Executive Director & Vice Provost
for the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute

Joan Bienvenue named to lead the
University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute

Joan Bienvenue has been selected as the first executive director of the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, established last year to align the expertise and infrastructure of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the university in support of world-leading research and talent development. As director, Bienvenue will also serve as a vice provost at UT. Bienvenue comes to the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute  from the University of Virginia, where she has been senior executive director of the Applied Research Institute. 

About the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute

The University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute is a partnership of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and UT created to prepare interdisciplinary leaders in energy science and technology and develop a world-class workforce for industry, government, and academia that will drive innovation and create the industries of the future.

Today’s energy economy is driven by disruptive technologies and swift change. The US is in a global competition for jobs, talent, and investment. To successfully compete, we must develop leadership talent in research and development (R&D), encourage entrepreneurship, and create an educational environment that promotes rapid innovation and attracts skilled professionals.

Working together, UT and ORNL have developed joint institutes, joint facilities, interdisciplinary PhD programs, and comprehensive joint faculty arrangements, including 17 Governor’s Chairs recruited for the significance of their impacts in their fields. ORI’s coordinated expansion of these successful programs will prepare the next generation of exceptional scientists and engineers while and build a global innovation hub in Tennessee. 

Building the Technology Talent Pipeline for America

ORI will create a robust talent pipeline in areas of growing national need and demand. As a result, Tennessee will become the go-to destination for top-level talent development and discovery.

The Institute will address top-tier industry and workforce needs emerging from the introduction of automation and artificial intelligence. The Institute will develop scientists and engineers who will be locally relevant and globally competitive. Students will learn innovation and interdisciplinary problem- solving skills that prepare them to be leaders in fields that may not exist today.


ORI’s mission is to strategically align the expertise and infrastructure of UT and ORNL to usher in world-class interdisciplinary research and graduate education.


ORI’s vision is to become a center for convergent research and talent development, helping maintain US prominence as a global innovation leader and providing tangible benefits to Tennessee.

The overarching goals of ORI are to:

  • establish robust partnership platforms that promote industry engagement, entrepreneurship, and technology implementation for economic and community development;
  • provide flexible mechanisms that promote discovery and innovation, especially in areas related to data science and technology, advanced materials, and outcomes-based applications;
  • build on existing joint programs to strategically integrate collaborative opportunities between UT and ORNL; and
  • offer an enriched interdisciplinary educational and research experience for students.

The University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute Executive Director & Vice Provost

The Executive Director and Vice Provost of the University of Tennessee Oak Ridge Innovation Institute is accountable to the ORNL Laboratory Director and serves as the senior leader responsible for the oversight of all ORI operations and activities at UT, as well as, development, planning, and implementation of strategies for enduring success and impact. In this capacity, the Director serves as the strategic thought leader responsible for (1) establishing a compelling future vision complemented by a strategic execution plan for enduring sustainability, (2) strengthening stakeholder engagement and relationship management with new and existing major sponsors, and (3) driving staff growth and development while creating organizational momentum that enhances our facilities and capabilities. 

Emphasis is placed on strengthening collaborative research opportunities and graduate education prominence jointly with UT’s colleges and ORNL’s science and technology (S&T) directorates. The Vice Provost role is accountable and responsible to the UT-Knoxville Provost on academic matters.

ORI will be primarily located on the campus of ORNL to ensure close and enduring collaborations in areas of interest to both UT and ORNL. ORI will expand UT-ORNL joint programs, including joint institutes; the joint faculty program; joint educational programs (i.e., the Bredesen Center and Genome Sciences and Technology); Governor’s Chair and Distinguished Scientists programs; and Science Alliance. ORI will leverage the physical infrastructure and facilities at ORNL and follow all applicable rules and regulations to ensure quality standards and safe conduct of research.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Develop vision, strategies, and roadmaps to establish leading-edge interdisciplinary graduate research in emerging fields of interest to both UT and ORNL.
  • Build world-leading programs between UT and ORNL that leverage S&T strengths across the two institutions.
  • Lead recruitment of ORI faculty and staff required to accomplish joint educational and R&D programs. Allocate resources and guide priorities for developing and retaining a diverse faculty and staff. Manage human resources (e.g., performance, salary, development, succession planning, discipline).
  • Establish a strategic process for attracting, developing, motivating, and retaining the highest quality students for ORI educational programs who will become future science and engineering leaders.
  • Facilitate reviews of ORI joint faculty and Governor’s Chairs with the appropriate UT department and ORNL directorate.
  • Develop strategies to encourage the creation and commercialization of technology, especially through the development of industry partnerships and entrepreneurship.
  • Provide leadership and oversight to ensure the strategic alignment of operations (including financial, communications, and infrastructure), strategic planning, program development, and educational missions.
  • Develop and maintain procedures and regulations to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, DOE directives, the ORNL management and operating contract, and UT and ORNL policies, as appropriate.


  • PhD in a technical field with an outstanding record of scholarly achievement and excellence.
  • Exceptional and proven leadership abilities, a
    vision and commitment to excellence in graduate education, a distinguished record of research program development, a record of teaching achievement, an enthusiasm for engagement, and a dedication to championing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Demonstrated experience in the creation, support, and/or deployment of innovative new curricula, degree programs, and/or student programs that inspire a dynamic, dedicated, and talented team of colleagues.
  • Exceptional communication skills that support building relationships with internal and external partners and representing the organization in a compelling fashion.
  • Success in developing, implementing, and executing scientific strategies with engagement from critical stakeholders.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Qualifications appropriate to hold the rank of Professor for joint appointment in a UT department.
  • A professional track record in areas relevant to all ORI missions.
  • Substantial experience working for or collaborating with DOE national laboratories or similar organizations.


This position requires the ability to obtain and maintain a security clearance from the Department of Energy. This position therefore is designated for Workplace Substance Abuse Program (WSAP) testing. WSAP positions require passing a pre-placement drug test and participation in an ongoing random drug testing program.

About the University of Tennessee

Founded in 1794, the University of Tennessee (UT) is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service.

Today, UT is the state’s oldest and largest public higher education institution enrolling 50,000 graduate and undergraduate students and employing 25,000 faculty, staff, and student workers. UT is Tennessee’s largest talent development engine, producing 11,000 graduates each year. In 2017, the UT System generated nearly $3.5 billion in income, created 71,086 jobs in Tennessee, and was responsible for $325.2 million in tax revenue for the state and local government.

Research is a critical part of the University’s mission as a land-grant institution. UT faculty and students system-wide are involved in research, adding to the body of knowledge in academic disciplines, and providing solutions to everyday problems. The University is classified as a research university with very high research activity (RU/VH) by the Carnegie Commission and conducted a record $481 million in research and sponsored program expenditures in 2017.

The UT Research Foundation (UTRF) is among the world’s top university producers of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office. It has successfully licensed over half of its patent portfolio and actively manages over 200 technology license agreements.

The UT System, through its multiple campuses and institutes, serves the people of Tennessee and beyond through the discovery, communication, and application
of knowledge. UT is committed to providing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education programs in a diverse learning environment that prepares students to be leaders in a global society.