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Looking Back on My Haslam Experience

Written by Kimberly Bress

One of my favorite memories as a Haslam Scholar comes from our program’s trip to Scotland. It was a warm weekday afternoon, sun shining on the historic Edinburgh skyline. Following a long day of tutorials, our cohort arranged to meet in the Meadows for a group meal. After eating a picnic dinner cooked on a small, disposable charcoal grill (along with a Scottish version of homemade Rice Krispy treats), we started to toss a frisbee. Soon, almost the whole group was playing – even Dr. Turner. It was a simple moment, but one which sticks firmly in my mind. That moment symbolizes what is unique about 2014 cohort; while we may challenge each other as colleagues and push each other as peers, at the end of the day we sincerely enjoy each other as friends.

Reflecting on the past four years, I realize that the experience of being a Haslam Scholar is a mosaic of both big and small memories. From first year presentations and thesis colloquiums to lip sync battles and late-night study sessions, everyday moments coalesce to create a meaningful trajectory of growth. When I came to Tennessee four years ago, I had no connections to anyone or anything within the state (much less the university). The Haslam Scholars Program has brought me my proudest accomplishments and closest companions, ubiquitously influencing both the professional and personal aspects of my life at the University of Tennessee. It has given the title of “Volunteer” meaning to me, making it a part of who I am and what I hope to become.

As a Haslam Scholar, I have many people to thank. The Haslam Family, of course, for their generous endowment which sustains this program’s existence. Dr. Turner, for all that she does to support students and guide them on their paths of success. The staff of the Honors and Scholars Office, for structuring our experiences. My mentors, both faculty and peer, for teaching me how to engage in academia. The list could go on and on.

However, I think that the most important message of thanks that I can express is to the other members of the 2014 Haslam Scholars Cohort. I would be remiss to end these four years without thanking Daniel Enciso, for always engaging in sincere and meaningful conversation. Amany Alshibli, for being willing to forge her own path in the pursuit of adventure. Gus White, for demonstrating an unmatched balance of passion and judiciousness. Jeremy McDuffie, for boldly pursuing his most important values. Regina Tisdale, for showing that quiet leadership is often the most powerful. Miles Ownby, for using his friendly disposition to make others feel important. Tyler Hounshell, for earnestly reflecting on the way that we interact with our world. Hera Jay Brown, for tirelessly advocating in support of justice. Geoffrey Hervey, for representing how to live with powerful love for oneself. Alex Crockett, for imbuing any situation with laughter. Cody Sain, for going out of his way to encourage others in the moment it is needed most. Avanti Rangnekar, for being willing to dream big and empowering others to do the same. David Marsh, for his enthusiasm to explore the new horizons that life presents. And to Elle Johnson, for proving that unconditional friendship truly exists. These fourteen individuals, each in their unique way, have left an imprint on my life which I will never be able to fully explain. They have shown me what it means to be a part of a community which exists to strengthen, celebrate, and challenge one another. There are no words which can capture my gratitude for this rare privilege.

The people who make up the Haslam Scholars Program are the force which drives its significance and influence. Their many accomplishments poise them to be the leaders of our future world. The alumni community of the Haslam Scholars Program, although young, has already become a global network of decorated and accomplished world-changers. As this class ventures on the next steps of their respective journeys, they will take this reputation to new heights. More importantly, they will continue to inspire positive change and growth in those around them, as they have done for me so profoundly over the past four years.