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.
Amany Alshibli, a senior in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Knoxville, is a Haslam Scholar, a Grand Challenge Scholar, a research assistant, and an Engineering Ambassador. One professor describes her as “that genuinely interested student who seems to soak up every experience in and out of the classroom like a sponge.” When Alshibli, an aspiring medical student, couldn’t find specific research experience in cardiac regenerative medicine on campus, she traveled to Scotland to work on a project. Even with a demanding major, Alshibli has found time to tutor students and assist with science programs at Pond Gap Elementary School, launch the Einstein Science Club at Annoor Academy, organize TEDxUTK conferences, and serve as vice president of the Muslim Student Association. “Amany always conveys a humble and amazingly calm demeanor,” wrote the director of the Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program. “I fully expect her to excel in her pursuit of her medical career and to be an excellent ambassador for her alma mater.”
Kimberly Bress, of Melbourne, Florida, is a senior College Scholar who combined studies in psychology, biology, and chemistry into a neuroscience and mental health major. A Haslam Scholar and Barry Goldwater Scholar, she has assisted in conducting cutting-edge research in behavioral neuroscience. One of Bress’s professors describes her as an exceptional student who succeeds through a combination of intellectual ability and hard work. As a tutor at Inskip Elementary, she organized a translation and interpretation service that has greatly improved the lives of students and their families, and she helped launch the Haslam Scholars’ Science Saturday program at Pond Gap Elementary. Bress has served as a student director for Ignite Outdoors and a member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, and she plays oboe in UT’s Symphonic Band. A staff member describes Bress’s ability to connect with her fellow students: “She is able to make even the most uncomfortable student feel valued and at ease when they enter a new environment.”
A familiar face in Big Orange Country, Justin Crawford has left a positive mark on campus—and he’s done it with a smile. As one of his nominators wrote, “Crawford’s positive attitude and bright personality consistently shine through.” A self-described Air Force brat whose family currently resides in both the US and Japan, Crawford is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He is the founder and former executive producer and host of the Volunteer Channel’s VOLTalk, and currently serves as an ambassador for the College of Communication and Information. Under Crawford’s leadership, the Diversity Student Leaders Society increased its membership fourfold. College leaders say Crawford is one of the top students they’ve ever been associated with. Crawford’s passion for journalism has driven him to secure jobs and internships from Knoxville to Hollywood. Similarly, his commitment to serving UT has benefited many campus programs, including Ignite Serves, Minority Enhancement for UT, and TEDxUTK.
Feroza Freeland is a ferocious advocate for education, working to improve the system through research and volunteer work for University Assisted Community Schools. A proud graduate of Memphis public schools, she testified before a state legislative committee and helped defeat a school vouchers bill. As one of her professors wrote, “She is no hand-wringer; she has encountered children that society has forgotten and neglected, and wants to know how our education policies can help them.” Freeland interns at Legal Aid of East Tennessee, helping people who cannot afford legal representation. She has been president of the College Democrats, an urban fellow in the City of Memphis Emergency Management Department, and a diversity educator in UT’s Office of Multicultural Student Life. A political science major with a Hispanic studies minor, Freeland is a UT Chancellor’s Honors Program Scholar and Baker Scholar and was a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship.
As student body president, Morgan Hartgrove spearheaded the Student Government Association’s effort to ban smoking on campus, working with her state senator on a bill allowing universities to have stricter smoking policies than the state’s. Her work was successful: UT’s campus will become smoke-free in the fall. Hartgrove also worked to encourage professors to switch to open-source educational resources, saving students almost $1 million in textbook costs. A College Scholar senior in health policy and public health, she’s worked on research to help determine the best treatments for babies born to opioid-addicted mothers. She also completed an internship with US Congressman Phil Roe. Hartgrove, of Maryville, Tennessee, is a Chancellor’s Honors Scholar whose recognitions include the 2016 Metro Drug Coalition Community Champion Award and a nomination as Glamour magazine’s college woman of the year. One of her nominators says, “I am most impressed with Morgan’s fearlessness. She is appropriately cautious, but not daunted, when facing a challenge.”
Cullen Johnson, a senior in industrial and systems engineering from Memphis, is known for his academic record, community service, and legendary saxophone skills. As a freshman, he revamped the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s men’s Bible study, Brother to Brother. He has also assisted students through his work with the Multicultural Mentoring Program. One mentee who had been unsure of her future at UT says, “Cullen always reminded me that the characteristics and contributions I possessed were valuable and necessary.” Johnson is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Student Alumni Associates. He has served on the student advisory board of the Tickle College of Engineering and as a student recruiter for Minority Enhancement for UT, and he has held internships at top companies including Norfolk Southern and Under Armour. One of his nominators describes Johnson as “a person of stellar intellect and amazing potential. . . . a phenomenal person to be around.”
Hunter Jones has a knack for wearing many hats. The senior in animal science from Lafayette, Tennessee, served as president of the Interfraternity Council, earning recognition by the council as Greek Person of the Year. “Hunter was exactly the leader our community needed last year,” a staff member wrote in nominating him. “He is respected and able to tackle the tough issues with a maturity beyond his years.” Jones has also served as a director’s chair for All Campus Events—which plans such traditional events as Homecoming, Carnicus, and All-Sing—and as student services director for the Student Government Association. Beyond UT, Jones held a national leadership position with the Order of the Arrow, a national honor society for members of the Boy Scouts community, helping develop a new training event attended by 1,500 people and serving on a team that represented the organization to the president and congressional leadership.
Katie Porter, of Bethesda, Maryland, is a microbiology major who is graduating in three years and has already been accepted to at least one medical school. She plans to serve in the US Navy Medical Corps and specialize in pediatrics. A member of UT’s rowing team, Porter recently visited Vietnam with the VOLeaders Academy, a highly selective program for the university’s student-athletes. In addition to her studies and sport, Porter is an active community volunteer. She assists the school nurse at Dogwood Elementary through the Clinic Vols program and wrote a curriculum to teach young people about healthy eating, living, and play. She also organized registration and ran volunteer orientation for Sports Fest, which drew more than 60 participants with disabilities. Porter’s influence on others is summarized by a faculty member: “I look forward to taking my own daughter to see Katie compete this spring so I can show her what a true role model looks like.”
Cody Sain, a senior in microbiology from Medina, Tennessee, is a Haslam Scholar, Peyton Manning Scholar, and Coca-Cola Scholar. A faculty nominator wrote that while Sain’s educationally disadvantaged background had sometimes put him behind his fellow Haslam Scholars, “I have never heard Cody use this as an excuse or explanation. He merely charges on.” Sain aspires to be a physician and has been accepted to four medical schools. Outside the classroom, he has been a driving force in the Clinic Vols program, which provides health care to elementary school students, and his advocacy has helped keep the initiative alive. Within the Haslam Scholars Program, Sain has served as an orientation leader, a cohort liaison, and a member of the programming committee. He revived the mentoring program, serves as the chair of the program’s advisory council, and is working to establish an Honors and Scholars Multicultural Inclusion Council. Sain also serves on the Provost’s Student Advisory Council and was a featured speaker at the Join the Journey campaign launch.