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The highest positive career outcome in history was a hot topic in the Third Annual Career Outcomes Summit at the University of Tennessee.

“The caliber of UT students stands out leaps and bounds above other institutions.” 

– Ashlee Price, Pilot Company 

The highest positive career outcome in history, the number one skill employers look for in a candidate, and how to give UT graduates an edge were all hot topics in the Third Annual Career Outcomes Summit.

The recent gathering, held in UT’s Student Union, allows for members of the Volunteer community to come together with local employers to discuss career outcomes data from recent graduates, career readiness in the classroom, and how to prepare Volunteers for the modern workforce.  

We have four years to prepare our scholars for 40 years in the workforce,” said Dr. Amber Williams, UT’s Vice Provost for Student Success. “We want every Volunteer to walk out into the world confident they have the skills to thrive.” 

 Record-Breaking Statistics 

The showstopping number of the day was the 91.4% positive career outcome rate for the 2023 graduating class—the highest in UT history.  Just five years ago, the positive career outcome rate was at 81%. Previously, career outcomes were analyzed using generated reports, but this year, members of the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration (CCDAE) team customized the approach to create a more comprehensive and insightful report. 

“We email students, go to post-graduation events, ask employers who they’ve hired, ask faculty for exit information, conduct calling campaigns, utilize institutional records and search LinkedIn,” said Stephanie Kit, CCDAE Executive Director. “We’re in a great job market, and I’m so excited to see Volunteers become successful in the workplace.” 

Additional statistical highlights for 2023 graduates: 

  • Nearly 60% of graduates chose to stay in Tennessee to begin their careers.  
  • More than 1,600 unique organizations hired Volunteers. 
  • The median salary increased from $56,284 to $62,000 over the course of one year. 

Articulation is Key 

Employers are looking for the best and the brightest, but they also want problem solvers, good communicators and someone who can quickly adapt. While employers say many candidates may meet job requirements and look great on a resume, there is a gap in candidates being able to articulate what those skills mean to a potential employer. 

Distinguished attendees at the Third Annual Career Summit.

“Many applicants have technical skills, but being able to talk about them is so important,“ said Kristi Nguyen from 21st Mortgage. “Sometimes I get one-word answers. Doing the research beforehand, communicating well and feeling confident about what they can bring to the table, those are the soft skills we’re looking for.” 

Sarah Yeaple from Knoxville Utilities Board says while internships and subject-specific knowledge matters, applicants must be able to articulate how that experience and knowledge translates to real-world applications.  

“The ability to multitask and have adaptability to be on the pace of change is so important, but they must be able to show evidence of their ability to do that,” she said. 

The employer panel also discussed emerging trends in the workplace, including the rise in the use of artificial intelligence. They also shared that a flexible work schedule has become one of the top priorities amongst new applicants.  

“Everyone’s work/life balance is specific to the individual,” said Ashlee Price from Pilot Company. “Students want to know what that balance looks like for them so they can avoid the constant juggling of career responsibilities and personal life.”  

The Vol Edge 

The path from education to employment will look different for every scholar. But regardless of their preferred career industry, experts now agree academic success and career readiness should work hand-in-hand. Answers are not always found in books, and scholars need to learn that it’s ok to step outside the box—be creative, use critical thinking and to trust their own instincts.   

To help further advance what that looks like for Volunteers, Krystyne Savarese, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success, and Doug Porter, Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives, shared how a new program—The Vol Edge—will further enhance career readiness through more experiential learning while also promoting positive well-being. Simply put, the goal is to have graduates BE ready and FEEL ready for their next steps out of college.  

Doug Porter speaks about the Vol EDGE.

“We asked students to write the first three words that came to mind when it came to getting a job after college,” said Dr. Savarese. “Yes, we got feelings of excitement, determination, optimism—but we also saw words like anxious, uncertain, and nervous. Career outcomes matter, but so does their wellbeing on that journey.” 

The Vol Edge—which will be rolled out in 2025 and fully operational in 2027—will offer a flexible array of learning and engagement activities to foster purposeful life and career readiness for scholars. Research shows that “high-impact educational practices,” such as study abroad, internships, and undergraduate research, provide transformative effects on a scholar’s personal development. The Vol Edge will help ensure every scholar—no matter their background or circumstance—has access to these intentional opportunities and can then apply what they’ve learned to their first jobs.  

“It’s an exciting time to be at UT,” said Porter. “The university is making significant investments to ensure that UT graduates continue to stand out as some of the best prepared in the country. The Vol Edge will help make sure that all our scholars can graduate with confidence ready to tell their story and thrive in their lives and careers.” 

UT’s Undergraduate Research & Fellowships announced two undergraduate Volunteers have been named finalists for the Truman Scholarship. Summit Wright and Grace Hardin were two of 193 finalists chosen from 709 applications from 285 schools.

Headshot of Summitt Wright Summitt Wright, a junior majoring in agricultural economics and supply chain management, will interview with the Truman Foundation March 18 for the opportunity to receive the scholarship. Summitt spent many of her formative years in California, but her heart belongs to the place she considers home: Arkansas. Summitt currently researches the Farm Bill with UT faculty member, Associate Professor Aaron Smith, while balancing a strong commitment to leadership and service on and off campus. She is especially concerned with providing opportunities for youth in rural America.

Universities nominate students for the Truman Scholarship based on their records of leadership, public service, and academic achievement. The scholarship offers $30,000 toward a public service focused graduate degree program, leadership development, a network of fellow public servants dedicated to influencing change, and much more.

Summitt hopes to ultimately pursue a law degree and a career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has built her path to law school and long-term public service by interning with Senators Tom Cotton (AR) and Marsha Blackburn (TN) as well as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. She demonstrates her leadership through multiple on-campus organizations, including her work with the National Agricultural Marketing Association and Food and Agricultural Business Club. Her two study abroad trips—where she examined viticulture in Italy and agro-industrial value chains in Argentina—gave her global perspectives she looks forward to bringing back to her home state as she focuses on building workforce development pathways for high school students in rural areas.

Summitt said she “learned the importance of advocacy and public service,” as she developed her application. “To me, being a Truman finalist means having a servant leader mindset and working towards a greater good.”

Grace Hardin, a junior in the College Scholars Program, believes in the power of community. Originally from Nashville, her family was impacted significantly both by the economic downturn of 2008 and the opioid epidemic. Her experiences motivated her to establish and lead a mental health organization at her high school in her junior year, not long before COVID struck. She credits the organization—which allowed students to talk about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and recovery—with helping her take control of her own journey. That journey has now led her to the Truman Scholarship, which she learned about through a presentation in her College Scholars seminar.

Todd Freeburg, professor of psychology and director of the College Scholars Program, notes that Grace’s individualized major is “a perfect example” of College Scholars’ “interdisciplinary approach.” By combining coursework in psychology, sociology, social work, public health, policy, and child and family studies, Grace has designed a path of study to examine child welfare in the United States, including how society is impacted both by policies that support, and fail to support, children and families. She has built on this work—and built both her UT and Knoxville community—through her time with the Volunteer Impact Academy, Rocky Top Recovery, Hope Central, and the Baker Scholars Program.

She will also interview with the Truman Foundation on March 18 for her chance at the competitive award. “Being selected as a Truman Finalist,” Grace said, “has not only given me motivation but validation in my course of study and my post-collegiate goals. I feel so grateful for all of the experiences that have led me to this point and those who have helped make this opportunity possible.”

Students interested in the Truman Scholarship, or other national/international awards, should contact Undergraduate Research & Fellowships at or 865-974-8560.

UT’s Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration is preparing for one of the most exciting times on Rocky Top – job fair season!

This spring the center is hosting multiple job and internship fairs bringing in top-rated employers from across the country and collaborating on major-specific fairs being offered by colleges and programs on campus.

This semester’s largest fairs are the Spring Job Fair:

  • Day 1: Business and Government on February 20
  • Day 2: Engineering and Tech on February 21

Both events are from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Student Union Pilot Company Ballroom.

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We want to show all of our students they are math people.” – Jack Ryan, math lecturer 

With a steadfast commitment to enhance scholar well-being both inside and outside the classroom, the Division of Student Success (DSS) has awarded a grant to the Department of Mathematics.

The grant allows for a redesign of the Math 119-123-125 series: college algebra, finite math, and basic calculus. Angela Gentry, Math 119 course coordinator and senior lecturer, will lead the two-year initiative.  

“This grant underscores our commitment to fostering an environment where every student can thrive academically and personally,” says Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “This investment reinforces our dedication to innovative programs that empower students on their educational journey and contribute to their overall success.” 

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The University of Tennessee and Undergraduate Research & Fellowships announces three students were named finalists for prestigious awards to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Rachel Stewart was a finalist for both the Marshall and Rhodes scholarships, Diba Seddighi a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship, and Jacob Alrock a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. 

Rachel Stewart, a 2022 Haslam Leadership Scholar and 2022 Truman Scholar, is an environmental sociology major and minoring in nuclear decommissioning and environmental management. On campus, she has served as president of Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville (SPEAK) and interned with the Office of Sustainability. In the spring of 2021, she was recognized with the Student Environmental Leadership Award, and her organization, the UT Compost Coalition, received the award for outstanding student organization. After graduation, Rachel plans on pursuing a master’s degree in health physics with a nuclear nonproliferation concentration. She hopes to work with the US Department of Energy as a health physicist, prioritizing community-engaged research and partnerships to help ensure that Indigenous and other marginalized communities benefit from scientific advances in radioactive waste management and nuclear weapons nonproliferation.  

Diba Seddighi, a 2022 grad, self-designed her degree, Global Health Equity, which examines issues of global health equity especially as they pertain to immigrant population, and minored in Spanish. A College Scholar, Diba is currently an NIH Post-Baccalaureate Fellow investigating sickle cell disease and equitable gene therapy. While a volunteer at Youth Hope, she developed strategies to address opioid use disorder in Knoxville. She also volunteered at Remote Area Medical, Centro Hispano, Bridge Refugee Services, and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Diba plans to pursue a master’s degree in Global Public Health and then a medical degree. She hopes to work as a physician in a low-resource setting, delivering accessible care through a career with the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.  

Jacob AlrockJacob Alrock, majoring in voice and minoring in German studies, is a Haslam Leadership Scholar, president of VolOpera, and board member of Knoxville Opera. Jacob’s work demonstrates a commitment to social justice and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ communities in the world of opera and performing arts, as audience members, theatergoers, and performers. A firm believer in “opera anywhere,” Jacob recently wrote and directed “Mavra: A Queer Opera” at the South Press Coffee House in partnership with UT’s Pride Center. Jacob plans to pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance and then a career in opera direction, administration, and performance in order to promote accessible opera. 

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The Division of Student Success and Vice Provost Amber Williams kicked off the third annual Leadership Management Institute (LMI) this fall with 17 leaders from across Student Success and advising participating. The LMI cohort meets on the second Monday of each month to hear from executive leaders of Student Success and learn more about leadership, CliftonStrengths, and professional development skills.  

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Emilie Wise with Kyle Ross, executive director of NACADA, and Teri Farr, president of NACADA.

Two University of Tennessee academic advisors won awards during NACADA’s 2023 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida October 4-7. Emilie Wise, coordinator for academic advising in the College of Arts & Sciences, was a winner of the NACADA Outstanding Advising Award in the primary advising category, and Lisa Byrd, associate director of advising for the Tickle College of Engineering, won the Outstanding Advising Award in the administrator category. 

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First-Year Student Carter Davis


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In an effort to foster personal and academic development, the First-Year Programs (FYP) department within the Division of Student Success (DSS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville continues to embark on a unique initiative that involves close to 6,000 students completing a Clifton Strengths assessment prior to the commencement of classes.  

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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.” 

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Renowned speaker and author Arthur Brooks recently engaged with a captivated audience of First-Year students on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, sharing insightful perspectives on happiness, leadership, and personal fulfillment.

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