This time last year, UT was gearing up for the chancellor’s first-ever Big Orange Bus Tour, stopping at nine high schools throughout the state of Tennessee.
The first stop of the tour was at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, where Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek and Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Kari Alldredge presented six lucky high school seniors with their acceptance letters to UT. They were the first six students to be admitted to the Class of 2020.
The Big Orange Bus Tour, which took place in September 2015, saw a group of UT administrators and officials travel more than 1,300 miles, crisscrossing Tennessee to visit nine high schools in eight cities. The event presented opportunities for alumni to network with prospective students and provide a glimpse at what it means to be a Voluneer.
“Our stop at Dobyns-Bennett, which has sent us many great students over the years, was just as exciting for us as it was for these six students,” Cheek said. “Getting your college acceptance letter is a very special moment, and it was heartwarming for us to share that experience with these students. I wish these six students—along with the rest of our 4,800-plus freshmen—the very best as they settle into life on our campus and enjoy the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”
As exciting as it was to receive their acceptance letters in front of their peers, it was also a big surprise for the six students—especially Hayden Correll, who was absent from school on the day the Big Orange Bus Tour made its stop at Dobyns-Bennett.
“The principal called me down to his office the next day—which is never a good feeling,” said Correll. “So it came as a relief that he was presenting me with my acceptance, especially because I only applied to two schools.”
Correll, a third-generation UT student who is majoring in finance, is living in Morrill Hall with one of the other students accepted on the bus tour, Brandon Gilliam. Gilliam seeks to follow in his CPA father’s footsteps by majoring in accounting. But the Haslam College of Business’s Top 25 ranking in accounting isn’t the only thing that he’s eager to dive into.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I’m excited about attending football games from the student aspect,” said Gilliam, who’s been attending games with his parents, who have had season tickets since they graduated from UT in 1989.
Within the six students accepted at Dobyns-Bennett is another set of roommates, Maci Snodgrass and Parker Wilkins, two of the newest Chancellor’s Honors program residents in the Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall.
“The bus tour was awesome,” said Snodgrass, who is majoring in nutrition. “Having the chancellor welcome us to UT made us very excited about our acceptance.”
Wilkins, said the Big Orange Bus Tour was her deciding factor in choosing UT over the other schools she applied to.
“As staged as this sounds, the Big Orange Bus Tour stop was what made my decision to come to UT,” said Wilkins, who is majoring in kinesiology and nutrition.
Other students accepted on the bus tour’s first stop had other reasons for pursuing their college degree at UT.
For Avery Aulds, the acceptance to UT was particularly sweet. She has a lot of family who have attended UT, but none who have graduated.
“I’m determined to be the first person in my family to graduate from UT,” said Aulds, who’s majoring in marketing with a concentration in international business.
Alison Kilgore rounds out the diverse group of students accepted at Dobyns-Bennett. A speech pathology and audiology major, Kilgore said she’s excited about everything UT has to offer, from football games to Greek life to volunteering to meeting new people.
“Helping to build each new freshman class is a rewarding task,” Alldredge said. “And it was really gratifying to meet these six students, hand them their acceptance letters, and now see them begin their journey as part of the Class of 2020.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)