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Vice President For Research, UT System

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The University of Tennessee System (UT System) invites applications and nominations for the position of Vice President for Research (VPR). This leader will succeed Dr. Stacey Patterson, who has served with distinction in this role since 2017, and has accepted an appointment as Vice President of Research at Florida State University.

The University of Tennessee System is the state’s oldest higher education institution and preeminent public university and is comprised of campuses at KnoxvilleChattanoogaPulaski and Martin; the Health Science Center, a multi-campus institution with a primary location in Memphis; and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service.


The UT System has a presence in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Through the combined force of education, research, innovation and outreach, it serves students, business and industry, schools, governments, organizations and residents statewide. The UT System enrolls about 54,000 undergraduate and graduate students statewide, and more than 13,000 students graduate from UT campuses each year with bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees.

Research is a critical part of the UT System mission. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a Carnegie-designated Research 1 Doctoral Institution, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is a Special Focus Four-Year Research Institution, and the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga is a Carnegie-designated Doctoral/Professional University. Additionally, UT faculty and students system-wide are involved in research, adding to the body of knowledge in academic disciplines and providing solutions to everyday problems. In fiscal year 2021, the UT System had a record $437 million in research and sponsored program expenditures.

The UT System is among fewer than 10 higher education entities across the country with a prestigious management role with a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory. Through UT-Battelle, the UT System has managed Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the DOE since 2000, while UT collaboration with Oak Ridge dates back more than 50 years. ORNL is the nation’s largest open-science laboratory, with an annual budget of $2.2 billion, and UT is ORNL’s largest research partner, with approximately 220 UT faculty who have joint appointments with the lab.

The Vice President for Research will serve as a member of the President’s Executive Leadership Team and as a liaison to the UT Board of Trustees on research and innovation-related matters. This leader plays a key role in advancing and promoting the UT System’s research and innovation mission. The VPR is responsible for facilitating and supporting strategic partnerships among UT System institutions, state and federal government, laboratories and agencies, business and industry, nonprofit organizations, and other public and private institutions of higher education.

The Vice President will encourage investment in research infrastructure; promote successful major grant and center opportunities, especially those that bring UT campuses and other partners together; serve as a champion for the UT System’s research and innovation mission; and enhance its state, national and international research reputation. The VPR will have primary responsibility within the UT System for the UT-Battelle relationship and the operations contract for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

The ideal candidate should have demonstrated success as a principal investigator of substantial competitive federal research grants (or equivalent) and in attracting support for research from private partnerships, government agencies (including DOE), industry, and other funding entities. The Vice President will have knowledge of and a deep commitment to research compliance and integrity and will possess the ability and acumen to help translate research for societal gain and enhancing workforce development for economic growth.

The successful candidate will be presented with the opportunity to achieve the following professional and personal accomplishments:

    Serve as a senior leader of one of the most respected systems of higher education in the country, whose reputation and resources have made it a national role model for the delivery of research and innovation, and high quality affordable education.Assume accountability for a diverse mix of strategic and operational areas, including the University of Tennessee's relationships with Battelle, ORNL, and the U.S. DOE.Work directly with a diverse and outstanding mix of UT campuses, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors for Research, Deans, department chairs, centers, and institute directors who are each aligned towards the achievement of the UT System’s and the state’s collective goals.Regularly engage with Tennessee’s public officials as a key “point person” in publicly articulating the UT System’s research strategies and initiatives.Work with stakeholders, in Knoxville and across Tennessee, a region known for its economic vitality, quality of life, and diversity of regions and communities.In collaboration with the UT Government Relations and Advocacy team, liaise and champion on behalf of UT for research support and growth opportunities at both the state and federal levels.
This Vice President for Research position has been recently reimagined to place even more emphasis on supporting the partnerships with Battelle and ORNL and to further heighten the importance of building greater research capacity among all of the UT campuses. The VPR will serve as UT’s representative within UT-Battelle; will serve as a coordinator and a convener for the chief research officers at the campuses; and will work with the Office of Government Relations and Advocacy on state and federal opportunities that support research and innovation. 

Each UT campus has unique strengths and draws upon the many assets within their local communities as well as prevailing opportunities to collaborate with investigators across the UT System. Accordingly, research and innovation is reparented by different, yet potentially synergistic, emphasis at each campus. To learn more about research and innovation at each of the UT campuses and institutes please follow the links below:

UT Knxville

UT Chattanooga

UT Health Science Center

UT Martin

UT Institute of Agriculture

UT Institute for Public Service

UT Space Institute

Building system-wide research capacity and productivity

The newly envisioned Vice President for Research is responsible for coordinating with campus research leaders across the UT System to help inspire and facilitate an enterprise-wide portfolio of research, scholarship, and creative activity that supports the region, state, and other external partners. The VPR will provide a broad, strategic vision and collaborative leadership that supports the campus-level chief research officers to elevate the quality and collective scope of UT's research and innovation mission. Externally, the VPR will engage with officials to build and maintain community, state, and federal relations – especially regarding research opportunities – and work to promote the growth of research opportunities between and among the UT campuses, and private and public sector partners, and promote economic development opportunities through research relationships. 

The VPR will set policy and direct strategic investments from the UT System to support programs that strengthen and grow the University’s priorities. The VPR will additionally work with campus research offices to facilitate the procurement and/or development of research administration tools that support campus efforts while allowing for system-wide reporting of research.  The office will maintain an electronic research administration software system and will be responsible for the UT System’s research-related reporting, including federal reporting requirements and internal dashboard metrics. 

Accountability for the Battelle/ORNL/Department of Energy Partnership

UT-Battelle, LLC, was established in 2000 as a private not-for-profit company for the sole purpose of managing and operating the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. DOE Formed as a 50-50 limited liability partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, UT-Battelle is the legal entity responsible delivering the DOE’s research mission at ORNL. As the lead executive in managing this partnership, the VPR will:

    Serve as UT’s primary liaison to the ORNL leadership team, the U.S. DOE, and Battelle Memorial Institute on matters that relate to the UT-Battelle management and operations contract for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  Chair the Science and Technology Committee and serve as a member of the Executive, and Personnel & Compensation Committees of the UT-Battelle Board of Governors.  Work with ORNL leadership on S&T risk assessment, contractor assurance, and program attainment.   Work with the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute (UT-ORII) to ensure alignment of system-wide research and development goals with UT-ORII technical focus areas, educational and workforce development programs; Work with the campus-level chief research officers and the UT-ORII executive director to coordinate multi-university research initiatives, resources, and support in areas of strategic importance to the UT System, ORNL, and the State of Tennessee; Ensure compliance and accountability for joint UT-ORNL programs managed by UT-ORII, including the Governor’s Chairs, joint faculty, and joint research, education, and workforce development programs.

Professional Qualifications and Personal Qualities

Ph.D. or appropriate terminal degree required.


Ten years of progressively responsible administrative experience is required. Experience in administering multi-disciplinary research programs within a major research organization, agency or university is required. Experience in a multi-campus university system environment or large university campus is preferred. Knowledge and understanding of best practices within research administration, as a principal investigator, experience in external engagement, and success in developing partnerships internally and externally are also needed.

Demonstrated ability to maintain a “big picture” strategic view and to be a problem-solver; and ability to lead, plan and manage change. Experience working with national laboratories and federal research agencies is strongly preferred. Additional experience to include: a distinguished record of research accomplishments, experience in the administration of research grants and contracts, and experience with fostering collaborative initiatives.


The Vice President will have significant knowledge and understanding of higher education. Specific skills include:

  • Demonstrated leadership skills and abilities
  • Commitment to quality and integrity
  • Demonstrated experience and achievements with strategic planning and goal achievement.
  • Expertise in current research methodology, laws and regulations
  • In-depth knowledge of education policy, research and practice
  • Strong track record of success in a research-intensive higher education institution
  • Strong research, analytical and writing abilities
  • Effective external advocacy experiences and government relations instincts at the local, federal and state levels
  • Ability to lead and collaborate with campuses to facilitate research initiatives system-wide
  • Understanding of the role of a system versus a campus – where the key expectations are convening, facilitating and collaborating as opposed to directing and controlling
  • Ability to communicate complex issues to a variety of constituents and stakeholders, both written and verbal
  • Ability and willingness to delegate effectively and to hold direct reports accountable
  • Strong skills in communications and interpersonal relations
  • Skilled decision-maker, with transparency in decision-making and management
    Excellent oral, written and presentation skills; exceptional listening skills.Ability to multi-task and a willingness to roll up one's sleeves and directly contribute to advancing initiatives, as opposed to assigning or delegating to others (this office only has a small staff)Ability to travel frequently

The Vice President will exhibit qualities of emotional maturity, genuineness, self-confidence, common sense, judgment, fairness, creativity, discretion, decisiveness, political savvy, diplomacy, tact, resiliency, adaptability, courage of convictions and tolerance for ambiguity.  Demonstrated behavioral expectations include:

  • Unquestioned integrity and trustworthiness.
  • Commitment to the System’s mission and strategic plan, as well as missions and strategic plans for each campus and institute.
  • Knowledge of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity and a keen personal commitment to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion 
  • Ability to make good, consistent and fair decisions (based on fact and data).
  • Ability to work with cross-functional teams and to foster teamwork.
Procedure for Candidacy

All applications, nominations and inquiries are invited. Applications should include, as separate documents, a CV or resume and a letter of interest addressing the themes in this profile.

WittKieffer is assisting the University of Tennessee System in this search. Application materials should be submitted using WittKieffer’s candidate portal.

Nominations and inquiries can be directed to:

John K. Thornburgh and Lauren Bruce-Stets

[email protected]

Job: Executive/Administrative
Primary Location: US-Tennessee-knoxville
Organization: Office Of Research Services
Schedule: Full-time
Job Posting: Sep 30, 2022, 5:23:14 PM


Working at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Founded in 1794, the University of Tennessee is one of the nation’s oldest and most storied public universities. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee’s flagship land-grant institution includes the statewide Institute of Agriculture and the Space Institute in Tullahoma. The university embodies excellence in teaching, discovery, scholarship, research, creative activity, outreach, and engagement. Known as the Volunteers, we lead with a spirit of selflessness, empathy, and courage, and strive to be champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion

UT Knoxville is a Research 1 university with 11 academic colleges and more than 900 programs of study. With an enrollment of more than 30,000 students, our academic programs are repeatedly ranked top in their class. The university co-manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the country’s most prominent national lab, driving innovation in advanced manufacturing and materials, national security, and more. We are closely connected with our communities through outreach and extension efforts across Tennessee and through partnerships with non-profits, corporations, and industries—regionally, nationally, and around the globe.

The city of Knoxville is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The modern, thriving community is surrounded by gorgeous lakes and hundreds of miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails. Situated along the banks of the Tennessee River, our beautiful features an eclectic music scene, internationally recognized festivals, unique restaurants, and a robust offering of diverse cultural activities. Knoxville is located within a day’s drive of Atlanta, Nashville, Asheville, Charlotte, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Chicago, and Washington D.C.

Knoxville and the surrounding counties have a population of more than 850,000 people. The region houses many leading corporations and organizations, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pilot/Flying J, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Regal Cinemas, along with HGTV, Food Network, and other networks owned by Discovery Inc.

As a member of the UT family, you will be surrounded by top-notch faculty, staff, and students from around the world. You will be part of a diverse campus community that is passionate about changing the world and cheering for the Vols on game day.

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