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Students are back on campus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Welcoming them back to Rocky Top are campus leaders like Byron Hughes, UT’s new dean of students. Previously dean of students at Virginia Tech, Hughes (who goes by Dean Hughes, Dr. B, or just Byron) has worked in higher education for 20 years. He answers a few questions about his new role and some of his favorite things.

What are you most excited about at UT? 

When I shared that I was coming to Rocky Top, the immediate thing I heard from friends who are alums was that there’s a community feel. I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to. The pride and the energy are in everything, and it’s not just showing up on game day. It’s in work and class, too.

What’s your favorite part of Knoxville so far?

I grew up in Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC, so I’m used to being in a larger city. After I left home and went off to college, I mostly found myself living in rural places. One of the things I’m excited about with Knoxville is a return to city life. There’s so many places you can go—whether that’s in our neighborhood, across town, or downtown.

Do you know all the words to “Rocky Top” yet?

I think so. There’s a playlist on Spotify that has 50 different versions of “Rocky Top.” On one of my drives to Knoxville, I turned it on. It was a lot of “Rocky Top,” so I think I’ve got the lyrics down.

If you could take only three movies to a deserted island, what would they be?

I worked at a video store over a few different summers in college, so I’ve spent a lot of time watching movies. Braveheart would be one of them. That’s one I can watch over and over again. The American President is a fun one for me, too. And Billy Madison might be the last one. That’s one of those movies where I have to recite all the lines whenever I watch it. Whenever I turn it on and my wife is sitting with me, I’m speaking the words and she’s like, “This is really annoying.” It’s just my thing, though.

If you could have dinner with any three famous people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

One would definitely be Barack Obama, and I think it’s because every time I hear him talk or read something he’s written, I’m hooked. It has nothing to do with political affiliation and everything to do with the way he speaks. He’s imperfect, and he acknowledges that he isn’t always put together.

Nelson Mandela would be another person, because there was a level of patience and tolerance he held while still being angry about the system of oppression he saw. He didn’t enter into leadership after being in prison with a burn-everything-down mentality but wanted to transform and inspire people instead. I would love to ask him what he was thinking during that time.

Closer to home would be my mother’s parents. I never knew them, because they passed away when she was very young. I would love to be able to meet them, because I think it would give a stronger sense of understanding about that side of my family and how my mother was put together as a person. I would love to see where her influence comes from.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My wife and I are big college sports fans. Part of that is because our undergraduate alma maters are Division III schools. We appreciate college sports outside of the Power Five world. I’m OK with watching any college sports games that come on—not because I’m a fan of either team but because there’s this energy that comes along with those spaces.

The Office of the Dean of Students is located in Student Union Suite 383. Follow @UTKDOS on Twitter and the Office of the Dean of Students on Facebook to stay up to date on its events and initiatives.


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,