With A Focus On DEI, Tombras Ad/PR School Unveiled At U. Of Tennessee, Knoxville

Knoxville-based advertising agency Tombras has teamed with the The University of Tennessee, Knoxville to establish a new ad and PR school that is dedicated to boosting the diversity of its student body and graduates and hopefully the industry as well. 

The agency and the Tombras family have donated an undisclosed sum to establish and maintain the school. The official dedication and naming ceremony was held on Friday. 

Key goals for the newly unveiled Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations are to double the number of BIPOC graduates entering those industries from UT and to make advertising and public relations industry workforce numbers more representative of state and national populations. 

The Tombras School is the first named school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the first named school of advertising and public relations among all land-grant institutions in the country. It will be housed in the College of Communication and Information. 



The School honors the legacies of Charles Tombras, Sr. (who founded the agency in 1946) and Charles Tombras, Jr., and the impact that the Tombras agency has had on the industry.  

As the school ramps up recruitment efforts  it has established the Charles Tombras, Sr. Professorship, whose holder will be tasked with recruiting students of color among other duties.  

The school is also planning an expansion that will include classroom and technology upgrades and an increase in the number of faculty commiserate with the increase in anticipated student enrollment. 

Agency president Dooley Tombras said, “We believe it is our duty to give back and lead the advertising and public relations industries into a more equitable future. 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.” 

Among other initiatives, the school will be redoubling recruitment efforts at the high school level throughout the state, efforts that include increased scholarship opportunities for underrepresented groups. Also planned: an increase in networking and internship programs.

Donde Plowman, Chancellor of University of Tennessee, Knoxville, stated, “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. 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.”

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