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A graduate smiles during the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on May 20, 2023. 

While commencement at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a time for friends, family and mentors to gather and celebrate, it also offers an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences on Rocky Top as they prepare for the next chapter of their lives. Approximately 1,960 graduates will join the UT alumni family on Friday, Dec. 15. Five of them recently took a moment to express how the university’s faculty have influenced their educational journeys.


Brianna-BeverlyBrianna Beverly of Memphis is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences. She appreciates all the supportive members of the Department of Psychology, particularly Lecturer Eboni Winford and Distinguished Lecturer Katie Rowinski. Beverly described those instructors as nurturing and powerful, inspiring her interest in abnormal psychology and her desire to further her education in the field.




Russell-BrittonRussell Britton, an Air Force ROTC cadet, is from a military family and considers both Lorton, Virginia, and Pulaski, Tennessee, his hometowns. He is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Tickle College of Engineering and will receive his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation. Britton said many of his professors in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science inspired him to work hard, but Associate Professor Nicole McFarlane provided him with countless hours of assistance. He also worked under Professor Jayne Wu as her teaching assistant, which he said allowed him to develop his lab skills and helped him become a better teacher in all facets of life.


Natalie-DaleNatalie Dale of Knoxville is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in history with honors from the College of Arts and Sciences, with a minor in business administration from the Haslam College of Business. Dale said she would not be the student she is or have accomplished the things she did without the impactful professors who listened to her, read her work and nominated her for incredible opportunities. She completed her degree early and is grateful for the support of the Department of History, particularly Associate Professor Jacob Latham, and Distinguished Lecturer William Mercer in the College of Law. Latham assisted Dale in integrating into a class with more advanced thesis students, while Mercer worked closely with her on her thesis.


Ekramul-EhiteEkramul Ehite of Chittagong, Bangladesh, is graduating with a PhD in biosystems engineering from the Herbert College of Agriculture. He credits completing a highly challenging electronic systems class to Professor Emeritus John B. Wilkerson and his teaching assistant, Jonathan Yoder, in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Ehite said the teaching style of both instructors made the course manageable and allowed him to use the knowledge he gained to conduct graduate research.



Mackenzie-OstromMackenzie Ostrom of Houston, Texas, is graduating with a Master of Science in communication and information with a concentration in advertising and public relations from the College of Communication and Information. She says her most impactful instructors were Professor Eric Haley and Professor Courtney Childers in the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations. Ostrom described Haley as kind, intelligent, and wanting his students to succeed, and it was through Childers’ mentorship and support that she chose the advertising program.


“More students than ever are drawn to UT because of our excellent, supportive faculty and outstanding academic programs,” said John Zomchick, provost and senior vice chancellor. “Commencement offers all a moment to reflect on our journeys, give thanks to those who have helped us on our way, and share excitement with friends and families about the future.”


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,