I’m an optimist, a character trait that has served me well during challenging times.
In some ways, this past year has brought some of the most complicated problems in all my time with the University of Tennessee. But difficulty is part of being human. You must take the good with the bad. It’s how we respond to adversity that matters.
Despite the challenges, this year has also brought some of the most rewarding experiences of my career, which only makes me more optimistic about the future of our world, nation, state and UT Martin.
In October I traveled to meet our partners in Italy at the Dante Alighieri Society of Siena and the University of Siena, a trip that was postponed twice because of the pandemic. I was blown away. Our students are learning Italian culture and architecture. They’re studying music and agriculture. But there’s so much more to learn outside of the classroom. The students are being exposed to new places, classic literature and international cuisine. There are field trips and excursions all over Italy, but they’re especially fond of their “home base” in Siena. They’re also eating gelato. Lots of gelato.
Studying internationally is one of many ways to enhance the UTM experience. And watching our students and faculty thrive in Siena makes me #UTMproud.
This year the Skyhawks won OVC championship titles in football, soccer, golf and women’s basketball. But, best of all, our Skyhawk athletes set a school-record in the spring with a 3.29 cumulative GPA. They get it done on the field of play AND in the classroom.
But, quite possibly the most significant thing that happened this year was receiving the largest single commitment in UT Martin history when Melanie Smith Taylor and her family announced that Wildwood Farm in Germantown, Tennessee, will be transferred to the university in the future. This transformational commitment will allow UT Martin to increase educational program offerings in veterinary health technology and other agricultural disciplines in the near future.
Forest Gump’s mom said it best: “Life was (is) like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” I believe at the end of the day, the good always outweighs the bad.
Please join me in being optimistic, because every day is a great day to be a Skyhawk!