Wednesday wasn’t a typical day in the office for Dr. Yancy Freeman – instead, it was his first official day as the University of Tennessee at Martin’s new chancellor. The university’s 12th chief executive officer was confirmed July 14 for the position by the UT Board of Trustees after being recommended for the position by UT President Randy Boyd. Freeman comes to UT Martin following 25 years in various roles at UT Chattanooga where he most recently held the post of vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs.
It’s a significant change for Freeman and his family, although he’s no stranger to West Tennessee. Raised in Memphis and a Central High School alum, he went on to become a first-generation college graduate. His wife, Rafielle Boone Freeman, is a 1993 UT Martin nursing graduate. Freeman is the first African American chancellor at UT Martin.
Not surprising, Freeman’s first day included some notable “firsts,” including his first official campus welcome to participants at the 25th Mid-South Agricultural Finance Conference held in Watkins Auditorium. His brief appearance on the conference stage was just long enough for him to take his first on-the-job selfie with the audience of ag business attendees, producers and students in the background.
The new chancellor also scheduled 30 minutes to record a “First Day as UTM Chancellor” video featured later in the day on social media. The rest of the schedule included meetings and preparation for Monday’s university-wide opening meeting in Watkins Auditorium, which will be his first opportunity to address the university’s faculty and staff. Move-In Day is Aug. 17 for first-year students, Welcome Weekend begins Aug. 18, and the first day of UT Martin fall classes is Aug. 21.
Things are moving quickly now that he’s in Martin, but Freeman is accustomed to the pace and is clearly in his element following years of interacting and working with college students.
“I am living my dream by coming to UTM and having an opportunity to work with the faculty and staff to help our students reach every single personal and professional goal in their lives,” he said. “I was in Chattanooga for a long time, and I felt like I did really good work.
“This is the chance for me to do more and give more. I view this opportunity as a chance to be more impactful and to help this community.”
The next few weeks will be important as Freeman learns faculty and staff names, meets students and connects with alumni. Not surprising is his plan to engage as many people as he can and do plenty of listening as he walks the main campus, visits the university’s regional centers and travels in the region.
“There are some things I know already – that this is absolutely a family community, and we will keep that intact and keep it going,” he said. “The work that’s been done has been tremendous, and so I want to find ways that I can elevate that work in places where I can and celebrate our wins as we continue to progress. … Not significant changes as we go but just lots of listening to try to figure out how I can help.”
A “Take Flight with Freeman Tour” is being planned in the coming weeks by the UT Martin Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving to introduce the new chancellor to the region. The tour is still adding dates and locations, but the current lineup of visits can be found at alumni.utm.edu/freeman.