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Chancellor’s Commissions and Council

The diversity commissions and council serve the campus under the direction of the Division of Diversity and Engagement (DDE). The commissions and council exist to ensure that students, staff, and faculty from underrepresented populations have a welcoming, supportive and inclusive climate on Knoxville’s campus. DDE works in partnership with the commissions and councils to provide additional support and resources to confirm an inclusive culture and climate can be achieved. Together, DDE and the commissions and council work to foster and maintain a climate of equity and inclusion for all Vols.

Commission for Blacks

Co-Chair: JaNay’ Turner, Coordinator in the Division of Diversity and Engagement

Co-Chair: Marcia Lane, Administrative Specialist II, Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

The Commission for Blacks is a body that is appointed by and reports to the Chancellor. The purpose of the commission is to provide guidance on planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services, as they relate to Black students, staff, and faculty. The commission is dedicated to the protection and retention of all Black and African American students, staff and faculty on campus. The body also recommends changes to current and future university policies and procedures as they specifically relate to students, staff, and faculty of color. They work to enhance the racial climate on campus and to provide an environment for civil discourse around issues of race, racism and biases.

The Commission for Blacks participates in various events on campus and in the Knoxville Community to promote racial inclusiveness. In the 2019-2020 academic year, members of the commission marched in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade with the University, participated as a partner of “Open Doors: A Campus and Community Connection”, and co-sponsored the 3rd Annual Celebration of Black Excellence Gala. The commission also participated in the African American Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Each year the commission recognizes two individuals for their contribution in promoting diversity and inclusion on campus via the Gene Mitchell Gray Pioneer Award and Hardy Liston Jr. Symbol of Hope Award. This year, the Commission for Blacks will be providing leadership for a virtual Joint Chancellor Awards Celebration for all of the commissions and council.

Commission for Women

Co-Chair: Courtney Marie Cronley, Associate Professor, College of Social Work

Co-Chair: Mia Pearson-Loomis, Academic Coach, Academic Success Center, Division of Student Success

The Commission for Women at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a body appointed by the Chancellor to advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status of women at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This group also collaborates with the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Diversity and Engagement to ensure equity, integrity and that students, faculty and staff matter and belong. The most important priorities for the Commission for Women are centered around promoting women’s leadership by supporting and enhancing mentoring and professional development, and advocating for sexual assault awareness and prevention. This group also evaluates relevant policies and programs, advocates for pay equity across genders, and recognizes the contributions of women on UT campus.

For the spring 2019-2020 academic year, the Commission for Women developed several objectives and initiatives to increase visibility and ensure support and involvement from the campus community. Successes for the spring academic year include the 100 Video Clips to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage. This initiative was created in conjunction with the Women’s Suffrage/Voting Rights movement. Each year, the Commission for Women recognizes leaders and initiatives that support women on campus through the Notable UT Woman Award and the Angie Warren Perkins Award.

Commission for LGBT People

Co-Chair: Ronda Wright, Senior Advisor & Adjunct Assistant Professor, College of Architecture

The Commission for LGBT People is a body appointed by the Chancellor to serve and advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The goal of the commission is to ensure that faculty, students and staff have a voice, matter and belong. The Vice Chancellor’s Office for Diversity and Engagement collaborates in conjunction with the Commission for LGBT People to cultivate an inclusive campus climate of integrity and equity. This past year, the commission developed several objectives in an effort to increase visibility as well as support for the LGBTQ+ community on the campus.

Each year, the commission supports the OUTstanding Conference, a yearly event held at the University of Tennessee to explore issues within the LGBTQ community. Members of the commission are also involved in various initiatives that help to educate the campus community on complex diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. In Spring 2019, one of the Co-Chairs, Dr. Mitsunori Misawa served as a guest speaker for the United in Hidden Difference panel discussion, which was sponsored by the Diversity Committee of the Faculty Senate. The goal of this initiative was to guide members of our community in a dialogue around invisible difference. In addition, the Commission for LGBTQ+ People recognizes excellent leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion through their LGBT Student Leadership and LGBT Advocate Awards.

Commission for Disability

Co-Chair: David Ndiaye, Director, Student Disability Services

Co-Chair: Rob Spirko, Senior Lecturer, Department of English

The Commission for Disability aims to provide support for individuals with disabilities—students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors. Our purpose is to support and meet the needs of these different groups while educating individuals about disabilities in general.

In addition to advocating for support beyond traditional ADA accommodations, the commission seeks to create opportunities for individuals to share their experiences with disability on campus and elsewhere.

Council for Diversity and Inclusion

Co-Chair: Julie Roe, Manager of HR Employee Relations, Office of Human Resources

Co-Chair: Renee K. Thomas, Director, Finance & Administration, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development (elect)

The Council for Diversity and Inclusion serves as a resource for the Division of Diversity and Engagement as it works toward creating inclusive learning and work environments. The Council achieves this through partnerships, monitoring diversity data, and education. Each member of the council represents a different unit on campus to enhance conformity throughout the university. The representatives include members from Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate to ensure students’ perspectives are taken into consideration. Among its current focuses are attracting and retaining faculty, staff and graduate students from historically under-represented populations and international students, and ensuring that undergraduate curriculum encompasses intercultural perspectives.

The council partners with the other commissions and organizations to promote and assist with diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, the council may provide funding or request participation to support diversity events. The broad campus representation that makes up the council ensures a variety of communication outlets are reached when promoting events or making announcements. During the 2019-2020 academic year, the council provided funding for the Knoxville Arab Fest, served as a partner of “Open Doors: A Campus and Community Connection”, and recognized a department on campus that demonstrated outstanding diversity leadership via the Dr. Marva Rudolph Diversity and Interculturalism Unit Excellence Award.

Commission for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Co-Chair: Dr. Rachel Rui, Director Office of Asia Engagement, Office of Communications

Co-Chair: Dr. Ling Zhao, Professor, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Established in fall 2022, the Commission for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (“CFAAPI”) is a body appointed by the Chancellor of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (together with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, the “campus”) to advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of campus programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status and experience of AAPI community members on the campus. The CFAPPI is committed to the advocacy, protection, and advancement of AAPI staff, students, and faculty on campus. Through these programs and services, the CFAAPI will aim to foster a community of belonging where all AAPI members are celebrated and appreciated for their contributions to a culturally rich and diverse society.


  • Firmly establish the AAPI Commission
    • Expand the cultural diversity of the commission
    • Identify needs and strengths of the UT AAPI community
  • Increase engagement of the campus community
    • Bring awareness and encourage empathy towards the AAPI community and its many intersections
    • Remove bias and stigmas against AAPI
  • Provide a platform for members to connect, collaborate, and engage in campus wide equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Support AAPI groups and community organizations for their programming needs in the form of sponsorship