Skip to main content

One creates healthy meals for cancer patients. One tutors children of immigrants. They’ve spearheaded efforts to help children with autism and people living with AIDS. They are athletes, musicians, writers, and world travelers.

These are just a few of the accomplishments of the 15 high school seniors who will be enrolling in UT’s premiere academic program in the fall as Haslam Scholars.

Twelve of the new Haslam Scholars hail from Tennessee. The others are from Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas.

Each year up to 15 first-year students are admitted to the Haslam Scholars program and become part of an intimate academic, service, and leadership cohort mentored by top UT faculty. Each receives an endowed scholarship to cover the estimated cost of in-state tuition and fees and the average cost of campus housing, along with funding to support independent research. Out-of-state Haslam Scholars receive a waiver granting them in-state tuition.

Haslam Scholars reside in a living and learning community in the Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall. They enjoy an exclusive curriculum, interdisciplinary seminars, and community service-learning. They also participate in a collaborative study abroad experience in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Haslam Scholars Program was founded in 2008 with a $2.5 million donation by Jimmy and Dee Haslam and a $2.5 million donation by Jim and Natalie Haslam.

Here’s a look at the 15 incoming Haslam Scholars:

Ashlyn Anderson of Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee. With plans to major in nutrition, she is a teen chef who helps cook nutritious immune-boosting meals for people facing cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. She plays basketball, is active in school organizations and church mission work, and was a Rotary International exchange student to Australia in 2017.

Bradford (Ford) Brewer of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. He plans to major in neuroscience and English with plans of possibly becoming a doctor. He tutors immigrant children through the National Spanish Honor Society and serves as an athletics mentor. He has spent two summers at intensive writing workshops at Sewanee: The University of the South and Duke University. He has studied abroad in Australia. Having suffered multiple concussions himself during athletics competitions and watched a grandmother struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, he has developed an interest in brain research.

Keri Burge of Pope John Paul Catholic High School in Madison, Alabama. She plans to major in biochemistry and anthropology and eventually earn a PhD in forensic anthropology. She has attended Vanderbilt Summer Academy, where she studied math and music, chemical archaeology, and bioarchaeology. She plays basketball, is active in several school organizations, tutors students in biology and English, and plays clarinet. She been part of the United Way’s Youth Leadership Council and has logged more than 100 volunteer hours at various nonprofit agencies.

Bryson Garrett of Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He plans to major in journalism and electronic media. Valedictorian of his class, he has received several academic awards, been active in multiple school organizations, and logged more than 200 hours of community service. He is a youth leader at his church and has taken two mission trips to Jamaica. He also manages his school’s varsity basketball team.

Kyler Groner of Morristown-Hamblen High School West in Morristown, Tennessee. He will major in political science and aspires to a career in education policy. He serves as captain of his school’s top-ranked speech and debate team, is active on the Scholars’ Bowl and History Bowl teams, and has starred in multiple theater performances. He plays blues, jazz, and classical guitar. He also volunteers in the community.

Rachel Harville of J. Frank White Academy in Tazewell, Tennessee. She will major in global studies. She has participated in food, culture, and leadership forums in Tokyo, and Milan. At her school, she started a recycling program and spearheaded an effort centered on healthy food practices, including building vertical gardens out of recycled materials. She has been active in school organizations and has served as an informal teaching assistant. She participated in an exchange program in Kent, England.

Isabella Killius of Hume Fogg Academic High School in Nashville, Tennessee. She will major in geology and environmental studies with the goal of becoming an environmental lawyer. She is president of her school’s book club and has organized supply drives for the Nashville Humane Association. She has interviewed civil rights activists and created a podcast for the Metro Arts Witness Walls project. She also plays the clarinet.

Kinley Koontz of West High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. She will major in biomedical engineering with hopes of going to medical school. An award-winning community volunteer, she’s organized partnerships between her school and civic organizations including UT’s Community Schools program at Pond Gap Elementary. She founded the Garden Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes positive growth for at-risk youth through artistic expression, and has developed a program that could allow the organization to spread nationwide. She is a student representative on the Knox County Board of Education.

Caitlin Priester of Arlington High School in Arlington, Tennessee. She will be a pre–veterinary medicine student. She grew up with many animals in her home and has been an equestrian for several years. She is interested in prosthetic research to help animals who have lost limbs or can’t walk on their own. She is active in her church and has gone on multiple mission trips to Costa Rica. She is also active in various school organizations, works as a veterinary technician at a local pet hospital, and volunteers at the Memphis Zoo.

Varun Rangnekar of Johns Creek High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. He is a pre-medical student who aspires to be a physician and health informaticist. Inspired by the health issues of a friend, he is active in school and state organizations dedicated to thrombosis awareness. He has been a research intern in a thrombosis and hemostasis lab at Loyola University in Chicago. He has volunteered at a muscular dystrophy camp, participated in health fairs, and conducted seminars in under-resourced schools on the dangers of substance abuse.

Deanna Riley of Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee. She will major in biomedical engineering and wants to be a pediatric neurologist. She plays bass drum. She is active in school organizations and volunteers with civic groups including Habitat for Humanity and the Well Food Pantry. She volunteers at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University.

Joseph Roebuck of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee. He will major in supply chain management. Named Tennessee’s Gifted Student of the Year, he has served as a counselor for Discover India summer camp and as director of operations for a local nonprofit, Threads of Care. He also headed up a project to build a rain garden at his school. The captain of his school and travel soccer teams, he led both in goals scored.

Juli Anna Stanford of Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee. She will major in global studies. An activist for individuals fighting HIV/AIDS, she began an AIDS awareness week at her school and built connections between her school and a local AIDS organization. She is a trained classical dancer who serves as choreographer for theater programs at local elementary and middle schools. She has worked with local organizations to roof houses and led STEM projects with refugee students. She is active with Christian organizations and has helped run vacation Bible schools and build homes in Ensenada, Mexico.

Denee Stewart Freeman of University School of Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee. She will major in English. A dedicated writer, she spends weekends attending Literary Artists of Nashville student workshops and the Visiting Poets Series at Vanderbilt. She also attends intensive summer writing workshops around the country. She chaired her school’s community service day and, being passionate about mental health issues, she’s found her niche working with Sense Theater at Vanderbilt, a program that uses theater to help autistic children gain social skills.

Athena Tran of Blue Valley North High School in Leawood, Kansas. She will major in chemical engineering. She’s worked with Kansas City Interfaith/SevenDays Youth Alliance, a group formed after an anti-Semitic shooting in her hometown. She also an alumna of the Kansas City Women’s Foundation Girls’ Leadership program. She’s been active in school and community organizations and is captain of her state champion varsity tennis team.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,