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Welcoming the 2018 Cohort

Written by members of the 2018 Haslam Scholars Cohort

Each year we welcome a promising new class of Haslam Scholars to our communities. The excerpts below provide a look at the nature of each member of our entering cohort through the eyes of one of their own. Read below to learn the past successes, current passions, and future plans of our 2018 cohort. 

Written by Caitlin Priester

When examining the life of Ford Brewer, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, there’s a lot to be discovered just underneath the surface. A basketball fanatic and a skilled player, Ford finds a creative outlet in playing his guitar. His extreme passion for writing and reflection led him to declare his secondary major in English. His interest in his primary major, Neuroscience, can be attributed to both his past with recovering from concussions as well as his grandmother’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Using the resources available at UT, Ford plans to research long-term treatments to brain-degenerative diseases.


Written by Joe Roebuck

Ashlyn Anderson is a wholesome person who serves up the best home-made food, captivating conversations, and awe-inspiring artwork. Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, she comes to UT as a Food Science major with a philosophy that food is medicine. Whether it’s cooking nutrient-rich meals for cancer patients or hiking the Bibbulmun Track in Australia, you can always find Ashlyn pouring out her heart and soul for others. With her wide array of skills, Ashlyn could soon be a chef at a Michelin Star restaurant, featured artist at the Museum of Modern Art, or as a modern-day Marco Polo educating about nutrition for the World Health Organization.


Written by Ashlyn Anderson

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Kinley Koontz embodies the Volunteer spirit by incorporating service into every facet of her life. From starting her own nonprofit organization, The Garden Project, to serving on the Knox County Board of Education, improving life for others is her priority. Through The Garden Project, Kinley passionately provides art resources for hundreds of at-risk youth to build relationships and foster creative expression. In high school, she also starred on both the boys’ and girls’ travel soccer teams, created 3D art installations, and enjoyed outdoor adventures. Living with peripheral nerve damage herself, Kinley plans to pursue Biomedical Engineering to develop technology and research for those with neurological disabilities.


Written by Kinley Koontz

Passionate, curious, ambitious. These three words perfectly describe Mississippi born and Memphis raised Juli Anna Stanford. Her passion manifests itself in advocacy for women’s health and people living with HIV/AIDS. It can also be seen in her zeal for the arts whether it be in the theatre, on the dance floor, or teaching others in the classroom. A vast knowledge of all things Disney and an obsession for history are just a couple of things that pique Juli Anna’s curiosity outside of her academics. Her ambition is reflected in her high school legacy of leadership. At UT, she plans to major in global studies with a minor in public health while getting involved with the dance team and student government. Using her passion, curiosity, and ambition, Juli Anna is sure to change the world with her work for women’s health and international social justice.


Written by Juli Anna Stanford

Rachel Harville is a determined, multi-faceted incoming freshman from Tazewell, Tennessee. An incredible self-taught makeup artist, Rachel is also passionate about international affairs and establishing an interdisciplinary undergraduate education for herself.  Rachel has even decided to major in Global Studies because she believes it will create a solid, versatile foundation for graduate school. The attribute Rachel is most proud of in herself is her willingness to try new things. Her self-determination and will power will give her the tools she needs to thrive in any new environment.


Written by Varun Rangnekar

Denee Stewart Freeman was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Her friends describe her as creative, personable, and passionate. In high school she exercised her creativity by directing the dark comedy “Dearly Departed” and working on “Sense”, a Vanderbilt research project that uses theater to assist autistic children. Denee is an avid writer. In her free time, she enjoys playing card games and exploring local coffee shops. Looking ahead to UTK, Denee plans to double major in English and Psychology. She is excited about combining her knowledge of writing and theater to help develop better mental health awareness programs.


Written by Deanna Riley

Arriving at UT this fall from Morristown, Tennessee is the fashion-forward guitar player and master chef, Kyler Groner. While at UT, Kyler plans to study political science, economics, and history as well as participate in civic clubs like SGA in order to explore his passions for social justice and history. As captain of his high school’s speech and debate team, Kyler is accustomed to belonging to a devoted community and feels that HSP will provide him with similar sense of home. Due to the influence of his high school debate teacher, Kyler looks plans to become teacher and get involved with education policy to solve issues of education inequality.


Written by Kyler Groner

Bryson Garrett of Murfreesboro, Tennessee brings joy, charisma, and humor wherever he goes. Armed with an eagerness to report current events, highlight injustices, and immerse himself in the constantly evolving news landscape, he is majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. Beyond his stellar academic record, Bryson managed his high school’s basketball team and was active in numerous activities including Student Council, Math Club, and Beta Club. He also pursues his love for singing through his membership in both his church and school choir. He believes that education enables freedom and power, and he looks forward to life at UT.


Written by Denee Stewart Freeman

Athena Tran comes to UT from Leawood, Kansas, driven by her passion to give voice to the unheard. Combining her passion for bringing diverse groups together with her leadership skills, she spent her high school career on community projects such as the Relay for Life lock-in and in leadership positions such as diversity council president, NHS president, a KCIYA interfaith board member, and tennis captain. While at UT she plans to study Chemical Engineering and looks forward to meeting new people, as well as getting involved in sexual assault prevention and sex education.

Written by Isabella Killius

Keri Burge is an incoming Haslam Scholar from Madison, Alabama. She plans to major in biological sciences with a concentration in biochemistry as well as anthropology. Keri is interested in joining the UT’s interdisciplinary College Scholars Program and exploring ways to the two majors. Her dream job is to study bog bodies, ancient human corpses that are naturally preserved by peat bogs. Keri loves the TV shows Friends, Law & Order SVU, and Criminal Minds, and her favorite place that she’s ever traveled to is Ireland. As Keri begins freshman year at UTK, her top goals are to take advantage of multiple research opportunities and to “find an awesome friend group.”


Written by Athena Tran

Varun Rangnekar, from Johns Creek, Georgia, aims to spread the idea that prevention is better than a cure. Working with the Georgia Thrombosis Forum, he has presented to nursing homes, written proclamations to the governor, and shared information at events in order to spread awareness of thrombosis. He has completed research in thrombosis and hemostasis at Loyola University in Chicago for the past four summers. His work as a Fulton County Youth Commissioner further exemplifies his service-oriented spirit. Additionally, he was a member of his school’s FBLA chapter and Indian Cultural Exchange club. While at UT, he will strive to prepare himself for success at medical school.


Written by Keri Burge

Comical, enthusiastic, and goal-orientated are only a few of the words that describe Deanna Riley. The South Carolina native moved to Spring Hill, Tennessee at the age of twelve, but her fascination of the human body started way before that. Deanna has the same career goal since the fifth grade. She is majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering and hopes to eventually become either a pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist. In her free time, Deanna loves watching cartoons (especially Scooby Doo), playing percussion, and spending time with her family and friends. As a freshman at the University of Tennessee, this pun enthusiast is excited to learn all of the words to “Rocky Top” and get involved in organizations where she can speak up for not only herself but for others as well.


Written by Ford Brewer

A dedicated clarinet player, animal lover, and history buff, Isabella Killius, a Nashville native, intends to major in environmental studies and history. Having to budget her time carefully between her musical, academic, and service commitments in high school, Isabella understands the value of time management and will use this skill to make the most of the freedom of college life. In her free time, she enjoys watching baseball, studying amphibians, exploring museums and historical sites, and watching the occasional episode of Downton Abbey or Law and Order: SVU. At the University of Tennessee, Isabella is most excited to get to know both students and faculty in and out of the Haslam Scholars Program. Her ultimate goals are to attend law school and forge a career in environmental law.


Written by Rachel Harville

Caitlin Priester, an animal advocate and border collie lover, is from Memphis, Tennessee. At UT, Caitlin plans to pursue an Animal Science major with a concentration in Pre-Veterinary Medicine.  Caitlin says what she loves most about animals is their “unconditional loyalty” to their human counterparts and notes that she can’t picture herself in any other field. However, animals aren’t Caitlin’s only interest, she also enjoys traveling. Caitlin recently returned from a mission trip in Costa Rica. The trip, she explains, was rooted in service. While there, she deepened her relationship with the locals and expressed that while she may not be the next LeBron James, her favorite experience was participating in a basketball camp with children from the community. Caitlin is passionate about fitness, and, on a quirkier note, has a particular affinity with warm vanilla sugar scented germ-x!


Written by Bryson Garrett

Joe Roebuck, a Nashvillian born and raised, is a Supply Chain Management major with big dreams. In ten years, he sees himself working for a Fortune 500 company and seeking mentorship from top CEO’s around the world. His experiences being captain of his various soccer teams, establishing a rain garden on his school’s campus, interning as a housekeeper, and working with a myriad of cultures, communities, and religions have developed him into a willing leader with the heart of a servant. Joe was very involved in an assortment of clubs in high school, and he wishes to continue this trend at UTK as he learns how to effectively manage his time on Rocky Top.


Written by Lauren Gateley

Currently on her third passport, with over 20 different countries under her belt, Lucy Buck is an eager and passionate soul. Entering the University of Tennessee as a third generation Volunteer, she loves music and will be marching in the Pride of the Southland Band for UT as a clarinet. From Brentwood, Tennessee, Lucy knew that the University of Tennessee would be the perfect balance of comfort and challenge as she pursues a major in Supply Chain Management. When she isn’t demonstrating her determination and outspoken character, reading and watching movies are some of Lucy’s favorite past times.


Written by Lucy Buck

Born in Columbia, MO, Lauren Gateley grew up hours away from Tennessee. Ever the independent spirit, Lauren enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with plans to major in Finance. Lauren took an instant liking to Knoxville in her college search and views it as the perfect city to challenge and discover herself. Always spontaneous, she participated in soccer, quiz bowl, and the fishing team in high school. In her spare time she can often be seen loving on her cats or jamming out to Def Leppard. In her future, she sees herself involved in investment within the stock market.