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2021 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.

Maria Urias

Maria Urias is studying sociology with minors in social entrepreneurship, leadership studies, and political science. She is involved with the Honors Leadership Program, Baker Scholars, the JCLS, SGA, and Alpha Kappa Psi. She contributed to the initiative to rename White Hall after Theotis Robinson Jr. and wrote a referendum in 2019 to amend the Student Code of Conduct.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

Being a Volunteer means caring about your community, actively trying to improve life for yourself and those around you, and having a healthy disregard for the impossible. To truly be a Tennessee Volunteer means to embody the Torchbearer’s Creed in every aspect of life, and to disrupt complacency and ignorance whenever possible.

UT has empowered me by introducing me to amazing peers that have encouraged me, and incredible faculty and staff that have mentored me. If it were not for the friends and amazing people I met at this institution, I would not be who I am today.

Madison Woods

Madison Woods, of Memphis, Tennessee, is a senior studying psychology. During her undergraduate career, Woods has been extensively involved as the Student Education director for VOLbreaks, a Leadership Knoxville Scholar, Ignite leader, Multicultural Mentoring Program, the Chancellor’s Honors Program, Student Basic Needs Coalition, psychology research assistant, and more.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

To me, being a Volunteer means to inspire. During my four years at the University of Tennessee, I have met hundreds of exceptional students, faculty, and staff. I have sat in countless rooms, meeting people from diverse backgrounds, learning about their own individual experiences. As a leader in a multitude of spaces, I have realized that my passion lies in inspiring others to lead and pursue their passions. My goal in everything I do is to be able to inspire others to lead, grow, and challenge themselves to be the best version of themselves. When I first began my undergraduate career four years ago, I found a home in Student Life and developed lasting relationships with my mentors and close friends. These people empowered me to stand up and speak out about my values and passion for social change. The Office of Multicultural Student Life and Jones Center for Leadership and Service gave me many opportunities to grow as a leader and become confident in myself. Through all the hard times when I felt like giving up when I missed my family back home, I always knew that UT was the only place I belonged and would give me the best experience of my life.

Natalie Campbell

Born and raised in Knoxville, Natalie chose UT her senior year, while at an admissions meeting where she was personally handed her letter of acceptance. There, Natalie instantly became a Vol for Life. During her time at UT Natalie has been involved with Ignite, SGA, LKS, Student Ambassadors, and RUF.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

The thing that makes a good leader great, is to have an equal willingness to follow. This is the same when it comes to the Volunteer. Rooted in servant-hearted leadership, being a Volunteer means serving without expectation, giving with no hope of getting in return, and leaving things better than when you found them. To me, being a Volunteer is the greatest gift you can ever give, and helping others is the ultimate gift you can ever receive.

My time at the University of Tennessee has taught me this since the moment I arrived on campus. The idea of going beyond yourself for someone else is powerful and has challenged my way of thinking, on and off Rocky Top. UT has helped me see the impact each person has on the people around them, and then some. In the last four years I have felt empowered to reach beyond myself and grow to value the weight that each person carries with them, simply by being human. Emily Style, a relational scholar in education, in 1988 said, “Education needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected.” This is true when it comes to life as well. Being a Volunteer has taught me how to look through the windows of the lives of different people around me, and see them and their story. While also looking into the mirrors of people like me that I can see myself in. Learning this, has been the greatest gift the University of Tennessee could have ever given me, and for that I will always be thankful.

Trey Smith

Trey Smith graduated in December with a degree in recreation and sports management. An All-American guard and captain of the Tennessee football team, Smith was an active leader on and off the field, organizing donation drives for nonprofit organizations in Knoxville, volunteering at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and assisting with a peaceful campus march for racial justice. He served on the SEC Football Leadership Council and was a member of the VOLeaders Academy and a two-time SEC Community Service Team representative. Smith is currently preparing for the 2021 NFL draft and hopes to create a foundation to help communities as well as a scholarship in his late mother’s name should he reach the NFL.

Taylor Boyer

Taylor Boyer is a Knoxville native, a graduate of Webb School, a soon-to-be graduate of UT’s Haslam College of Business, and will attend UT College of Law in the fall. She has a true heart for others exemplified by the dedication of her collegiate experience in service to her peers and the University.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

Being a Volunteer means taking action. It is living out the Volunteer Creed, having a servant’s heart, and seeing the best in others. Volunteers come alongside one another and are there in the good times and the not so good. Volunteers are instinctual builders. They create and need nothing in return for what they do.

UT empowered me to make the very most of my collegiate experience in ways I could not have imagined anywhere else. With the strong, consistent support and encouragement of faculty, staff, and peers, who continuously poured endlessly into me, I had the confidence to take on many challenges and discover the best version of me in the process. In doing so, and by spending every ounce of my energy on UT, I can say with all sincerity that I discovered what it truly means to live out the Volunteer Creed in service to others.

Tyler Young

Tyler Young is a senior from Knoxville majoring in supply chain management. Throughout his time at UT, Tyler has served as Lead Haslam Ambassador, vice president of Beta Upsilon Chi, a Haslam Peer Mentor, and a member of Student Alumni Associates among other leadership roles.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you? How has UT empowered you to make a difference in a way you might not have imagined elsewhere?

Throughout my time at the University of Tennessee, my opinion of what it means to be a Volunteer has changed and evolved. Coming in as a freshman, I saw Volunteers only as those that represented our university externally (administration, athletes, alumni, etc.). In my four years at UT, my eyes have been opened to the fact that I am surrounded by Volunteers across this campus. These Volunteers are students who take initiative to make our campus a better place without desiring any credit. They are the faculty I have had that genuinely care about their students’ success academically and professionally more than they care about their personal career success. They are the staff who spend countless hours and long nights providing opportunities that will develop students both personally and professionally.

The University of Tennessee has empowered me to be a light on the campus in every situation. At UT, being a Volunteer is deeper than the dictionary definition of “a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.” Being a Volunteer is instilled in the culture across campus and it is who we are as students, faculty, and staff.