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Students portray what student life will look like while wearing a mask and social distancing as part of a setup photoshoot outside the Humanities and Social Sciences Building

Student success is paramount at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Transitioning to college is not just a journey of classes, tests, and grades, but an exploration of students’ dreams, goals, and long-term path. In January 2020, the Division of Student Success was developed to enhance students’ academic experience. A year later, the division is reflecting on its enhancement and support of students who are maximizing their strengths and achieving their academic, professional, and personal potential.

Composed of 10 departments that collaborate with other elements of the campus community, Student Success elevates the academic experience by passionately advocating for students and reimagining ways to answer those big questions in life: Who am I? Where do I want to be? How will I try to get there? New initiatives include the New V.O.L. Experience, an orientation program for incoming students; the Vol First-Year Experience, which provides seminars and courses designed to help first-year students navigate the university experience; and Vol Success Teams, which connects new students with an academic advisor, academic coach, and student services counselor.

But at the heart of Student Success are the students themselves. Here we showcase a few outstanding students, both undergraduate and graduate, who have excelled through their work with the division or with its support:

Daniel Sassone
Daniel Sassone

Daniel Sassone, a student veteran from Easton, Pennsylvania, who graduated in summer 2020 in communication studies, is completing graduate coursework and has experienced firsthand through the Veterans Resource Center what success means on the UT campus. “I have been a participant in the programs offered by the Division of Student Success, especially the Veterans Resource Center, which has provided everything from comforting therapy dogs to free lunches and supplies that enabled my success as a student,” said Sassone. “It also plays a key role in finding the necessary socialization for someone who does not fit in well with the standard definition of a collegiate student. I have encouraged other veterans to both attend the university and make use of the student success division’s unique and specialized offerings—especially those who think they might struggle academically.”

Peibo Li
Peibo Li

Peibo Li, of Hampton, Virginia, is majoring in microbiology and aspires to be a physician, adding political science as a minor to advance his interest in public policy. Li is also a lead peer career advisor in the Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration and has performed research as a Baker Scholar. “Working as a lead peer career advisor has given me great experience and many valuable skills which I have applied in my academic life, such as leadership and time management,” said Li. When asked how Student Success contributed to his personal growth, Li mentioned his newfound love of public speaking and building interpersonal relationships.

Miranda Rutan
Miranda Rutan

As a graduate assistant in New Student Orientation from Spring Hill, Tennessee, Miranda Rutan has a different perspective. She expressed the personal impact that the division has had on her life. “Through my engagement with new student orientation and the Division of Student Success, I gained patience and confidence,” said Rutan. “My role challenged my way of thinking about the world and education in general. I believe the mindset the division amplifies and the innovative way of approaching problems will be the future of student affairs in higher education.” Rutan will graduate in May with a master’s degree in college student personnel.

These students exemplify the Volunteer spirit and the mission and values of Student Success. Through 2021 and beyond, the division will continue to influence students’ decisions toward academic and longer-term success.

To celebrate with students, Student Success will be on Johnson–Ward Pedestrian Walkway Thursday, January 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a special activity and free coffee. Students are also invited to a screening of Knives Out that evening at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Building’s Cox Auditorium.

CONTACT:

Lacey Wood (865-974-8386, lsmiths1@utk.edu)