• Dr. Thom

Finding your HOME: a visit to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Updated: Mar 26


I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, and as such, have known about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for a very long time. But, I can assure you that whatever I thought I knew about UTC, I was completely blown away from my recent campus visit. In a continuation of an on-going series of posts detailing our consultants' visits to various colleges and universities, let’s discuss the many ways that the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga can feel like HOME.


When we make visits to colleges, we use a simple acronym to help sift through all of the information that gets thrown at you during a college visit.


When you visit a college, remember that a good college is:


Helpful

Open & Welcoming

Maintained

Engaging


Helpful


Our family visited campus on a recent mini-vacation to Chattanooga, which happened to coincide with UTC’s spring break (which of course is not ideal, but a visit is still a visit). As we advise families to do, our first stop was the admissions office, fully expecting to be directed to a self-guided tour (we had looked online at tour information and noticed the next available tour was the following Monday, after spring break). What we ended up with was a personal tour with a first-year tour guide that was honestly one of the most engaging tours I have experienced. Keep in mind that in my admissions career, I was in charge of all of the marketing efforts for an admissions office for many years, which included supervising the tour guide program. Nathaniel, our guide was helpful, friendly, humorous, and knowledgeable.


One of the most important aspects to know about UTC is the uniqueness of its size: 10,046 undergraduates on a 442 acre continuous campus just east of downtown Chattanooga (itself a mid- to small-urban city with an approximate population of 179,000). Compare these to to the following:

Institution

2021 Undergraduate Enrollment

​Total Campus Size in Acres

​University of Tennessee - Chattanooga

10,046

442

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

25,067

910

University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa

38,320

1,143

​The Ohio State University

47,106

1,600

The medium size of UTC provides a very unique feel when you are on, one in which the campus still feels big (our campus tour took all of 90 minutes), but still feels intimate and manageable. Even though there were not many people on campus, we had several instances of friendly smiles, waves, and hellos.


Open & Welcoming


Campus is filled with spaces to gather, whether it is the cloistered seating areas outside the Danforth Chapel, or quiet study spaces tucked in front of floor-ceiling windows looking out at lookout mountain in the distance. UTC has clearly invested in the student experience. This is especially evidenced by the upscale West Campus housing completed in 2018, the glass and steel modernism of the UTC Library completed in 2015, and the 2020 high tech renewal of Lupton Hall, bringing modern classrooms to the central campus. It is even evidenced by the extensive amount of curb-cuts on campus, always a reliable sign in a campus-wide investment in inclusion (curb-cuts are even included on the main interactive campus map). Of course, a highlight of campus is the expansive lawns and public spaces throughout campus to take advantage of a sunny day.


Maintained


This is a tough one to measure given the time of year that we visited (early March with much of the landscaping still dormant from winter), but you can tell that attention to detail is consistently paid to the physical grounds and indoor spaces. One of the things I noticed early and often during my visit was the attention paid to university branding. Anywhere you look on campus you will find a “Power C,” some version of the UTC, or the navy, gold, and old gold of the “Mocs.” To me, this is another aspect of attention to detail, as well as a sign of campus pride.




Chattanooga, and the UTC campus, takes advantage of a fascinating transitional geographic zone between the southernmost Appalachian ranges and the rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau. On a clear day, it is possible to have sweeping mountain vistas from multiple places on campus, subtly reminding you that a beautiful brisk adventure in the outdoors is only a few minutes away. It seems as if the campus planners of UTC are keenly aware of this too, as at multiple points I found myself staring down outdoor walking spaces that framed the nearby Missionary Ridge and surrounding landscapes. Like its sibling campus in Knoxville, being a student at UTC will mean walking up hills to get to campus, which certainly provides a sneaky mid-day workout.



I know that the “M” in our GEC acronym means “maintained” but in the UTC setting, it could also stand for MOSAIC, the nationally regarded support program for students on the autism spectrum. The MOSAIC program provides a range of support programming for neurodiverse students from sensory-safe study spaces, guided study sessions, learning advocacy training, to social gatherings. We had an opportunity to interact with some of the staff during our visit and left feeling inspired by their work. The program can support approximately 50 first-year students a year and has a separate application process for admitted UTC students.


Engaging


Throughout campus you can find signage from student groups inviting students to meetings and gatherings. UTC also enjoys a vibrant athletic history, most recently in basketball reaching the NCAA tournament where they came up one point shy against highly ranked University of Illinois. Campus housing features several living and learning communities and residential colleges, and provides an absolute ton of activities for both the indoor-, and outdoor-oriented individual. The e-gaming space in the university center, for example, certainly caught the eye of my middle-school aged twins.


The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga provides a unique collegiate experience: big enough to provide a wide array of opportunities, small enough to provide a personal and manageable campus-vibe. It is hard to understate how rare that is, especially at a public university, and at such an affordable price point.


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