Dr. Yancy Freeman of Chattanooga addresses packed auditorium at Gooch Hall
By Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional News Editor
The University of Tennessee at Martin is looking to fill the shoes of its former chancellor, Dr. Keith Carver, after he took a leadership position with the UT System’s Institute of Agriculture earlier this year.
As part of its search, the campus is hosting a series of public forums, for students, faculty and community members to meet and hear from the final three candidates. Addressing a large crowd gathered in the Gallien Auditorium of UTM’s Gooch Hall on Monday was the first chancellor candidate – Dr. Yancy Freeman.
Dr. Freeman is a Memphis native who now lives in Chattanooga with his family. He serves as the Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at UT Chattanooga. He has been a UT System employee for 29 years. His wife was part of the first graduating class of nurses from UT Martin.
UT System President Randy Boyd welcomed the audience and talked of how he had a great task of helping to select the next leader of UT Martin. He said it has taken four months to get to the slate of candidates for the chancellor position.
Freeman introduced himself as a first-generation college graduate and spoke a bit about his family.
“There is no reason for students to have to look beyond UT,” Freeman noted. He said he has served on various roles in his home community, all of them centered around higher education. Dr. Freeman said he was smart enough to have a talented team around him and even smarter to get out of their way. He explained the only way the next chancellor will be successful is if he is transparent with the community and the UTM community.
The chancellor candidate spoke of how UT Martin has a close town and gown partnership, one that is harder to establish in such a large city like Chattanooga. He spoke of various programs he helped to spearhead during his tenure at UTC, such as a community garden, an amended academic-forgiveness policy to attract and retain adult learners as well as a Mosaic program to help autistic learners on campus.
Dr. Freeman said it is important for a chancellor to effectively fundraise and touched on a recent, complete sponsorship of a summer bridge program for those who fall into a low-retention category, a campus food pantry and a Divine IX plaza, all programs implemented and now fully-funded at UTC.
When asked if he saw any hurdles or challenges within UTM’s five-year strategic plan, he noted they were feasible, reasonable goals. The only hurdle he sees is funding. He spoke of how enrollment declines, which are nationwide, continue to be a challenge for universities. He suggested making courses more attractive to adult learners and suggested modeling a bachelor of science in management.
He was asked about the importance of African-American history and studies and if he thought it should be required curriculum for students to become responsible adults. Dr. Freeman responded by emphasizing the importance of making all types of cultural studies available to all students.
He was questioned about the potential for building a career ladder for entry-level campus employees, particularly grounds-crew workers who may want to earn credits in landscaping. Freeman said he encourages professional development and offering a chance at a career ladder for good employees.
When asked about the importance of diversity and inclusion among staff and students, Freeman said it is important to facilitate those conversations with people, especially in the community. He was also asked about the importance of athletics. Dr. Freeman said athletics is the front door for a campus and serves a valuable role.
As someone who is personable, Dr. Freeman said he is ready to help recruit and retain students and ready to be a part of the UT Martin community.
There are two additional public forums planned at UTM for the remaining two candidates, whose names have not been announced yet. Watkins Auditorium in the Boling University Center is the host site for public forums set for 11:15 a.m. on June 22 and June 27.
Candidate bios will be available two days prior to each public forum online at https://hr.tennessee.edu/executive-search/ut-martin-chancellor/finalists/. The website link also includes a recording of Monday’s public forum, as well as future live streams of the public forums. In addition, the UT System is asking for community feedback of each of the candidates for chancellor of UT Martin. A link to leave feedback is available on the above-mentioned
Dr. Phillip Acree Cavalier, UT Martin’s Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, is serving as UTM’s interim chancellor.