University of Tennessee, Knoxville Announces Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations

Members of the Tombras family alongside Chancellor Donde Plowman, Dean Joseph Mazer, and Director Beth Avery Foster during the unveiling of the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Knoxville-based advertising agency Tombras have partnered to create a first-of-its-kind landmark program and investment plan to modernize and expand advertising and public relations education.

Key goals for the newly named Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, which will be housed in UT’s College of Communication and Information, are to double the number of Black, Indigenous, and people of color entering those industries after graduating from UT and to help make advertising and public relations industry demographics more representative of state and national populations.

The Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations is the first named school at UT, the first named school of advertising and public relations among all land-grant institutions in the country, and the first of its kind in the SEC.

“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.”

“We are tremendously grateful for the overwhelming support of Tombras,” said Joseph Mazer, dean of the College of Communication and Information. “Their creative and visionary force in the industry will serve as an inspiration to our students and faculty. Tombras’s generosity will enhance the national prominence of the school and provide transformational opportunities for our students.”

The school will measure its effectiveness in three primary areas: an increase in its underrepresented student enrollment; an increase in the overall enrollment of advertising and public relations majors and therefore the addition of new faculty lines; and support for historically underrepresented students with opportunities for scholarships to study abroad, intern in a large city, and meet technology needs.

“This industry leader–academic partnership represents one of the few of its kind in the country, and the potential is overwhelming,” said Beth Avery Foster, director of the school. “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. I am also deeply grateful for our faculty, who are central to enacting these exciting efforts.”

The school’s strategic goals will be met through the Tombras Touchpoints, a series of innovative, visible, and impactful initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to academic excellence.

“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 UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. “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.”

March 25th marks the official dedication and naming ceremony of the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, which honors the legacies of Charles Tombras Sr. and Charles Tombras Jr. as well as the indelible imprint the Tombras agency has made on the industry. An event will be held on campus to unveil signage and celebrate the joint announcement.

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