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Don Black, a junior in business analytics, was nervous about coming to UT but found his home on Rocky Top by joining groups involved in issues that matter the most to him.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I love reading, writing, hiking, and bad jokes. This year, I have been involved in a couple of different things: student government, writing for the Daily Beacon, environmental and sustainability advocacy groups, the fight for diversity and inclusion on campus, sexual assault prevention, fixing our campus alcohol policy and working to protect campus workers against the looming threat of privatization. 

Why did you decide to become a Vol?

I remember sitting in the last session of my first-year orientation, nervous, annoyed, and alone. My orientation leader told us to write down something about coming to school that scared us. I remember writing “I don’t even think I’m supposed to be here.” But then, I remember going around the room and hearing everyone else’s fears and insecurities, each one striking with a pang of familiarity. While I entered that room feeling alone, I left it knowing that I was a part of a larger Vol family.

What tips do you have for students thinking about coming to UT or new students already on campus?

Follow your bliss. Start projects that you’ll never finish. Join a hundred weird clubs and then quit half of them. Dress yourself in orange on autumn Saturdays, or watch old episodes of Chopped on The Food Network. Remember that you have a place on campus, even if it takes a little work to find it.

What does the “Volunteer spirit” mean to you?

Walking around campus, I see the Volunteer spirit wherever I look. I see it in the resilience and aspiration of the students who wake up four days a week for their 8 a.m.’s, trying to get that degree. It’s in the fortitude of the campus workers who stay long hours to make our university work. It’s in the probity of the faculty and administrators who stay late after class mentoring students who need it. It’s that: resilience, aspiration, fortitude and probity, that defines the spirit for me.

Want to nominate someone to be featured in an upcoming “Meet Our Volunteer Family” spotlight? Nominate them here.