The Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service awards recognize graduating students who are extraordinary campus leaders for their significant service to others.
Marj Itayem, a senior in global studies from Germantown, Tennessee, has been a resident assistant for three years. Although she has forty-six residents on her floor, she makes an effort to know each one personally, using her creativity to provide social and educational programming the residents enjoy and appreciate. Itayem, who is in the Chancellor’s Honors Program, has participated in Oxfam’s fight against global poverty since 2013. She is an active member of the Middle Eastern Student Association, which raises awareness for all campus cultures. She is also a member of the Safe Zone network and is always willing to serve as an ally to those who need one. During her time at UT, Itayem has compiled more than 200 community service hours and has dedicated many of her weekends to Habitat for Humanity.
“Marj’s desire to lead and serve breaks borders,” her nominator wrote. Last summer, Itayem volunteered for twenty days at a Palestinian hospital, helping in one of the most embattled regions of the Middle East. During the summer of 2011, she assisted with an art encouragement camp in Palestine. “The drive and passion Marj possesses are highly contagious and motivate everyone around her to strive beyond their goals,” her nominator wrote. “I am excited to see where the future takes Marj; however, I am more excited to hear about the lasting impact she leaves on those she comes in contact with.”
Psychology senior Casey Renegar, of Franklin, Tennessee, has used her creative thinking and leadership skills to improve the lives of Knoxville youth and to help prepare future campus leaders. As part of the Leadership Knoxville Scholars Program, Renegar designed a community action project to help the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which matches underprivileged area youth with community mentors. Having been a Big Sister herself, Renegar knew that some girls have to wait anxiously for three to six months before being matched, and she wanted to help ease this problem. She came up with the “Princess for a Day” program to give waiting girls some much-needed one-on-one attention with a day full of fun confidence-building activities—from wearing tiaras and tutus to painting nails to discussing school. Over the past two years, Renegar’s “Princess for a Day” program has helped more than thirty girls.
Renegar has reached out to first-year UT students by serving as an orientation leader and an undergraduate intern with the Office of New Student and Family Programs. She was chosen to be a peer leader for the new Spark! program, a two-night retreat where first-year students interested in getting involved on campus can network with current students.
Evan Smith, a senior in supply chain management from Paris, Tennessee, is described by his nominators as a “true servant leader” and someone who “epitomizes the true Volunteer spirit.” As an orientation leader and ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, he welcomes new students to the Volunteer family, builds and creates community, and fosters emerging leaders. He has served as president of his fraternity and president of the Interfraternity Council.
“Evan had a lot on his shoulders the year he served as IFC president,” one nominator wrote. He “was able to walk the line of speaking responsibly on behalf of his constituents and representing the office and administration at the same time.” As IFC president, he oversaw a Halloween trick-or-treat program for more than 600 children from Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club, a project that involved every fraternity and sorority on campus. He coordinated the legislative “Walk in My Shoes” program and lobbied for UT on Capitol Hill. He also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Boo at the Zoo, Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry’s homeless food program, and various community cleanup efforts. “I consider Evan one of the best and the brightest,” one of his nominators wrote. “It is not often you come across a student who understands the big picture of developing holistically.”
Even while Nolan White is completing his master’s degree in social work and enrolled in a competitive trauma certificate program, he still finds time to serve others. During his first year of graduate school, White served as a group leader for a team in the National Association of Social Workers’ Day on the Hill policy competition. Their focus was Senate Bill 1851/House Bill 1887, the Parental Involvement to End Poverty Act. White’s research showed that parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits would actually lose money under the bill, contrary to what its title suggested. His team won second place in the competition for their analysis of this bill, but White didn’t stop there. He prepared a policy brief which he used to lobby against the bill directly to its sponsor, then-senator Stacey Campfield. He also opposed the bill with a letter to the editor that was printed in the Nashville Tennessean.
Energized and motivated by his experiences, White organized a formal mentoring process for other students on policy analysis, practice, and advocacy. “This effort will have long-lasting effects as it has motivated students to keep the tradition going, which will ultimately help to protect Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations,” his nominator wrote. White also served as president of Phi Alpha Honor Society and created a mentoring system for incoming graduate students. He helped organize Hands on Nashville Day and supervised College of Social Work graduate student volunteers in cleaning up and beautifying a Nashville school.