While commencement typically sees most graduates leave campus for the last time in a long time, others find paths to their future that take them back to where their college journey started.
This was the reality for Mackenzie Clark, Jawaad Sheikh and Scarlett Elliott, all recent University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduates who are continuing their experience at UTC in a different capacity—as full-time employees.
Clark, who is from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, majored in communication and was a member of the Ladies of Gold dance squad. After graduating in May 2023, Clark was hired as a graduate recruitment coordinator for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
As a former marketing intern for the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, she was familiar with working on campus. Clark also was a student orientation leader and campus tour guide as an undergraduate, which inspired her to choose recruitment.
“I want to be the person that I’ve had other people be to me,” she said. “I would like to make an impact on students.”
Clark’s responsibilities as a graduate recruitment coordinator include social media marketing and partnering with local businesses, community colleges, universities and high schools to get the word out about UTC master’s and doctoral programs.
She said her current position did not exist before she was hired to fill it.
“A lot of people don’t know me. They don’t know this position exists. Because of that, I’ve been doing a lot of networking just so people know who I am. I want them to attach my face to the College of Engineering and Computer Science so that they know, ‘Oh, I can reach out to Mackenzie if I want to go to grad school or have any questions,’” Clark said.
Sheikh, a graduate of Hixson High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2016 and a master’s in public health in 2022. After receiving two degrees from the University, he stepped into a new position at UTC as a full-time undergraduate admissions counselor based in Atlanta.
He said it felt right to continue at UTC as an employee.
“It just started becoming natural for me and I was like, ‘You know what? I can do this and I can help out. I can give back to my UTC community,’” he said. “Since I got my bachelor’s and my master’s there, I decided let’s try this project out and see how it goes. I just kind of took it head on.”
Sheikh began his position in January and has since visited countless high schools in the Atlanta area to speak in classrooms, schedule college fairs and sometimes just chat with students on their lunch break.
He said the transition from Chattanooga to Atlanta was tough, but he quickly found his footing as an admissions counselor. He added that the large number of schools in the area keeps him busy.
“I’m running around all over. There are so many schools I have yet to get to, but there are so many schools that I’ve already visited,” Sheikh said.
He said he is proud to “be the face for UTC” and build connections with high school students considering colleges. He said his work for UTC has helped him grow.
“It’s helped me be more independent, to be able to work more on my own and to take a leadership role,” he said.
Elliott, who graduated this May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing and was a cheerleader all four years on campus, began working at UTC Athletics in June as an events and operations coordinator for the Mocs Club.
Originally from Andersonville, Tennessee, Elliott arrived at UTC and quickly immersed herself as a student-athlete.
“Coming into freshman year, I made the cheer team at UTC and got involved in athletics and I immediately just fell in love with the game day atmosphere, you know, football games, basketball games,” she explained.
During Elliott’s senior year, Associate Athletics Director Ryan Jones reached out to her about an internship opportunity with the Mocs Club—the fundraising arm for UTC athletics.
Elliott started the internship in January 2023, which led to her full-time employment. As events and operations coordinator, she organizes fundraising activities and maintains the relationship between the Mocs Club and its members.
“I fell in love with it and coming into work, it wasn’t even like I was working,” Elliott said. “It was pretty much just coming in and doing what I love. I love the job because I’m trying to grow in athletics and enhance the student-athlete experience.”
Like Sheikh, Elliott found that her job has allowed her to develop critical new skills.
“You have to be very organized to keep track of all the little things because little things are what mean a lot of people,” she said.
The three recent graduates share a love for UTC and a commitment to helping students stand out.
“I love it. You know, I was here so much already and now it’s just being compensated for being here all the time just doing what I love,” Elliott said.
Sheikh said that faculty members he formed close relationships with early in his student career inspired him to work at UTC.
“There are professors that I’ve just been blessed to build good relationships with, that have left an impact on me, that I learned something from, that were a part of my growth,” he said. “I wanted to get back to that community. It felt like family to me.”
Clark said her love for UTC as a student made the transition to an employee much easier.
“I love UTC so much,” she said. “I’m a huge UTC advocate.”