The Honors and Scholars Division embarked on a different path this year by launching two new programs. As we grow into an office that now serves more than 1,600 students, we are reminded that our work rests on the shoulders of those who came before us. Alumni, families, and campus partners have been—and continue to be—essential in helping us achieve our goal of providing a curated educational experience to high-achieving students at the University of Tennessee.
Recently we held an on-campus tailgate to celebrate the honors community and all those who come together under its name. Catching up with our former students, meeting alumni from past programs, and being introduced to the families of our current and past students alike made for an entertaining Saturday morning in Big Orange Country. It also helped build and strengthen relationships within the Honors and Scholars community—relationships that help us provide our students with a diverse array of perspectives.
Our alumni help provide our students with a well-rounded education by sharing their experience, their time, and their resources. By contacting Honors and Scholars with updates on their academic and professional careers, alumni like Sahba Seddighi (Haslam Scholars ’16) inspire our students to apply for opportunities with prestigious companies, organizations, and universities. Sahba, now a Gates-Cambridge Scholar, started mentoring other honors students while she was still at the university. She continues to be an aspirational example as an alumna.
This summer former Whittle Scholar Lindsay Levkoff (’02) met with a cohort of Haslam Scholars as they studied abroad in Scotland to share her experience with the cultural transition from Tennessee to the UK. Jack Kang (Chancellor’s Honors ’15) recently lent a hand at a recruiting event for Honors and Scholars in Memphis. He helped encourage potential UT students to challenge themselves and pursue an honors program. Sean Seymore (Tennessee Scholars ’93) visited Knoxville through the Lunch with an Alum initiative to share his insights on gaining entry to highly competitive law schools.
Alumni also contribute to Honors and Scholars by providing us with resources. A number of recent grads chose to leave their class gift to the Honors Enrichment Fund, which supports student initiatives and experiential grants for our students. The opportunities that alumni make possible are invaluable in the formation of our students’ experience. Alumni involvement helps us offer an unmatched honors experience for current students.
Our Campus Partners
Each year Honors and Scholars programs partner with dozens of offices and faculty members across campus. Through these partnerships, our students have exclusive access to highly regarded speakers, professors, and administrators. This semester alone our students have enjoyed dinner with Chancellor Beverly Davenport, a lively small-group discussion with renowned speaker Amer Ahmed, and a book reading with Professor Urmila Seshagiri. These events enable our students to form relationships with leaders from across campus that can influence their future success. Furthermore, our partnerships with offices such as the Center for Health Education and Wellness equip our students to deal with the everyday realities of being a high-achieving college student. Our goal in partnering with organizations and faculty members across campus is to provide our students with a strong support system while educating them on how to seek out the help and opportunities they need to succeed.
The families associated with Honors and Scholars programs are a constant support, not only for their students but also for our programs. By showing up for their students, giving financial support to critical experiential activities, and connecting new students with our programs, Honors and Scholars parents make substantial contributions to the betterment of our office.
One of the biggest ways families serve Honors and Scholars is by being advocates for our programs. In staying connected to their local communities and encouraging high-achieving students to consider Honors and Scholars at UT, families add a personal component to recruiting new students to our programs. Family testimonials and recommendations of prospective students help ensure that as many people as possible benefit from an honors education. When those benefits pay off and students in our programs succeed, we love seeing those same families as they join us on campus to celebrate. Providing a supportive environment as students explore their academic interests and begin to engage in experiences that will shape their future is paramount to student success.