The English Department would like to congratulate this year’s winners of the Outstanding Student Award, special recognition given to one exceptional student in each of the department’s education tracks. This year’s Outstanding Students are Rachel Smith in the Rhetoric and Professional Writing track, Colin Rochelle in the Literature track, and Hunter Hobbs in the Creative Writing track.

So, what does it take to be an outstanding student? After sitting down with this year’s award recipients, we have the answer.

Rachel Smith (left) with Professor Sybil Baker (right) speaking with a student at the Sequoya Review release.

Rachel Smith with Professor Sybil Baker speaking with a student at the Sequoya Review release.

Rachel Smith stresses the importance of getting involved and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the department, for which she had the highest praise: “Our English Department is truly incredible. I think we have one of the best English programs at any public university.”

Rachel is serious about this point, having devoted much of her time to the many activities offered by the department. She is a member of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, has worked on the last three editions of the school’s literary journal, The Sequoyah Review—serving as editor on the most recent edition—and completed three internships with Unum, True North Custom Publishing, The Odyssey Online, an online publication geared toward college students.

Rachel admits that she wasn’t the most involved or spirited student in high school, feeling apathetic about most aspects of the high school experience. That all changed upon arriving beginning her college education.

“People think it’s cool not to care, but I’ve learned that that’s just not true. Actually caring about your education and getting involved makes the whole experience so much more rewarding,” she said.

According to Rachel, it doesn’t matter how far along you are in you education, it’s never too late to start make changes to your attitude and get involved. “You make decisions everyday that have the power to change the course of your life. You just have to make the decision to put yourself out there and try.”

Colin Rochelle drinking coffee in café.

Colin Rochelle

Colin Rochelle’s college experiences show some of the other opportunities available through the university. During his Sophomore year, Colin joined the Brock Scholars program, an Honors College program designed to challenge highly motivated and gifted students.

“If you really love the thing you’re studying and are motivated to learn more deeply about that subject, I would highly recommend considering joining the honors program. You also get to meet so many wonderful, kind people who have the same interests and drives that you do,” he said.

Colin also participated in the Study Abroad program, spending a semester in Marburg, Germany, which he describes as an enlightening and deeply rewarding experience.

“It was the best experience. I met some of the people who are now my closest friends. It’s also just a great way to learn more about the world and gain a new perspective that extends beyond your immediate surroundings,” he said.

As many great opportunities that are offered by the department, it is also important to expand your horizons and go beyond the English Department.

According to Colin, who is also a Philosophy major, you should study broadly. “It’s important to acknowledge that there are some really cool things going on in other departments. Some of the classes you don’t expect to like, you may end up loving and changing your life.”

Colin has experienced this phenomenon first hand. Originally a History major, he decided to change majors after an Intro to Literature class sparked his interest in literary studies. His unexpected interest in an Environmental Rhetoric class has also inspired him to pursue a career in Environmental Law.

For Rachel, one of the most rewarding experiences of her time at the university was joining the sorority Gamma Phi Beta: “Joining Gamma Phi Beta is what really started to get me involved more on campus. I was able to meet so many incredible people and learn about so many new opportunities.”

The experience also forced her to develop some valuable real world skills, “Keeping up with all the obligations that come along with being in  a sorority as well as all my school responsibilities really taught me how to prioritize and multi-task,” she said.

Both Colin and Rachel also emphasize the importance of getting to know your professors. They each have great relationships with professors who have helped them succeed during their time at UTC.

“These people are here to help you succeed. They are the ones who are going to be writing your letters of recommendation and telling you about academic and job opportunities, so it’s really important to build a relationship with these people and actually treat them like human beings,” said Rachel.

Rachel cites Abbie Ventura as a major source of support and encouragement over the last four years. “She became my unofficial advisor my Sophomore year and was there for me whenever I was having an existential crisis and needed someone to talk to,” she said.

Colin says a number of professors have had a great impact on him over the years. “I probably wouldn’t have applied to the Brock Scholars program if not for Dr. Ralph Covino. Dr. O’Dea, the head of the Brock Scholars, has always been so supportive and understanding. Dr. McCarthy is probably my favorite professor ever. He’s always been so cool and easy to talk to. I can go to him for anything, even personal stuff,” he said.

Our Outstanding Students have some final advice to live by:

  • Take your classes seriously.
  • Don’t cheat and don’t skip.
  • Know what your priorities are.
  • Make sure you are actually doing something you enjoy.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what you need to do to get the most out of your education and be more successful. After all, the next Outstanding Student could be you.

Shelby Bess serves as the English Department’s Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. She is a senior English major and Communication minor graduating in the Spring of 2016.


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