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Students, faculty and staff attend UT Day on the Hill

UT Day on the HIll photo
Dr. Debbie Ingram, UC Foundation Professor, Physical Therapy
and UTNAA President-Elect at right speaks with Dr. John
UT Day on the HIll photo
Valerah Hodges, Chair of the Employee Relations Committee and
Jim Bowman, Chair of the Exempt Staff Council
UT Day on the HIll photo
Jim Hicks, Associate Dean of Student Life; Bill Staley, Vice
President of SGA; and April Cox, Graphic Design Manager

The University of Tennessee took its role as both a statewide system of higher learning and an institution critical to the educational, economic and cultural future of all Tennesseans to the halls of the state legislature at Wednesday’s third annual UT Day on the Hill. Student, faculty, and staff from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga took part in the day’s activities.

UT’s effort to make the most of the state’s investment in educating Tennessee’s best and brightest students, creating better jobs, and stimulating the economy was the message on Wednesday. It was delivered by students from the university’s five campuses and institutes. They were joined by UT leadership posted at 11 university displays – plus an exhibit staffed by UT partner Oak Ridge National Laboratory – and greeted legislators while President John Petersen visited the Tennessee House and Senate education committees.

In remarks to both committees, Petersen emphasized progress in the current legislative session’s budget recommendations for higher education.

“I invite you to meet the students joining us today. They are the best ambassadors of what we do for higher education in Tennessee,” Petersen said. “And beyond the obvious priority of educating students, our mission includes building a new kind of economy for Tennessee – investing in a future that gives Tennessee national leadership opportunity.

“We appreciate the support shown for that in budget recommendations made thus far. We’re substantially ahead of where we were at this stage last year for higher education, and we look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to pursue higher education priorities for the good of the state.”

A forward-looking, statewide biofuels initiative, already supported by Gov. Phil Bredesen in his budget proposal, was front and center Wednesday – referenced in a display that featured both bales and potted plants of switchgrass. Petersen outlined the initiative’s broad reach to House and Senate education committee members.

“In addition to the demonstration plant which will involve our faculty and students working hand-in-hand with scientists at ORNL, we envision specific research opportunities through UT Martin and through our Extension offices that would directly benefit West Tennessee,” Petersen said. “Among the outcomes of that research will be the development of bio-refineries across the state, which will produce new jobs and new revenue and new cash crops for farm families and rural counties in every part of Tennessee.

“We applaud the governor for proposing that kind of investment.”

Petersen also noted UT’s competition for two National Science Foundation awards—one for $65 million and one for $350 million, to build the world’s largest supercomputers—and thanked legislators for their role in making that possible.

“The investment the Legislature made a few years ago in building the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences as part of the UT Oak Ridge partnership is clearly the primary reason we have this opportunity,” Petersen said. “It’s an exciting time for the University statewide.”

Petersen will again make the case for UT’s priorities when he appears at budget hearings before the Senate Education Committee March 28 and before the House Ways and Means Committee April 5.

March 23, 2007