NASHVILLE – A collection of future doctors, lawyers, engineers, executives and idea-generators who lined the halls of Legislative Plaza on Wednesday all had one thing in common: the University of Tennessee. A UT institution is preparing each of them to make an impact in Tennessee.
The occasion for their visit was the 10th annual UT Day on the Hill. The event highlights students and entities from throughout the UT System by bringing them to Nashville as representatives of the University’s mission to educate, connect and discover. The UT Office of Government Relations and Advocacy coordinates UT Day on the Hill.
UT students and leadership visited with legislators, and students demonstrated some of their UT-taught knowledge with everything from distributing samples of “Vol Cheese” to taking blood pressure readings to sharing personal stories of how the University impacts their lives.
“A big part of becoming Miss Tennessee is your resume,” said UT Martin senior chemistry major Hannah Robison, who is the reigning Miss Tennessee. “UT Martin gave me the experience I needed to win Miss Tennessee.”
Daniel Waller, a UT Chattanooga alumnus who now is studying medical lab science at the UT Health Science Center, knows that he now will be able to help others. “I really feel like I’ve found my calling and a way to give back,” he said.
Such stories are a key element of UT Day on the Hill, said Carey Whitworth, UT director of advocacy. “It’s important that the legislature understand the huge statewide impact UT has from Memphis to Mountain City,” she said.
Because the state provides a significant portion of UT funding, she said, UT Day is organized to demonstrate return on the state’s investment. “This event is a reminder of that and a way to highlight that,” she said.
When it comes to legislators, UT President Joe DiPietro said he can’t compete with stories from students.
“Legislators know it’s my job to advocate for the University, which is something I take seriously and am proud to do, but when legislators hear from students about how UT is changing their lives, that makes a stronger impact,” DiPietro said. “Students are able to communicate the reality of that on a personal level.”
It wasn’t all hand-shaking and storytelling. Things got serious with the football passing contest.
Four members of the Tennessee House took on four members of the Tennessee Senate, playing for bragging rights about who has the best throwing arms. Tennessee Vols starting quarterback and honors aerospace engineering major Josh Dobbs offered play-by-play analysis while UT Knoxville alumnus and 104.5 The Zone in Nashville sports radio host Chad Withrow gave the commentary.
Each legislative team member had one minute to throw footballs from five or 10 yards away through a six-inch hole in a target. The team with the highest number of successful throws won the contest, and in the end, the team of state representatives eked out a one point win, 13-12.
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 360,000 alumni around the world.