Skip to main content

On Wednesday, Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek celebrated faculty, staff, and students for their accomplishments throughout the past academic year. Tennessee Today will be highlighting staff members who received recognition for their efforts to support the campus’s mission.

Several staff members were recognized for their service to the university community.

Award recipients included:

Extraordinary Service to the University

ParishSally Parish has found her dream job. As director of the Center for Leadership and Service, she is well suited to engage our students in the university and the community.

She helped launch the new center two years ago and has been the driving force behind many new and reinvigorated programs. She has also helped increase development activity for student leadership programs.

“On any given day she seeks to break down silos on campus and create a unified and supportive environment,” a nominator said.

Parish worked with Leadership Knoxville by advocating for the Student Scholars Emerging Leader course to become the Senior Leadership capstone course and for the Leadership in Sport class.

“Sally is an advocate for students. She is authentic, passionate, caring, and expects the best from others while modeling the way and being the best version of herself every day,” said a student.

SmithRita H. Smith, executive associate dean of UT Libraries, has been key in making sure that library services keep up with students’ changing needs. For thirty-eight years, she’s stayed a step ahead in growing UT Libraries into an advanced technological and academic hub for the campus community.

Smith led a pivotal working group that sought to keep pace with technological changes and learning needs. Their work resulted in the Commons, which has made Hodges Library a source for student support. Thanks in large part to her efforts, the library is both relevant to and appreciated by students.

Smith has created workshop series to train students and researchers in the use of online information resources. She has led the libraries’ diversity residency program and been an inspiring mentor to all who have worked beside her. Steven Smith, professor and dean, said that her “forward thinking combined with her ability to manage people and projects has ensured the successful implementation of services that have changed the face of learning and research at the University of Tennessee.”

Extraordinary Customer Service

BranchMelody Branch keeps things running for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. She has worked for the department for thirty-seven years and has managed its administrative needs for the past twenty years.

“She’s helped our department build a strong reputation with other administrative units across campus and makes us (the department heads) look far more efficient and productive than we really are,” reads the nomination, signed by the current and five former department heads.

Branch’s efficiency helps bring in research. From two external grants a year, she now works with faculty on thirty-five to forty a year.

She is the described as the heart of the department. In the words of her nomination, “Melody is committed to the well-being of our students and faculty.”