Chancellor’s Big Orange Bus Tour Spreads Vol Cheer at Nine High Schools

The first Chancellor’s Big Orange Bus Tour concluded Thursday with a stop at Farragut High School. Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek brought great news to thirty Knox County students this week by dropping into their classrooms to hand deliver an offer of admission.

Accompanied by Smokey and members of the cheerleading and dance teams, Cheek presented offers of admission to surprised Rebels from West High School on Wednesday and Admirals from Farragut High School on Thursday.

The Chancellor’s Big Orange Bus Tour began on Sunday, September 20, and traveled more than 1,300 miles to visit nine high schools in eight cities across the state. Seniors who applied to UT in early August were among the first to be admitted to the Class of 2020.

High school bands, cheerleaders, and color guards at the schools joined the bus tour fun by playing “Rocky Top” and participating in Vol chants.


Newly admitted Dobyns-Bennett High School students pose with Chancellor Cheek in front of the bus in Kingsport.

Traveling to a wide variety of communities gave Cheek and staff the opportunity to see hundreds of alumni and more than 4,000 high school students.

The team traveled in a 1996 Prevost LeMirage XL bus that was wrapped especially for the tour. Joining Cheek were Provost Susan Martin, Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for Student Life, Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications and Interim Associate Provost Kari Alldredge. See video showing the bus wrapping.

Memphis Central High School students pose with their admissions envelopes with Charlie Folsom, UT admissions counselor.

Memphis Central High School students pose for a photograph with Charlie Folsom, UT admissions assistant director.

Alldredge, who oversees admissions and enrollment for UT, said the first Big Orange Bus Tour provided a first hand view of the great high schools across the state, which are filled with many bright prospective Volunteers.

“It’s important that they know we want them to become part of our Volunteer family,” Alldredge said, noting the tough competition for Tennessee’s high-achieving students.

The bus makes a stop at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

The bus makes a stop at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

Most high school stops included a short assembly for seniors and junior highlighting the top 10 reasons to become a Volunteer. Along with this week’s local stops, the tour involved students from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, East Hamilton High School in Ooltewah, Mt. Juliet High School in Mt. Juliet, Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, University School of Jackson, and Central High School and Houston High School in Memphis.

“It was great to see the look on students’ faces when we surprised them with their letters of admission,” said Cheek. “I really enjoyed being able to ask the young men and women to join our Volunteer family.”

View a Storify wrap-up of #bigorangebustour social media.

The tour surprised students at West High School on Wednesday.

The tour surprised students at West High School with admission letters on Wednesday.

The tour also helped to emphasize the important role that UT alumni play in recruiting new students.

“Students want to hear from other people about what it is like to be a student here, and we appreciate how much our fellow Volunteers support our recruitment efforts,” Alldredge said.

Alumni talked with students at admissions events held in Chattanooga and Memphis as part of the tour.

Related: Big Orange Bus Tour Garners Media Coverage Across the State