The University of Tennessee at Martin Advisory Board held its inaugural meeting Jan. 9 on the UT Martin main campus. The board, created by the UT FOCUS Act passed by the state legislature in 2018, is the first of its kind and will provide localized oversight for the UT Martin campus. Gov. Bill Haslam attended the inaugural meeting.
“As you know, when we passed the UT FOCUS Act last legislative session, one of the key pieces of that was to shrink the board for the UT System from 26 members down to 11. … But I didn’t want to lose the fact that we are a system, and that system has very different pieces and parts to it, all of which play a very different and important role to making the system whole. I want to make certain that each campus has the attention that I feel like it deserves,” said Haslam in his opening remarks.
Haslam discussed the responsibilities of the new advisory board and charged board members to use insight from their areas of personal and professional experience to help UT Martin continue to grow and serve its student population in the best ways possible.
Agenda items for this first meeting included the election of a board chair. Art Sparks, of Union City, was selected by unanimous vote. Sparks is a partner with Alexander Thompson Arnold and is a 1976 UT Martin graduate. He will serve as chair until June 30, 2020.
Board members also passed bylaws to govern the board and elected a board secretary and student representative. Edie Gibson, executive assistant to the UT Martin chancellor, will serve as advisory board secretary until such time as the board should elect a new secretary. Devin Majors, a junior political science major from Nashville, will serve as student representative. Majors is UT Martin’s current Student Government Association president and will serve as a voting member of the board until June 30, 2019. Future student representatives will serve a full year beginning July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020.
UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver recommended an election procedure that would allow the UT Martin student body to have a formal voice in the selection of their representative in future years. The process would allow the student body to select three potential representatives by popular vote, who would then be interviewed by the chancellor, board chair and board faculty representative before a final name is presented to the board for approval. These procedures were passed by unanimous vote and will begin with the next student government election in April.
As designated by the UT FOCUS Act, the board consists of five members appointed by the governor, one faculty representative chosen by the UT Martin Faculty Senate and one student member elected by the board. Currently serving on the UT Martin Advisory Board are:
- Hal Bynum, of Sharon, Nutrien Ag Solutions Inc.
- Monice Hagler, of Memphis; The Hagler Law Group, PLLC, and Archway Title and Escrow, LLC; UT Martin ’75, UT Knoxville ‘78
- Art Sparks, of Union City, Alexander Thompson Arnold PLLC, UT Martin ’76, board chair
- Julia Wells, of Bells, The Pictsweet Company, UT Knoxville ‘61
- Chris Caldwell, professor of mathematics, Faculty Senate representative
- Devin Majors, junior, student representative
A fifth voting member will be appointed by the governor at a later date.
“I’m excited and encouraged about what this could mean for UT Martin, and I’m grateful for your being willing to serve,” said Haslam. “Like I said, it’s an important thing to be the first of anything, and you all will set the model for what this looks like for a long time to come. I appreciate you taking this on with responsibility and seriousness about the impact that you could have.”
During the meeting, Carver presented each board member with a piece of the handrail from the UT Martin Communications Building, which was built in 1934. This building is scheduled to be torn down later this year to make way for the new Latimer Engineering and Science Building on the south side of the university’s quadrangle.
“That building was here when we were established in 1927 as the UT Martin Junior College, and then in 1951 when we became the University of Tennessee at Martin Branch, and then in 1967 when we received full four-year university status,” said Carver. “So we thought, in moving forward, we would give you all a memento for your desks to signify where we’ve been, but also to signify progress.”
Future board meeting dates will be published at utm.edu/advisoryboard along with all agenda items and meeting minutes.
For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.
Additional photos from the board meeting can be found below.