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UT President Stresses Cooperation in Day-Long Visit to Space Institute

Communicating, cooperating, and coordinating are among John Petersen’s formula for success and “transformational growth” for The University of Tennessee Space Institute.

“We want transformational – not just incremental growth,” he said.

The UT president shared these and other ideas June 13 in a luncheon speech at UTSI for Support Council members and other guests, and earlier in an open forum for the Institute family.

“Communications is our weakest link – with each other and with our partners,” Petersen said. “We must communicate what we mean to Tennessee and to the United States. Everybody – not just the administration and faculty – must understand UTSI’s missions, goals, and how to get there.”

While saying UTSI has unique strengths and “does things that no one else can do,” Petersen cautioned that “We must focus on things that we can do well. We must ask ‘How can we help each other be more successful?’ We are not in competition. We must not think microscopic; we cannot do it all alone.”

State Senators Douglas Henry and Jerry Cooper, state Rep. George Fraley, Ralph Barnett, assistant commissioner of education, Tullahoma Mayor Troy Bisby, Coffee County Mayor-Elect David Pennington, and Jody Baltz, Tullahoma city administrator, were among public officials at the luncheon.

Donald C. Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of UTSI, said there is “a great potential for partnership” and predicted that Federal research funding for the Space Institute “will get better.”

With plans to hire several new faculty members, Daniel said, “We are building teams with folks who know research. Personal contact is very important in seeking research funding.”

Stressing his vision of the Space Institute as “the UT flagship in Middle Tennessee,” Daniel said he sees “a very bright future” for UTSI’s distance education programs, with both the Aviation Systems and Engineering Management programs gaining students.

Senator Henry said that while UTSI is “outside my senatorial district and might be considered as local, as a citizen of Tennessee, I want to say that this Space Institute is of great value to the entire State of Tennessee.”

Reeling off a list of partners ranging from AEDC to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and from Georgia Tech to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Petersen warned that “we should not try to be all things to all people; we must pick and choose, do the things we do best, and remember we are not in a vacuum. Focus is the key.”

Noting that the “locus of the automotive industry is no longer in Michigan but in this area of the country,” Petersen recommended “looking ahead to where we should be in 20 years.”

Petersen said UTSI’s current search for additional tenure-track and research professors timely as the Institute seeks to “recruit the best faculty in the world.”

The president stressed the importance of cooperation between UT Knoxville and the Space Institute, including perhaps an exchange of students for specific classes. As for Gov. Phil Bredesen’s plans to locate a high school at UTSI for exceptional math and science students, Petersen asked, “What better place than here…where the best and the brightest can explore the real world?”

“Our most precious resource is people,” the president said. “More than 70 percent of our investment is in people. This is much higher than in industry.”

Petersen was accompanied by a host of UT officials including Executive Vice President Jack Britt, Dan Stewart, Britt’s special assistant, David Millhorn, UT vice president for research, Hank Dye, UT vice president for public and government relations, Gina Stafford, UT director of communications, and Anthony Haynes, UT director of state relations, and UT Knoxville Chancellor Loren Crabtree and Way Kuo, dean, UT Knoxville College of Engineering.

Navy Captain Christopher Flood, vice commander of AEDC, David Elrod, ATA General Manager at AEDC, Dan J. Marcum, UT Development Council president, Ed Kraft, AEDC chief scientist, Craig A. Blue, deputy division director of technology, Materials Science and Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and David Whitfield, director, UT Chattanooga Sims Center, were also among those at the luncheon.

In the afternoon, the visitors toured UTSI’s Center for Laser Applications and carbon fiber spin laboratory before visiting AEDC.