University of Tennessee System Interim President Randy Boyd is shown giving his second State of the University address on the UT Knoxville campus Feb. 14.

UT System Interim President calls for UT Promise mentors

MARTIN, Tenn. – University of Tennessee System Interim President Randy Boyd delivered his second State of the University address Feb. 14 at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the UT Knoxville campus. During his address, he reflected upon his first year in office, laid out his goals for 2020 and announced a new aspect of the UT Promise scholarship.

UT Promise, first announced in March 2019, is the UT System’s new undergraduate scholarship program guaranteeing free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee residents attending UT’s campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis. To date, the UT Promise has garnered more than 7,000 applications and will welcome its first class of students in fall 2020.

“As the land-grant university, we don’t want to measure ourselves by who we exclude; we want to measure ourselves by who we include,” said Boyd.

As part of the program, UT Promise students will be paired with mentors who help guide students through the transition to university life and beyond. Boyd was the first to sign up as a UT Promise mentor, with some of the UT chancellors participating as well.

“I am excited to serve as a UT Promise mentor because I believe this is one of the greatest aspects of the UT Promise scholarship,” said Boyd. “Having the experience to interact with professors, chancellors, community leaders, alumni and more is invaluable to our students in preparing them for their lives during their college years and beyond.”

Mentors will be paired with two to five students and will spend one hour per month with their mentees. Mentors are asked to serve the same students for a two-year period. UT faculty and staff will be paired with freshmen and sophomore students, while UT alumni and friends will be paired with juniors and seniors. Those interested in learning more about the UT Promise mentorship program can visit

Boyd also used his address to review some of the UT System’s key accomplishments in 2019, including increases in enrollment and degrees awarded, progress in mental health awareness and the creation of the Oak Ridge Institute at UT.

Total system-wide enrollment grew 1.5 percent to an all-time high of 51,582 students across all UT campuses. The university also awarded more than 12,000 degrees.

“Student success is the ‘why’ behind what we do,” said Boyd. “It will continue to be a top priority as our campuses work to enhance first-year retention and improve four-year and six-year graduation rates.”

The system hosted the first Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response in August 2019, and Boyd vowed the UT System would continue to work toward a solution to the problem. The summit gathered resources from across the UT System and the state of Tennessee to address key issues in this area.

“This hits home in every corner of our state,” said Boyd.

He also spoke about his goals for 2020, including making further progress in helping students through the OneUT for Student Mental Health and Wellbeing initiative, which will build a more robust and supportive mental health culture on each UT campus. Mental health professionals will meet and recommend best practices for ensuring student mental health and wellness, and they will identify necessary steps toward making UT a national leader in supporting student wellbeing.

Launching the first phase of the Oak Ridge Institute is also among Boyd’s goals for 2020. This phase will include recruiting new faculty members and about 50 new graduate students, as well as exploring the acquisition of a facility to house the institute.

“There have been some incredibly successful decades in UT history. To say this next decade will be the greatest in UT’s history is a bold, audacious statement,” said Boyd. “But all that has come before has provided us the foundation on which to build. Today, we have the resources, talent and will to make it happen. 2020 will be the first step in the journey, and I cannot wait to get started.”

For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.


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