To Our Donors, Thank You
by Dean Jim Thompson, College of Veterinary Medicine

Whether it is enabling a student to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian, providing resources for animal-assisted therapy programs, helping purchase specialized diagnostic equipment, or funding cancer research, donors make a difference.

The College of Veterinary Medicine is funded through five revenue streams: state financial support, student tuition, veterinary medical center revenue, research grants and contracts, and very importantly—private gifts. As part of national Student Engagement and Philanthropy Month, UTIA is taking the opportunity throughout February to thank our donors and show the impacts created by their contributions. Donor dollars help us advance the land-grant mission. Without those funds, UTCVM would still be a great college, but donor support takes us to a whole new level.

We rely on donors’ financial help to enable our students to become even better–providing them better teaching environments, creating wellness programs allowing them to better balance the rigor of their academic program with everyday life, and providing them access to specialized medical and surgical equipment that we couldn’t afford otherwise in their professional training. Donors help us advance animal health, make new discoveries, and promote public health. Their financial support has allowed us to build state-of-the-art small and large animal hospitals, create a contemplative garden, award almost $330,000 in scholarships to our students last year alone, enhance our research capabilities, and provide endowed chairs to attract and retain faculty so we can continue to graduate remarkably talented veterinarians.

People work hard throughout their lives to protect themselves financially, to create an enjoyable lifestyle, and to position themselves to give back to others. When I meet with donors, I try to understand deeply what they hope to accomplish with their gifts and to then match their desire to an opportunity we have here at the College. Our donors’ gifts are born from their passion and desire to make a difference. Passion can change the world.

So during this month celebrating philanthropy, I want to thank our donors, including those who work here at the university. Thank you. Thank you for being engaged and for supporting our work, promoting our excellence, and helping us grow stronger. Thank you for challenging us to be better tomorrow than we are today. Our students, faculty, and staff work tirelessly to serve animals and people. I am so very thankful to our donors for recognizing we are all on the same team trying to make our environment and society better.

PBS’s Tennessee Uncharted Takes in Ag Day

Erick Baker is the host of Tennessee Uncharted, an outdoor lifestyle show airing on PBS affiliates across Tennessee (click here for times and channels in your area). He’s also a

well-known singer-songwriter who has performed in venues across Tennessee and the United States. Erick is a UT alum, graduating in 2001 with a degree in public relations from the College of Communications and Information.  

Tennessee Uncharted and UTIA Marketing and Communications have begun working together on story ideas for this dynamic show. Recently, the crew made its first visit to Ag Day (see the episode here) and had a chance to see #RealLifeSolutions and #TNMagicMoments firsthand. UTIA’s Doug Edlund sat down with Erick to get his thoughts about what he experienced.

What did you think of your first Ag Day?

Ag Day is a perfect example of a hands-on learning experience, and I really wish my daughter could have come. Even though I grew up in a rural farming community, at Ag Day I learned that agriculture is more than tractors and dairy farms. While we were recording the segment, I was able to “birth” a cow using a simulator, hold a baby chick in my hands, hold a tarantula, and a scorpion was on my head! There were a lot of "wow" moments!

When you talk about agriculture and the huge umbrella that it covers—from the clothes you wear to the chairs you sit on—it opened my eyes to not only the program at UTIA but also the wider area of agriculture that I had no idea about. So, it was extremely educational and entertaining at the same time. It was so much fun that I kept thinking, who needs to go to a football game? Just come and see a side of UT that you may have never seen before. It was a blast!

Ag Day is similar to what we try and do with the show. People are being entertained, but at the same time hopefully they’re learning something, too.

You've had the opportunity to do a few stories with our students and faculty; what are your impressions?

It was very different from my experience in the College of Communications, just the hands-on aspect and getting in the field. I've been so impressed with not only the faculty but the students and how everyone is working together. It makes me wish that I was a lot smarter than I am! It's so impressive and makes me so proud to be an alumni of the University of Tennessee. You all are doing amazing things, not just for the university but for the state, the country, and internationally right here in Knoxville. It makes me so, so proud.

Why do you think it's important to study agriculture and natural resources?

Like I've said in the episodes, these are the people who are going to feed and clothe us. The future of our planet rests in the hands of the people who are studying here. That flag has to be carried on, and that's the work that's being done here.

What attracted you to Tennessee Uncharted?

I was a touring musician and I was never home. Tennessee Uncharted gave me the opportunity to come home and rediscover my home. In every episode I'm blown away with great surprises. I went to the University of Tennessee, and I thought I knew a lot about Tennessee in general. I've discovered that Tennessee is an amazing place filled with so many discoveries. There's always a place where you will get a new perspective, whether you've lived here your entire life or are new to the area.

What have you learned since becoming host of Tennessee Uncharted?

A lot...a whole lot! I am proud of the state of Tennessee, and I'm blown away by the diversity we have here—the natural resources, the people—and my pride swells daily. I've learned that I have a lot more to learn and that's the beauty of it. People keep asking us if we are going to run out of stories in Tennessee, but you tell one story and in the process you uncover another ten. The story of Tennessee is amazing and beautiful, and it's an honor to tell it.