I am Holly Seng, of Union City, and for the past four years I have studied at the University of Tennessee at Martin majoring in communications with a sequence in public relations and a minor in marketing.
There is a saying many of us have heard throughout our lives along the lines of “never say never.” Growing up on UT Martin’s campus, I spent countless hours of my childhood at the Margaret N. Perry Children’s Center and summer days in the classrooms of Gooch Hall for Kid’s College, both as a participant and later a volunteer.
I had often stated as a child that I would never attend the university I have proudly called home these last four years. Looking back on both my reasoning at the time and the outcome of my undergraduate experience, my previous mindset could not have been more wrong.
My entire philosophy shifted during the summer of 2014 when I attended the Tennessee Governor’s School for Humanities hosted on the UT Martin campus. For four weeks, I learned from some of the best faculty members on campus, developed lifelong friendships, and discovered that the freedom I was looking for in a college was attainable at a university so close to home, even while my mother, Dr. Victoria Seng, associate provost, worked at the university. In this moment of realization, I knew UT Martin was the university for me. I have yet to look back.
While at UT Martin, I had countless opportunities to sharpen my skills through hands-on learning experiences in my communications and marketing courses, which greatly prepared me to enter the workforce. From day one I was able to read the news and work the switchboard at the campus student-run radio station WUTM F.M. 90.3 “The Hawk,” assist with planning and implementing the College of Business and Global Affairs 2018 Awards Banquet and create a strategic public relations campaign for a real-world client. Travel-studies, including trips to Australia, the British Isles and America’s Northeast, allowed me to expand my world-view and gave me a greater appreciation for West Tennessee.
University Scholars, Chi Omega and the Student Government Association are a few of the organizations I was involved with on campus, and each played a role in shaping my leadership skills. I completed a two-year research project as part of the University Scholars program, during which I applied crisis communication theories to the 2018 Nashville Mayor crisis through analysis of volume and sentiment on Twitter. Analyzing a crisis, especially using reactions on social media, put into perspective the responsibility that comes with leadership and the accountability expected from those you lead. My time as Chi Omega’s director of community service enabled me to lead through acts of service and has largely influenced my leadership style. I carried this mindset with me during my time as secretary general of the Student Government Association by taking time to listen to student concerns, serving on committees and maintaining the organization’s various records.
UT Martin gave me extensive preparation for my future career, but it also allowed me to continue the legacy of my mother and sister, Tori Seng, who both graduated before me. Continuing a legacy is more than just following a path, as I had previously envisioned. A legacy is about taking guidance from those who have come before you and creating your own unique path. Through my experience at GSH and the love I saw my mother and sister share for UT Martin, I chose to extend the legacy they started.
UT Martin’s commencement exercises May 4 completed two chapters in my family’s UT Martin legacy. After receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree, I have returned to Union City to work for the Obion County Chamber of Commerce. For my mother, it was her last time participating on-stage in commencement as the dean of graduate studies following a recent promotion to associate provost. She was able to see both my sister and I walk across the stage she first crossed from the unique perspective of the stage itself. The timing could not have been more perfect, and it leaves me with one thought: “It could never be any university but UT Martin.”