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The Value of Scholarly Community

Written by RJ Clemmons

I joined 1794 Scholars my first-year because I thought it would a great opportunity to meet people on campus and be a part of a community from the very beginning of my college career. The reason I stayed in the program through completion was because of all the opportunities 1794 provided to get incorporated into the campus culture. My first semester, the program achieved this through my UHNO class. Every semester since, I have found my own ways to fulfill the pillar requirements each semester. One way I fulfilled some of my pillars was through the Smith Global Leadership Scholars program (GLS). GLS is the official honors program of the Haslam College of Business. The program’s goal is to promote and develop the international and intercultural awareness of its students, while stimulating leadership, personal, and professional growth. GLS accomplishes this by providing its students with honors classes, leadership training, and an international experience in London, England that includes an internship.

I was interested in GLS from the very beginning. Having the chance to be part of such an amazing program, is one of the reasons I decided to attend UT. In addition to my initial interest, being a part of 1794 Scholars really gave me the confidence and inspiration to apply. The 1794 Scholars Program was my first chance to be a part of an honors program and showed me the benefits of similar programs. Incorporating the 1794 Scholars Program’s four pillars into my collegiate experience was the perfect complement to the college lifestyle I wanted to lead.  For me, the pillars of global and cultural awareness and volunteer spirit had the most impact. The volunteer spirit pillar helped me grow my interests through meaningful experiences. While serving as a volunteer usher, I realized I loved going to plays. I was also able to go on my first hike through the program’s volunteer spirit programming and made many new friends on the trip. Additionally, completing experiences for my global and cultural awareness pillar opened my eyes to many different cultures from all across the world, ultimately readying me to travel abroad myself with GLS.

While studying abroad with GLS, I had the chance to live in the heart of London with 24 of my peers who quickly became my closest friends. During our time there we held internships with various organizations all across London. I interned at a local non-profit known as the Hackney Pirates. Hackney Pirates is an organization that seeks to improve the perseverance, reading levels, and confidence of London youth who are on the verge of falling behind for reasons out of their control. During my internship, I had the amazing opportunity to work as a session assistant and assist the fundraising team in securing more funding for the improvement and expansion of the Hackney Pirates. The biggest takeaway from my internship was the importance of education and finding ways to engage young students. Moreover, the experience vindicated my feelings about the importance of equity for individuals from all different backgrounds, so everyone can have an equal opportunity. I had such a great time getting to know my young pirates, making handshakes with them, and watching them grow their confidence.

Studying abroad in a place like London also gave me the amazing opportunity to travel to different places across Europe. Throughout my semester abroad I traveled to Spain, Italy, Majorca, and Scotland. On those trips, I made lifelong memories I will never forget. My travel exposed me to many different cultures and beliefs and gave me a better-rounded, global point of view. My personal favorite was Barcelona, Spain because the architecture and lifestyle were beautiful and so different from the United States.

Throughout my experience abroad and my overall work with the Smith Global Leadership Scholars program, I have developed beneficial skills and engaged in self-discovery. GLS challenged me to find a balance between studying and a social life on campus that has helped me incorporate developmental experiences into my time at UT. GLS has given me a chance to explore how my personality and strengths intertwine with so many unique, diverse, and strong personalities.  It has also shown me how rewarding challenging coursework can be and how important it is to build a community with your classmates that allows you to learn from one another. Above all, I learned how far authenticity and vulnerability can take me when getting to know people personally and building meaningful connections with others, a skill Iplan to use for the rest of my life.