Grayson Hawkins

I am, like the title suggests, a senior who is entering their seventh year of study in mechanical engineering. People think it’s quirky or interesting, my mom does not.

Let’s use this introductory column to take a look at my history at UT and why my experience could give a touch of pathos to my writing. If any of this speaks to you, reach out to me and we’ll have tea. I’m always looking for rising leaders to mentor or share my connections with.

The earliest noteworthy point in my career would be my 2016 bid for student president as an independent candidate. I had an anti-Aramark stance on UT Dining and stood for proactive action against sexual violence on campus.

Since I was an outsider to the student government, I embodied a general “anti-establishment” sentiment and promptly had my ass handed to me by more popular, more Greek candidates.

Since then I’ve learned that yes, the SGA has potential, but no – the people in the SGA cannot see or properly tame that potential.

After a demoralizing loss to generic Greek-life campaign #214 whose primary policy point was the implementation of checkerboard sidewalks, I decided to focus my efforts on my own department. I realized that not only was the student government operating at what I saw as a fraction of their potential, but that many organizations in my department and college were performing the same way.

Some of the biggest engineering organizations existed solely as resume-builders for the executives and hosted monthly or bimonthly meetings with pizza for lighthearted talks or presentations. Where was the passion for designing and building, the experience that would help equip students for jobs in challenging and fast-paced careers? I started an engineering team that demanded the blood, sweat and tears of its members, and it has been wildly successful since day one.

That chain of events, running a campaign – failing – starting and managing an organization, is what gave me a sense of drive and purpose in college. There was so much energy and desire built up inside of me, but when I tried to tackle the entire institution I failed. After regrouping, I found my niche.

Other experiences I’ve had include interning at NASA, raising four ferrets, surviving an unbelievable number of miniature crises, breaking both of my wrists and ticking off a lot of people. If you’re a leader then you’re going to inevitably rub some folks the wrong way.

And then there’s my politics. I came to college as a somewhat naive liberal like so many students do, but now I lean right on most issues (+0.3 on the political compass).

We live in very fast times, and a key focus of my political beliefs is that the press is acting in bad faith. It’s more about convincing your audience of a narrative than dispensing facts. It’s “orange man bad and should go to jail,” not “orange man appeals to conservatives but also has occasional bipartisan moment.” Deplatforming and censorship also worry me.

I also believe that there is a difference between “liberals” and “leftists,” where one is a broad range of political beliefs and the other seems more like a religion to me.

I don’t think anyone disagrees on how inefficient and incompetent the government is, so I am obviously concerned when those same people advocate for giving that same government immense amounts of power. Outlets on both sides say we’re headed into some sort of civil conflict. Maybe, maybe not.

So, that’s me. Throughout the publication of this periodical, expect some common themes, such as advice to the underclassmen who may find themselves wanting to impact or change campus, recounting some of the stranger things that have happened to me, discussing hard political issues, exploring ideas from the books I’m reading.

I’ll probably even reach back to my roots and talk about what an evil multinational, soul-sucking corporation that Aramark is. Feel free to reach out via email. I’ll be here until I’m not.

Grayson Hawkins is a seventh-year senior studying mechanical engineering. He can be reached at ghawkin4@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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