In a matter of days, the population of the UT Knoxville campus swells from 8,000 to more than 26,000. No doubt the sudden influx of people creates a hectic first week. Freshmen are moving in, upperclassmen are getting back into the swing of things, and staff and faculty are preparing for heightened workloads. As frenzied as the entire university community is, no one’s week can compare to that of Anton Reece, director of student activities. Reece coordinates many of the Welcome Week activities, which is no small feat.
Growing up in Barbados, Reece dabbled in news and radio broadcasting before moving to the United States on a track scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University. He came to UT in 2003 as an academic support coordinator at the Black Cultural Center. A year later he transferred to student activities where he now coordinates major programs on campus including Welcome Week, Central Program Council programs, Team Vols volunteer efforts and assists with VolAware mental health awareness.
Welcome Week has come a long way under Reece’s direction, but he and his team continue to face new challenges each year in its planning and execution.
"Just a couple years ago, this process was very chaotic," he says. "Every unit on campus hosted and organized their own welcome activities. Now we’re trying to coordinate all activities into an organized, coherent flow."
Reece and his team sought a smooth transition from social to academic activities during the course of Welcome Week. The Life of the Mind program helps that process.
"Up until 2006, Welcome Week consisted of only social activities with virtually no academic initiatives. Thanks to Life of the Mind and other efforts to connect new students to the campus, academic goals are now part of the whole transition," Reece says.
Another important addition this year was a new Web page that served as a one-stop source for all things Welcome Week. The resources at http://welcomeweek.utk.edu helped Reece’s team with the overall coordination of events by collecting information on activities, Life of the Mind events and frequently asked questions all in one place.
In addition to his involvement in Welcome Week, he is often tapped to speak at other events both on and off campus including the Clifton Jones Student Leadership Conference and the Hunger and Homelessness Banquet. His welcoming presence leaves a lasting impression on UT students and employees alike.