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UT Welcomes 2023–24 First-Year, First-Generation Cohort of Academy for Global Scholars

The Academy for Global Scholars (AGS), an initiative tailored for first-year, first-generation students, offers an unparalleled opportunity for global engagement and personal maturation during the first year on campus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. As it enters its fourth iteration, AGS is enthused to introduce the members of the 2023-24 cohort.

Nineteen students have enlisted in this year’s AGS program and they will convene as a cohort during the fall semester. Programming will include a series of consistent gatherings featuring guest lecturers and researchers, service activities and a general education course. The academy will culminate with an overseas academic abroad experience in Costa Rica during the spring of 2024. Subsequently, in the fall semester of 2024, these scholars will participate in Discovery Day—a campus-wide event where undergraduate researchers present recent projects and research to their peers.

The Center for Global Engagement collaborates with the the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture, Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the Academic Success Center, the Division of Diversity and Engagement, alongside other select university departments, to orchestrate the execution of the AGS program. The university and a generous alumni donor provide the financial support which facilitates the participation of the following students in this prestigious first-year program.

Questions about AGS should be directed to Adam Willcox, research associate professor, or Sara Mulville, program administrator, at the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture. Correspondence can be directed to

Meet the 2023–24 Cohort of the Academy for Global Scholars

Aden Brown

Hello, I’m Aden Brown and I am from west Tennessee. I am currently pursuing a dual degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology and finance with a business analytics focus. I’m also minoring in Hispanic studies. I chose to attend UT because of the warm and welcoming atmosphere on campus. It truly feels like a second family. I am excited to participate in the Academy for Global Scholars because I will have the opportunity to learn about the cultural backgrounds of others and broaden my perspective. My first year at UT has been off to a great start as I have joined multiple organizations and become highly involved. When asked what I am most looking forward to this year, I would say building lifelong friendships and hopefully making a positive impact on others’ lives.

Major: Biochemistry & cellular and molecular biology and finance with business analytics focus and a Hispanic studies minor

Delaney Cifaretto

I am from Mount Olive, New Jersey, and my major is kinesiology. I love to be outdoors and always find new adventures! In high school I volunteered for various activities around the community and I am excited to do it again in Tennessee! I chose UT because of the many opportunities provided to all students, whether it’s in sports, clubs or community projects. This year I can’t wait to become a Volunteer in and out of the classroom, and learn how to thrive academically in an environment filled with achievers. Being in AGS has given me the opportunity to meet new people and learn about ways to get involved on and off campus. I can’t wait for the experience in Costa Rica where I will broaden my knowledge of different cultures!

Major: Kinesiology

Katherine Davidson

I am from Pelham, Tennessee, and my major is food science with a pre-physical therapy track. I really enjoy reading, spending time with my family and traveling. I chose UT because it offered two things that were nonnegotiable when deciding on a college. UT allows me to be close to home but also allows me to step out of my comfort zone. This year I am excited for my food science classes. These classes allow me to grow my knowledge and learn about diversity around the world. I am excited to learn more about different countries and cultures through AGS.

Major: Food science

Aspen Dodds

I am a first-generation college student from Orlando, Florida. I’m double majoring in world business and language and theater for design and technology. I was a part of my high school Student Government Association and theater program throughout my high school career and hope to continue that this fall at UT. After my undergraduate studies, I’m hoping to study abroad more or possibly go into medical school. UT was always on my radar, but after touring and really getting to see the welcoming environment everyone on campus has to offer, it really set in stone that I wanted to be here. From teachers and staff, they really set you up to be successful for whatever field you end up wanting to go into. I’m most excited for the new experiences and challenges AGS is going to offer. I’ve always had a dream of traveling and helping others, so this is perfect.

Major: World business and language and theater for design and technology

Aaliyah Forester

Hello, my name is Aaliyah Forester and I was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated from Hardin Valley Academy. My major is deaf studies educational interpreting with a minor in Japanese. I plan to become an American Sign Language interpreter. I chose UT because of the scholarships and opportunities that the school had and the loving family environment. Something I’m most excited about when it comes to AGS is learning about new cultures and how I can make an impact. When it comes to my academic experience, I am most looking forward to learning as much as possible and reaching my best potential.

Major: Deaf studies educational interpreting program

Loretta Gomez

Hi, my name is Loretta and I am from Gallatin, Tennessee. I graduated from Gallatin High School where I placed top 30 of my class, won the Spanish award and placed top four at DECA state where I qualified for nationals twice. I chose UT because everyone who told me about their time here spoke of UT highly and with pride. I wanted to be a part of that community and now I am. At UT I plan to study business analytics with a concentration in international business. I am looking forward to learning more about, not only my major, but the rest of the majors that Haslam has to offer. I am also very excited to travel to different countries and learn about their cultures. I also love learning about how the corporate world works in various countries. I hope to discover new countries and make friends with the help of AGS and UT.

Major: Business analytics

Allyson Hoier

Hi! My name is Ally. I am originally from Wisconsin but moved to Tennessee recently. I was a gymnast for over 10 years growing up. I really enjoy hanging out with friends and shopping. I have two goldfish; one is orange and the other is white. My favorite animal is a turtle. My favorite thing to eat is fruit, especially strawberries. I am so excited for the year to come and for AGS! I am very excited to meet new people in AGS and expand outside of my comfort zone and do things I have never done before. During my first year at UT I am looking forward to the professors and classmates, as well as all of the new ideas and topics I will learn.

I chose UT because of the campus environment. I came twice to tour and visit UT and absolutely fell in love with everything. The campus is beautiful, the location is so close to downtown and the people are so friendly. My plan after graduation is to be a toxicologist. I also want to travel a lot, specifically Europe.

Major: Chemistry

Caitlin Hyland

My name is Caitlin and I am from the suburbs of Chicago. I came to UT because of how welcoming it was and their education program. I’m majoring in elementary ed and am hoping to get my masters degree and be a teacher after graduation! I’m most excited to meet new people and explore new places with AGS this year. I love to spend time with friends and family, playing sports and traveling. I’ve been a part of multiple clubs and honors societies in high school and led Young Life in my town. At UT, I am looking most forward to taking different classes that closely relate to my daily life and future career. I can’t wait to get involved on campus this year. Go Vols!

Major: Elementary education

Olivia Kusek

I am from Chicago and I am studying kinesiology on a pre-physician assistant track. I have two younger brothers and a dog. In my free time, I enjoy working out, being outside, and most of all traveling! I am involved in a sorority and am planning to join other clubs such as a medical club and getting a job at the hospital. I am looking forward to football games at Tennessee and so much more!

Major: Kinesiology

Auriyan McClure

I am from Cleveland, Tennessee, and attended Cleveland High School. I love giving back to my community and helping people. I work at an assisted and independent living facility back in my home town, I have volunteered at a women’s shelter and I tutored grade school kids. I love being active, painting and being involved with my friends.

Major: Anthropology


Emma Pace

I chose to attend UT because I knew it would provide me with the opportunity to challenge myself and grow as a person. I am excited to join this community and become involved on campus. I hope to volunteer somewhere in the medical field and also try new things. I am grateful to be a part of AGS and have the chance to become more culturally aware and expand my horizons.

Major: Psychology

Gavin Paquette

Originally from California, I moved to Knoxville over six years ago. Ever since I moved here, I knew I wanted to be a Tennessee Volunteer. I am majoring in aerospace engineering and I’m looking forward to exploring the many new opportunities created for me in my first year here at UT! I am especially excited for the opportunity to be in the AGS program because of the community that I get to be a part of and because I have always loved traveling and learning about other cultures.

Major: Aerospace engineering

Brenda Ramirez Perez

I’m a sports management major with a minor in business administration from Memphis, Tennessee. I hope to one day coach soccer on a professional level and open a soccer store. Soccer is one of my biggest passions, but I also enjoy listening to music, reading and spending time with my friends and family. Attending UT was important to me because of my family since my sister is also here and it’s relatively close to home. I am really looking forward to learning about other cultures and other parts of the world through AGS. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and having a good first year here at Rocky Top!

Major: Sports management

Tucker Riley

My name is Tucker Riley and I am from Knoxville, Tennessee. I enjoy traveling and being outdoors. I chose UT because of the endless opportunities it provides to help with my success in the future! After I graduate, I plan to attend law school to pursue a sports and entertainment law degree. From there, I will legally assist sports and entertainment organizations. In regards to my academic experience, I hope to gain a wealth of knowledge and understanding on a broad range of topics that I can apply to my future profession. I look forward to what my future holds at UT.

Major: Finance

Sapporiah Ross

I am from Turtletown, Tennessee and I am majoring in nursing with the intent of becoming a nurse anesthetist.

I attended Copper Basin High School where I was the valedictorian and class president. Aside from my dedication to academics, athletics is a big part of who I am. I was a member of the cheer squad, basketball team and volleyball team, on all of which I served as team captain. I obtained the girls basketball all-district player of the year honor for two consecutive years along with offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year and the ‘leader of the pride award.’ Additionally, I consistently serve my community in volunteer and charity work any chance that I can. My tight-knit hometown means everything to me and who I am as a person.

As a first-generation college student, my parents have always expressed how important it is to obtain a higher education because it is one thing that can never be taken away from you. I joined AGS because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage in and be educated about cultural competence while also meeting lifelong friends and engaging together as a community. I am so blessed and honored to have been given this opportunity! There is no place like Rocky Top! Go Vols!

Major: Nursing

Shelby Russom

I plan to major in neuroscience and have a passion for science, my dog and all things music. I am a two-time all-state alternate as both ‘alto two’ and ‘soprano two’ and have performed in many esteemed choirs, including Eric Whitacre’s Sacred Veil reveal in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

I enjoy learning about and discussing philosophy as well as communications. I hope to participate in neuroscience-based undergraduate research while attending UT.

I chose UT due to the loving environment. I have been many places and talked to thousands upon thousands of people from around the world and I have never felt as accepted as I did on my tour here in Knoxville. Now that I live here, I can confirm that it’s just as amazing. I’m most excited for the opportunities AGS is providing for me: the opportunity to travel, experience a new culture and learn as much as I can. Before graduation, I hope to complete the neurodiagnostic technology certification program and use my experience to support myself through graduate school. After all of my schooling is complete, I hope to research the physical affects of a mental illness and potentially become a professor if given the opportunity.

Major: Neuroscience

Joy Showers

My name is Joy Showers and I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. I attended Hamilton High School where I graduated valedictorian of the 2021 senior class. I chose UT as my undergrad because I watched my aunt attend while working to get her masters degree and due to my own research on the different programs and opportunities the school had to offer. By being a part of AGS, I am most excited about exploring and learning more about different cultures and experiences of those around me. After graduation I plan to establish a position in my intended career and gather experience before exploring different avenues of working abroad. During my first year here at UT, I look forward to everything there is to learn about myself, my peers and my major.

Major: Computer science

Jalen Smith

Hi, I’m Jalen. I chose UT because I grew up in Knoxville, so naturally I wanted to go here. Also, my brother had wanted to go here—and like any little brother—I naturally look up to him, so following in his footsteps feels satisfying. I am most excited that AGS offers a group of people I can easily hang out with. Also, going abroad is exciting since I’ve never left the country before. It’s still too early for me to know exactly what I want after graduation, but I plan on working around or with software after graduating in computer science. What I most look forward to regarding my academic experience is committing myself and learning so I can apply it later on in my life. Outside of that, I have a strange obsession with Oreos & Pop-Tarts. I love listening to new kinds of music and I like meeting new people.

Major: Computer science

Logan Starkey

I’m Logan and I am from Smithville, Tennessee. I’m a finance major and chose UT because it’s always been my dream school as a massive fan of the sports programs and due to some great help through financial aid. As far as AGS goes I’m most looking forward to connecting with the cohort and exploring outside of my comfort zone. Academically I’m looking forward to more engaged classes that primarily focus on my interests and having the freedom to participate in classes that I’m eager to learn in.

Major: Finance


Jason Moody (865-974-5752,