MARTIN, Tenn. – Long before Jamie Arnett, a recent double major graduate and winner of the Paul and Martha Meek Award at the University of Tennessee at Martin, walked across the commencement stage in her shiny high heels she learned what she calls the secret of success.
“Sometimes there are good and bad things that happen. I just block out the bad and concentrate on the good,” Arnett said.
Dorotha Norton, the late UT Martin communications professor, taught cognitive modification in small group communications for many years before Arnett mastered the concept.
“I cannot literally juggle, but I have juggled everything – being governor, being on the rifle team, being a double major in political science and communications and completing an internship for Martin community development director Brad Thompson,” she said.
Arnett was the first UT Martin student elected governor at the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature’s (TISL’s) 44th General Assembly, back in November of 2013, since 1974. She became the first female from UT Martin, the first female governor since 2002, and only the fourth female to win the governor’s election in TISL history.
The year before Arnett won the governor’s race, she was TISL’s Secretary of State. “I had a staff of five and I learned to run in my heels,” Arnett said.
She also learned how to drink white chocolate mocha with extra whip cream. “It was the perfect way to start every day,” she said.
Chances are that white chocolate mocha with extra whip cream didn’t help Arnett’s rifle career too much. However, she still made the all-academic team as a member of the UT Martin rifle team (for small bore and air rifle her junior and senior years), and she was a two-time rifle athlete of the year.
“Jamie is a shinning example of what it looks like to be a strong leader, high-achieving student, have a servants heart and a positive spirit,” said Katie Smith, the coordinator of student organizations who nominated Arnett for the Paul and Martha Meek Leadership Award.
Arnett was a PEP leader and a three-year member of the Ohio Valley Conference’s Honor Roll. The commissioner’s honor roll meant Arnett had at least a 3.25 grade point average.
The Bartlett resident said she knew a successful leader taught others, and she admits there were some days when she was a team leader. “I would try my best to step up for my team,” Arnett said.
She was one of three students who garnered the prestigious Meek Award at Commencement. The award, which is the only award presented during commencement exercises, is a cash award given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership while at UT
“She was a fabulous worker,” Thompson said. “She was always on time and efficient with her work. I know she will go on to be someone who is very successful.”
While she didn’t wear her rifle jacket, a bright yellow and maroon, canvass and leather, shooting jacket, she did wear her heels at commencement. And she didn’t run. She left UT Martin immediately following commencement and opted to go East instead of West toward Bartlett. “I already have an apartment in Nashville. I am waiting on my dream job.”
Like a true politician, Arnett was not letting on to her future career, but she smiled big when state politics was mentioned.