“We remain passionate about the daily work of helping ensure everyone at UT matters and everyone belongs.” —Tyvi Small, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Championing an Inclusive Campus
Tyvi Small, vice chancellor for diversity and engagement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, commends the university for the strides it’s taken in championing a culture of inclusivity.
“I serve as the campus’s chief climate officer,” said Small. “I am fortunate to have the support of our chancellor, Donde Plowman, and the leadership of three associate vice chancellors whose programs promote a campus environment that values individual differences.”
Small said everyone on campus has a role in helping others feel included and engaged. The university’s framework for inclusive excellence brings together four components: access and compliance, assessment and accountability, engagement and outreach, and education.
“We support the campus as strategic partners and consultants to ensure everyone is treated as an individual,” said Small. “My unwavering commitment is to foster an environment where everyone can bring their authentic self and feel valued and respected.”
A Network of Support
In January 2023, UT will celebrate 50 years since the Commission for Blacks was established on campus. The commission serves as a recommending body to the chancellor to assess Black involvement in university programs.
The Commission for Blacks—along with the Commission for Disability, the Commission for LGBT People, the Commission for Women, and the Commission for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—works with Small and his team to enhance belongingness on campus. A Commission for Latinx People is proposed to launch in 2023.
Supporting the Success of All Vols
The university welcomed its largest first-year class in 2022 along with a record number of returning sophomores. They view these positive trends as the results of recent programs that provide more individualized support and mentorship for students.
Launched in the 2020–21 academic year, the UT Success Academy takes an innovative approach to maximizing college life for first-year Black and Latino men. Each student in the program develops a four-year customized plan that uses experiential learning, community building, and transformative experiences, both on and off campus.
In the fall of 2021, the division lent its support to the university’s “Vol is a Verb” campaign. This initiative encourages the university community to put actions behind their words in ensuring that everyone knows they matter and belong on campus. “The campaign helps first-year students in their development of identity, purpose, and awareness,” said Small. “We want to ensure that our campus community knows about the inclusion initiatives and resources available on campus.”
To expand efforts that provide academic and social support for students, the division also partners with the university’s Division of Student Life, Division of Student Success, and Student Disability Services. They also advocate for the university’s Pride Center in educating and connecting the campus community.
“While we have a lot of work to do to fulfill our mission, we remain passionate about the daily work of helping ensure everyone at UT matters and everyone belongs,” said Small. “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this vital work.”