April 17, 2020
The University of Tennessee recently announced a new, student-success-oriented scholarship program that offers free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee undergraduate students who have a household income under $50,000. The program – UT Promise – launches this fall at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Health Science Center, and UT Martin. Eligible students must qualify for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship and give back to the community by completing eight volunteer service hours each semester.
Although eliminating the financial barrier for students is important, UT Promise is not simply a scholarship program. Mentorship plays a pivotal role and is at the heart of the program. Mentors serve as a resource and source of encouragement to UT Promise students as they help guide students through the transition to university and professional life. UT Promise is focused both on access and persistence — the goal is not to just make higher education more accessible, but to also provide the support students need to earn a competitive degree and join the workforce.
Launching in fall 2020, UT Promise has already garnered over 7,200 student applications. With so many interested students, UT Promise is calling for 1,300 more volunteer mentors. UT Promise mentors play a critical role in the success of students as they foster positive and engaging relationships, provide support, and offer direction.
Even if you do not live near a UT campus, you can still be an effective mentor. 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.
As a member of the Tennesseans for Student Success statewide network, I know you are dedicated to supporting, championing, and fighting for Tennessee’s students and their futures. That is why I encourage you to join me in signing up to be a UT Promise mentor.
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:
Tennessee has led the nation with programs to support college entry and completion. Programs like Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, Knox Promise, and now UT Promise, are making a big difference in people’s lives. UT Promise is helping more Tennesseans complete a postsecondary degree and be workforce ready.
As mentors, we can help guide and encourage students, particularly during these challenging and extraordinary times. If you can commit one hour per month, you can play a critical role in a UT student’s success. 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.