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Message Strategy

What does it mean to be a Volunteer? Why does it matter?

For many people on and off campus, “the Volunteer spirit” is a way of talking about good-heartedness and a commitment to community service. As important as those qualities are, being a Volunteer means much more. It is a way of behaving in the world. It is a distinctive way of learning, discovering, problem-solving, mentoring, collaborating, and community-building.

This idea is the distinguishing characteristic of the University of Tennessee, and articulating it is the basis for our communications.

Our three message pillars were drafted and refined in 2020—based on audience insights and in concert with the university’s strategic visioning process.

These messages are meant as a guide for how to articulate to our audiences what it means to be a Volunteer and why that is important. They help us craft communications that deepen awareness, change perceptions, and move our audiences from feelings to action.


Message Pillars


Student helping another student in classPillar 1: THE VOLUNTEER SPIRIT

 

The courage to care

The state of Tennessee defined the Volunteer spirit. And as Tennessee’s flagship land-grant university, we’re dedicated to amplifying that spirit of selfless leadership in everyone whose lives we touch. We listen and learn from one another in an ongoing, ever-expanding conversation fueled by a wealth of perspectives. We know how much is possible when we unite our individual talents and aspirations, put compassion front and center, and step forward together as Volunteers.

Why this message matters

The Volunteer spirit goes beyond volunteering. It’s a distinctive way of behaving in the world and, most importantly, inspiring others. We need to move beyond  the concept of making a difference and emphasize how the Volunteer spirit leads to experiences and outcomes that are profound and energizing, whether at the individual, community, state, or global level.

Examples



Students working on a horse in the vet schoolPillar 2: THE PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE

 

The courage to think big

Problem-solving and discovery are different at the University of Tennessee—and so are the answers and ideas that emerge here. Volunteers value courage and collaboration equally; we are members of a community that rallies around brave ideas. We thrive on viewpoints and partnerships that stretch thinking in every direction. By pulling together and pushing one another, we open up more possibilities for bringing more good to the world.

Why this message matters

This message connects the Volunteer spirit to intellectual inquiry—the how as much as the what and why of insights and breakthroughs. The characteristics of Volunteers—an innately collaborative nature, a willingness to build community and step forward on behalf of others, an enthusiasm for new ideas—are tailor-made for an era when problems are complex and systemic, discovery is interdisciplinary, and sustainable solutions depend on bringing fresh ideas and different perspectives to the table.

Examples



student giving a speech in the student unionPillar 3: VOLUNTEERS ALL

 

The courage to lead

When the entire state turns orange on game day, Tennesseans are cheering on more than the players on the field. They’re affirming all the ways we help advance prosperity and wellbeing throughout the state. It’s energizing to play a role in so many stories and communities, to be a catalyst for opportunity and optimism. We work hard every day to earn the trust this responsibility entails and to prove that lighting the way for others is a commitment that never wavers.

Why this message matters

Tennessee is Big Orange Country, and our connection to Tennesseans runs deep. But audiences also need to know that we embrace the high expectations that come with this bond, and that our dedication extends far beyond competitive athletics. And thanks to the diverse talents that converge here, UT is continually improving—as a teacher and mentor to new generations, as a valued partner and collaborator, as an essential presence in every county, and as an engine for social mobility and the public good.

Examples