2022 Commencement Speaker: Syreeta Vaughn
Syreeta Vaughn is a senior nuclear facility safety analyst. She is currently serving as one of three senior mission support staff members in the ORNL Mission Support’s Leadership Rotation Development Program. Her primary role is to identify hazards, evaluate accident scenarios, and develop and implement documented safety analyses for the Department of Energy hazard category 1, 2, and 3 nuclear facilities. She has over seventeen years of experience in nuclear safety and has supported various programs and projects at the Y‑12 National Nuclear Security Complex, Pantex Plant, Savannah River Site, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vaughn’s key mission support experience includes her rotation assignments through ORNL’s six mission support divisions, serving as the nuclear safety basis enterprise technical lead for the Y-12 and Pantex Plant, implementing the Y-12 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) program as the program coordinator, and recovering and creating jobs with the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) waste management deactivation & decommissioning projects.
Vaughn earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Florida State University in 2002. In 2005, she became the first African American woman to earn a master’s degree in earth and planetary science from the University of Tennessee. After obtaining her master’s in geology, Vaughn returned to UT to earn a second in industrial and systems engineering in 2013, adding two graduate diplomas to her toolbox.
Vaughn is an active community member and currently serves as a member on the Tickle College of Engineering Board of Advisors and the Earth and Planetary Science Advisory Board. She was appointed to the UT’s Chancellor Advisory Board by Governor Bill Haslam in 2018 and completes her term in the spring of 2022. Over the last 15 years, Vaughn has provided input on planning and budgeting for the UT-Knoxville campus and has been passionate about ensuring the manageable growth of UT for years to come. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and is a member of the Jack and Jill of America, Inc., both of which focus on civic service and philanthropy. Vaughn has also served as a board member on the Knoxville Area Urban League, where she also served as the Young Professional’s president. She is on the executive board of the Oak Ridge/Knoxville American Nuclear Society and the ORNL Women’s Alliance Council. Most recently, Vaughn has accepted a new role as a Knoxville Navigator.
Vaughn was named one of Knoxville’s “40 Under 40” in 2013. In 2016, she was featured in “Without Limits,” a TEDx Knoxville talk. She was also awarded the UT Alumni Promise Award in 2019 along with a ranking of top engineer on her job at Y-12. She has a host of other awards, titles, and positions, but among all of them, her most esteemed position is wife and mother to her loving husband and three young daughters.