Four UTM faculty, staff members earn President’s Awards

Four faculty and staff members at the University of Tennessee at Martin were the recipients of 2023 President’s Awards, announced by UT System President Dr. Randy Boyd during the annual UT Board of Trustees meeting on June 30 in Memphis.

A total of 14 faculty and staff members from across the UT System received awards to celebrate their accomplishments and dedication to the Be One UT values.

These values are intended to shape culture across the system, build purpose, improve team cohesion and create a shared sense of commitment in the workplace.

The four President’s Award winners from UT Martin were the most for any UT System entity this year.

UT Martin faculty and staff selected to receive a 2023 President’s Award were:  

• Embrace Diversity Award, faculty: Henrietta Giles, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communications.

Giles served as co-creator and producer of the CMT/MTV Networks film “Waiting in the Wings: African Americans in Country Music,” which brought attention to underrepresented voices. In 2015, Giles received an Emmy Award for Best Documentary for her work on “Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music.”

Giles’s collaborative work with civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery on his biographical project, “Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land,” amplifies marginalized narratives.

Since 2015, she has been involved in coordinating the annual UT Martin Civil Rights Conference and chaired the 2023 event. In her classes, Giles creates assignments that prompt students to analyze and document pressing issues and dilemmas facing the world. Through interviews with experts, peers and family members, students develop compelling features that explore perceptions and opinions. Completing Giles’s class requires a thoughtful inspection of the world and a deep exploration of the differences that shape interactions with others.

• Excel in All We Do Award, faculty: Dr. Stephanie Kolitsch, the interim provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs as well as the director of accreditation and liaison to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Kolitsch has been a valued member of the UT Martin community for almost 30 years, beginning her tenure in 1994 as a professor of mathematics. She has gone above and beyond in serving the university and is the perfect example of how to excel in all we do. She has been leading UT Martin’s reaffirmation of the accreditation process and has successfully developed the quality enhancement plan, which is part of the SACS review process and the foundations of excellence self-study.

Kolitsch pioneered a monthly assessment campus-wide newsletter. It highlights outstanding work from departments, keeps deadlines at the forefront of individuals’ minds and challenges them to continue to think about how good assessment provides data-driven decisions. Kolitsch’s pursuit of excellence, exceptional leadership and outstanding performance, as well as her commitment to the university’s mission and vision, has cemented her status as a visionary leader.

• Optimistic and Visionary Employees Award, staff: Destin Tucker, the director of undergraduate admissions.

Tucker has demonstrated great dedication and commitment to her role for the past seven years as director of undergraduate admissions at UT Martin. With nearly 17 years of experience in the field of admissions, Tucker’s expertise shines through in every aspect of her work.

Tucker also serves as the strategic enrollment management chair at UT Martin, where she plays a pivotal role in shaping the institution’s strategic plan. She turned around a struggling admissions office through bold leadership, intuitive intelligence, willingness to ask questions and integrity. The outbreak of COVID-19 presented recruitment obstacles, including school closures and restricted visits by admissions counselors. The ambiguity of campus operations made it difficult to relieve worries of families.

Orientation shifted to an online format, which made it demanding to maintain a personal touch. Tucker rallied and supported her staff as they navigated circumstances none had experienced before. She possesses a keen ability to anticipate obstacles and establishes meaningful relationships with a grateful heart.

• United and Connected Award, faculty: Dr. Clinton Smith, a professor and chair of the department of educational studies.

Smith embodies a commitment to service that elevates UT Martin. Joining its faculty in 2012, he has risen to special education professor and chair in the department of educational studies. He engages in service to the university, his profession and the community while also making significant contributions to research and scholarship. Smith has authored 17 publications and three book chapters and delivered 57 international presentations and 26 state presentations.

The leadership roles that Smith has assumed are a testament to others recognizing his exceptional qualities and inviting him to serve. Those who have had the privilege of working with him quickly learn to admire his commitment to excellence, his embodiment of dedication, focus and integrity in all interactions.

President’s Award recipients were nominated by campus and institute leaders and are selected annually from a system-wide pool.  They will be honored by the president and his Be One UT cabinet at a special luncheon on Aug. 3 in Nashville.

“We are certainly proud to have more President’s Award winners than any other UT System entity this year. The UTM faculty and staff who earned these awards are definitely deserving and represent our campus well. They embody the spirit of Be One UT as well as the growth and progress that our campus is seeing. My congratulations to these outstanding individuals.”

“Our ‘Be One UT’ values are not just a philosophy but a concrete way we define our culture and way of doing business,” Boyd said. “These award recipients exemplify who we are as well as who we continually aspire to be in serving the people of Tennessee.”

The President’s Awards were established in 2016 to annually recognize the accomplishments of faculty and staff from across the UT System with the mission to educate, discover and connect. Additionally, the awards celebrate and acknowledge outstanding contributions in the areas of support and diversity.

The President’s Awards are the highest honor a UT employee can receive from the university. Winners receive commemorative plaques and a monetary award of $3,000.

Award recipients represent UT Martin, UT Knoxville, UT Health Science Center, UT Chattanooga, UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Institute for Public Service and UT System Administration. 


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