Numbering more than 5,200, this fall’s freshman class is the largest in recent history and is teeming with impressive students who all chose UT for different reasons. Get to know 12 of our new Vols—from writers, artists, and musicians to engineers, athletes, and activists—and find out more about the Class of 2022.
Journalism & Electronic Media
Life is full of hard decisions. For Alonie Sutton, giving up music as well as basketball, a sport she had played since third grade, to focus on track and field was one of those tough decisions. Fortunately, her sacrifice paid off and led her to an easy decision—coming to Tennessee.
“UT was different from the rest of the schools I had in mind,” says the Smiths Station, Alabama, native. “I wanted to go somewhere that I would be comfortable, and I definitely got that feeling at UT.”
Sutton will compete in long jump and triple jump at Tennessee, two events in which she holds the Alabama state record (42-5 in triple jump and 19-09.50 in long jump). She says she is most excited for the new level of competition.
“I know it will be a challenge, but I’m ready to be challenged on that next level,” she says. Sutton’s new goal is to make it to the SEC championships and the NCAA tournament during her first season at Tennessee, but overall she hopes at the end of the year to be a better jumper and a better person.
While Sutton is a little nervous about the coming year (athletics and academics) she says she’s learned that she isn’t successful when she puts too much pressure on herself. “The more you practice and work hard at something, it’s just going to show.”
Through it all, Sutton says she’ll look to her mother, Trecia Pryor, for the support she needs. While Pryor was a little apprehensive about her daughter coming to Tennessee at first, she told Sutton it was her choice and she would support that choice. “She’ll probably be here at every single track meet,” Sutton says.
In the long term, Sutton hopes to make track her profession. But if it doesn’t work out, she would like to stay close to athletics as a sports broadcaster.
“My major is journalism. I love writing, I love video, I love figuring out how to put things together so they flow smoothly for people to watch.”
Sutton was so excited to start her time on Rocky Top that she leaped right in to summer classes. “I graduated from high school two days before I got here,” she says. “I’m just so thankful the coaches gave me an opportunity to come here.”
ALWAYS A VOL: All throughout my childhood, I always pictured myself going to UT. I’ve always been very excited to be a Vol, and I’m so happy I got to make that a reality.
SCIENCE WRITING: I’m so fascinated by space and the inner workings of our universe, and I’d love to be able to
help other people to understand just how much is out there as well.
HER HEROES: My mom and my dad are always going to be my ultimate heroes. They’ve sacrificed so much and worked so hard to help me get here, and I’m so thankful to them. I’m not the best at giving them all the credit they deserve, but they’re the best people I’ve ever met.
CAREER PATH: I’m looking forward to taking classes in both pre-law and pre-medicine and will decide when I discover which career path I would like to pursue.
THE BRAIN: Through my recovery from multiple concussions and my companionship with my grandmother during her struggle with Alzheimer’s, the most important lesson I learned was patience—patience with myself as I had to persevere through physical and mental obstacles, and patience with my grandmother as her memory failed. Learning to be patient, to be tolerant, and to give grace has helped me broaden my perspective on humanity.
PEYTON MANNING SCHOLAR: English and neuroscience may seem like an odd combination at first, but these are my passions. With the title of both Peyton Manning Scholar and Haslam Scholar, I look forward to working closely with my professors in both labs and the classroom, as well as the Pat Summitt Clinic.
MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC: I’m excited to start focusing most on music. In high school, only about an eighth of my schedule was dedicated to music. Now I can put my time and efforts into something I’m really enthusiastic about.
COLORFUL: I always take notes and write in color, so I carry over 25 colored pens and highlighters.
ALTERNATIVE CAREER: If I wasn’t going to be a musician, I would want to be a biological engineer. Science is probably my favorite academic subject. I find biology specifically interesting because it explains so many of the processes that happen in the world.
Bailey Kemper is ready for life at UT. “I’ve been looking forward to this experience for a long time, and I’m stoked it’s finally here,” she says. “My mother is a UT alum and my grandmother used to work here, so I’m super excited to share and compare our experiences on campus.” She’ll be coming to Knoxville from nearby Maryville, Tennessee.
She’s picking out a selection to bring from her eclectic collection of vinyl records, which ranges from Florence and the Machine and St. Vincent to Talking Heads to Charlie Parker, Yo La Tengo, and her all-time favorite, the Beastie Boys. “I love that their music is so fun and diverse, but it also focuses on major issues like sexism and xenophobia.”
She’ll also be bringing her commitment to social and environmental issues and an admirable work ethic. As a student at Heritage High School, she held down two jobs—at a coffeehouse and a bookstore—took part in STAND, Key Club, and Culture Club, founded and led the school’s Democrats Club, debated education policy at a state conference, hiked in the Smokies with her grandparents, and still graduated in the top quarter of her class.
Her choice of a history major will allow her to pursue her interests in Appalachian history and the Kennedy family. She plans to use her studies as the basis of a career as a museum professional.
“I’m most interested in working in a history or cultural museum, because they enable people to better understand how our society has evolved and grown, which is crucial in becoming more empathetic,” she says. “The McClung Museum on campus does a great job of this, and it was another reason why I chose UT.”
As she looks forward to life at UT, she has only a couple of qualms: “The thought of having to walk a block or two to my car makes me nervous, and I wish I was bringing my dog, Daisy.”
On the other hand, she says, “I’m pumped to be closer to Yassin’s Falafel House.”
By the numbers
5,200+ incoming freshmen
GPA median range
Tennessee counties represented
43 states represented
Top 5 states for out-of-state freshmen:
Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois
95 percent of in-state students qualify fo the HOPE Scholarship
Like the artist she is, Thais Lloyd studied the complexities before selecting a university. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted in a school,” she says.
It turned out to be a combination of factors that drew her to UT: There was a strong art program. The Smokies offered a convenient training ground for her planned postgraduation hike of the entire Appalachian Trail. UT offered a financial aid package that made it an affordable option. And there was the lure of her sister and best friend, Caitlin Lloyd, already at UT studying diversity in film through the College Scholars program. A tour of campus—“I fell in love”—cemented her decision.
Lloyd was something of a vagabond early in life. She was born in London and moved with her family to Los Angeles and then New Orleans before settling in Memphis when she was five. Although she’s lived there ever since, between early memories and frequent trips back to visit family and close friends she says New Orleans is the place that feels most like home.
As she gets ready to start her life at UT, she’s a little nervous about overcoming her shyness but looking forward to new adventures and happy to have access to Whole Foods creamy peanut butter.“It is amazing and a godsend and it’s my comfort food,” she says.
Above all, she’s thrilled to be immersing herself in the study of art. “As an artist you have the chance to spark conversation and to help people understand different cultures or ways of life,” she says. “You also have the chance to inform future generations about what was happening at that specific moment in human history, and I think that is amazing.”
She plans for her studies to launch her career as a painter, but she’s pragmatic enough to have a plan B: “If my art is unable to reach people, then I want to help educate people about the world and how it has come into being. Being the curator of a major museum is a great way of doing that.
“I live and breathe art, and I think it has the power to heal—and I want to be a part of that.”
Karalise Nikuze is starting college with a goal already in mind—to help others, like the doctors who helped her when she was a child in Tanzania.
Nikuze was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania after her family escaped genocide in Rwanda. Her mother passed away when Nikuze was two years old, and her grandparents raised her.
“My grandparents didn’t have to take me in. They had eight other children they were taking care of, and I had other extended family who I could have lived with. I am so grateful to both of them for everything they provided me to get me to this point,” she says.
In 2006, Nikuze and much of her family immigrated to Roanoke, Virginia. And when she was 13, her family moved to Knoxville. Nikuze attended Fulton High School, where she became the top player on the tennis team. She
was active in the Key Club and National Honor Society and served as a translator for African families at Lonsdale Elementary School. She was also an academic standout, filling her schedule with Advanced Placement and honors courses.
When it came time to make a decision on where to attend college, Nikuze knew UT was the perfect fit for her. “When I was in high school, I was scared of the thought of college, but after all of the experiences I have had so far I know that I belong at UT and won’t feel alone,” she says.
Nikuze will major in pre-medicine and hopes to return to Africa as a doctor and help those in need. “When I was four I got really sick. No one knew what was wrong with me. I couldn’t hold down any food. But the doctors in the refugee camp saved my life. My love for medicine comes from that.”
VOLUNTEER SPIRIT: I chose UT because of its world-class business school, the Haslam College of Business. I also was very intrigued by the culture of integrity and service that Tennessee Volunteers exude, and I plan to carry on that
LOVE OF THE GAME: My dream job is to be a marketing director for a professional sports team. I love baseball because it is more a mental game than an athletic one. You don’t have to be so athletic or gifted to be good at baseball— you just have to be able to think on your feet and know what to do in an ever-changing scenario. My dream is to visit every major league ballpark one day.
WHO SAYS TV IS BAD?: I taught myself how to read by watching television commercials when I was three years old.
Social Work & English
Allison Chudina says she knew UT was the place for her as soon as she walked onto campus. It was, she says, “exactly how I pictured college when I was younger.” That certainty gave her the distinction of being the first student to commit to the Class of 2022.
Chudina, from Greeneville, Tennessee, is a gifted vocalist and has already auditioned for UT’s choral ensembles. She was a member of Greeneville High School’s Advanced Chorus, which is regularly called to appear with musical acts at the nearby Niswonger Performing Arts Center. She’s been on stage with Foreigner, singing backing vocals for “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” and with Dailey & Vincent, who were so impressed they invited the choir to sing with them at Carnegie Hall. The group traveled to New York for a week that included rehearsals, sightseeing—and a blizzard. “It was something I’ll never forget,” she says.
Looking ahead, Chudina says she’s excited to meet new people and find ways to get involved: “I was a little shy in high school, so I’m trying to reinvent myself and be more outgoing.”
Her packing list includes a couple of Harry Potter shirts—“proud Hufflepuff!” she says—her favorite books by Markus Zusak and Gillian Flynn, and her Star Wars and Quentin Tarentino film collections. “I’m a huge nerd, so I’m also bringing my Pulp Fiction poster.”
A dedicated volunteer worker who’s served on the Youth Council and Youth Leadership groups in Greeneville, Chudina plans to keep up her commitment to service. She’s enrolling in the 1794 Honors Program, which was launched last year and emphasizes the Volunteer spirit and experience, and her double major in social work and English will fulfill both her passion for social justice and her aspiration to work in publishing or follow her parents’ path and become a journalist.
DANIEL DOS SANTOS
IMMIGRANT FATHER: Having a father who emigrated from Brazil helped me learn the value of work, as I’ve seen how my father worked to provide for me and secure my future. It also taught me to take pride in my background and culture and how to understand other cultures.
SOCCER: My favorite soccer ball was given to me by my Vovo, which is Portuguese for grandfather, when I was young. It’s my favorite not only because of the design but also how it shows that soccer has the ability to unite countries through
the common love of a beautiful game.
CLEAN ENERGY GOALS: I hope to spread the usage of clean and reliable nuclear energy and to help dissipate the negative
image that is generally associated with the term nuclear.
BUILDING DREAMS: I hope to one day build a structure that has important meaning within the community, much like the World War II Memorial or the Freedom Tower. I hope to build something to remember and give back to those who have sacrificed for our freedom.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: I’ve had my Bible for so long, and it is such a comfort to me, especially during hard times. It reminds me to trust that God has everything under control. I only need to stay in his word.
LEAVING ALABAMA: UT was the perfect fit for me. Everyone is so considerate, and each Vol always lends a helping hand to others. The liveliness of Knoxville offered a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. UT truly felt like home.
If you ask trombone player Trystan Fritts his favorite song to play, you won’t get a straight answer. Some days it may be a symphony, and other days it may be a tune from jazz legend John Coltrane, but one thing is for certain—Fritts has got the
chops to play it all.
Last winter in New York, Fritts showed off those chops as part of the Grammy Camp Jazz Session, a program that brings together the best high school jazz musicians from around the country for a week of concerts at official Grammy Week events.
“On a whim, I decided it was my last chance to audition for this band. I sent in an audition, and sure enough I made it. I never expected to make that kind of band. It was a wonderful experience,” Fritts says.
One of the most valuable experiences for Fritts was meeting Wynton Marsalis, the head of Juilliard’s brass department, who reaffirmed Fritts’s college plans by telling him, “UT is fantastic.”
Fritts, who also plays bass guitar and piano, is particularly looking forward to learning from Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Donald Brown, who is a professor in the School of Music. “Knoxville is a gem. The jazz faculty here is really
incredible,” says the young musician, who was homeschooled for six years.
He honed his musical talent with the Knoxville Jazz Youth Orchestra, the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Knoxville Christian Youth Band. Fritts participated in the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association throughout middle and high school, made All-State three years in high school, and received a full scholarship to the Governor’s School for the Arts at Middle Tennessee State University.
While he’s a bit apprehensive about managing his time during freshman year as a commuter—“I’m a procrastinator at heart”—Fritts knows getting a degree is important.
“I’d love to perform, do studio music, maybe Broadway shows. I want that degree to get me to the next step of my life.”
Photography by Kellie Crye Ward (’08) & Hayden Antal
Illustration by Marcus Williamson
Stories by Cassandra J. Sproles, Donna Spencer & Katherine Saxon