Brandt Gibson can’t remember a time before UT Martin. “When both your parents work on campus, you sort of grow up on the campus attending all kinds of activities. For Brandt, now a UT Martin sophomore biology major, that included football games, science fairs and Governor’s School for the Humanities.
“I was even a ball boy for the Skyhawks basketball team and volunteered for the Kid College program for several years,” he said.
Brandt’s parents are Dr. Michael Gibson, professor of geology, and Edie Gibson, executive assistant to Chancellor Tom Rakes. And while familiarity had a part in his choice of college, he did not take the decision lightly.
“I chose UT Martin because it offers a great education and the unique benefit that it was already a home that I had grown up in,” he said. “Several of the faculty and staff were already like family, and as time went on we only grew closer.”
Likewise, Brandt put much thought into his major, choosing biology because of the extensive list of possible career choices and also because he enjoys the challenges of the curriculum. He was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma, a national honor society that recognizes high academic achievement in the freshman year.
Even though Brandt is very focused on his core classes, one of his favorite courses plays on another interest. “Hands down, scuba rocks. It is a great course… . Scuba diving is very relaxing and exciting for me at the same time. I love just floating around and seeing the environment that I am surrounded by.” He added, “It is really cool to turn your head to the right and see a catfish the size of your leg being fed hotdogs by your dive buddy, or when you turn to your left and see a spoonbill with its mouth fully open feeding right next to you. It's nice to see and study biology outside of the classroom. It also develops a skill that fits well with my career interests.”
One of Gibson’s favorite dives is Mermet Springs, located in Illinois. He describes it as sort of theme park for divers, complete with various scenes depicted and accompanied by music.
“Mermet Springs is an 8.5 acre spring-fed rock quarry that has been turned into a dive site. The unique quality it posses is that several attractions have been sunk there. At various locations in the quarry is a school bus, the Boeing 727 airplane that was used in the movie ‘U.S. Marshals,’ partially filmed at Reelfoot Lake, a fire truck, an ambulance, a motorcycle, a submarine and even a train car. It is a really neat experience to be able to swim through all of these and listen to music underwater at the same time.”
Brandt enjoys other outdoor activities, such as backpacking, that allow him to find a positive outlet for stress from class and opportunities to make friends.
He also supplements his college experience with another interest as part of a campus job in the Office of Instructional Technology Services that he’s held for two summers. “Most of the work calls that I get for my job are preps and installs. This means I deal a lot with replacing different types of computers, whether it is for a faculty or staff member or even one of the many labs we have on campus.” Occasionally, he repairs equipment, but on a day-to-day basis, he installs printers, computers and iPads.
“ITS has given me the chance to develop a skill and have fun along the way. I really enjoy the opportunity of learning under exceptionally brilliant IT technicians, who have been able to teach me more than I could have ever imagined,” he said. “I have been really blessed in being able to meet a variety of faculty and staff on campus, all of whom were pleasant and helpful.”
He looks forward to, but has yet to take, one of his father’s courses. “I always hear good things about his classes, and everyone I talk to says that he is an excellent teacher.”
Brandt’s advice for all incoming students couldn’t be more appropriate based on his experiences. “Take the time to make UT Martin your home away from home and get to know the rest of the Skyhawk family. You will make many friends and learn so much.”