No denying 2020 has been a tough year, not just for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but around the world. But the year has had moments of happiness and pride and  excitement at UTC.


The pandemic dominated the news worldwide in 2020 and UTC dealt with it, too.

In mid-March, University officials made the decision to close student housing and cancel on-campus activities in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Hundreds of classes—and thousands of students—went online to finish the semester. Faculty made the difficult adjustment to prevent any decline in course instruction.

UTC students, faculty and staff pitched in to help battle the virus, whether it was engineering students and professors using 3D printing to manufacture respirators needed by local health care workers or cleaning staff doing double-duty to make sure the campus was properly disinfected.

School of Nursing students, faculty and volunteer staff members assisted the Hamilton County Health Department with contact tracing daily. Students and faculty from the School of Nursing, music therapy and social work programs reached out to senior citizens and underserved communities to bring them food and help provide their health care needs.

In June, UTC officials decided to resume classes for fall semester on campus beginning Aug. 17. A combination of in-class, hybrid with some in-class and some video instruction and all-remote courses were offered. Fall semester ended before Thanksgiving to prevent students from making multiple trips home for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas as the administration moved to reduce the exposure risk to COVID-19.

A university task force was established to plan a return to normal operations

As they had done in the spring, the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning, University Health Services and the School of Nursing worked rapidly to set rules such as requiring face masks for everyone on campus, insisting on social distancing throughout campus and continuing contact tracing which led to quarantines or isolation for those who tested positive or had possibly become infected by another person or group.

Due to the hard work of everyone on campus, UTC kept its active COVID cases low with no major outbreaks.

Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP)

Created in 2019 by UTC, CUIP quickly developed into an organization that helped Chattanooga with its Smart City programs to make the city more energy efficient, safer, reduce pollution and become more attuned to the needs of underserved communities. CUIP’s work received national and international attention and helped it acquire millions of dollars in grants.

Through the efforts of CUIP and the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative—a research partnership between UTC, the City of Chattanooga, Erlanger Health System, EPB, Hamilton County, Co.Lab and The Enterprise Center—Chattanooga became one of two U.S. cities invited to join the 2020 G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, a group of 36 cities from 22 countries who will work together on Smart City concepts. San Jose, California, was the other U.S. city invited to join.

CUIP also helped create a computer model that can predict where traffic accidents will happen, a project selected as a winner in the International Data Corp.’s Smart City North America Awards.

Lupton Hall

The total renovation of Lupton Library into Lupton Hall finished in late summer, taking the 116,000 square foot former library and replacing all the building systems, including electrical, heating and air conditioning and lighting. Lupton Hall’s first floor now houses the Center for Women and Gender Equity and the Multicultural Center. The second and third floors are home to the College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of Communications, Philosophy and Religion, Modern and Classical Language. The third floor houses the Office of Dean Pam Riggs-Gelasco and the Math English Departments. Cardiac Hill next to Lupton Hall reopened in August.

Fine Arts Center

Renovation of the Fine Arts Center was completed. Improvements were made to the Roland B. Hayes Concert Hall, Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater, George Ayers Cress Gallery of Art, general classrooms, offices and band space.

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Located on the second floor of the James R. Mapp Building, the new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is designed for students across campus to use. The center has a large central area known as “The Nest,” which is primarily designed for students to work and collaborate on their business ideas. The center also has a collaborative workshop area—known as a “makerspace”—that supplies equipment and technology for creative projects.

Z. Lupton Patten Gift

A $1 million gift  from the children and grandchildren of  Z. Lupton Patten created an endowed chair in business ethics within the Gary W. Rollins College of Business. The goal of the Z. Lupton Patten Chair is to guide students to be ethical and successful managers and leaders and to encourage administrators and faculty members in business education to explore ways to incorporate and strengthen ethics education in the curriculum.

Academic Acknowledgment

In spring semester, students from across campus earned many impressive national and international scholarships. Students majoring in political science, finance, mechanical engineering, mathematics, biology, electrical engineering and athletics were among the recipients of the scholarships.

Staying Green

For the seventh straight year, the Arbor Day Foundation selected UTC as a Tree Campus USA.


Recognized this year with awards:

  • The Bursar’s Office received the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence’s 2019 Commitment Award for organizations that demonstrate continuous improvement.
  • UTC student media won 10 awards in the Tennessee Associated Press competition.
  • Assistant Professor of Nursing Priscilla Simms-Roberson won the statewide Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award for service among Tennessee higher education groups.
  • Alumna Ashley Aldridge Wilson was named the 2020 National Distinguished Principal from Tennessee by the Tennessee Principals Association.
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexandra Zelin was selected for the American Psychology Association’s Mary Roth Walsh Teaching the Psychology of Women award.
  • Senior Lecturer in Math Angelique Ramnarine was selected for the 2020 Gail Shulimson Founder’s Award from Upward Bound Math Science.
  • The UTC chapter of Psi Chi—the international honor society in psychology—was designated a Model Chapter, one of 23 winners out of 1,180 chapters.

Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

Shawn Ryan is the executive staff writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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1 Comment » for 2020: Looking back on the year that was
  1. Bonny Clark says:

    This does my heart so much good…it has been such a difficult year but a year of growth personally and collectively. I am so proud to say I work at UTC.