Growing up in Corryton, Tennessee, just 15 miles north of Knoxville, senior Elizabeth Longmire always knew where she wanted to go to school.
The Volunteer Spirit at the University of Tennessee is more than just about wearing orange and white. It is about being challenged by peers and professors to grow into the best possible individual and collaborating with others to make positive societal changes.
Longmire, who graduated in May with a degree in journalism and electronic media and a minor in political science, is being honored for exemplifying those very qualities.
She is one of seven graduating seniors named 2019 Torchbearers: the highest student award given at UT for recognition of academic achievement, leadership, and service.
“Seeing the energy and love that goes into being a Tennessee Volunteer is what made me so excited and passionate to be a Volunteer when it came time to join as a first-year student,” Longmire said. “That is just reinforced to me every single day as I walk on this campus.”
A CAMPUS LEADER
While attending a rare Monday meeting for her Delta Zeta sorority chapter, Longmire was surprised when Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis arrived––bouquet of balloons in hand––to announce the news of her honor.
Longmire said she knows the description sounds like something out of a movie, but the experience of receiving the award while surrounded by her friends was “one of the most overwhelming and humbling moments of my life.”
Leadership has been one of Longmire’s standout qualities during her four years on campus. Among many roles, she has served as president of the Panhellenic Council, a leadership group of 13 women’s sororities on campus. She has also held leadership roles in Delta Zeta and recently represented the sorority as part of the Fraternal Relations Governing Coalition in Washington, D.C.
Longmire’s academic journey will not end when she walks across the graduation stage in Thompson-Boling Arena. She will pursue a Master’s in Higher Education at the University of South Carolina.
“The way staff and faculty pour into their commitment to their work and challenge you to be your best self is truly why I believe I applied to graduate school in the first place,” Longmire said. “I wanted to continue my education and understand how I can impact other students as well.”
Her experience at Tennessee, as a student and campus leader, is what inspires her future career. She wants to work in university leadership, perhaps as a dean of student life, so that she can inspire and develop future generations of students.
Longmire was active in JEM opportunities from the start. She still remembers attending an orientation meeting for The Volunteer Channel (TVC) her first week on campus. Currently, Longmire serves as an associate producer, floor manager, and an anchor for TVC.
"Besides being intelligent, talented and driven, she's always been an extraordinary team player,” TVC and JEM Production Specialist Clint Elmore said. “She is ever ready to take up slack without complaint, whether it's reporting, producing or working a camera.”
As a sophomore, she joined the Society of Professional Journalists East Tennessee student chapter and served as fundraising coordinator. During her junior year, she attended an SPJ trip to New York City to tour national media outlets and network with Tennessee alumni.
In May 2018, Longmire traveled to Washington, D.C., to work as a fellow for the Washington Program of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. JEM Director and Professor Catherine Luther recommended Longmire for the program and one of the JEM program donors provided a scholarship to make the trip possible. While in D.C., Longmire worked alongside the nation’s top public servants, researchers, and journalists to learn more about public policy.
Whether she was preparing for anchoring UT Today or working toward an internship, Longmire said the JEM professors were always there to help her understand her full potential in the classroom and as a student on campus. She was particularly grateful to two mentors: Luther for her leadership example and Professor Sam Swan for always challenging her to perform to the best of her ability as a student and in everyday life.
Professors and news organizations took notice of her skillset and constant drive for improvement.
“Elizabeth has all the qualities that embody a Torchbearer,” Luther said. “She has excelled in her academic studies and taken on important leadership positions both within and outside of the university. Her Volunteer Spirit is quite impressive. I’ll add that what I believe makes Elizabeth distinct is that she is able to take on so much while maintaining a calm demeanor. I think it will serve her well in her future career.”
During her collegiate career, Longmire obtained two internships––one at Knoxville's NBC affiliate WBIR and another at ABC affiliate WATE. During the summer and fall of 2017, Longmire served as a news intern and television reporting intern at WATE. Following that opportunity, she secured a newsroom internship at WBIR during the summer of 2018.
“Elizabeth is a very creative storyteller in TV news, displaying a rare talent for on-camera performance,” Swan said. “Her writing and reporting skills helped her gain an internship at WBIR-TV, where she excelled as a video journalist.”
While her career plans might not involve sitting behind a news desk, Longmire honed leadership and collaboration skills through the School of Journalism and Electronic Media that she can use daily as a university leader.
“Looking at my major, I am grateful for those hands-on experiences and internships outside of the classroom that have helped me understand just how great the impact journalism has right now on the UT community and the Greater Knoxville community,” Longmire said.
Story by Amanda Pruitt and Chelsea Babin
Photos submitted by Elizabeth Longmire