Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Finding My Leadership Niche

Written by Caleigh Jacobs

Walking across campus, students see advertisements for clubs around every corner. As a freshman, it can be hard to know where to start when every organization seems amazing and has so much to offer. Although there were countless ways I could have chosen to spend my time my first year on campus, I knew that I couldn’t be everywhere at once. I chose to focus my involvement on the subjects I was most passionate about: education, financial literacy, and leadership.

In high school, my time was consumed with various sport, academic, and philanthropic activities. However, as an out-of-state student, I felt like I entered college with a clean slate and I began carefully selecting opportunities to fill it. At the Ignite Summit in August, I realized the benefits of belonging to an honors community that valued education and equally encouraged leadership and service. The Honors Leadership Program (HLP) would allow me to start my college career on the right foot with a community that was dedicated to learning. Equipped with new friendships inside the program, I learned that my cohort represented varied interests and an unmatched motivation to excel in school while tackling larger personal missions. As I became more involved, HLP provided me an outlet to exercise my drive for academic success. I applied for our Living-Learning Community Advisory Board to further serve the impressive individuals in my cohort. Through the advisory board, we created opportunities for our cohort to bond at fun events that further enhanced our connection as a community.

The community of influential student-leaders in my life grew once again as I joined UT’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG). The Panhellenic women I have come to know represent some of the strongest and most compassionate people I have met. Greek Life linked me to individuals who consistently support my goals. As I have become closer to those in my sorority, I have been able to witness friends organize successful fundraisers, promote donation drives, perform service projects, and raise awareness for issues spanning from local childhood literacy to collegiate mental health to poverty and oppression in Malawi, East Africa. During my first semester, I was able to serve as my Pledge Class Academic Chair and, now, I work on our Education Committee. Learning from other women in KKG, I have not only been encouraged to lead within my sorority, but enable to garner support for my goals outside of Greek Life.

Finally, I chose to round out my freshman year by getting involved in my academic college. Second semester, I joined The University of Tennessee Investment Group (UTGI) through the Haslam College of Business (HCB). This group helped me learn more about financial literacy outside of a classroom setting and created an avenue to better my understanding of investment techniques. I was also selected for my college’s Honors Student Advisory Board. The purpose of the advisory board is to coordinate and create co-curricular activities for honors business students. After serving on the LLC Advisory Board for Honors Leadership, I am looking forward to further serving my peers at the college level by creating meaningful opportunities for honors students.

While I have found various avenues to engage my interests at UT, not every position or club I pursued was successful. Throughout my first year, I learned that student leadership, in its greatest capacity, functions when students focus on their specific passions and take advantage of the relevant opportunities that present themselves. In order to maximize my four years on UT’s campus, I must exhaust my resources, learn from others, and pursue my goals wholeheartedly. Although I was once overwhelmed by the multitude of options, wondering where I would find place in college, I now can see a clearer vision for the next three years. The Honors Leadership Program, Haslam College of Business, and Kappa Kappa Gamma have emboldened me to pursue my diverse interests and reach my highest potential. By providing me with astounding teachers, mentors, and leadership roles, these communities foster moments of growth and learning. I am excited to continue that journey by pursuing my passions and intertwining education, financial literacy, and leadership at a school with limitless opportunity.