During the annual Chancellor’s Honor Banquet in April, several graduating seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences were recognized for their academic achievement, leadership, and outstanding service with UT’s highest student honor, the Torchbearer award.
Jasmine Blue of Brentwood, Tennessee, a Chancellor’s Honors student with a major in political science and a minor in English, has used her academic strengths and leadership skills to help her fellow college students as well as youth in the community. As an intern, she promoted tnAchieves, which is associated with the Tennessee Promise program, by making videos, writing a blog, and recruiting mentors for high school students. Through a service–learning class and the Emerald Youth Foundation, she tutored elementary school students in reading, math, and other classwork, and as a Leadership Knoxville Scholar, she mentored students at Dogwood Elementary School in blogging, vlogging, and news media skills. Blue has also been active in the Student Alumni Associates and other organizations. Whether she’s networking with alumni, hosting chancellor’s events, or talking to other UT students about the importance of philanthropy, Blue is always prepared, engaging, mature, and up for the challenge. “I knew college wasn’t just about me but about loving others,” she said. “I wanted to be a light on campus and was excited about pouring out myself through friendship with others, seeing the unseen and loving the unloved.”
Jack Larimer, a Haslam scholar double majoring in economics and political science, is not a teacher by major or trade but has a deep commitment to helping underprivileged youth. Through the Knoxville Leadership Foundation, Larimer, alongside fellow Torchbearer Xavier Greer, initiated an after-school leadership and development program called Boys 2 Leaders to provide positive role models for underprivileged boys from high-risk environments. The boys were at first more interested in mocking Larimer than listening to him. Larimer, however, persevered, and now they have confidence and dreams of finishing high school—and even attending college. What’s more, they look up to him as a big brother. Larimer has not only held the torch to shed light on the opportunities available to these boys, he has also linked arms and shown them they are loved and valued. Larimer’s research seeks to help kids in similar positions. His undergraduate thesis is on the long-term benefits of university-assisted community schools. Larimer is using statistical analysis to show, year by year, how these schools set students up for success in higher education and enrich the surrounding community. Larimer, from Brentwood, Tennessee, has been involved with numerous campus groups including Student Alumni Associates, Leadership Knoxville Scholars, Emerging Leaders, and the Student Government Association.
Maddie Stephens of Knoxville holds a commitment that, in the words of a nominator, “shines through in everything she does.” When the Rock was defaced with Nazi symbols last fall, Stephens, serving as student services director for the Student Government Association, was instrumental in developing a passionate and sensible solution that took hate speech seriously but also preserved the joyful freedom of students to paint the Rock. A Chancellor’s Honors student majoring in English and minoring in leadership studies, she has made it a priority to welcome new students to campus—whether as a Welcome Week leader, an Ignite Serves team leader, or the creator of the Guide to Torchbearer Tuesdays, helping students link their experiences on campus to the Volunteer Creed. Stephens has also taken a key role in sustainability and campus recycling efforts, including the Mug Project, Earth Day, and RecycleMania events. As a nominator wrote, her actions are testimony to her belief that “students must carry their ethical commitments with them outside the classroom and try to show the wider community—including their own parents, teachers, and political leaders—why those values matter so deeply.”
Mickayla Stogsdill, a senior in the Chancellor’s Honors Program majoring in public administration and Russian studies, is the type of student who continually approaches shared endeavors with the attitude “If not me, then who?” As a Baker Scholar and Baker Ambassador, she has actively assisted in numerous public initiatives and events. Thanks to her leadership in the planning and implementation of a voter education drive, more than 500 students registered—contributing to a record-breaking turnout. Stogsdill is also responsible for helping UT’s Debate Team become national champions. Every Thursday night, she spends at least three hours helping students learn to debate and develop skills in public speaking and oration. Her dedication, integrity, and positive attitude make Stogsdill an excellent representative of any organization in which she participates. It was for these characteristics that she was selected to provide opening remarks when the Baker Center hosted Peyton Manning for a Baker Distinguished Lecture in 2017, and why she was recently chosen from a pool of applicants to represent the center at a leadership conference hosted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. As one nominator writes, “Quite simply, Mickayla is exceptional. She is kind, humble, and hardworking. She is a self-starter and a natural leader.”