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Jessica Wilson will have a special distinction when she graduates from UT this week: She’s the first student to complete the College of Nursing’s honors program.

In the past, she said, “it’s been difficult for nursing students to graduate with honors.” The rigor of the nursing curriculum kept them from finishing their honors requirements.

This year, Sadie Hutson, associate professor of nursing, launched an honors program within the college. To graduate with honors, students must complete eight honors nursing courses and maintain a GPA of 3.5.

Since Wilson, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was a senior and unable to take all of the new honors courses, she achieved honors status by adding service-learning components to some of her classes through a contract. She worked with Under the Bridge, part of Lost Sheep Ministries, to help the homeless.

Adding the service component was a natural fit for Wilson, who has been active in campus and community projects throughout her college career.

As a freshman, she got involved with Dance Marathon, a student-run philanthropy for children with cancer, through the encouragement of one of her sisters in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She volunteered with Dance Marathon her junior and senior year as well. This year, she was the family relations chair for Dance Marathon and helped coordinate some of the organization’s volunteer efforts at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Wilson was familiar with the hospital because she had done an externship and preceptorship there. In her externship—an internship limited to observation—she learned about all the different departments in the hospital. In her preceptorship—clinical experience required for nursing students—she worked specifically in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“I have loved it,” she said. “I think I’ll probably want to do something with critical care.”

She’ll be starting her residency at Vanderbilt University’s pediatrics program in July.


C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,

Holly Gary (865-974-2225,