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VOLstarter_logoThe university has launched a new crowdfunding site, VOLstarter. The site offers a way for students and departments to raise money for projects that change lives.

From providing funds for students to attend leadership training to supporting a group that improves the homes of needy families, VOLstarter links donors with opportunities to support specific projects and initiatives. Although UT’s Office of Alumni Affairs and Development established online giving years ago, the crowdfunding approach is new.

One of the twenty VOLstarter projects seeks to provide fourteen scholarships so that more freshmen can attend the university’s Ignite program. The program holds six different sessions ranging from three to six days before the start of the fall semester and engages new students in leadership development as they learn about the many campus opportunities.

“We know that Ignite makes a difference in the lives of our students, and it is important to our office and to our university that any student seeking leadership and service experiences is able to gain access to them. The Ignite scholarship itself is a tremendous example of the Volunteer spirit, which is something we teach at Ignite. The spirit of the scholarship is truly selfless, and is about providing opportunities for others to lead, serve, and ultimately thrive at UT,” said Sally Parish, director of the Center for Leadership and Service.

Joseph Perry, a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology who is student co-director of the 2015 Ignite Summit program, hopes the Ignite VOLstarter campaign reaches its goal so that more students can have the same positive experience.

“Attending Ignite was the best decision I have made since graduating high school. As a result of coming to Ignite, students develop as an individual, a team member, and an upcoming leader on campus. It’s the first opportunity you are given to step up, be a leader, and choose how you want to start the next four years of your life,” said Perry.

Throughout the year, members of the campus community can submit applications with monetary goals and a timeline for reaching the goal. A committee reviews and chooses projects based on the social impact, feasibility, quality, and overall commitment to the fundraising process. Once a project is fully funded or reaches its deadline, it rotates off the website so a new project can be added.

“We are pleased to offer VOLstarter as a way to connect our alumni and friends more closely with the great work of our students, faculty, and staff. Every gift, no matter the size, will help each project reach its goal and have a positive impact on the many people involved,” said Scott Rabenold, vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs.

Here are a few additional VOLstarter projects:

Freedom by Design: Contributions will help architecture students purchase the necessary materials for projects in which they create vital modifications to the homes of families in need in the community.

Big Orange Combine: Contributions will help offset student costs for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Students majoring in business, sports management, and communications will travel to Glendale, Arizona, for the Super Bowl and participate in community service through the NFL as well as other organizations in the city. The culminating experience is working Super Bowl events before and after the game.

Enhancing Literacy: Contributions will help the Center for Literacy, Education, and Employment provide current educational research to instructors and administrators across the state of Tennessee to help better their practices, which in turn will give low-literacy adults the ability to harness strong critical thinking skills in their workplace and everyday lives.

To see all VOLstarter projects, visit


Kristen Watt (, 865-974-3009)

Katherine Saxon (, 865-974-8365)