The Extraordinary Community Service award honors students and student organizations that exhibit the Volunteer spirit in the community.
Michelle Harding, a doctoral student in accounting, has engaged in multiple efforts to promote community and diversity at UT and in the surrounding area. When she arrived on campus in 2013, she became involved with the undergraduate chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. She went on to work with the Haslam College of Business to create of a formal graduate student organization and with the Graduate School to create the Multicultural Graduate Student Organization. She is an active member of the Knoxville Area Urban League Young Professionals and managed a fundraising effort for the group that broke their previous records. These activities do not detract from Harding’s academic pursuits, as she presents papers at multiple academic conferences and submits articles for publication in top-tier accounting journals. Her nominator described Harding as “the embodiment of a servant leader.”
Caitlin Mize, a master’s student in sociology, continues the extensive community service she began as an undergraduate student in Wisconsin by joining her passion for basketball to her commitment to the LGBTQ community. Mize, who received the NCAA Champion of Character Award in 2013, moved to Knoxville the following year. Since then, she has served as a youth basketball coach with the West Bearden Basketball League, coaching youth teams and dedicating off-season time to player development. She has also continued her
LGBTQ community-building efforts, developing a partnership with the mayor’s office to build a safe space where straight, LGBTQ, and at-risk youth can receive guidance and education in life skills. Her nominator wrote that Mize “has proven to be a relentless advocate for social justice through her academic and community service activities.”
Hayley Pennesi, a senior in marketing, applied to the Alternative Break program during her freshman year. When she was not selected, she consulted with the program’s administrators, worked hard to prepare, and was chosen to participate the following year. She loved the community service opportunities so much that she became an Alternative Break leader and then the program’s student coordinator. Her nominator wrote that Pennesi’s “thoughtful, insightful, and careful planning” made her “an absolute dream of a student leader.” She has given generously of her time and energy to her sorority and other community volunteer efforts. She also serves as a student photographer for UT Athletics, where she implemented an archiving system for photographs dating back to 1919, and as the photo editor for the Daily Beacon.