Chris Bogans didn’t luck into his federal work-study job with the men’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
He arranged the whole thing.
A basketball super-fan, he started volunteering for the team during his freshman year, doing everything from recording stats to getting water for players.
From there, he carved out a job doing research in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business.
His hard work also led to a data analytics internship with TVA in winter semester 2021.
“I’ve learned a lot at UTC and grown a lot as a student and an adult in terms of trying to navigate the world. I’ve learned how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” said Bogans, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
None of it was easy for Bogans, who has worked to defy the shy side of his personality for much of his life. The shyness is a symptom of being on the autism spectrum, a developmental disorder that can involve varying degrees of linguistic and social impairment.
“I was diagnosed at age 2,” said Bogans, who took speech classes throughout elementary, middle and high school, which “definitely helped me to advocate for myself in college.”
He was drawn from his home in Hoschton, Georgia, to UTC specifically by the Mosaic program, he said.
Launched in 2008, Mosaic supports degree-seeking students who are on the autism spectrum, providing tutors, mentors and other assistance through the campus Disability Resource Center.
Mosaic approaches autism more as a form of “neurodiversity” than a disorder.
Bogans said Mosaic drew him out of his shell.
“You get a lot of support,” he said.
Part of breaking out included serving as president of Mosaic’s Student Events Committee for two years and working as an event manager for the Office of Student and Family Engagement. His favorite event was the annual open-mic night where he played the trumpet.
He participated in Moc LEAD—short for Leaders Encouraging a Difference—a 10-week program that links students with skills and people, both on- and off-campus, to help them succeed in school, in their careers and in life.
Like many, both on the spectrum and not, Bogans gets anxious from time to time, but he falls back on something his mom helped instill in him: “I have made a commitment to being part of the community and putting myself out there.”
A high school criminal justice teacher, Kateria Bogans was her son’s biggest advocate while he grew up, he said, and eventually realized he was ready take the reins.
Boy, was he.
By his junior year he was leading the conversation during his IEP meetings. Short for Individualized Education Program, all children diagnosed with a disability who attend a public school must have one.
A sea change occurred when Bogans got to UTC.
“He’s an entirely different person,” Kateria Bogans said. “We couldn’t be more proud of him.
“I want the powers that be at UTC to know how important the students, faculty and staff have been and how they’ve wrapped their arms around my child and been so accepting.
“It was a huge deal for us to let him go. We’ve always protected him and so we are forever grateful to UTC.”
Bogans made the Dean’s List twice and was awarded the John C. Stophel Distinguished Students Award for high-potential business students who have made significant and meaningful contributions to UTC.
He said he enjoyed working for the Mocs men’s basketball team. It was exciting and challenging and lined up perfectly with his major at the time—sports management.
But he developed a passion for statistics while working on the team, so he switched to business analytics and parlayed that into his next opportunity at UTC.
At the start of junior year in the College of Business in 2020, Bogans became one of the first students to conduct research for his federal work-study job. He studied NBA All-Star players to determine what distinguished them from other players and how that impacted their teams’ success.
The burgeoning work-study program, part of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor program, paired Bogans with UC Foundation Professor of Management Frank Butler. The two worked together for nearly two years.
“I like to find out what interests the students. I don’t want to put them into my research world, especially undergrads. I want to find out their passion and start from there,” said Butler, who, like all the faculty in the work-study research program, is a volunteer.
The key to mentoring Bogans—and all students—is “showing that you care,” he said.
Working for the NBA has always been Bogans’ dream job, but he never knew the league employed so many data scientists and statisticians until working with Butler.
With a resume that reflects academic achievement, personal growth and community service, Bogans is facing several career paths to take.
“I wanted to do as many things as I could at UTC, and I’ve grown a lot during my four years here,” he said.
This is an updated version of a story that first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine.