20,165 24,826 22,413 19,867 17,160 15,912 14,526 13,578
Admit rate 40.5 68.4 74.9 78.1 78.8 77.8 77.0 77.2
Enrolled 6,694 6,846 5,948 5,512 5,254 5,215 4,895 4,851
Yield rate 33.2 27.6 26.5 27.7 30.6 32.8 33.7 35.7
ACT composite*
(out of 36)
26–31 25–30 25–31 25–31 24–30 25–31 25–30 24–30
SAT composite*
(out of 1600)
1240–1400 1180–1340 1140–1290 1140–1310 1150–1330 1140–1310
* middle 50% range


Academic rankings
U.S. News & World Report[36]103
Washington Monthly[37]106
WSJ / College Pulse[38]279
U.S. News & World Report[42]218

The University of Tennessee was tied for 46th among public universities and tied for 103rd among national universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report in its 2022 rankings.[43]

The University of Tennessee was ranked as the most LGBTQ-unfriendly university in the United States by The Princeton Review among all 388 institutions it surveyed for its 2023 rankings. The campus Pride Center has been defunded and vandalized several times.[44]


The total research endowment of the UT Knoxville campus was $127,983,213 for FY 2006. UT Knoxville boasts several faculty who are among the leading contributors to their fields, including Harry McSween, generally recognized as one of the world's leading experts in the study of meteorites and a member of the science team for Mars Pathfinder and later a co-investigator for the Mars Odyssey and Mars Exploration Rovers projects.[45] The university also hosts Barry T. Rouse, an international award-winning Distinguished Professor of Microbiology who has conducted multiple NIH-funded studies on the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and who is a leading researcher in his field.[46] UT's agricultural research programs are considered to be among the most accomplished in the nation, and the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment is home to the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Initiative, recognized by the United States Department of Energy as the "best local clean fuels program in America".[47]

Oak Ridge National Laboratory[edit]

The major hub of research at the University of Tennessee is Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), one of the largest government laboratories in the United States. ORNL is a major center of civilian and governmental research[48] and features two of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

Looking west along the Pedestrian Walkway

SECU: the SEC Academic Initiative[edit]

The University of Tennessee is a member of the SEC Academic Consortium, now called the SECU, a collaborative endeavor designed to promote research, scholarship and achievement amongst the member universities in the Southeastern Conference.[49][50]

Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy[edit]

The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy regularly holds events relative to the center's three major areas of focus which are Energy & Environment, Global Security, and Leadership & Government. According to the center's website, its missions is "to provide policy makers, citizens, scholars and students with the information and skills necessary to work effectively within our political system and to educate our local, state, national and global communities". The Institute for Nuclear Security publishes the International Journal of Nuclear Security. The journal encourages diversity in theoretical foundations, research methods, and approaches, asking contributors to analyze and include implications for policy and practice.[51]

Tennesseans and War Oral History Project

From August 29, 1984, to November 22, 2011, the University of Tennessee conducted the Tennesseans and War Oral History Project. The purpose of the project was to "uniquely capture the experiences and memories of veterans, including their lives before combat, motivations to enlist, personal experiences during the war, and their experiences readjusting to civilian life after".[52]

Other activities[edit]

In 2013, the University of Tennessee participated in the SEC Symposium in Atlanta which was organized and led by the University of Georgia and the UGA Bioenergy Systems Research Institute. The topic of the Symposium was titled, the "Impact of the Southeast in the World's Renewable Energy Future."[53]


Agricultural Campus[edit]

Through 21 departments, the Ag campus offers 11 undergraduate majors, 13 undergrad minors, 14 graduate programs, and veterinary medicine majors. The ag campus supports academics, research and community outreach.[54] The University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, nicknamed the "Body Farm", is located near the University of Tennessee Medical Center on Alcoa Highway (US 129). Founded by William M. Bass in 1972, the Body Farm endeavors to increase anthropological and forensic knowledge specifically related to the decomposition of the human body and is one of the leading centers for such research in the United States.[55]

Cherokee Research Campus[edit]

On March 16, 2009, the university broke ground on a 188-acre (76 ha) campus in downtown Knoxville that will be devoted to nanotechnology, neutron science, materials science, energy, climate studies, environmental science, and biomedical science.[56]

Campus master plan[edit]

UT College of Law

The university has implemented a 25-year (2001–2026) campus master plan that will facilitate a sweeping overhaul of campus design.[57] The plan is designed to make the campus more pedestrian-friendly by establishing large areas of open green space and relegating parking facilities to the periphery of the campus, and to increase the aesthetic appeal of the school by establishing uniform building design codes and by physically remodeling, restoring, and expanding existing academic, athletic, and housing facilities. Centrally located, iconic Ayres Hall underwent a massive upgrade as part of Phase 1 of the project, with work completed in 2011.[57]

View of Europa and the Bull at McClung Plaza

Space Institute[edit]

The University of Tennessee Space Institute, located in Tullahoma, TN, is an extension of the Knoxville campus supporting research and graduate studies in aerospace engineering and related fields. The Space Institute is home to various supersonic wind tunnels used by the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. This includes Mach 2, Mach 2.3, and Mach 4 facilities. A Mach 7 wind tunnel is also being constructed to support hypersonic flight research at the University of Tennessee. The Space Institute is also home to the Center of Laser Applications (CLA), a state center of excellence.

Student life[edit]

Student body[edit]

Student body composition as of Fall 2023.
Race and ethnicity[58] Total
White 76.7% 76.7
Black 4.2% 4.2
Hispanic 5.9% 5.9
Other[a] 5.9% 5.9
Asian 3.5% 3.5
Foreign national 3.6% 3.6
Economic diversity
Low-income[b] 24% 24
Affluent[c] 76% 76

In Fall 2023, the university enrolled 28,883 undergraduate and 7,421 graduate and professional students; 54.6% of students are female, 45.4% are male.[4] UT hosts students from all 50 U.S. states and over 90 foreign countries. 22,922 students come from Tennessee, and the next three most popular U.S. states are Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The top three home countries of international students are China, India, and Bangladesh.[59]


International House
The International House is a popular gathering place for visiting international students and delegations and University of Tennessee students who have previously or are currently interested in studying abroad through the Programs Abroad Office. A full kitchen, meeting rooms, and a library provide support for frequent cultural events ranging from salsa dance lessons and nation-themed culture nights to Peace Corps interest meetings.[60]
Black Cultural Center
The Frieson Black Cultural Center, or BCC, houses the Office of Minority Student Affairs and offers a student computer lab, free Spanish tutoring, and a textbook loan service for economically disadvantaged students. There is a small but well-stocked library featuring numerous works examining religious and minority issues, and the facility offers free use of its meeting rooms to campus organizations and their affiliates.[61]
Pride Center
Located in the new Student Union, the Pride Center opened in 2010. It aims to create a shared space for the LGBT community at the university. In 2016 Tennessee State Legislature called for an investigation into the Pride Center because of the way faculty used pronouns, resulting in the Pride Center losing its official status and center director Donna Braquet being fired from her position, though she remains a professor at the university. The center regained its official status in 2019.[62]
Campus Events Board
The Campus Events Board (CEB) is a student organization with nearly two hundred members that runs the majority of campus events, activities, and programs for the student body. CEB hosts around a hundred events per year and is consistently ranked as one of the best collegiate programming organizations in the nation. Examples include, lectures, concerts, raves, movies, art exhibitions, and dance performances. CEB also runs Culture Week.


The University of Tennessee has over 450 registered student organizations. These groups cater to a variety of interests and provide options for those interested in service, sports, arts, social activities, government, politics, cultural issues, and Greek societies.[63]

The university operates two radio stations: student-run The Rock (formerly the Torch)[64] (WUTK-FM 90.3 MHz) and National Public Radio affiliate WUOT-FM 91.9 MHz. The university's first radio station was on the AM frequency 850 kHz, a donation from Knoxville radio station WIVK-AM/FM. The Phoenix, a literary art magazine, is published in the fall and spring semesters and showcases student artistic creativity.

The Volunteer Channel

The Volunteer Channel (TVC) is the university's student run television station. TVC reaches nearly 7,000 UT students in residence halls and 100,000 residents in surrounding counties on Comcast Digital Channel 194.[65]

The Daily Beacon[edit]

The Daily Beacon is the editorially independent student newspaper of UT's campus. It began in 1906 as The Orange & White and became a staple on the campus landscape, publishing for 61 years. The Daily Beacon was established as its successor in 1965, taking over in spring 1967. It printed 10,000 daily copies weekly, one of the few daily collegiate newspapers in the United States, prior to moving predominantly online.[66] It now distributes 2,100 copies per week, releasing on Wednesdays, and produces daily online content about the campus and the surrounding area.[67]

Greek institutions[edit]

The University of Tennessee hosts roughly 20 sororities and 30 fraternities. Approximately 20% of undergraduate men and 30% of undergraduate women are active in Greek organizations.[68]