Torchbearer is the highest honor the university gives to its students. Recognition as a Torchbearer reminds us all that those who bear the Torch of Enlightenment shadow themselves to give light to others.
Leadership is not a position and a title; it is an action and example. Jalen Blue’s actions on campus prove that he is a true leader.
A public administration major from Brentwood, Tennessee, Blue has held positions on the Student Life Council and the United Residence Hall Council. He served as a counselor for Math Camp. He served as the student representative in a number of organizations including the UT System Diversity Advisory Council, the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, the Center for Leadership and Service Advisory Council, and the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Taskforce.
Blue also holds a seat as a student trustee on the UT System Board of Trustees.
Off campus, Blue interned with the City of Knoxville’s Community Development Department, where he worked with the mayor on issues regarding ADA compliance in new city construction projects in preparation for his future career in public service.
Blue “has proven to be a true student activist and advocate who understands and embodies the values of professionalism, character, respect, strategy, and justice,” one of his nominators wrote.
Haslam scholar. Architecture major. Fulbright finalist. Cancer survivor. Cayce Davis’s initiative, perseverance, and remarkable tenacity have made him, in the words of his nominator, “a humble superstar who never rests on his laurels.”
Of his own initiative, Davis pursued an independent research project—in addition to his coursework—on architecture built during ages of tremendous social upheaval. The work has earned him a number of scholarships and awards.
Davis, who is from Roland, Arkansas, was recently selected as a Fulbright Scholar semifinalist and will focus his research project on new ways for Poland to move forward socially and economically.
Some of Davis’s interests and efforts stem from his personal battle with brain cancer, now in remission. He volunteers with Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Mid-South chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a participant in the Haslam Scholars Science Saturday program, Davis leads hands-on experiments at Pond Gap Elementary School.
“The strength of Cayce’s Torchbearer candidacy is his ability to think independently while working for the greater good,” his nominator wrote.
Madison Kahl has spent her entire college career being a leader—in elected offices, serving on committees, and volunteering in the community.
A biological sciences major from Knoxville, Kahl began her Student Government Association service on the Freshman Council. The next year, she was a Freshman Council advisor. Kahl went on in her junior year to be executive treasurer, developing new procedures for each branch of SGA. She has spent this year as student body vice president.
Kahl’s participation in organizations on campus did not stop with the SGA. She served on a number of task forces and committees, including the Top 25 Initiative Student Advisory Task Force, the Civility @UTK Task Force, the Advisory Committee on Student Organizations, the Dining Services Advisory Committee, and the Undergraduate Council. She was a member of Mortar Board and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
Kahl’s co-workers say she handles true service with pleasure and employs her unstoppable sense of humor to serve others.
Willie Kemp, a senior in materials science and engineering from Gallatin, Tennessee, has worked diligently to improve his fellow students’ experiences during their time at UT. One nominator noted his genuine compassion and concern for other students and his commitment to bettering our campus and community.
Kemp has served as a two-time team leader for the Ignite program, guiding first-year students in team building and leadership activities.
“Willie was always willing to step outside of his comfort zone and openly engage in meaningful dialogue about serious issues like discrimination, racism, prejudice, and how to overcome it and rise above it,” one of his nominators said in describing his impact on Ignite. “These conversations changed people’s mindsets and have helped
make a positive difference in many UT students’ lives.”
Kemp is a member of the Leadership Knoxville Scholars program and was involved in the creation of the leadership studies minor that launched in fall 2015.
Kemp has helped further the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students as a mentor in the Multicultural Mentoring Program and a student recruiter for Minority Enhancement for UT. He ran his 2015 SGA election campaign on creating a more inclusive and welcoming campus.
Bradford Reszel, of Libertyville, Illinois, graduated in December with a degree in sociology. He left a legacy of helping others on this campus.
As a sophomore, Reszel was encouraged to write a personal mission statement. He wrote, “I want to make people happy.” It was this desire to make others feel welcome and connected on campus that led him to co-create Spark, a two-day retreat for first-year students who are interested in getting involved on campus, developing as leaders, and networking with other student leaders.
Also during Reszel’s time on campus, he participated in the Top 25 Student Advisory Board, Leadership Knoxville Scholars, LeaderShape, Impact, Emerging Leaders, the SGA Election Commission, Concert Choir, intramural sports, and Ignite, where he served two summers as a team leader and then co-director.
In the words of one of his nominators, “Bradford’s actions throughout his time as a UT student have left a lasting impact for thousands of past, present, and future Volunteers.”
Sahba Seddighi, from Knoxville, already has an impressive record of research for someone yet to graduate from college. She is a College Scholars major with a concentration in neuronal plasticity and neurodegenerative disorders.
Seddighi has received numerous awards at conferences across the country and conducted neuroscience research at the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University.
She is a co-founder of the National Association for Undergraduate Research Advancement, a network founded by undergraduates from leading research institutions that aims to advance undergraduate research programs across North America. She is also the student coordinator for the International Conference of Undergraduate Research.
Seddighi served as co-chair of the Undergraduate Research Student Association, primary organizer of UT’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, and editor in chief of Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research.
Seddighi is the founder of Jamming Down Memory Lane and UT’s Brain Awareness Week campaign. She also serves as a member of the chancellor’s Top 25 initiative and the Commission for Women in STEM.
Wayne Taylor, of Arlington, Tennessee, is a senior in accounting. A leader in every sense of the word, he has become known for giving inspirational speeches.
Taylor is in the Chancellor’s Honors Program and Global Leaders Scholars program, which gave him the opportunity to live and study abroad in London.
Taylor is the current academic chair of the National Association of Black Accountants. He has also been involved with Venture LLC, the Student Government Association, the First-Year Studies American Sign Language group, the Venture Living Learning Community, the Rocky Top Roundtable Student Advisory Board, and the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Board.
In 2014, Taylor was selected out of more than 4,200 undergraduate students to speak at the naming ceremony for the Haslam College of Business. His nominator describes him as “selfless, well-rounded, and an example for his peers.”
Last year, Taylor was honored with the Courage to Climb award. He has pushed himself to succeed in the classroom and managed to balance leadership and academic pursuits with excellence.