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Looking Forward to 2021

After a difficult year, looking ahead to 2021 can seem daunting. Students have been through a lot, juggling hybrid courses, navigating a pandemic, and keeping up with all their other expectations. The coming year still holds its own mysteries, but excitement for spring is already buzzing.

We asked students what they were most looking forward to in the new year and there was a clear theme: reuniting with friends on Rocky Top. Despite this year’s challenges, Volunteers persevered together, so continuing those friendships remains a top priority. Check out some of the ways your fellow Vols are building relationships and gearing up for spring 2021.

Student Organizations

Savannah Hall, a junior majoring in public administration, is most excited for engagement opportunities.

“I am looking forward to getting to do more events in person. I’m in leadership positions for a couple of student organizations, and we had to make some tough decisions last semester,” Hall said. “I’ve learned the most about myself through being involved with student organizations and how to become a better leader in the future. It’s exciting to watch our organization grow each year and become an active part of campus life.”

Hall serves as the president of Leading Women Tomorrow, an organization that encourages women to work in public service, aiming to bridge the gender gap among public representatives. She noted that student organizations have helped her stay engaged and provided added structure to her days. In a virtual environment, having dedicated time devoted to her student organization helped her keep in touch with friends from a distance.

You can find a list of more than 400 student organizations on VOLink as well as other opportunities to get plugged in through the Center for Student Engagement. Many organizations accept new members year-round, so it’s not too late to get involved.

Fresh Air and a Fresh Start

Winter is currently in full force, but a new year brings new seasons. Knoxville is known for its inviting spring weather and outdoor activities at Ijams Nature Center, paddle boarding and canoeing on the Tennessee River, and hiking in the Smoky Mountains. There are plenty of local adventures perfect for the spring.

Natalie Campbell, a senior studying special education, is looking forward to enjoying a warm season and beautiful scenery. “I’m really looking forward to springtime on Rocky Top! I missed it so much last year.”

This upcoming season will be the first spring with additional outdoor study spaces, offering more opportunities to get outside, connect with friends, and provide a much-needed break from added screen time.

With everyone having already experienced a new normal this past fall, there’s added hope for an easier adjustment this spring. Sam Turley, a junior political science major, feels more confident for the new semester.

“I think what made fall 2020 especially difficult was the lack of emotional support from my friends because I wasn’t really able to see them,” Turley said. “I feel like we’re all way more prepared for whatever comes this next semester, which makes me feel less stressed about classes and other activities.”

Campus Events and UT Traditions

Emma Kate Hall, a senior studying political science, is looking forward to campus events and savoring her favorite UT traditions during her last semester. From long-standing traditions like painting the Rock and avoiding the seal to new favorites like Milkshake Mondays with the Office of the Dean of Students, there are certain activities that just make sense for a Vol.

“I’m looking forward to the adapted Aloha Oe before graduation. It’s a UT tradition that I’ve been eager for forever since Torch Night, and even if it looks different this year I’m really excited to bookend my experience with something so special!” she said.

Do you know the origins of UT’s most beloved traditions? Check out this article for a historical timeline.

Campus events, both virtual and in-person, will continue in the spring with enhanced programming and countless opportunities to experience something new, have fun, and celebrate being a Vol. Keep an eye on the UT calendar and lookout for more information on Big Orange Welcome, a new initiative from the Division of Student Success coming in January.