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Several times throughout the year at UT, inspired by the camaraderie of a traditional barbershop, students gather for a special event, “Barbershop Talk,” designed to bring Black and Hispanic men together. These Barbershop Talks provide a safe, welcoming space where participants can openly discuss life’s experiences, share their stories, and seek advice while enjoying the hospitality of getting a haircut. 

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SCORE, a Tennessee-based team of professionals supporting student success across the state, published a blog story highlighting the UT Success Academy. The entire article can be read here.

As I reflect on the first semester of the UT Success Academy (UTSA), success would be an understatement! I am proud of the amount of progress we have accomplished and the relationships that have been built in such a short period. In four months, we were able to welcome 113 first-year students as members of the inaugural cohort and host the Fall Kick-Off extended orientation 10 days before the start of the fall semester as an introduction and connect students with upper-division peer coaches and other scholars in the program.

This fall, student scholars completed customized individual success plans detailing academic, social, and personal goals. These plans will be developed each semester and include goals for each course, setting dates to meet with their academic advisor and attend academic success workshops, and how they plan to use their strengths during the semester. Student scholars also attended monthly Link-Up events engaging in activities around servant leadership, social identity, and personal well-being. More informal programming included a professional dress etiquette workshop, the creation of a fantasy football league, and a video game tournament where students competed in NBA2K, FIFA, and Smash Bros.

People have asked what I enjoy most about being the program director, and it is tough to pinpoint one aspect of my job. There are moments when a student will run into the office excited about passing an exam or a project they are working on, when I feel like the friend or confidant needed at the time, or even small moments when everyone is asking for internship recommendation letters! If I had to choose, it would be walking into the room at an event and seeing the cohort all in one space connecting. Moments like these reinforce what this program is about. The UT Success Academy is here to ensure that student scholars understand their strengths and how they connect to their goals, provide a structure for support along the way, and build a community – a family – of people that are here to cheer them on through the finish line.

As the program director, I do not believe we could have asked for a better start to the UT Success Academy than the one we had this fall. The community and relationships developed over the past four months will last our student scholars a lifetime to come. I am extremely proud of this group and the work they have done this semester to become the best version of themselves.

I look forward to seeing what goals our student scholars want to accomplish for the spring and how we can support those goals. We will continue to create a space for our student scholars to develop relationships and celebrate our wins, big or small.

Aaron Dixon, UTSA Program Director

UT’s Torchbearer magazine interviewed UTSA Program Director Aaron Dixon in fall 2021 to highlight the academy’s inaugural semester and year. The entire article can be read here.

The UT Success Academy (UTSA) was featured on on December 28, 2021. Writer Rebecca Wright highlighted the academy’s role in motivating and enhancing first-year Black and Latinx men’s transition to the University of Tennessee and the support of their well-being through the four-year cohort program.