Coordinating Student Life While Living Her Best Life

If you have anything to do with student life at UTM, I’m 99% sure that you have heard the name Rachel Stephens before. Rachel is a UTM Alumnae, and she gives back to her alma mater every single day. I first met Rachel when I was a sophomore who was interested in joining Panhellenic Council. I got an interview with her to really get the process moving and see if I would get a spot, but the funny thing about this day is that I was over two hours late. My roommate was having an emergency, and I got so wrapped up in it that I lost track of time. When I realized that I had missed it, I rushed over to her office to do my interview, and here I am now, serving as Panhellenic President with Rachel as my advisor. I have not been late ever since (except for that one time to recruitment, still sorry, I suck). I am so lucky that Rachel saw something in my sweaty rushed mess when I got to her because I would not be the woman I am today without everything she has done for me over these last three years. She is practically my school mom, and I love her so much! Don’t just take my word for it, read on to my interview with her to see just how amazing she is.

 

Where did you go to college, and what did you study?

“For my undergraduate degree, I attended UTM. I started out as a history major with plans to attend law school…Then I took Comm 100 and fell in love with radio. I had loved radio since I was a little girl. Next thing I knew, I graduated with a BS in Broadcasting Communications. I was a history minor and took a lot of PR classes, too. I then got my Master of Higher Education Administration with a certificate in Human Resource Management from North Park University.”

 

How did you end up working at UTM?

“Kind of a funny story…I applied for the Student Organization Coordinator position. I had figured out my junior year of college you could make a living working with student leaders, and I decided this is something I was excited about. Life happened, and I ended up working at Bethel for 2.5 years as the Director of Student Activities. I found out they were hiring for the Student Organizations Coordinator at UT Martin. So I applied…they ended up giving the position to someone who was currently the interim, but it allowed the UTM administration to see I was interested in coming back. I was offered the position of Staff Assistant of the UC and I took it. My job consisted of helping with bookings, events and assisting Student Life with various activities and events going on. When Jared Anderson accepted a position in the Alumni Office, I was offered the opportunity to take on Greek Life in an interim position. Over two years later, here I am :).”

What is your role at UTM?

“I am serving as the Student Life Coordinator, which means I oversee our 150+ student organizations, fraternities and sororities.”

 

What is a typical day like for you at work?

“There is no such thing as a typical day for me. Every day is something a little bit different, and that’s what makes it exciting. I meet with students and other staff members, attend meetings, plan events and sometimes just get to have fun.”

“I love working with students because it’s fun and interesting. No two days are the same because there is always a new question, a new challenge or a new idea. I honestly believe we have some of the most interesting, unique and fun people that are students, and I still can’t believe I get to work with them.”

 

What are some of your hobbies?

“I love to read and watch movies. I also like to hang out with my friends who are more like family. I am also a big fan of La Cabana trips.”

 

What is your favorite thing about UTM?

“My favorite thing about UTM is that it is home. No matter where you go on campus, there is always a friendly face and someone who cares about you. We truly are a community and a family.”

 

How has UTM changed your life?

“Without UTM, I would not be the person I am now. When I came to college, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do. High school had been really rough in a lot of ways. The people I have met and the experiences it has given me has helped me grow and change. I have gained confidence and direction. I have met people who have helped guide me and influence me. These are people that I now am honored to call colleagues and friends. There is truly something unique about the UTM experience.”

How has working with so many different student organizations changed you?

“Anytime you get to work with dedicated, energetic and ambitious people, it changes you. It pumps you up and motivates you. It makes me want to be a better person so that I can be the person they need to help them grow and make their ideas into reality.”

“We also have so many students with different stories and perspectives. Getting to hear their stories always re-energizes me and reminds me that at the end of the day, we have so much in common and that I always have more to learn.”

 

How does it feel knowing that you changed and touched the lives of so many students?

“I don’t know if I can take credit for changing lots of students lives but if I have helped make one student’s life better, like so many faculty and staff did for me, then I feel like I have done my job.”

Cats or dogs?

“I am definitely a cat person. Although I really want a big, fluffy puppy at some point in my life.”

 

Pet Peeve?

“Ignorant people. People who ask questions that have already been answered because they weren’t paying attention. People who mispronounce words. The sound the chairs make on the Dining Hall floor in the UC. Eek.”

 

Favorite place at UTM?

“My favorite place at UT Martin is either the Browning/Ellington Circle or the Quad. In college, I spent a lot of time playing volleyball and just hanging out in the circle. I also love the Quad. It is gorgeous all throughout the year – whether it is spring when the flowers are blooming or fall when it is painted orange, red and gold. It is also just a place where so many cool things have happened. When I actually get up and exercise, the silence at 6 am in the quad actually feels magical.”

 

Favorite place to travel?

“Anywhere that’s not Martin! Just kidding – I always say I love going places but the best part of going somewhere is getting to come home. Nothing is sweeter to see than the Weakley County line.”

“My favorite place I have ever been is Ireland. I spent two weeks there during my sophomore year of college on a travel study program. I also recently went to Blue Lagoon, Bahamas. It was the most beautiful, clear water and perfect paradise I have ever seen.”

 

Favorite color?

“Mix between blue and green, so more of an aqua/teal color. But honestly, I love bright colors.”

 

Anything fun you want to add?

  • I have seen The Princess Bride no less than 200 times.

  • I am so in love with Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

  • I once gave myself whiplash playing kickball.

Rachel, we cannot thank you enough for everything you do for so many students on our campus. We are so lucky that you came back home to work with us and help us grow into the people that we are when we leave here. When you are in the UC, make sure to stop into the Student Life Center and visit with Rachel!

 

All photos courtesy of Rachel Stephens