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From November 10, 2004, News-Sentinel

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Strong UT good for Tennessee

University must hone, build on its strengths, says its president

By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press

Saying the University of Tennessee "cannot be all things to all people," new President John Petersen said Tuesday the state's flagship university must focus on its strengths.

In his first major policy speech, broadcast to UT's five campuses, Petersen said the state's future is inextricably tied to that outcome.

"Why do we want to grow programs to greatness? Is it just so we can brag about our national rankings? Absolutely not. We have to do this for the good of the people of Tennessee," he said.

"The state cannot be competitive without a more active, engaged University of Tennessee," said Petersen, who became the university's 23rd president on July 1, following scandal-ridden predecessors Wade Gilley and John Shumaker.

Petersen stressed cooperation and collaboration not only between UT's Memphis, Tullahoma, Chattanooga, Martin and Knoxville campuses, but also with the state's Board of Regents system.

Noting barely one in five adult Tennesseans has a college degree - compared to one of four nationally, Petersen said, "It's not hard to see that Tennessee has some catching up to do if it hopes to grow new jobs and businesses and increase its citizens' quality of life."

Petersen said he will expect the individual campuses to identify areas to emphasize and areas to share with others, and he pledged to be a "facilitator" with the Legislature, the UT Board of Trustees, alumni and friends of the university to make it happen.

"Strategically capitalizing on our strengths," said Petersen, a trained chemist and former University of Connecticut chancellor.

"I am not saying we will ignore our role to broadly educate undergraduate students. Good programs certainly will be maintained and nurtured," he said.

"But to achieve national prominence we have to give special attention to the academic and research areas where we have strength and competitive potential."

He specifically noted computer science alliances between UT-Knoxville and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including a pending $10 million commitment from the lab requiring a state match for joint professorships.

He mentioned a cancer institute at the Health Sciences Center in Memphis working with St. Jude's Research Hospital, and a two-site state school of public health engaging UT and the University of Memphis in West Tennessee and UT-Knoxville and East Tennessee State University in East Tennessee.

Copyright 2004, KnoxNews, All Rights Reserved.
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