Then-interim UT President Randy Boyd poses with Fayette-Ware High School students during the UT Promise tour on September 23, 2019. Image by Sam Thomas.

This spring, the University of Tennessee is recruiting volunteer mentors to help guide UT Promise students through the transition to university and professional life. UT Promise is a new student-success-oriented scholarship that covers tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee undergraduate students who have a household income under $50,000. The program pairs scholarship recipients attending UT’s campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, and Memphis with a mentor who will serve as a resource and source of encouragement to students throughout their collegiate journey. 

Launching in fall 2020, UT Promise has already garnered more than 7,200 student applications. With so many interested students, UT Promise is calling for 1,400 more volunteer mentors. These mentors play a critical role in the success of students as they foster positive and engaging relationships with students, provide support, and offer direction. As a mentor, you will make a lasting impact on a student’s life.  

Mentors will be paired with two to five students and will be asked to spend a total of one hour a month with their mentees. UT faculty and staff will be paired with first-year students and sophomores to help them acclimate to campus, while alumni and friends of UT will be paired with juniors and seniors to assist in their transition into the workplace. UT mentors and students will also be matched based on preferences, such as location, major, and interests.  

Even if you do not live near a UT campus, you can still be an effective mentor. Some of my mentees may choose to move to Middle Tennessee after graduation. Since I work in Nashville, I will be able to connect them to people in their field of study and help prepare them for a successful transition into a career and a new city. 

UT Promise will train all mentors and provide access to an online mentoring platform that will make it easy for mentors to engage and support students. Mentors must be at least 21 and complete the following steps: 

  • Submit the UT Promise mentor application 
  • Complete a one-hour mentor training course 

In support of Tennessee’s Drive to 55, programs like UT Promise are helping more Tennesseans earn a competitive degree and be workforce ready. As mentors, we can help guide and encourage students, particularly during these challenging and extraordinary times. I signed up to be a UT mentor, and I urge you to join me in serving and supporting our state’s students. 

The application deadline for fall 2020 is May 1. 

Annie Freeland is the director of policy and engagement with the University of Tennessee government relations and advocacy team.