Valerie Rutledge, dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has received the university system's highest award for her efforts to boost diversity.

On Thursday, she and four other University of Tennessee faculty and staff members were given the President's Award at a ceremony in Nashville, according to a news release.

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Valerie Rutledge

Rutledge "embraces diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the university," the release states, and she attracts, recruits and retains women, specifically women of color, through UTC's Grow Your Own program, which she uses to increase the number of minority faculty in the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies.

"She also continues to financially and administratively assist the Moc Forward Diversity Conference, which brings faculty, staff, students and community members to UT Chattanooga's campus to provide workshops and training sessions regarding diversity issues in the Chattanooga community," it continues.

During Thursday's ceremony, UT Interim President Randy Boyd praised Rutledge and the other winners.

"Our University would not be where it is today if it weren't for our employees' dedication, and I am continually energized by their extraordinary, life-changing work," he said. "These awards highlight the way they greatly impact those within our University and state, and even reaching those at the farthest corners of the world."

The President's Awards are the highest honor a UT employee can receive from the university and are intended to spotlight success and inspire excellence, the release states. Honorees are selected each year from a system-wide pool of candidates nominated by campus and institute leaders. Commemorative plaques and monetary awards of $3,000 are presented.

The other winners are:

» Educate Honoree: Rapinder "Rupy" Sawhney, a UT-Knoxville professor

» Discover Honoree: Karen Johnson, UT Health Science Center College of Medicine endowed professor of women's health 

» Connect Honoree: Sarah Hillyer, director of the Center for Sport, Peace and Society in the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health and Human Sciences

» Support Honoree: Kathy Gibbs, assistant vice chancellor for student academic support services and inclusion.