KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee’s chancellor delivered her third annual Flagship Address on Tuesday. Donde Plowman reflected on the past year and looked ahead to the next, as students and staff continue on with a semester still marked by COVID-19.

The ongoing pandemic was a talking point. Plowman highlighted how the university has overcome obstacles, and she outlined recent successes. Those include back-to-back years of record undergraduate classes and enrolling the largest student body in the university’s history.

“I want the people of this community and the state to feel so proud of this university, what we’ve accomplished. We did a lot in the last 18 months at the same time, struggling with COVID. We are putting forth a new strategic vision that lifts up all the opportunities this university has, and we’re already beginning to work on many of those,” said Plowman.

While Plowman was speaking, one group was also vocal and wanted their concerns to be heard. They advocated for increased COVID safety measures.

“We want free testing and free masks. More remote work. And what we especially want is hazard pay for our essential workers,” said Allison Becha with United Campus Workers.

“We’re just here to just protect our students and our staff mainly. Because the infections are really high. We’re trying to do what we can to start from the bottom and work up and just make sure we can all work in a safe environment,” said John Han, a UTK lecturer.

In response, Plowman said, “that group has never come and asked for a meeting with me. And I would love to sit down with them. Let’s talk about what it is, I think we’ve responded to many of those things, but I would like to visit with them. So that’s an open invitation.”

Not everything was about COVID, though. Chancellor Plowman gave an overview of the university’s new strategic vision and the five goals within the new vision. Those are cultivating the volunteer experience; conducting research that makes life and lives better; ensuring a culture where Vol is a Verb; making ourselves nimble and adaptable; and embodying the modern R1, land-grant university.

Plowman will present the vision and goal statements to the Board of Trustees in October.