KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Knoxville-based advertising agency Tombras are teaming up to modernize and expand the school’s advertising and public relations department. The university announced Friday that the school will now be named the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations.
A press release says this change will make the school “the first named school of advertising and public relations among all land-grant institutions in the country.”
UT leaders say the name change will help the school double the number of Black, Indigenous, and people of color graduates entering into advertising and public relations jobs, a goal that state industry leaders are also seeking.
“When I meet with industry leaders across the state and beyond, the one thing companies tell me is that they need more diverse talent. They want their workforce to reflect the diversity of their consumers,” said Donde Plowman, chancellor of UT, Knoxville. “Investments like this one are a game-changer – not only for the students who will graduate from the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, but for the people and communities across Tennessee who benefit when we are able to meet the needs of our industries.”
The school wants to increase support for historically underrepresented students with opportunities for scholarships to study abroad and internships, increase overall enrollment of advertising and public relations majors and meet ever-changing technology needs.
“Their creative and visionary force in the industry will serve as an inspiration to our students and faculty,”
said Joseph Mazer, dean of the UT College of Communication and Information. “Tombras’ generosity will enhance the national prominence of the school and provide transformational opportunities for our students.”
The College of Communication and Information employs about 70 faculty members and currently has 1,500 enrolled students (1,250 undergraduates and 250 graduate students). As part of the renaming the school will undergo a renovation and begin hosting enrichment programs at Tennessee high schools and offer summer and graduate fellowships.
The school will also create a Tombras professorship for a faculty member who actively recruits historically underrepresented students and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.
“We believe it is our duty to give back and lead the advertising and public relations industries into a more equitable future,” said Dooley Tombras, president of Tombras. “The biggest opportunity is to solve the root problem of getting more diverse talent into the industry by creating awareness, interest and clarity on what’s possible through the Tombras School.
“Once a student is enrolled, we’re ensuring the facilities are state of the art and the Tombras School faculty are supported in creating the curricula. That along with access to real-world practical experiences will produce graduates who are among the most competitive in the country.”
Beth Avery Foster, director of the new Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, said the “potential is overwhelming.”
“This industry leader-academic partnership represents one of few of its kind in the country,” she said. “I am humbled with gratitude for the generosity, vision, and support of the Tombras family as it positions the school for immense growth and to move the needle on representation in higher education and the industry.”
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