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Category Archives: News & Noteworthy

Among many traditions held on campus this Veterans Day, November 11, the Veterans Appreciation Dinner welcomed approximately 180 guests and keynote speaker Major General (RET) Gary Beard to recognize veterans serving their country. UT’s Veterans Success Center hosted this ceremony to commemorate the 97 veterans in attendance by presenting each of them with a commemorative coin to show appreciation for all they have accomplished.   

In attendance was Chancellor Donde Plowman and Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams. The latter spoke highly of our student veterans and shed light on what it means to give your all as a Volunteer. “Our veterans’ dedication and sacrifice are an embodiment of what it means to be a Volunteer,” Williams said. “It was an honor to participate in this moment of reflection and recognition and join the UT community in showing our appreciation and thanks to our veterans.”   

Keynote Speaker Major General Beard spoke about his passion for service and inspired student veterans by stating, “You always hear ‘I will give my all for Tennessee,’” Major General Beard said. “Veterans, you gave your all. Now the University of Tennessee can give their all to you.” Once a Volunteer himself, Major General Beard captured the true spirit of what it means to give your all in every aspect of life.   

This dinner welcomed veterans to recognize who they are and what they have done. Of the veterans in attendance, 60 were UT student veterans. Each speaker shared experience, knowledge, and appreciation, followed by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs presenting the longstanding cake-cutting tradition. This represents the Army’s tradition that links its past to the future.   

Without hesitation, Jesse McDonald, a graduate student in business administration, felt this dinner was one of great value to reflect on with her fellow student veterans and friends. She shared that “this was a great opportunity to get together with students and staff that we may not get to intersect with since we are in so many different areas at the university. Doing an event where we have a common bond outside of our identity with the University of Tennessee, but our bond through military service is special.”   

The Veterans Appreciation Dinner was a true reflection of the University of Tennessee’s commitment for student veterans, dependents, alumni, and friends who support the Volunteer spirit.  


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Lisa Parker, a distinguished lecturer of Hispanic Studies and director of the Language and World Business Program in the College of Arts & Sciences, excels at bringing career development into the classroom. Over the past several years, she has partnered with the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration (CCDAE) to help her students develop career readiness skills in several ways.  

Parker seamlessly embeds career into the curriculum for her Language and World Business (LWB) students by inviting the CCDAE career coaches to present personality and career preference and how to write a resume, and how to prepare for interviews. Students from her courses remarked that the presentations and feedback they received from career coaches, including Bukky Abdul and Erin Bennett, during Parker’s classes were very beneficial and helpful.  

“Students learn and experience the world in different ways and need creative opportunities to find how their strengths will lead to a career beyond UT,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “Dr. Parker is doing remarkable work inside her classroom to bridge the undergraduate academic experience with the real world and provide her students those unique, transformative opportunities.” 

She has collaborated with the Employer Development team to host employer-facilitated practice interview sessions for students in the CCDAE’s interview suites. Companies such as 21st Mortgage Knoxville, PepsiCo, Frito Lay, and Bush Brothers have participated in the mock interviews. Additionally, she has forged relationships with employers, such as the Department of State, to deliver relevant content to her students. Through her efforts to bring career into the classroom and her involvement in multiple types of experiential learning, she has ensured that all LWB students have access to career education, setting them up for success after graduation.  

One example of experiential learning Parker has facilitated is having her students do poster presentations during International Education Week. “For the past eight years, my MFLL 199 class has been doing poster presentations during the International Education Week,” Parker said. “There will be a Language & World Business alumni guest speaker at the beginning, and then open time to walk around and listen to the students present their research posters combining language and business.” 


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Through cross-campus collaborations, the University of Tennessee is working to build a community rooted in well-being where the strengths of its Volunteer community are recognized, valued, and celebrated. During their journey to graduation, undergraduate students have meaningful interactions with their peers, faculty, and staff to develop those strengths. This fall, the Division of Student Success collaborated with the Department of Mathematics to introduce a new initiative providing additional opportunities for students to excel – Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success. 

“Our students want the opportunity to solve complex, real-world problems and use the knowledge they gain here at UT to better their future and accomplish their academic, personal, and professional goals,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “In line with UT’s strategic vision, we created the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success initiative to provide student scholars with the opportunity to engage in rich learning by developing their math skills in a way that will enrich their learning in all their courses.” 

Through this initiative, UT students and faculty share tips for succeeding in lower-level math courses so students can better analyze and solve problems in real life. Vols’ futures will involve math, no matter the occupation being a musician, engineer, teacher, or fashion designer. “There is a lot of evidence that success in math classes is closely correlated to success in college,” Conrad Plaut, professor and head of the mathematics department, said. “Students who are successful at math are successful in other classes. At the same time, mathematics is more and more an important part of modern life.” 

The Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips allow students to show up to their classes prepared, manage their time, actively participate, know when to reach out to instructors, and ultimately take responsibility for their learning. 

Lexi Huskey and Kaleigh Hellard, both first-year students majoring in kinesiology, utilized academic success resources after viewing the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success videos. Huskey set up appointments with her academic advisor and coach and participated in tutoring. “I had experienced test anxiety before and wanted support since I had not taken math courses for a while,” Huskey said. “The tips helped refresh my learning and motivated me to go to the coaching and tutoring appointments.” 

Hellard also met with her advisor and became more aware of the services on campus. “I was not aware of some of the academic resources at UT before learning about the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips,” Hellard said. “I have been better prepared and aware of the support I have here.” 

Malissa Meadows, distinguished lecturer and lower division chair in Mathematics, says success in math is important to students’ development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Although specific math processes may not be used after graduation, Meadows says “Learning how to persevere as they complete a multi-step problem, determining how specific wording and other details impact solutions, reasoning through complex processes, and building confidence as they successfully navigate the course content will give them a foundational toolkit that they can use in other courses as well as their careers.” 

Meadows also appreciates the peer-to-peer component of Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success and how the information will resonate better for students learning from other students. “My hope is that the Start S.M.A.R.T initiative will resonate with students from the first day of class so that they never get into that hole,” Meadows said. “I believe it will have a positive long-term impact.” 


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There are a lot of resources on campus to help you on your academic journey. Start off the semester strong by getting connected with tools and tips to be successful. 

  1. Vol Success Tips – From time management to technology, our Vol Success Tips help you stay on top of your game in the classroom. 
  2. Reach out to your instructors – Your instructors are a partner in your academic success! Build these relationships by asking questions in class, attending office hours, and by checking and responding to Vol Mail regularly. 
  3. Vol Study Center – Vols who study together, succeed together! Visit the Vol Study Center for study sessions and space, Supplemental Instruction, free printing and more! Don’t wait to engage, as students who use Vol Study Center resources have higher GPAs than students who do not. 
  4. Success Workshops – The Academic Success Center offers weekly success workshops, both online and in-person to help you be your best inside and outside the classroom. Check out our session on Optimizing your Learning in Every Environment on August 30!  
  5. Wellbeing – Your health and wellness are a cornerstone to your overall success. Through the Center for Health Education & Wellness, UT offers resources to help you enhance the eight dimensions of wellness. 
  6. Be mindful of deadlines – Be prepared for key deadlines so you stay on track .  Check-in frequently with One Stop Student Services to stay up-to-date with registration dates, study days, and more. 
  7. UT Libraries – The UT Libraries are your place to get assistance with research, find materials, and even participate in the Volunteer Experience Escape Room. They also have librarians available to help you get started on research and understand where to find the information you’re looking for. 
  8. Take a break – Sometimes we all need to take a break from the books and recharge. The Center for Student Engagement offers dozens of events to get you connected to campus. 
  9. Find a study space – Need a change of scenery?  UT offers indoor and outdoor study spaces so you can hit the books while exploring a new area of campus. 
  10. Keep up with Canvas – Canvas is the online learning management system for UT. You can view important documents for your courses, check deadlines, and communicate with classmates. View OIT’s resource guide for helpful tips.

The Division of Student Success has appointed Patrick Biddix, professor in the College of Education, Health & Human Sciences, as the division’s inaugural faculty fellow. Professor Biddix will serve in this role for the 2021-2022 academic year and the summer 2022 semester. 

“Dr. Biddix is a respected member of the higher education community and an expert in assessment in student affairs,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “His contribution and support within our division will transform UT’s student success initiatives and enhance the undergraduate academic experience for all our Volunteers.”  

As a faculty fellow for Student Success, Professor Biddix’s responsibilities will include coordinating the division’s data collection and assessment activities, leading efforts for publishing peer-reviewed articles and pulse-style surveys, and holding a leadership role within the UT Strengths Advisory Council. 

“Student success is an inclusive philosophy and practice that considers student development as the responsibility of all members of the campus community,” Professor Biddix said. “I look forward to helping capture and showcase the many ways our in- and out-of-classroom experiences support our future Volunteer graduates. As a proud UTK undergraduate alumnus and rural Tennessee native, I am especially grateful to be part of this exciting and transformative effort for my alma mater.” 

In addition to being a professor of higher education, Professor Biddix is also associate director of the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at UT. He teaches graduate courses in research, assessment and evaluation, and special topics in higher education and student affairs. In 2015-2016, he served as a Fulbright Scholar in Montreal, Canada, where he studied student success and engagement in the classroom and alternative learning spaces. 

“Dr. Biddix’s research and writing has focused on student success and is nationally recognized for his expertise in this area,” Jimmy Cheek, director of PERC, said. “The college completion agenda is a primary focus of our center, and I am delighted that Biddix has been named Faculty Fellow and given this important responsibility.”


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Three University of Tennessee Knoxville advisors, have won the 2021 NACADA Global Awards to recognize their significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising within higher education. Ashleigh Powers won the outstanding advisor award, Jeremy Mobley won the exceptional new advisor award, and Shanna Pendergrast won the outstanding advisor administrator certificate of merit. Powers is a coordinator for academic advising in the Department of Psychology.

Mobley is a student success advisor for the Herbert College of Agriculture, specializing in advising for Animal Science students. Pendergrast is the associate director of Advising Services for the College of Arts & Sciences and is a member of the Global Awards Committee for NACADA.  

“Academic advising is a critical component of students’ educational experience and success, and we congratulate and thank Ashleigh, Jeremy, and Shanna for their leadership and contributions to our Vols’ success,” Amber Williams, vice provost for the Division of Student Success, said. 

Academic advising serves to develop and enrich students’ educational plans in ways consistent with their aspirations, interests, strengths, and values—preparing them for a life of learning in a diverse and global society. 

The National Academic Advising Association was chartered in 1979 and had over 10,000 members representing all 50 US states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and several other countries. The goals of the NACADA program include recognizing outstanding advising throughout higher education, offering a global advising rewards system, encouraging broader support of advising personnel and programs, and ultimately improving reporting services for students. 


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Students come to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with unique stories, and many of them journey through college celebrating adulthood and independence. But for Taylor Arlington, who graduates in December from UT, that journey has looked quite different. Taylor was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the fall of 2019, which is extremely rare for someone who was 19 years old.

“My journey has definitely been an interesting one, and there is a lot to it,” Taylor said. “With that being said, I can proudly say that I never once lost myself in the mess of challenges thrown my way.”

Taylor is majoring in psychology and sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. She has moved around quite a bit, born in Iowa and living in Michigan, Georgia, and then South Carolina to attend Limestone University. At Limestone, Taylor played collegiate soccer for two years before quitting due to her illness. She came to UT for medical and financial reasons, and the adjustment was not easy.

“I had just lost soccer which had been a part of my life since age four,” Taylor said. “I kept myself busy as much as I could and ended up getting randomly assigned to live with some of my current best friends.”

Since arriving at UT, faculty and staff have made that transition more comfortable with their time, support, and understanding. “I have had the opportunity to talk and work with so many amazing professors who, not only supported me in every way possible, offered up their time to be someone for me to talk to if I ever needed to vent or get something off my chest.”

Kathleen Modica-Forster, an academic coach with the Academic Success Center, has been someone Taylor can talk to and receive guidance. “Kathleen has been my biggest blessing, and someone who I have truly looked forward to speaking to every single time that I get the opportunity to,” Taylor said. “She is a constant reassurance and support when I need it most and genuinely cares about my journey.”

“Her attitude and energy during our coaching sessions are simply inspiring,” Kathleen said. “She always smiles and never complains about what she is going through.”

To celebrate her journey, Taylor has four tattoos, each with a story and special meaning. The first is a butterfly, which her sister designed, that Taylor got two days after her diagnosis. It is a butterfly on her right wrist with an upside-down cancer ribbon for its body. There are several meanings behind the tattoo, such as a butterfly representing the shape of the thyroid and its location on the right side of her body where the cancer began. “I knew there was a long journey ahead and that I needed something to be a constant reminder that I am stronger than anything thrown my way,” Taylor said.

For Taylor, being a Vol for Life means lifelong connections and relationships between friendships and opportunities to better an individual’s chances for success. “No matter what challenges arise, there is always going to be an entire team behind you that is going to do all that they can to ensure your success,” Taylor said. “I am a living example of that.”


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The Volunteer Difference encompasses the unique strengths that set UT apart from our peers and will lead us forward. Now is the moment we transition a world turned upside down due to three pandemics (corona virus, racial, and economic) into a brighter, better future for our Volunteer community. UT Chancellor Donde Plowman and Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams recently contributed to two Inside Higher Ed pieces about how universities are responding to the last year and transforming higher education so that campuses will welcome students to a more dynamic, flexible, inclusive environment this fall.

Check out the two-part series!

Three students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have been named 2021–22 Goldwater Scholars, giving UT a shared first place in the SEC for the prestigious award.

Congress established the Goldwater Scholarship Program in 1986 to honor US Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarships in the United States, Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Since 2010, 24 UT students have been named Goldwater Scholars. This year’s recipients are Keri Burge, Elijah Hix, and Owen Queen, all juniors. To learn more about our student scholars and their accomplishments, click here.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been named a 2020–21 Fulbright US Student top-producing institution. With 17 UT students and recent graduates offered Fulbright awards for 2020–21, UT ranks seventh among all public research universities and is the top-ranked SEC school for the third straight year.

Each year the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright US Student Program, the US government’s flagship international educational exchange program. The results are published annually in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This year is the third consecutive year that UT has received this national designation. It also marks the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program.

“Being named a Fulbright US Student top-producing institution is quite an honor and a testament to the academic achievements and professional competitiveness of our UT students,” said John Zomchick, provost and senior vice chancellor. “We’re proud that so many of our Vols have been selected as Fulbrighters and can continue on their academic journeys.”

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