Funding the Future, Contributing to Communities

By Blake Hicks

UTHSC nursing students will be providing outreach to underserved communities with a mobile health unit.

Featured photo: UTHSC nursing students will be providing outreach to underserved communities with a mobile health unit.

The University of Tennessee

has a long history of research and innovation throughout its campuses and institutes across the state.

That research and innovation has often been aided by the generosity of others.

Alumni and donors have plenty of options on how to help the next generation of students continue to create a better world for Tennesseans and beyond. From the multiple projects funded by UT Knoxville’s VOLstarter program to the community health outreach of the UT Health Science Center, the University of Tennessee transforms dollars into opportunities by its brightest researchers and students.

UT Martin has partnered with a South Carolina university to offer the Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program, which offers five incoming freshman full housing and partial tuition for four years while they navigate the undergraduate experience. The program’s scholars pursue careers in elementary and middle school, increasing the pool of available teachers from diverse backgrounds within underserved communities.

UT Martin's Call Me MiSTER program helps develop more elementary and middle school teachers from diverse backgrounds.
UT Martin’s Call Me MiSTER program helps develop more elementary and middle school teachers from diverse backgrounds.

“It has made a big difference because I know that UT Martin, in general, has a great support system,” says Justyn Johnson, a Call Me MiSTER scholar who credits the program for giving him the opportunity to explore a full college experience, including living on campus and joining campus organizations.

In West Tennessee, the UT Health Science Center nursing program is finalizing plans for a mobile health unit, which will support nursing students’ education while providing outreach to underserved communities. After an initial Health Resources and Services Administration grant for this project, alumna and former associate dean of nursing Dianne Greenhill (HSC ’62, Knoxville ’73) was moved to contribute.

UTHSC nursing students will be providing outreach to underserved communities with a mobile health unit.
UTHSC nursing students will be providing outreach to underserved communities with a mobile health unit.

Greenhill credits donors with changing the lives of students during her 40-year tenure at the UT Health Science Center and encourages lifelong giving.

“The UTHSC College of Nursing has been my life. I don’t have children to provide for in my estate. For me, the most logical step when I die is to leave a gift to support future needs of the college,” she says.

UT Knoxville created VOLstarter, a crowdfunding platform where donors can choose from projects featured on volstarter.utk.edu for a minimum of 30 days. Project leaders must apply to VOLstarter and then manage and promote the crowdfunding. Students, faculty and staff pitch their projects for the money to turn ideas into reality.

VOLstarter has funded scholarships for wildlife medicine conservation and policy study, veterinary care for pets of homeless, agriculture efforts to attract bees and pollinators and once-in-a-lifetime trips for campus organizations.

The generosity of donors to these programs brings opportunities to students who are driven to make change on their campus and in their communities.