Communication studies major Lauren Reed came home from the hospital in a ‘Born to Go to UT’ onesie. “I grew up in C-60 section in Neyland Stadium,” she said. “I sent high school graduation announcements to the people who sat in the section around us. It runs deep.” When Reed toured campus, she told her mother, Lori, “I could have given this tour.” UT was the only school she applied to.
Reed’s experience at UT was all she thought it would be and more. She served as the 2020 president of the prestigious Student Alumni Associates. “It’s my favorite organization on campus,” she said. “You interact with inspiring alumni and university officials and have the opportunity to support UT’s mission in a meaningful way. It was a challenging year, keeping members engaged and figuring out what events we could do remotely.”
“She is wise beyond her years,” said Center for Student Alumni Programs Director Gina Martin, who coordinates the SAAs. “She always thinks 10 steps ahead. She’s a real strategic thinker and really creative in how she goes about things.”
This quality helps Reed in her role as a social media intern for UT Athletics. She focused her studies on digital media marketing and landed the internship at the start of her first year. Since then, she has managed and published content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the goal of communicating information, promoting fan engagement, and cultivating the Volunteer spirit. “I’ve learned so much—content planning, creative skills, what works and what doesn’t.”
In 2019 Reed was a finalist among hundreds of contestants in Instagram’s national Student Section competition, in which students are asked to tell the story of their game day on social media. “Most schools have similar elements—a parade, tailgates, a team walk to the stadium,” said Reed. “The challenge is to make your posts the most interesting.
“I really focused on the UT traditions that are different—the Vol Navy, the checkerboard, running through the T. And then I really tried to bring fans into it, too. As a lifelong fan, I asked myself what I would want to see as an average fan, and that included a lot of exclusive angles, reactions, and those goose-bump moments that you’ll reflect on for years to come.
“On a tactical level, this included a lot of custom GIFs, extensive branding guidelines to keep it cohesive, use of Instagram stickers, and planning out a timeline of the day with the shots needed and copy options.”
Before she started at UT, Reed was conversationally fluent in American Sign Language as a result of spending time in the classroom of her mother, who teaches deaf children at Eakin Elementary School in Nashville. She built on that background and minored in ASL at UT while volunteering her time at the nearby Tennessee School for the Deaf until the pandemic ended in-person activities.
When classes went online last March, Reed was taking Assistant Professor Emily Paskewitz’s research methods class. “It’s probably the hardest course in the major,” said Reed, “but Dr. Paskewitz went above and beyond. She was so compassionate and understanding about what students were up against, and she made it possible for us to succeed.” Reed also enjoyed Assistant Professor Quinten Bernhold’s family communications course, saying she found it “the most applicable to my life.”
Reed has accepted a job as marketing coordinator for Don Kennedy Roofing in Nashville, and in June she will marry John Harland, a 2018 graduate of Liberty University and youth minister at First Baptist Church in Fairview, Tennessee. They’ve been dating since her first year at UT, although they first met as children through church. “His parents were my choir teachers, and he was friends with my brother,” Reed explained. “Later on, I just thought this is a very nice friendship that feels very comfortable.
“Over the last four years as a Vol, I’ve learned a lot. But what matters most is how you treat people. Vol really is a verb, and we are a family. No matter where I go or what I do, it is up to me to show that and keep that tradition alive.”
This spring, the university will award approximately 4,825 degrees—3,548 undergraduate degrees, 1,065 graduate degrees and certificates, 121 law degrees, and 91 veterinary medicine degrees. Additionally, 17 Air Force ROTC cadets will be commissioned along with 22 Army ROTC cadets. Five socially distanced commencement ceremonies will take place in Neyland Stadium. See the commencement website for details.
Brooks Clark (865-310-1277, firstname.lastname@example.org)