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What UT Traditions have been incorporated into the Student Union?

The Volunteer family loves its traditions, and the new Student Union does not disappoint.  From the torch and seal to Rocky Top and the Power T, UT traditions can be found everywhere in the University of Tennessee’s newest building that opened January 2, 2019.  The Student Union is the living room of our campus, a place for students to gather at a home away from home to see friends, study, and be a part of our Big Orange family. There is so much to love about the new Student Union, and we have gathered up our favorite traditions used in the new space.

The Seal

As you walk in the main entrance of the new Student Union, you will immediately see the university seal fitted into the sleek tile floor.  The official seal of the University of Tennessee features images of an open book, globe, sextant, gear, and laurels. The words “agriculture” and “commerce,” and images of a plow and riverboat, are elements of the seal of the State of Tennessee. The date, 1794, is the year Blount

College—the University of Tennessee’s forerunner—was established in Knoxville.

The Torch

As you continue into the building, be sure to look at the Torch above you over the seal.  Complete with 319 glass flames hand-blown by a local artist, the Torch is a breathtaking reminder of the Volunteer Spirit.  We recommend seeing the Torch at night, when each glass flame will be lit and can be seen from Cumberland Avenue.

Tennessee Orange

As you continue to walk through the Student Union, you will notice subtle reminders that you are at the University of Tennessee.  Everywhere you look, you will see Tennessee Orange, Smokey Gray, and White in furniture, light fixtures, wall art, and even carpet. Classic UT colors are proudly displayed in every corner, serving as a reminder that we are Vols for Life.


The checkerboard motif is noticeable in several places in the new Student Union, incorporated into the brick outside of the union as a nod to Old Main, and on wall art found throughout the corridors, offices, and meeting rooms.  Our favorite is a floor-to-ceiling 3D art installation located in the new Undergraduate Admissions Visitors Center, serving a modern twist to the checkerboard theme as it welcomes prospective Volunteers and their families in true Tennessee style.

Class Banners

A new and exciting addition to the Student Union is the class banners.  Each class at UT will receive a banner proudly displaying a UT tradition complete with their graduating year.  When you walk through the main corridor of the new Student Union, make sure to look up at the substantial banners reminding you that you are a part of the Volunteer Family.

The Power T

As you might expect, the Power T is found everywhere in the new Student Union! You can find a Power T on signs, furniture, doors, offices, meeting rooms, and artwork. We lost count as we walked through the new space, demonstrating how important the Power T is to our UT community!

UT History

We are steeped in tradition here at UT, and the new Student Union celebrates our rich history with a timeline wall mural on the second floor. Make sure to stop by the timeline display and spend some time reflecting on the past, present, and future of our university.

Rocky Top

The first phase and second phase of the new Student Union are connected by an expansive glass bridge that overlooks Phillip Fulmer Way to the east and a beautiful outdoor courtyard to the west.  As you walk through the bridge, you will notice the lyrics of Rocky Top hanging from ceiling installations above you.  Rocky Top will always be home sweet home, and we loved singing along as we passed underneath the lyrics of this fan-favorite song.

UT traditions represent who we are as Tennessee Volunteers.  The Student Union welcomes you into a space that feels like home, showcasing all the things that remind us of what we love about our university, but in a brand-new space that is bright and energizing.  We love our new Student Union, and we know you will too.