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A student is hooded on stage during the fall 2021 graduate hooding ceremony inside of Thompson Boling Arena.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is hosting its annual Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week April 4–9. The week’s focus celebrates UT’s graduate students and highlights their achievements. A variety of events are available for students to attend and engage in during the week.

In addition to UT’s observation, graduate students across the state of Tennessee are being recognized this week as part of Graduate Education Week. In a proclamation from Governor Bill Lee, graduate students were commended for their ability to create new ideas and help increase the earning power of Tennessee citizens. Graduate education was praised for its positive economic impact and involvement within communities.

UT works with prospective graduate students, current graduate students, and faculty and staff through programming, professional development, and research support to contribute to the success of graduate education. Several of UT’s graduate programs are recognized in the U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate School rankings. UT is the state’s largest and most comprehensive graduate institution, with more than 6,000 students enrolled in more than 180 graduate degree and certificate programs.

“GPSAW is a celebration of the multitude of ways that our graduate and professional students contribute to campus. Whether through teaching classes, conducting research, or contributing scholarly or creative works, our graduate and professional students enrich our campus environment,” said Dixie Thompson, dean of the Graduate School. “I am hopeful that everyone will take time to show appreciation to our students during this week.”

Meet some of UT’s current graduate students below to learn about their achievements, research, and how they’re positively impacting the campus, the state, and the world.

Ahoud Algargoush, Business Analytics

Ahoud Algargoush from Dammam, Saudi Arabia is preparing to begin her master’s in business analytics in UT’s Haslam College of Business. After coming to UT as an undergraduate from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, she became involved with the International House. Through her work there, she learned about a variety of cultures and was able to better understand American culture and the other programs and activities the university offers. Read more about Algargoush and the International House.

Kendra Allen, Energy Science and Engineering

Kendra Allen of Chicago, Illinois and a doctoral student in energy science and engineering in the joint UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, has earned two Golden Torch Awards from the National Society of Black Engineers. Allen was named both Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year and Graduate Student of the Year.

Allen’s research focuses on developing the next generation of sustainable composites and optimizing their design during manufacturing.

Everett Cavanaugh, Medical Physics

Second-year master’s student Everett Cavanaugh of Jacksonville, Florida earned a Student Service Award from the Department of Nuclear Engineering for his role in helping to develop a new medical physics lab curriculum for the fall semester.

The nominating committee said Cavanaugh’s work during his summer internship at the Thompson Cancer Survival Center made it clear that he cared deeply about the cancer patients he encountered and proved that he was extremely dependable, trustworthy, and friendly.

Julian Cosner, Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Nematology

When Julian Cosner, a Knoxville native, transferred to UT from East Tennessee State University as an undergraduate, he was unsure of what direction his education would take. He had recently decided nursing was not for him and was in search of a new path. After a short conversation with Andy Pulte, Distinguished Lecturer and director of the Department of Plant Sciences in the UT Institute of Agriculture, Cosner was convinced to pursue a major in plant sciences.

Now a doctoral student in entomology, Cosner was recently named an SEC Emerging Scholar. The highly selective program gives doctoral students an opportunity to learn about faculty jobs across SEC schools.

Sarah Kenney, Architecture

Sarah Kenney, a third-year student in the Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture dual degree program from Wallingford, Pennsylvania, is the recipient of the 2022 Aydelott Travel Award. Kenney will travel to four unique architectural sites around the world during the summer—travel that is fully funded by the $20,000 award.

Kenney will study water control methods in the ancient architecture of Italy, France, and Vietnam in order to evaluate the contemporary successes of the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Baths.

Rounak Patra, Plant, Soil, and Environmental Science

Rounak Patra is a PhD candidate in biosystems engineering and soil science from Kolkata, India. The Ecological Society of America selected Patra among 44 recipients of the Katherine S. McGarter Graduate Student Policy Award, which provides graduate students with the opportunity to participate in virtual congressional visits.

July Reyes Zacarias, Nuclear Engineering

July Reyes Zacarias, a first-year master’s student in nuclear engineering from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is one of 110 women from 77 countries around the world selected to receive scholarships under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme.

The program offers young women an opportunity to pursue studies toward a master’s degree in the nuclear field through financial support and practical experience.

Reyes is currently working as a graduate research assistant in the research group headed by Governor’s Chair for Nuclear Materials Steven Zinkle.

Featured Events

UT will host multiple events to engage both undergraduate and graduate students during GPSAW. A full list of events can be found on the UT campus calendar.

3MT Watch Party and Awards Ceremony, Wednesday, April 6, 3:30–5 p.m.
This virtual event will showcase the presentations of the Three Minute Thesis competition finalists. The research competition was created in 2008 by the University of Queensland and has now been widely adopted at universities across the world. Students have just three minutes and one slide to convey their research—which is often highly technical—to a lay audience. There will be opportunities to participate in a moderated Q&A and cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award.

Graduate Student Senate 5K Fundraiser, Saturday, April 9, 10 a.m.– 1 p.m.
UT is hosting a 5K run–walk fundraising event in collaboration with Knoxville Track Club. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Big Orange Pantry and the Graduate Student Senate’s event fund to organize and host professional development events for graduate and professional students.

Why Can’t I Just Wing It? Practicing and Delivering the Goods, Thursday, April 7, 4:30–5:30 p.m.
Did you know that a reputable business magazine once discovered in a survey of 50,000 business presenters that only about 25 percent of them actually practiced and prepared for their presentations? Join Norman Hammitt, an associate professor at South College, for a discussion on how to be better prepared for presentations. The event is in person and is limited to 30 participants. Visit to register.