University of Tennessee shares speech by Bob Booker, Fulbright Scholars


This summary from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville comes to you from higher education reporter Keenan Thomas. Do you have an idea for our higher education coverage? Contact Keenan at [email protected].

Three months after Dr. Bob Booker died at age 88, students graduating from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville received a special posthumous message from the Knoxville Civil Rights icon.

The recorded speech, which urged students to use their education to “lead your community,” was shared with graduates of the College of Arts and Science, who were among more than 5,300 graduates in May.

Booker, who was also an African-American historian, received his own honorary doctorate in humanities from UT on February 10, just twelve days before his death. The video message to UT students was recorded at his home while he received the honorary doctorate from Chancellor Donde Plowman.

“You who are about to graduate today have had some of the greatest experiences of your lives, and professors steeped in their specific fields have done their best,” Booker said in his video message. “But it is my fervent prayer that you will leave this place and work hard in your chosen profession, and also that you will use your experience and education to help lead your community.

“Our world is still too full of hatred, violence, intolerance and injustice. Only an enlightened public can change that.”

You can watch Booker’s full post on UT Knoxville’s YouTube channel.

10 University of Tennessee students accepting Fulbright scholarships

Ten UT students accepted Fulbright grants for the 2024-2025 academic year. Four were named as alternates.

Begun in 1946, the Fulbright Scholarship is one of the most prestigious international programs in higher education, annually awarding approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals to travel to more than 140 participating countries to teach or to study.

The awards follow UT’s designation as a top producer of Fulbright students.

Meet the 10 students who earned Fulbright scholarships:

  • Jacob Altrock – Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in singing with a minor in German. He will work with an opera program and take classes while researching accessible opera performances in Germany.
  • Aliya Benabderrazak – Graduated May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology, as well as minors in Africana Studies, Hispanic Studies, and Child and Family Studies. She will be a graduate-level English teaching assistant at Columbia.
  • Miranda Blevins – Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in audiology and speech therapy with a minor in business administration. She will work as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.
  • Yas Deo – Senior student majoring in honors sciences and minoring in business administration. He will study remedies for depressive disorders in New Delhi, India.
  • David Holdridge – Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forestry with a focus on restoration and conservation sciences. He will research the palm oil industry and reclaimed abandoned tin mines in Indonesia.
  • Steve Mahometano – Graduated in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in honors neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He will work as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.
  • Diba Seddighi – Graduated in 2023 with a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in global health equity and a minor in Spanish-language studies. She will work toward obtaining her master’s degree in global health from Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Luke Simmons – Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a minor in political science. He will work as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.
  • Courtney Tolbert – Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and a minor in psychology. She becomes an English teaching assistant in Thailand.
  • Matthew Valderrama – Graduated in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering. He will pursue a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Aalborg University in Esbjerg, Denmark.

An eleventh student received an offer of a Fulbright grant but declined. Four alternates could receive an award if spots become available in the coming months.

UT had 44 Fulbright applicants and 31 semifinalists in 2024.

Could UT’s Amber Williams be a university president? She is on that path

Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams has been appointed to the AGB Institute for Leadership and Governance in Higher Education 2024-25.

The institute selects participants who aspire to become university presidents and works to enhance their skills. Since the program was founded six years ago, more than 20 participants have risen to the position of president.

Williams – along with 20 other higher education leaders – will attend a symposium in September. She is eager to share these insights and continue to effect positive change at Rocky Top, Williams said in a news release.

The symposium is the first step in the six-month program.

University of Tennessee is changing leadership in artificial intelligence

Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of the AI ​​Tennessee Initiative Lynne Parker has retired from UT after 22 years.

Parker joined UT in 2002 as a professor and worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2018. She later became assistant director for artificial intelligence and then deputy chief technology officer for the White House.

In 2021, she became founding director of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office.

She returned to the UT in 2022 and has played a crucial role in the UT’s embrace of AI and policy surrounding the technology. In January, UT appointed Professor Vasileios Maroulas as the new assistant vice chancellor and deputy director of the AI ​​Tennessee Initiative.

Brian Wirth will become head of the Nuclear Engineering Department

Brian Wirth will become head of the Nuclear Engineering department on August 1.

Wirth is the Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering and co-chaired a subcommittee on the future of fusion energy facilities in the US.

7 University of Tennessee faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has selected seven UT faculty members as part of its 2023 class of AAAS Fellows. The designation recognizes those who make an impact within and beyond their research area.

These faculty members received the lifetime honor:

  • Rigoberto Advincula – UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced and Nanostructured Materials and leader of the Polymer Group at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.
  • Takeshi Egami – UT-ORNL Distinguished Scientist, professor and director emeritus of the Shull Wollan Center/Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences.
  • Heidi Goodrich-Blair – David and Sandra White Professor, Chief of the Department of Microbiology and an American Society for Microbiology Fellow.
  • Sergei Kalinin – Weston Fulton Professor and chief scientist in AI and machine learning for the physical sciences at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
  • Keith Kline – Leading research scientist at ORNL.
  • Anthony Mezzacappa – Newton W. and Wilma C. Thomas Chair in Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics and Professor of Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is the former director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences.
  • Michela Taufer – Jack Dongarra Professor of High-Performance Computing and editor-in-chief of the journal Future Generation Computer Systems.

Keenan Thomas is a higher education reporter. Email [email protected]. X, formerly known as Twitter @specialk2real.

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