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5th Annual Hike the Hill in Heels

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is celebrating its graduate and professional students April 5–9 for Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week (GPSAW). Hosted by the Graduate School and other campus partners, various events and engagement opportunities will take place all week to spotlight UT’s graduate students and the incredible work they do.

In addition to GPSAW, graduate students are being recognized across the state of Tennessee this week as part of Graduate Education Week, designated in a proclamation from Governor Bill Lee. The proclamation cites graduate education’s positive economic impact on the state and the advancement of resources to the community and the public.

With a Carnegie classification as a public R1 doctoral university with very high research activity, UT plays an integral role in advancing graduate education. The university’s Graduate School houses multiple nationally ranked programs, recently earning a U.S. News Best Graduate Schools designation. More than 6,000 graduate and professional students are currently enrolled at UT in more than 180 graduate degree and certificate programs.

The work of graduate students Adam Hembree, Matthew Layne, Ashley Rice, Mekal Smith, and Reagan Yessler, for example, represents the wide-ranging contributions of UT’s graduate programs:

Adam Hembree
Adam Hembree

Adam Hembree, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, is studying to get his master’s degree in information sciences. He’s currently working as a part-time reference librarian with Blount County Public Library in Maryville, Tennessee, where he completed a practicum earlier in the year. Hembree is writing a grant proposal to get a video collection filled with rich local history digitized. Thanks to a graduate assistantship that pays his tuition, he’s also able to participate in hands-on research with Professor Peiling Wang. Their research looks at the language and communication style of reviewers of open-access journals. Read more about Hembree’s journey.

Matt Layne
Matt Layne

Matthew Layne, from Columbia, Tennessee, is the turf manager for UT and a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in the Department of Plant Sciences. Layne is the co-inventor of Powershed, a patent-pending solar-powered charging station for robotic lawnmowers. His innovation came from a need to access a difficult area of campus for maintenance. With help from the UT Research Foundation and a partnership with Knoxville company Solar Alliance, the product is currently available through commercial distribution partners and direct sales. Read more about Layne’s invention.

Ashley Rice
Ashley Rice

Ashley Rice, from Aiken, South Carolina, is a doctoral student in mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering. Her research uses data to develop and customize predictive models that can determine how well a prescribed treatment will contribute to improving a stroke victim’s motor-control capacity. Currently her team is focused on musculoskeletal modeling of post-stroke gait so they can potentially learn the best treatment style for participants to regain as much motor function as possible. For people undergoing physical rehabilitation, Rice’s work can make a huge healing impact. Read more about Rice’s research.

Mekal Smith
Mekal Smith

Mekal Smith, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is working to obtain his master’s degree in accountancy. After coming to Knoxville to work as a human resource specialist with the FBI, Smith decided to pursue a different passion, looking to help improve the financial literacy of struggling families. Smith joined the National Association of Black Accountants and in his spare time advocates for the US Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), which helps high school students in underrepresented communities access postsecondary education. Read more about Smith’s unconventional path.

Reagan Yessler
Reagan Yessler

Reagan Yessler, of Kodak, Tennessee, is a master’s student in the Department of Geography. Yessler works in counter-mapping, an emerging research concept in cultural geography that looks beyond traditional cartography. Their research is based upon the premise that society not only develops out of its local landscape but also shapes it. Specifically, Yessler is examining the works of African American artist Louise Jefferson and how they function as maps. This approach reveals new realities and knowledge of oppressed groups in society. Read more about Yessler’s work.

As part of the week, the Graduate School will host multiple events to engage both undergraduate and graduate students. A full list of events can be found on the UT campus calendar.

Featured Events

Scavenger Hunt, all week

The Graduate Student Senate is hosting a week-long scavenger hunt encouraging participants to explore campus and familiarize themselves with various student resources. Learn more about how to participate.

Getting Clear: Exploring Ideas for Your Future, Tuesday, April 6, 3–4 p.m.

The Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration will host this virtual event on efficient and creative ways to think about plans and set the necessary goals to achieve them. Kate Brooks, executive director of the Career Center at Vanderbilt University, will be joining the conversation.

3MT Watch Party, Wednesday, April 7, 1–3 p.m.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a research communication competition that challenges master’s and doctoral students to present a compelling talk on their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance in just three minutes. Twenty finalists will compete followed by a moderated Q&A. Learn more about the virtual event.

CONTACT:

Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993, msteph44@utk.edu)

Sean Hendricks (865-974-7521, shendrick@utk.edu)