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Student Life gives students a Big Orange Welcome

by Cecilia Demoski

This year, we welcomed the largest incoming class to UT, and Student Life provided a warm Big Orange Welcome to help Rocky Top feel like home sweet home. The first few weeks were filled with leadership opportunities, meeting new friends, and welcome celebrations. There were big moments for everyone, from stepping on campus for the very first time on move-in day to joining a student organization at the Student Engagement Fair. Student Life welcomed new students by rolling out the big orange carpet and showing a lot of Big Orange Volunteer spirit.


The journey to Rocky Top begins with Ignite, a leadership program designed to introduce new students to what it means to be a true Volunteer and connect them with other new students as well as UT student leaders. 

Each year, more than 500 students participate in the program throughout the summer, and experiences include a three-day leadership and community engagement program that introduces students to Knoxville, a three-day off-campus camp-like leadership retreat focused on the Volunteer values, a four-day outdoor trip filled with adventure, leadership, learning, and outdoor skill development, and a three-and-a-half day service experience that allows incoming students to participate in local service opportunities, leadership programming, and social events.

Cierra Burnett, the Ignite programs coordinator for the Jones Center for Leadership and Service, said “I’ve had the privilege of coordinating the Ignite program, a 21-year UT tradition, for the past three years. It’s an honor contributing to the Ignite magic alongside an incredible team of almost 90 student leaders. We hear so many inspiring stories from new Vols each year about how Ignite helped them grow as leaders, introduced them to community partners that they plan to serve with throughout their time here, or made them feel at home in Knoxville. This program is changing so many lives; I’m grateful for all of our friends across campus and the Knoxville community who help make it successful.” 


Thousands of incoming students began moving into residence halls beginning on August 14, and more than 250 students, faculty, and staff were ready to welcome students to campus. Volunteers staffed welcome tents, unloading zones, and even a valet service using campus golf carts, with bright smiles and the Volunteer Spirit.

“I loved meeting so many new Vol families today and telling them more about our campus”, said Raven Edwards, transcriber for Student Disability Services. Volunteer opportunities gave faculty and staff the opportunity to greet students and their families on the very first day of campus, serving as a reassuring resource.

Current students also volunteered, offering their insights and advice to new students. Ashley Nicole Rodas added, “I have always loved helping others, so I know that I wanted to volunteer but this opportunity made it a lot more memorable because I helping people find their way around a place that I love! I really enjoyed answering questions about my university!”

This fall, more than 8,100 students are expected to live on campus. Lead Logistics Coordinator Thomas Boleyn said, “Our task force was asked to reimagine our approach to move-in on campus and the first thing we did was turn the week of move-in into a campus wide initiative as opposed to a University Housing focused event. Our team partnered with a specialized move-in logistics company who supports campuses nation-wide. Next, we issued a request for VOLunteers, including students, faculty, and staff in and outside of the Division of Student Life to help us roll out the big orange carpet to both new and returning students and families coming to campus. We couldn’t be happier with how our campus answered the call and are looking forward to even more involvement from campus next August!”

In total, 355 volunteer shifts were staffed by campus community members.

Sorority & Fraternity Recruitment

Becoming a member of a Greek letter organization is an exciting opportunity that helps students find their community on campus. Membership in a fraternity or sorority offers students a unique opportunity to have a balanced college life with a focus on academic excellence, brotherhood/sisterhood, leadership development, service, and responsible social interaction. Membership also offers students the opportunity to make lasting friendships with individuals with similar ideals and common purposes. 

This year, the Office of Sorority & Fraternity Life executed the largest recruitment process in Tennessee history. More than 3,100 students registered for Interfraternity Council  and Panhellenic recruitment, as well as attended the Meet the Greeks showcase event for the Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council.

John Keith, director of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life noted, “We are celebrating 150 years of sorority and fraternity life on UT’s campus, and I am proud of the OSFL team and student organizations for facilitating our largest recruitment class in history. It is an incredible experience to support our student leaders as they welcome new members to their organizations.”

The Office of Sorority & Fraternity Life is home to 46 sororities and fraternities that operate within 4 governing councils: Interfraternity Council (IFC), Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and Panhellenic Council. 

Student Engagement Fair

Nearly 1600 students filled the Pedestrian Walkway at the Center for Student Engagement’s Student Organization Fair. The fair is an annual event that gives registered student organizations the chance to represent themselves to all students who may be interested in joining their organization. This year, students had the opportunity to browse over 200 student organizations to find out how to get involved and find their interests on Rocky Top. 

Multicultural Welcome Back Celebration

Multicultural Student Life also had a successful Welcome Back Celebration, with nearly 250 students checking into the event. The celebration, which was part of UT’s Welcome Week festivities, kicked off the fall semester for new students. The event introduced sororities, fraternities, student organizations, local restaurants, religious organizations, and several university departments to students. There were also local businesses such as beauty and barber shops and community partners in attendance as well.

The best part is that this is just the beginning. Student Life offers hundreds of opportunities each year for students to learn outside the classroom, find leadership opportunities on campus, and serve our community. Upcoming events can be found at

Photos of Cecilia Demoski in front of Neyland Stadium with a grey sweater

Cecilia is a senior from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism and electronic media. She has a passion for writing and social media and her favorite thing about UT is all the fun traditions. She plans on pursuing a career in public relations and creative communications after graduation.