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2020 Torchbearers

Torchbearer is the highest honor the university gives to its undergraduate students. Recognition as a Torchbearer reminds us all that those who bear the Torch of Enlightenment shadow themselves to give light to others.

Mustafa Ali-Smith

Mustafa Ali-SmithMustafa Ali-Smith, from Nashville, graduated in December 2019 with a major in public administration and a minor in political science. During his time on campus, he served in leadership roles including president of the campus NAACP chapter, founder and first president of the Student Political Alliance, and Student Government Association senator. He participated in the Emerging Leaders Program and was a Leadership Knoxville Scholar, an Ignite team leader, a Daily Beacon editorial columnist, co-chair of the Black Issues Conference, and a member of Student Alumni Associates and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. Ali-Smith is rooted in service, and his life’s mission is to create a more equitable world and disrupt the barriers that hurt marginalized communities.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being at UT, I’ve learned that being a Volunteer is different for everyone, and everyone shows up differently in certain spaces. At its core, being a Volunteer means embedding myself in the Volunteer Creed—selflessness. It’s less about my own self-interest and more about community interest because, within a community, I understand that you can create an environment where everyone is included. Developing the values of selflessness, community, leadership, and service, I have been able to show up for others in an intentional way that isn’t just bringing the light out of myself but those all around me. For me, this is what being a Volunteer means.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

The culmination of my undergraduate years has been filled with many great memories and people, from the Multicultural Student Life Freshman Pageant to all of my experiences in the Jones Center, but if I were to identify one favorite memory, it would be becoming a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. Embarking on the journey in 2017 to become a member of this lifelong organization taught me values that I will carry with me throughout my life—brotherhood, service, and altruism. I am thankful for all of the brothers within this illustrious organization, especially those that have shaped my experience on Rocky Top.

John Calvin Bryant

John Calvin BryantJohn Calvin Bryant is a senior from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, studying food science. A Leadership Knoxville Scholar, Bryant has been actively involved in the Student Government Association, Herbert Ambassadors, UT Ambassadors, Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and Interfraternity Council. He has served with the FUTURE program as a peer buddy, job coach, and in-class support, and volunteered with Camp Koinonia and Knox Area Rescue Ministries. After graduation, Bryant plans to attend medical school to pursue a career in developmental pediatrics.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being a Volunteer means stepping forward and acting when nothing is expected, placing the needs of others above their own to improve the world, and demonstrating true integrity when no one is looking.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

My favorite memory on Rocky Top is giving tours of our impressive university. I enjoy spreading my passion and love for the University of Tennessee to prospective students and their families. After a tour, hearing prospective students affirm their plans to attend the University of Tennessee is the most rewarding feeling.

Natalie J. Campbell

Natalie J. CampbellNatalie Campbell’s advocacy alongside individuals with intellectual disability, or ID, began in the seventh grade, and she has continued this work at UT. A senior pursuing a double major in disability studies and in legal and political philosophy through the College Scholars Program, Campbell established a system for disability advocacy on campus as founder of the organization CARE, worked to ensure that students with ID have access to disability services and the Tennessee Promise program, and carried out strategic planning and engagement development for the FUTURE program. She has held numerous roles in the Student Government Association, serving most recently as student body president. Campbell was UT’s first Fulbright UK Summer Institute grant recipient and first Mitchell Scholar, as well as a Truman Scholarship finalist. She plans to study inclusion and special educational needs at Queen’s University Belfast after graduation.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being a Volunteer is exemplified by the Torchbearer. It means to lead in any and every domain of your life, whether that is in your work, academic setting, or in your personal life. Leadership is evident where people act for others over themselves and do so humbly, without need for recognition. Being a Volunteer means you’re always ready, willing, and first to step up and act for what is right and good for others.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

This is a difficult question, but I would have to say my favorite memory on Rocky Top was the moment I joined my family, closest friends, and campaign members to announce that I had been elected student body president alongside two of my closest friends, Isaac Holt and Emerson Burd. A dear friend and former student body president, Morgan Hartgrove, was even able to FaceTime in from Florida for the celebration, which made it even more special. Our campaign brought together all of our favorite people, and it exemplified what we believed in for our campus. It was wonderful to see those ideas and that work reciprocated by the students who elected us. That moment began one of the most challenging years yet and definitely one of the most gratifying years yet. Being surrounded by all of the people who believed in me and made it possible was what made that moment so special. My sister ran in and gave me a big hug, and I was able to remember that the reason I ran—and all of the work was worth it—is to elevate her and other students’ experiences who also had an intellectual disability on our campus. It was a very sweet moment. All of my worlds collided!

Emma Heins

Emma HeinsSenior Emma Heins majored in geology and environmental studies with a concentration in political science and a minor in public health. She has held numerous leadership roles with the Campus Events Board, most recently as president. She served as the Student Government Association environment and sustainability director and contributed to campus committees related to environmental issues. She was named UT’s first Sustainability Champion in 2018 and received the Environmental Engagement and Leadership Award in 2019. She has also served as an undergraduate teaching assistant, an academic tutor, and a Daily Beacon columnist. After graduation she plans to complete a Master of Public Administration degree and hopes to work in public policy, addressing disparities caused by climate change.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

To me, being a Volunteer means taking care of your community as much as you do yourself. It’s about teaching others how you have stumbled in the past in an effort to help them avoid the same mistakes and helping keep the path clear so that all Vols are able to succeed.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

My freshman year, I watched the game against UGA in the common room of my residence hall floor, and when Jauan Jennings caught the Hail Mary pass at the end of the game, our whole floor ran up and down the stairs of Morrill Hall yelling because we were so excited. It was the first time I felt like I was a real Vol as a first-year student!

Nicholas Ross

Nicholas RossNicholas Ross is a senior from Johnson City, Tennessee, majoring in chemical engineering through the Chancellor’s Honors Program. A National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholar, he has extensive undergraduate research experience, including an internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. On campus he has served as president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, an Ignite team leader and student director, a VOLbreaks trip leader and student coordinator, the founder and president of Knoxville Elementary Outreach, and a Student Ambassador for the Tickle College of Engineering Professional Practice Office. He plans on pursuing a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Stanford University then working on intelligent infrastructure and integrated urban-ecological systems.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

To me being a Volunteer means being committed to leadership as embodied through service, diligence, and excellence.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

My favorite memory on Rocky Top happened following my term as president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. The three younger members of the chapter who I had mentored told me how much my example and investment meant to them as they were entering into their own terms as executive members.

Taylor Washington

Taylor WashingtonTaylor Washington is a senior majoring in political science and independent studies with a concentration in public administration and Africana studies and a minor in public policy analytics. A Haslam Scholar, she has held leadership roles with Minority Enhancement for UT, the Office of Diversity and Engagement Student Advisory Board, and Student Alumni Associates. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Order of Omega, and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. As part of her internship with the Memphis City Council last summer, she presented a proposal for a city-county mentorship program. She plans to attend law school in the fall.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being a Volunteer means embodying the Torchbearer’s Creed and being willing to encourage others to be leaders. True Volunteers know the value in enriching the community and uplifting the people around you.

What is your favorite memory on Rocky Top?

My favorite memory on Rocky Top has been attending all the football games with my friends and the rest of the Volunteer family that comes to campus. If I had to name one specific game, it would be the 2016 Florida game, when we had that amazing comeback. There is nothing like being in Neyland with thousands of other people cheering for the Vols.