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UT LEAD Summer Institute

Program Overview

The UT LEAD Summer Institute (UTLSI) has been instrumental in UT’s efforts to promote social equality for 13 years by enrolling a more racially and socioeconomically diverse student body. Managed by First-Generation Initiatives, the program provides an enhanced educational opportunity for a multicultural cohort of students who attend Flagship schools in the state of Tennessee. The UTLSI experience begins with a five-week academic summer program prior to the students’ first year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, designed to aid their transition to higher education. During the summer, they take classes for credit, attend enrichment workshops, and begin creating relationships with one another, professors, and administrators that will help support them through college. With an 81% first-year retention rate, UTLSI provides a diverse encouraging and supportive network with proven results.


Program Goal

The UT LEAD Summer Institute aims to contribute to the successful retention and graduation of undergraduate students who have attended Flagship schools in Tennessee, are often first-generation college students, and represent diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Program Components

During the summer before their first year, UTLSI Scholars have the opportunity to spend five weeks in residence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where they will enroll in two to three credit-bearing courses and participate in a wide range of academic, social, and cultural experiences facilitated by program staff, faculty, and campus partners. The program traditionally takes place during the second session of summer classes.

  • Common Courses: All UTLSI participants will take two to three credit-bearing classes during the program. The courses, taught by UT faculty, provide participants with an opportunity to get a head start on their credit hours before beginning their first semester while simultaneously establishing personal connections with the faculty. Courses offered typically include lower level English and Math courses, but may also include general education courses depending upon the scholar’s previous coursework and degree requirements.
  • Residential Experience: Scholars live together in a residence hall along with four upperclassmen who serve as UTLSI counselors. The role of the counselors is to provide UTLSI scholars with additional help, guidance, and mentorship throughout the duration of the summer program.
  • Peer Mentorship: Scholars will have direct access to upper-class counselors throughout the duration of the summer program. UTLSI Counselors will each be assigned a group of scholars that they will be expected to mentor during the program. Counselors lead scholars in social and cultural activities and keep scholars on task, on time, and energized. Scholars and counselors participate in one-on-one and group meetings, discuss campus culture, and prepare for life as a college student at UT. Counselors help to ensure that students have a successful transition into their fall semester.
  • Academic Enhancement: Scholars will have access to a wide range of academic support units throughout the program. Scholars will be required to work with tutors within the Writing Center and will also have daily access to Math faculty and tutors during daily academic focus sessions. UTLSI participants will also be required to meet with an academic coach within the Academic Success Center at least twice during the summer and once per semester for the next two years.
  • Enrichment Programs and Group Activities: Each week, all Scholars will be required to attend a variety of Enrichment programs facilitated by UT staff, faculty, and community members. Enrichment programs are designed to help scholars become more connected to campus partners, develop social and academic skills, and gain more self-awareness.  Additionally, UTLSI scholars are exposed to a variety of cultural events and community service experiences.
  • Financial Support and Assistance:  The program will cover all tuition, fees, and housing, meals, and book expenses during the summer program. Weekend activity expenses will also be covered for each scholar. In addition, scholars receive up to $1,750 for active participation in the program. Scholars will receive a $750 grant dispersed in several installments throughout the summer program. Additionally, at the end of each semester during the student’s freshman and sophomore years, students who meet the program requirements will receive an additional $1000 grant paid in four $250 stipends over the four semesters (fall/spring).

First-year Seminar: During the fall semester UTLSI scholars will enroll in a shared first-year seminar course. The shared course is designed to keep the cohort connected to one another, as well as program staff.
UTLSI Scholars will transition into the UT LEAD program at the start of the fall semester and will commit to 2 years of participation. Throughout their freshmen and sophomore years, UTLSI scholars will continue to receive academic and personal support through various programs, seminars and workshops. The seminars, workshops and information sessions will connect scholars to campus resources and research opportunities, and will also allow scholars to engage in activities and conversations centered on diversity, academic success, and leadership. Scholars will also have opportunities to participate in cultural and social outings and engage in community service.
Ongoing Academic and Social Support: During their freshman and sophomore years, scholars are required to continue meeting one-on-one with their academic coach. Eligible scholars and will also have the opportunity to participate in the TRIO Student Support Services program, and may also gain additional academic and social support by connecting with UT LEAD peer mentors.

Admissions Process

Only students who attend Flagship schools in Tennessee are eligible to participate in the UT LEAD Summer Institute. Eligible students are identified by Undergraduate Admissions and undergo an extensive interview process before being offered a spot in the program. Admission to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is contingent upon the scholar’s acceptance and completion of the summer institute. Scholars are selected for the program based on their academic and personal achievements.

Program Highlights

  • Five-week summer residential academic experience
  • Earn up to seven (7) credits hours
  • Gain experiences related to social and cultural integration into the university and surrounding community.
  • Make connections with academic coaches, financial aid counselors, faculty, and other campus partners
  • Participate in various academic, social and cultural activities designed to increase self-efficacy, self-determination, and independence
  • First-Year experience seminar
  • Up to $1,750 in direct scholarships

Contact Us

Talisha Adams
Director, First-Generation Initiatives