University of Tennessee suspends search for vice president of human resources

Monica Kast
The University of Tennessee has suspended the search for its next vice president for human resources.

The University of Tennessee has suspended the search for its next vice president for human resources following a five-month national search.

UT previously announced two finalists for the position and brought them to campus for interviews and open forums this summer. Following their visits to campus, UT Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tonjanita Johnson announced that the search had been suspended on Aug. 24.

Johnson said after interviewing both finalists, “while we had a couple of very accomplished finalists, at the end there seemed to be agreement that they did not quite fit.”

“There was not a solid fit, I would say, in terms of all of the outlined skills and experiences that we were looking for in this role,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the position will still be filled, but there is not currently a timeline for when the search process will restart. Things will likely move forward again after the fall Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 2, Johnson said.

Tonja Johnson

“I think as we get this new board ramped up and running, we will have a much better sense of what their expectations are from an operations standpoint, from a systems standpoint, and that will be helpful,” Johnson said. “But I have to say, we have an extremely seasoned and experienced team of HR professionals across the state, so I feel really good that we are in a good place.”

The vice president of human resources will lead that department for the University of Tennessee System. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is currently looking to fill three additional administrative positions: chancellor, vice chancellor for communications, and vice chancellor for research.

Johnson and Tiffany Carpenter, associate vice president of communications and marketing at UT and member of the search committee for the vice chancellor of communications, said the vacant position in human resources will not affect the searches for the positions on the Knoxville campus.

Carpenter said the search committees for the vice chancellor positions met last week and the searches are ongoing.

Linda Hendricks Harig, the previous vice president of human resources, retired at the end of 2017. The search committee to fill the position first met in March of this year, and the search officially began in April. Two finalists, Linda Gaddie and Vicki Hatfield, were announced in July and brought to Knoxville for forums and meetings on campus.

The vice president for human resources “has statewide responsibility for planning, developing and implementing system-wide initiatives and strategies that support employee engagement and customer service excellence,” according to a news release from the university. The vice president is also responsible for developing a human resources strategic plan, as well as making sure the University of Tennessee System follows university, state and federal labor policies and standards.