Natalie Campbell, a senior at UT, who serves as student body president and has earned accolades for her work advocating alongside people with disabilities, has been selected for a Mitchell Scholarship, one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards in the country.
She is the first UT student to be named a Mitchell Scholar and one of only 12 members of the George J. Mitchell Scholar Class of 2021, having been chosen in a highly rigorous national selection process that culminated in interviews in Washington, DC, over the weekend.
Mitchell Scholars are awarded a year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland. As a Mitchell Scholar, Campbell will pursue a master’s degree in inclusion and special educational needs at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.
“We are thrilled to have our first Mitchell Scholar at UT, and even more pleased that the recipient of this prestigious honor is Natalie Campbell,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “She is a proven leader on campus and in the greater community, and is committed to helping those around her. We’ve always known that UT students are extraordinary, and it’s wonderful to see them receive international honors. Their success is also a testament to our university’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate scholarship, research, and engagement.”
Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, which facilitates nomination of UT students for nationally competitive awards, echoed the chancellor’s sentiments: “To have a Mitchell Scholar is a tremendous honor for UT, so it’s fitting that our first Mitchell is Natalie Campbell, who’s made countless leadership contributions to this university and to the disability community in Tennessee. She just has this extraordinary will to instigate important change. I couldn’t be happier for Natalie—she’s absolutely earned this award.”
Campbell, of Farragut, Tennessee, is a student in the College Scholars Program, an honors program in UT’s College of Arts and Sciences that allows students to devise their own interdisciplinary course of study. Working with Adam Cureton, associate professor of philosophy, she is pursuing a program in disability studies as well as a second major in legal and political philosophy.
Campbell’s advocacy work is inspired by her relationship with her sister, Olivia, who has Down syndrome. Campbell has been advocating alongside people with intellectual disabilities since she was in middle school, when she led a campaign to educate people about the negative impacts of derogatory language regarding people with disabilities and to improve K–12 inclusive education of students with an intellectual disability.
At UT, Campbell has worked closely with UT’s FUTURE postsecondary education program, which helps young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities make a successful transition from high school to adult life.
As a rising junior, Campbell was selected to participate in the Fulbright UK Summer Institute at Queen’s University Belfast. She was also the first UT student to be awarded a spot in this prestigious program, where she was initially exposed to Queen’s acclaimed shared education program and inspired to pursue the Mitchell. Campbell said she looks forward to expanding her research on inclusive education as a Mitchell Scholar.
“I am incredibly honored to receive this award—it will be my pleasure to represent UT and Tennessee to the Mitchell Scholarship Program and to Northern Ireland,” Campbell said. “My studies at Queen’s will prepare me for a career reforming the quality and type of education students with intellectual disability receive across the United States.
“I am incredibly grateful to my family, who inspire me and were my first educators in advocacy, as well as my professors, advisors, and friends at UT, who have provided wise counsel and extraordinary experiences that have made my success possible.”
Campbell has been active in UT’s Student Government Association since her freshman year. Last spring, she was honored with an award for extraordinary campus leadership and service at the 2019 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet.
The George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program, which honors former US Senator George Mitchell’s contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland, is designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service. The program provides tuition, accommodations, and a stipend for living expenses and travel.
Emer Rocke, Ireland’s deputy ambassador to the United States and Mitchell selection committee member, noted, “Having met the current cohort of scholars in Dublin and reading the applications of those looking to take part next year, it is very clear that the caliber of student that the scholarship attracts is nothing short of excellent—that each of the young people involved is already having a significant impact on the world around them and striving to make it a better place.”
UT students interested in the Mitchell and other nationally competitive awards can visit the ONSF website to learn more about the application process and schedule an appointment.
Amy Blakely (firstname.lastname@example.org, 865-974-5034)