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Dear World visits the University of Tennessee

Chancellor Donde Plowman shares her thoughts on belonging during the Dear World photo shoots at UT.


[Music plays]

The truth is every single person has a story and every person’s story is important.

When we share our stories we start to feel like we belong and everyone belongs here.

I wrote the words, “Invite me,” because I was thinking about when I went to college. I had ended up going to school where everyone was really rich and I wasn’t.
I so wanted to be part of certain groups and I remember that they asked me “Where did you get that skirt?” And I said, “My mom made it, she makes all my clothes.”

And I think answering that question by, “My mom made my skirt,” probably got me cut from those organizations.

So ever since then I’ve always thought it’s important to look around and see where people want to fit in and invite them in.

When students come here, for many years, they’ve taken the pledge, they’ve lit the torch and said, “I pledge to be a Volunteer and serve others and try to make a difference in the world.”

Vol is a verb.

Being a Vol, being a Volunteer means we’re concerned about everyone feeling like they matter and that they belong. And to do that means we act.

To simply step forward, have the courage to right a wrong or point out an inequity.

This is a home for anyone who wants to call it home and I’m excited about that opportunity to make that happen.