Rocky Top Revamp

By Christine Copelan

In eighth grade, Bethany Morris penned a letter to herself, outlining her hopes for the future. In it, she reminded herself to become an architect.

Two degrees and an abundance of dedicated work later, her childhood dream has become a reality.

Now, as UT’s Landscape Response Team project manager, Morris is reinventing the very campus where she learned her craft. Her challenge is overseeing the major campus makeover outlined in the campus master plan. Updated in 2011 to better reflect the Top 25 vision, the master plan calls for revamping the look of the campus with an eye to improving its academic mission, promoting sound energy and environmental principles, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, developing comprehensive solutions for traffic and parking, respecting the heritage of existing buildings, and enhancing the sense of community.

Morris completed her bachelor’s degree in architecture in 2008 and earned her master’s degree as a member of the first landscape architecture graduating class in 2011. Having spent eight years of her life at UT, Morris developed an intimate connection to the campus that puts her in a unique position for the work she’s now doing.

“I’m attached to the campus, and I got to experience campus…whenever I could venture out of the architecture building to get food,” Morris jokes.

“Having studied both landscape and architecture helps. The different disciplines have their priorities. I can speak architect when I need to, but I can also talk landscape. Having a knowledge of the different disciplines is definitely an advantage,” Morris says.

Bethany Morris

Bethany Morris

The master plan envisions a seamless melding of architecture and landscape to give UT a distinctive feel. Morris wants everyone who steps onto the campus—student or otherwise—to have a powerful and memorable impression.

“We want you to feel like you’re part of a community, from the large-scale things like Pedestrian Mall to small things like an outdoor study space. Even if the only time you’re on campus is for a football game, once you cross that threshold you’ll know you’re at UT,” Morris says.

As the campus makeover continues, Morris says she’s thrilled to have a hand in creating the campus’s future.

“What I say here matters in a way that I didn’t comprehend in school. In school, your final project is there but it never gets built—but here, my comments matter and are implemented. It’s exciting to see the landscape and architecture having these dialogues, and I’m in a position to influence it,” says Morris. “I feel lucky that I’m here at this particular time.”

4 Comments on “Rocky Top Revamp

  1. “Respecting the heritage of existing buildings” is laughable, considering UTK’s plans to demolish 3 victorian-age homes in Fort Sanders for another Academic building, claiming lack of space when a gigantic parking lot occupies the heart of campus (next to Neyland.

  2. A little information on where Ms. Morris is from, etc. would be nice to know. Your article gives no information on this. As a UT alumnus, I am wondering if she is related to another UT alum I know in landscaping named Morris who is in the landscaping business in Jackson, TN.

    • Richard,
      Bethany Morris is originally from Clay County, West Virginia. Sorry for the omission.

  3. Bethany,

    I like you love our campus. Growing up in Knoxville from age 5 to 35 I graduated there, attended games there, spent time with the athletiiic teams and so much more.
    A few thoughts as you begin. First thank you!
    Second, using composting as a way to be a better steward of our environment. Recycle the leaves, shrubs, even the scraps from vegetables and other r soil grown plants, fruits, coffee grounds etc. from the kitchens. Less waste, less landfill, save money on fertilizer as it will be the natural kind.
    Third, Recycling container for paper, plastic, glass and other items to keep off the grounds and into the recycling system to more beautify the campus. In addition having enough garbage cans to collect these items without being too offensive. Hope you understand what i am trying to say here.
    During the seasons having more flowers in pots, large and small around campus, greenery in large planters with some additional color. Changing to orange mums in the fall to compliment big orange country.
    Lastly, having different seasons of plantings so there is always something flowering or growing…then recycling these in the fall with the leaves for next springs composting.
    Any way to have some of the ponds or fountains be used to irrigate the grounds so that water is recycled as well. Or having some live roof plantings and using that water runoff to go into a pond and thus have natural fertilizer for the grounds.

    Best of luck to you as you beautify our campus more.

    Chet Seay
    Business Administration 97″ Logistics and transportation

    Just a few ideas.