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Amber Williams

Vice Provost Amber Williams

Dr. Amber Williams is a seasoned higher education administrator and visionary leader responsible for the University of Tennessee’s efforts to serve undergraduate scholars and their unique academic goals. She is a globally-recognized expert and highly sought-after keynote speaker for student success initiatives as well as organizational leadership and development, diversity and inclusion, and women in business. Described as a transformative leader, she looks beyond numbers to see scholars as individuals—creating programs and services that support their unique story, prepares them for graduation, and empowers every Volunteer to make a difference in the world.  

Through her efforts leading the Division of Student Success, retention rates have jumped to a record-breaking 91%, well above the national average of 75%. In her four years on Rocky Top, she’s created and implemented numerous customized programs and data-driven initiatives designed to promote success throughout a scholar’s academic journey. Each program was carefully curated through a student success framework that encourages a strengths-based approach through confidence, high expectations, and individualized structures that ensure every student matters.  

The personalized approach has made UT’s Division of Student Success a national leader for its innovative efforts, and many of the programs Dr. Williams has implemented have become a roadmap for other institutions.

  • A redesign of First-Year Experience programming now delivers an experience so comprehensive, inclusive, and engaging—applications have soared to record numbers. Dr. Williams believes the Volunteer community doesn’t just welcome scholars to campus; it walks alongside them. 
  • Through a restructure of the university’s premier Honors program, Haslam Leadership Scholars, Dr. Williams helped strengthen the leadership pathway for these scholars to become true change-makers for the state and the world. Under her leadership, UT also received the first Truman scholar in 25 years and was named a top Fulbright producer, among other nationally and internationally prestigious awards.  
  • To ensure UT scholars have the skills and confidence needed to reach for their dream careers, Dr. Williams helped guide the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration to provide a sharpened focus on career readiness. Through more experiential learning, soft skills enhancement and real-world applications in the classroom, positive career outcomes for UT graduates have increased to an all-time high of 91%.   
  • Dr. Williams helped champion CliftonStrengths on Rocky Top and ensures each incoming Volunteer takes the strength-based assessment. She believes by identifying a scholar’s talents, harnessing strengths, and promoting personal development, a scholar can leverage those experiences to successful outcomes both inside and outside the classroom. In 2022, UT received the Gallup’s Don Clifton Strengths for Students Award. 
  • A new initiative, Vol Edge, will harness the power of scholars’ strengths, promote their well-being, and produce graduates driven by service, resiliency, and confidence. Dr. Williams believes a transformative, meaningful experience for all Vols can lead them to a brighter, more prosperous future. She looks to recruit UT alumni, not first-year students.  

Dr. Williams came to UT in January 2020 from the University of Nebraska, where she served as their Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and had significant experiences influencing student success initiatives. Under her leadership, Nebraska created and designed the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy, an innovative college access program that addresses fundamental inequalities in the education system by preparing first-generation and low-income students to achieve personal and academic success. The Academy scholars average a 90% first-year student-to-sophomore retention rate and an 85% graduation rate.  

Dr. Williams earned her bachelor’s in communication studies from the University of Kansas, a master’s in leadership education, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Inside Higher Edhighlighted her career trajectory.   

Dr. Williams is married to UT associate professor of sociology Deadric Williams. They have two children, Anthony and Avery.