Since its beginning, Jalonda Thompson has worked as its director, tirelessly building it from the ground up into the presence it has today, creating initiatives and events that have served and encouraged women in the college to boost their education experiences.
Now, Thompson has been recognized for those efforts, as she was named the 2023 Dr. Tanisha L. Jenkins Beacon of Light Award winner.
“Knowing this award’s namesake, I am truly humbled to have been selected as this year’s recipient,” Thompson said. “It is an honor to be associated with the other individuals on campus who are dedicated to promoting diversity and multiculturalism at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to contribute to creating a sense of community for all Vols and helping them achieve their fullest potential at UT.”
The award was established in 2015 to honor “a faculty or staff member who has made outstanding contributions to diversity and multiculturalism” at UT.
“On the road, we see a lot of prospective students who tell us they are the only woman in their engineering class, and who light up at the idea of a program for women engineers,” said TCE Director of Student Success Anne Skutnik, who nominated Thompson for the award, along with UT alum Kay Howell. “Jalonda has helped nurture a culture of security and inspiration for our women and women-identifying students, and that’s why I nominated her: because she is the change you want to see in the world, and a beacon of light for our Women in Engineering students who are looking for their place and find it here at UT in the WiE Program.”
It is named for Jenkins, the inaugural winner, who joined the Office of Multicultural Student Life in 2009 and served as its director from 2012-22.
“During Dr. Jenkins time at the University of Tennessee, she was a leader, mentor, and advocate for students of color,” said Multicultural Student Life Assistant Director NaQuaina Moore. “The recipient of this award demonstrates the characteristics of what the beacon of light award represents.”
It is presented annually at the Multicultural Student Life Graduation and Recognition Ceremony, which celebrates soon-to-be graduates before commencement takes place, as well as giving recognition for academic leadership and excellence to continuing students, faculty, and staff.