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Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek celebrated faculty, staff, and students for their accomplishments and service Wednesday at the annual Chancellor’s Honors Banquet.  The banquet is the university’s largest recognition event of the year.


Nine students received the Torchbearer award, the highest honor given to a student. The award is based on academic achievement, leadership, and outstanding service.

The following students received the evening’s top student award:

Rilwan Balogun is a senior in journalism and electronic media from Antioch, Tennessee. Balogun has served as president of the National Association of Black Journalists and vice president of the Volunteer Channel. He has been an active member of the Black Cultural Programming Committee and has gained a wealth of leadership skills by serving as a resident assistant for two years. His most notable work, however, is with the committee to advocate for the UT LEAD Summer Institute.

The University of Tennessee Foundation IncMatthew Barnett, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, is receiving his bachelor’s degree in architecture this spring. Barnett is a leader locally and nationally in the American Institute of Architecture Students’ Freedom by Design program, which creates meaningful improvements through design and construction solutions for low-income and disabled people. Barnett’s work has placed first at local competitions. Several of his designs were built and are improving the lives of Knoxville residents.

KNOXVILLE, TN - Open PracticeCierra Burdick is a communication studies major and a member of the Lady Vols basketball team. Burdick, a Charlotte, North Carolina, native, is an executive member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee. She founded the DREAM Team, a group of student-athletes who work with local schools and nonprofits to mentor youth and help them stay free of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and violence.

Dugosh, ConnorConnor Dugosh is a senior in English from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Dugosh welcomed more than 12,000 new students and their families to the Volunteer family during summer orientation. He has served as an orientation leader and student orientation coordinator, preparing students for the transition to college. Dugosh served this year as the Student Government Association vice president. He is also active with the Interfraternity Council and has served as vice president of recruitment and Greek leadership initiative director.

Keny, KelseyKelsey Keny is a senior in journalism and electronic media from Lewisburg, Tennessee. Keny has served as a reporter and producer for the Volunteer Channel, UT’s official television station. This year, Keny served as SGA president, devoting time and energy to make sure our campus atmosphere is welcoming to all students. Keny has served in a wide range of student organizations, including the UT Singers, the Student Alumni Associates, and Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

Valerie King is a senior in sociology and global studies from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. A Chancellor’s Honors Program student and Baker Scholar, King created the Oxfam America Club at UT and led initiatives to engage the student body on food justice issues. King spearheaded the “Perspectives on Structural Violence” series, focused on social justice, leading to an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Global Studies program and the geography and sociology departments that will continue after her graduation.

Rewcastle, KennaKenna Rewcastle has a passion for research and field experience that has taken her to Costa Rica, China, and Denmark. Through the College Scholars program, Rewcastle, of Apison, Tennessee, created her own major—in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry—to investigate ecosystem ecology in the face of climate change. Early on, the Haslam Scholar set her sights on high-level research at UT and beyond. Rewcastle’s research led to her being named a Fulbright finalist and a nominee for the nationally competitive Udall Scholarship.

rossJulia Ross, a senior in economics from Atlanta, is the founding director of UT’s Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, which engages students in progressive activism. Her leadership within the Haslam Scholars and Baker Scholars programs helped prepare her for the opportunity of a lifetime—a public service and leadership internship at the White House last semester. She has conducted economics and political science research and served as editor in chief of Pursuit, the university’s journal of undergraduate research.

Christopher Smith is a senior in English from Antioch, Tennessee. Smith’s legacy will be felt on campus as early as this summer, when about forty incoming freshmen participate in the UT LEAD Summer Institute. Smith was active in sharing his and other students’ views on the value of the student success program. Smith is president of the Multicultural Mentoring Program and is involved with the Black Educators of Tomorrow, Student Alumni Associates, and Minority Enhancement for UT.

The full list of faculty, staff, and student awards is available on the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet website.