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UT’s Inaugural Thrive Summit Triumphs with Acclaimed Author, Public Speaker, and Academic Dr. Arthur Brooks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted its inaugural Thrive Summit on Wednesday, November 15 to an audience of faculty and staff, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Arthur Brooks, and co-hosted by the Division of Student Success and The Baker School of Public Policy & Public Affairs. 

Provost John Zomchick provided opening remarks to kick off the Thrive Summit, stating, “As a university, we have a responsibility to promote well-being among our students and among each other. Today’s wonderful program shows we take this responsibility seriously.” 

Dr. Brooks, a New York Times bestselling author and columnist at The Atlantic, is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Public and Nonprofit Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School, where he teaches courses on leadership, happiness, and social entrepreneurship.  

His address to the 155 attendees focused on how neuroscience relates to managing and understanding your emotions, which can lead to happiness and better well-being.  

“It’s not trying to eradicate emotions; it’s trying to manage emotions,” Brooks said. 

Brooks arrived on UT’s campus Tuesday, November 14, and had the opportunity to speak to first-year student scholars and UT leadership to learn more about well-being work on Rocky Top and relate his expertise and experience to how the university can move forward with efforts to incorporate well-being practices inside and outside the classroom.”

“I’m really encouraged by what I see here,” Brooks said at the conclusion of the Summit. “I think that happiness is the center of excellence at UT.”  

After spending two days at UT, Brooks left feeling strongly that the university is taking a unique approach to lifting student well-being and is creating a community where all students will thrive.

Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, closed out the keynote portion of the Summit with remarks on UT’s current work on integrating well-being in the classroom. She highlighted the current efforts of the Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows, as well as the faculty teams who are leading student success grants.

“By leaning into our students’ strengths and promoting their well-being, we know that we will help build resilient, capable students who will thrive not only on campus and in the classroom, but in the workplace and their communities,” Williams said during her remarks. 

Members of the UT faculty and leaders within the Division of Student Success then facilitated breakout sessions with additional updates on the university’s use of the PERMA Model of Well-being, ideas for applying that framework, and considerations regarding the unique needs of all undergraduate Vols.


“I enjoyed the UT Thrive Summit and thinking about the PERMA model in the context of incorporation in the classroom,” Emily Rodriguez, assistant professor of practice in UT’s College of Social Work, said. “I plan to implement more strengths-based feedback for the students to do self-reflection more often throughout the semester.” 

The Division of Student Success, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, will be recruiting the next cohort of Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows to serve during the 24-25 academic year. There are additional opportunities to learn more about the Volunteer Experience and well-being listed on the Student Success website.