Emma Heins

All good things must come to an end, right?

This is what I tell myself as I write my final column for the Daily Beacon, in my final days as an undergraduate student here. I don’t know how to succinctly summarize my four years here, for quite frankly it’s been all over the board. I have experienced the highest highs and lowest lows on this campus, and I think many of them actually happened on Ped Walkway.

I came into UT with a vague idea that I wanted to help the environment, but with no concrete ideas on how to do it. Eighteen-year-old me thought maybe people just hadn’t thought to ask if the changes could be made or that they had not found the time to try.

Boy was I wrong.

As I got more involved with sustainability and graduated out of personal finance and introductory philosophy classes, I found some of the smartest and most hardworking people I have ever met in my life working at UT to try and make us more green than orange.

Staff, AmeriCorps members, other students and faculty have spent decades pushing a boulder up a hill, knowing that at any time one person could knock their feet out of their holds, and they’d have to start all over — and they do it anyway. I’ll never understand why, but they brought me in and showed me more about the field of sustainability than I could have ever learned in a classroom.

Looking back, I cannot emphasize enough how lucky I’ve been in college. I decided to attend UT when I was a completely different major, and I was lucky to switch into my tiny department with an advisor that opened doors for me everywhere I looked.

I was lucky to listen to someone tabling on Ped that told me to apply for the Campus Events Board, and now four years later, I am completing my term as the president.

I am lucky to have been an intern for non-profits that prioritize sustainability across the globe.

I am lucky to have made the best friends in the whole world who will let me talk about how important dishwashers are for conservation for 20 minutes.

I am lucky to be a Volunteer, and to have been honored as a Torchbearer.

But most of all, I am lucky to have met Smokey not once, but twice.

Seniors, we got our last few weeks torn from us with no goodbyes, and we are going to feel that loss for a while. I have been waiting for four years for these Tennessee traditions that will let me say goodbye to my home.

I am more than happy to give up my graduation and last weeks on campus to keep all of our Vols and our families safe, but somehow it seems fitting that we leave this way. It’s been a tumultuous four years full of four different chancellors, losing the Diversity Office, SGA elections that lasted far too long, constantly worrying about student programming money, hate painted on the rock too many times and more, so why would UT choose to calm down for us now?

My hope is just that the Class of 2020 has laid the groundwork for a better future for those who come after us.

I have always hated watching the acceptance speeches at awards shows because it’s just one person listing off all of the people they are grateful toward, and those names don’t really mean a lot to anyone other than them. But suddenly as I close my last column, all I really want to do is list names until an orchestra grows louder and shuffles me off stage.

I could never say thank you to everyone, but if you are reading this, you are on that list.

Thank you to Michael McKinney, Ashleigh Moyer, Dean Shea Kidd-Houze, Brittney Wright, Preston Jacobsen, Jay Price, Carolyn Brown, Jarrod Nelson, Maddie Stephens, Chris Jones, Evan Oliver, Will Shavers, Lauren Adams and everyone else that I don’t have the space to name; you helped make me into the person I am today, and I will always thank you for that.

Emma Heins is a senior majoring in environmental studies. She can be reached at eheins@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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