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A student paints the rock during Vol Success Week.

Last week, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, celebrated its first Vol Success Week, a week-long celebration of students’ academic success. A variety of student success programming and activities took place, with highlights including four signature events featuring UT’s provost and executive leadership team, two internationally recognized speakers, and a student success celebration.

On Tuesday, October 6, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick and his executive leadership team handed out lunches to students on the Humanities and Social Sciences Plaza to recognize their success. “It has been a joy for me, as well as the rest of the senior leadership team, to celebrate our students’ successes this week,” Zomchick said. “Connecting with students, learning about their semester, and hearing their stories is what our job is all about.”

Ilyasah Shabazz, professor of criminal justice, motivational speaker, author, and Malcolm X’s daughter, spoke Wednesday, October 7, on the power of perspectives and her father’s legacy. Student Government Association President Karmen Jones moderated a Q&A with Shabazz, which Jones said was an honor. “As a student minoring in Africana studies who has admired the work of her father, Malcolm X, you can really feel that continuation of her family’s legacy of Black empowerment and self-love in her activism,” said Jones. The event was livestreamed in the Student Union Auditorium and online.

Jim Clifton, chair and CEO of Gallup, spoke virtually to attendees in the Student Union Auditorium and online Thursday, October 8. After his keynote, which focused on applying individual strengths for success, Clifton answered questions from first-year students. Moderator Jack Zerangue, a first-year student himself, found Clifton’s comments exciting and insightful. “I feel that everything that came out of that conversation had the potential to impact everyone in attendance at the event,” he said. “I know that I will remember Mr. Clifton’s words and actually apply them to my life.”

“Vol Success Week was a tremendous opportunity to focus on our students, what they have accomplished, and how their unique strengths make them valuable members of the Volunteer family,” said Amber Williams, vice provost for student success. “We want to build on this momentum and support our students as they enter the last leg of the semester and continue their academic journey at UT.”

To close out the week, the Student Success Celebration occurred on Friday, October 9, on the Humanities and Social Sciences Plaza. UT students watched the 1998 NCAA Fiesta Bowl, where the Tennessee Volunteers football team beat the Florida State Seminoles 23–16 to win the national championship.

Throughout the week, campus partners hosted more than a dozen different events to celebrate student success. Additional programming included a wide range of activities:

  • Monday, October 5 – Vol Resource Fair, Vol Success Bingo, and T-shirt giveaways
  • Tuesday, October 6–Career Caricature, Vol Vision Board, and Vol Success Conversations
  • Wednesday, October 7–Paint the Rock, Vols Abroad Global Game Show, and Vol Student Success in Research
  • Friday, October 9–Parents and Families for Student Success

The Division of Student Success has already begun planning Vol Success Week for spring 2021.


Lacey Wood (865-974-8386,