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Students sit and visit under the orange and white trees in the Student Union Plaza during an event hosted by the Division of Student Life. 

The Division of Student Life has announced the recipients of its inaugural Student Life Innovation Awards, a competition providing one-time funding for new and creative initiatives, programs or services that encourage departmental collaboration and support the Student Life strategic plan.

“We wanted proposals that required departments to collaborate with one another,” said Frank Cuevas, vice chancellor for student life. “Each proposal had a lead, but partnering with others across the division was key. Every Student Life department supports all four of our strategic priorities of providing transformative experiences, a culture of inclusivity and care, personal and professional growth, and responsible and effective stewardship.”

Three proposals received funding: a basic needs vending machine, motivational interview training for staff and a train-the-trainer program in alcohol skills.

Basic Needs Vending Machine

A new basic needs vending machine has been installed on the first floor of the Student Recreational and Fitness Center (TRECS), allowing the university to meet student needs more quickly and increasing the footprint of basic needs support across campus. The refrigerated machine, an idea from the Office of the Dean of Students and the Center for Care and Resilience, includes shelf-stable and refrigerated food items, basic hygiene items like toothpaste and deodorant, Knoxville Area Transit bus passes and well-being kits to support mental health on campus.

Motivational Interviewing Training for Staff

The Student Counseling Center, the Center for Care and Resilience, and the Center for Health Education and Wellness received funding for motivational interviewing training, which will help staff teach students communication skills to guide them through personal growth and learning. Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based approach to behavior change that prioritizes nonjudgmental and compassionate care, recognizing that those who are ambivalent about a decision or area of their life have the resources and skills for change within themselves.

Anticipated outcomes from this training include increased satisfaction among students regarding self-originated changes, longer-lasting behavior change and the empowerment to enact necessary changes.

Alcohol Skills Train-the-Trainer Program

The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life and the Center for Health Education and Wellness proposed a train-the-trainer program in alcohol skills. Trainers will learn how to use motivational enhancement strategies to facilitate conversations with students in an effort to reduce harm around alcohol use.

Student outcomes will include increased knowledge of the risks of consuming alcohol, an increase in student behaviors that reduce alcohol-related risks, and decreases in both overall consumption and negative consequences from drinking.

Proposals have been accepted for a second round of funding, which will be awarded in spring 2024.


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,

Beth Hall Davis (865-974-7449,