I am pleased to announce the appointment of Stacy Goodwin Lightfoot as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s first Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement, effective July 1, 2021.
Stacy Lightfoot rose to the top of a strong, competitive candidate pool in a national search and is the right choice to direct UTC in this new senior-level position. In addition to leadership in diversity and engagement—which include equity-driven initiatives, compliance and accountability for diversity and inclusion elements of our strategic plan—as a member of the Executive Leadership Team she will challenge and encourage us to continue transforming our student-focused campus culture and dramatically expand engagement with our community. She will ensure our actions mirror our words.
Stacy is an experienced professional with a history of working in education reform, specifically around national college and career success strategies for students and families from all backgrounds. She has a track record of innovation and support in creating and executing diversity-related initiatives and strategic planning, and leveraging resources and partnerships to foster meaningful and inclusive experiences that lead to student success.
Stacy will bring a wealth of experience, insight and relational resources to our campus. As a career-long advocate for student growth, she brings an intimate knowledge of our student pipeline. As a nonprofit executive, she has operated in cabinet-level roles and designed, grown and led high-performing teams.
A native of Chattanooga, Stacy comes to UTC after spending the last 12 years as a member of the Public Education Foundation (PEF), rising to executive vice president. Her recent initiatives include being an integral member of the collaborative partnership team that co-wrote the proposal to obtain $2.89 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and spearheading the creation of STEP-UP Chattanooga—an internship program that supports 1,300 students.
She began working at PEF—a nonprofit organization that provides training, research and resources to teachers, principals and schools in Hamilton County and surrounding areas—as a lead college advisor in 2009. She has served as the organization’s director and vice president for college access and success programs. Her career has also included positions at Girls, Incorporated, and College Access Center.
Stacy received a bachelor’s degree in communication from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and a master’s in international service from the University of Roehampton in London, England. Her international experiences also include studying abroad at Temple University’s Rome, Italy, campus and at the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the National College Attainment Network.
Her connections within the educational community underscore why she will add value to our campus. She has established relationships within the region that will continue to strengthen our University’s relationship with the city and the local community.
The Executive Leadership Team shared their support to have Stacy as a member of the senior leadership team.
Vice Chancellor Yancy Freeman said, “Stacy Lightfoot and I have been colleagues for several years in an effort to increase the numbers of Hamilton County school students choosing to enroll in post-secondary education. She has pursued this goal with passion and enthusiasm. I look forward to our continued partnership in her new role at UTC to foster a welcoming and inclusive campus environment for students, faculty and staff.”
Provost Jerold Hale said, “I believe Vice Chancellor Lightfoot will help advance the diversity of our faculty and student body. Our focus is on improving the retention and recruitment of outstanding faculty members and she will be a great asset in achieving this goal. Vice Chancellor Lightfoot is a highly respected and results-oriented leader in the community. I am looking forward to working with her.”
This announcement concludes a highly competitive national search. The search committee, led by Dean Valerie Rutledge, was composed of a broad cross-section of campus and community members and helped to draft the position profile and duties for the position. Advertising and outreach resulted in a diverse pool of almost 100 candidates from across the country. From that pool, the committee identified 12 semi-finalists, each of whom was interviewed by the committee and, separately, by me. The committee identified four finalists who were invited to “virtual campus visits” in March.
The day-long visits included interviews with the search committee, the deans and faculty senate leadership, the ELT, and stakeholder groups representing diversity and engagement on our campus, including faculty, staff, and students. Each visit included a campus town hall presentation with a Q&A period. As a result of those campus visits, we received 293 feedback forms. I met with the committee to identify candidates to bring to campus for additional conversations. One candidate came to campus for sessions with admissions and student support staff, HR, OEI, MCC, general counsel, students, Provost Hale, Special Advisor Richard Brown, Vice Chancellor Forrest, Vice Chancellor Freeman, our chief of staff, diversity officers from across the UT system. At the conclusion of those meetings, I asked for feedback from those involved in hosting the candidate and was satisfied that we had identified the right candidate for our vice chancellor position.
I want to thank the search committee, Dean Rutledge, and all of those who participated in the interview process and provided feedback. The search process was exhaustive, transparent and successful.
UTC exists to transform lives through education, research and outreach, and diversity and engagement are critical components of our mission. Ensuring that opportunities for that transformation are afforded to the depth and breadth of diverse members of our society, our community and our campus will create the future our students deserve and increase the strength and impact of a UTC degree.
Please join me in welcoming Stacy Lightfoot to UTC.