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Committee Seeks to Define Volunteer Experience

Two female students volunteering at a food bank

Volunteering with the Vols provided community service opportunities across the country for alumni and current and prospective students to network while giving back to their communities over the summer.

As a university, we devote much time and energy to what our students do inside the classroom. But our students spend 85 percent of their time outside the classroom, and what they experience during that part of their life—living in the residence halls, engaging with student organizations, attending athletics events, and doing volunteer work—is equally important to their success and development as scholars and people.

With these facts in mind, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kari Alldredge and former Assistant Dean of Students Emily Parker chaired a committee charged with defining the Volunteer experience, that special something that makes our university the perfect fit for our students.

The effort signals a new era of collaboration between academic affairs and student life to enhance the student experience—a broad approach to help boost retention, help ensure students complete their degrees, and equip students to be engaged and proud people after graduation.

We’ll be enlisting more help and input from the campus community as we move forward.

Unifying Our Message

“Figuring out how to succinctly communicate what it means to be a Volunteer is critical to recruiting and retaining students,” Alldredge said, explaining that this effort goes hand in hand with creating a strategic enrollment plan.

Faculty, staff, and students often articulate consistent themes about what makes UT special, but we’ve yet to formalize a clear statement defining the Volunteer difference.

“That is the challenge,” Alldredge said. “There are 4,600 colleges and universities in America. What truly makes UT a different kind of place and experience?

“Some of the themes we’ve identified won’t come as a surprise,” Alldredge said.  “Words and phrases we keep coming back to are ‘sense of community,’ ‘family,’ ‘leadership,’ ‘service,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘innovation and creativity,’ ‘UT orange,’ ‘Torchbearer,’ and the idea of bearing the torch.”

Creating a consistent message about what makes UT unique will help us recruit students and instill a sense of pride among our entire Volunteer community.

“Having some key messages—actually coming up with verbiage to describe what makes the experience of attending UT so special—will help the campus community collaborate so we can keep the Volunteer experience central to everything we do,” Alldredge said.

In addition to Alldredge and Parker, committee members were Sean Basso, associate director of programs for RecSports; Ashley Blamey, Title IX coordinator; Chris Lavan, director of Experience Learning; Marisa Moazen, director of undergraduate research; Ashleigh Moyer, director of the Center for Student Engagement; Lee Patouillet, associate vice chancellor of alumni affairs; Jacob Rudolph, marketing director in the Office of Communications and Marketing; Joe Scogin, senior associate athletic director and assistant provost; Melissa Shivers, then dean of students; Jamia Stokes, director of the Office of Advising and Student Services in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences;  and Heidi Stolz, associate professor of child and family studies.