Brittney’s whirlwind to success

Written by Taylor Moore

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has various stand out college programs, especially within the College of Communication and Information. Many students have gone on to get jobs at the world’s largest publications and television media. One southern girl, Brittney Bryant, proves you can make the most of UT’s communication program and land a pretty amazing job.

UT alumna, Brittney Bryant, is a meteorologist at the Mid-South’s leading multi-media company at WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, Tennessee. Nevertheless, this goal-driven young woman didn’t get where she is without putting in the work.

Bryant graduated from Ridgeway High School in 2007 in east Memphis. Her college selection process in her senior year didn’t exactly go as planned.

“I had all these different schools I applied to. Most of them were out of state; I think UT was the only school I applied to that was in state,” Bryant said. “When it really came down to it, I started looking into costs versus gain.”

With hopes to attend an out-of-state college, Bryant realized that a degree from an out of state college wouldn’t be as valuable as a degree from UT in “one of the finest journalism programs in the U.S,” as stated by Bryant. She visited the campus and fell head over Tennessee hills.

“The broadcasting program was fantastic,” Bryant said. “For someone that lives in Tennessee, you cannot beat the value and the gain that you get from going to the University of Tennessee.”

Bryant honed her skills in broadcasting, writing and reporting during her time at UT.

“As far as learning to be a better broadcaster, Dr. Swan was really great at showing us what needed to be done in order for you to be better; be more creative, do more stand-ups, do more things, etcetera.”

Dr. Swan, director of internationalization and outreach, is still a vital part of the communication program many students come in contact with during their time here. Bryant took two classes from Dr. Swan: TV news reporting and producing. He said Bryant worked hard in school to get where she is.

“She was very personable, excellent on-camera skills and a great student.  She took advantage of all opportunities including a special trip to New York to tour the networks.”

Bryant realized that she didn’t have to stay in the broadcast bubble when it came to joining media outlets. She wrote for the Tennessee Journalist and was on WUTK 90.3 The Rock.

“Benny Smith at WUTK is one of the best people,” Bryant said. “He literally just pushes you to be better. He welcomed me into that station. He eventually promoted me to music director there to pick different music and talk to different promoters from record labels. And he made it to where I even got a paycheck eventually. It also really helped me work on my broadcast voice.”

Benny Smith is the general manager and program director for Volunteer Radio 90.3 The Rock. He shared a lot about “Brittney B,” the name she became known as on the air and around the station.

“Brittney was part of a very successful music department group while here, and she did a fantastic job for us.  She learned how to juggle many responsibilities, and it was a rare occasion that I ever had to remind her of what was needing done as far as her respective tasks,” Smith said.  “ I admired her even-headed approach to her tasks, and her determination to make sure a job that she started was also completed, and in the way we needed it to be done. She did an amazing job while here, and we miss her.”

By the time she was a junior, Bryant knew she wanted to be a meteorologist.

“I suggested a master’s degree offered by Mississippi State,” Swan said. “And that’s what she did.”

Bryant graduated in 2011 with her bachelor’s degree in Communications and Information with a focus in broadcast news and went to Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi for meteorology.

It was a tough four years for Bryant. Physics, math and other complex things went into her major, but by the end of the program, she knew those subjects had made an impact on her as a broadcast meteorologist.

“Thankfully from UT, I already knew how to do the broadcast side of things. I already had my broadcast voice and look.”

While at MSU, Bryant was an instructor for the beginning TV production class and enrolled in a storm chasing class where she was taught how to follow tornadoes while out in the field.

Bryant got a job in South Carolina straight out of school in 2014 at WMBF-TV where she did traffic on the weekdays and weather on the weekend. Although it was enough pay to cover living expenses, there wasn’t much money left for anything outside of that. Because of this, she had to nanny on the side.

She later transferred to her current job and was later promoted.

Bryant credits her inspiration for becoming a meteorologist to her stepfather Brian Teigland, who was also a Memphis meteorologist.

“I got to grow up having someone who could answer my questions about the weather. He really sparked my interest in weather,” she said. “I was really scared to go on with this path and follow in his footsteps, but he was always super encouraging and with him being in this business, I had a lot of allies at UT and at Mississippi State.”

Bryant advises students to network and meet people who can help you get to the pinnacle of success. She found out about a lot of different jobs and opportunities through people she went to school with or people she had met at internships.

“Find someone that can mentor you and already has that job you want,” Bryant said. “Chances are, that person would love to help you.”

In addition to being a meteorologist, Bryant also has a fashion blog that she started in college. She got into it at MTSU so she could tell people what they want to know, which is what to wear based on the weather.

“It’s nice to have something that’s just yours. It’s likely going to be something that makes you happy.”

Bryant advises those wanting to achieve their dreams to hustle. She worked endlessly to know everything about the business front and back. The more you know, the more successful you’re going to be and the more people are going to respect you.

“If you want to be on top, every single day you have to be working to be better,” Bryant said. “No one is going to work as hard for you as you work for yourself. It’s not easy, and it can be stressful, but there’s a lot of reward in this business.”

Featured image courtesy of Taylor Moore

Edited by Taylor Owens

Living a zero-waste lifestyle at UT

Take a look at the trash can nearest you in your building. What do you see? A mix of styrofoam take out containers, Starbucks cups, gum wrappers, napkins and tissues? Maybe even plastic bottles and paper plates? These items are not uncommon in every trash can, but if a recycling bin were available, would you use it?

“I would say I care about [the environment], but it’s not really something that I think about a whole lot or make a lot of intentional efforts for,” University of Tennessee freshman Emily Wellman said.

Expecting every person to follow a zero-waste lifestyle proves impossible. However, small changes in a person’s day-to-day life can positively impact the environment.

UT Recycling Outreach Coordinator Michelle Van Guilde said, “the actual definition of zero-waste is, for the things you use, 90 percent is being diverted from the landfill”.

Countless options exist for students who want to try to be environmentally friendly.

Take advantage of the Mug Project

Students can save $0.60 or receive 15 percent off their purchase by carrying their own reusable cup to UT dining locations. Reusable cups take the place of paper or plastic cups, which harm the environment.

According to a recent UT Recycling Mug Project report, the initiative saved students $47,020 last year and kept 1,600 pounds of waste from a landfill.

Sign up for “The Green Leaf”

President of Eco-Vols Vicky Louangaphay encourages students to sign up for The Green Leaf newsletter.

“The Office of Sustainability has a monthly newsletter called The Green Leaf. They usually send out tips and environment news about a bunch of environmental organizations and what they are doing,” Louangaphay said.

This electronic newsletter allows students to stay up to date on environmental news without wasting any paper to receive it.

Suspend straws

One-use plastic straws permeate restaurants, fast food chains and dorms or apartments, but these straws are major polluters. Washable, reusable straws reduce waste at a low investment.

“I love recommending that people just not use straws. That is one of the main pollutants in the ocean; plastic straws and other micro plastics,” Louangaphy said.


Compost consists of organic materials such as paper, fruit and vegetable scraps and egg shells that have been put into a pile, watered and decomposed as stated in the “Knoxville Citizen’s Guide to Sustainability.”

Many campus dining halls now follow composting programs. For example, Southern Kitchen features a compost bin (its main trash can) into which students can dispose waste.

Recycle in the dorm and on Campus

The “Knoxville Citizen’s Guide to Sustainability” states that Knoxville households throw away 70 to 80 percent of what could be recycled.

Purchasing recyclable items cuts down on the overall waste sent to landfills. Plastic bottles, sticky notes, aluminum cans and more can be recycled on UT’s campus.

Education and awareness create the possibility to make small differences.

Wellman said, “I try to walk places when I can, and I do recycle in my dorm and my family does it at home. Anytime I see something that would not be too out of my way that would be a better option for the environment is something I usually try to go with.”

“While it would be harder for a college student, I think if you are willing to put in whatever time or effort or money it takes, then I think it is definitely possible.”

Written by Ainsley Kelso


Love Kitchen’s two heartbeats

Written by Taylor Moore

“L-O-V-E”, Robert Kantowski says. “That’s what they were from day one.”

The kitchen is winding down a quarter after three on March 8 and only a few people remain in the seating area. Jason Ballard, a dish washer for the Love Kitchen, is running around to make sure everything is in place, clean and ready to go for the next day. Today was the sisters’ first birthday since they both passed.

Twenty years ago, Jason walked in the Love Kitchen to find Helen and Ellen, two twin sisters, washing dishes. He introduced himself, told them he was in need, and they welcomed him in with open arms to feed him and help with their cause. The sisters got food to him whenever he needed, and they taught him how to cook, package and serve food. They would go on to extend this same kindness to thousands of other people.

Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner started the Love Kitchen in the basement of a local Knoxville church in 1986 with a mission to feed the hungry and help those in need. Since then, the Love Kitchen has grown into a modern building where it now resides and has remained a home away from home for many in the community. Today, over 3,100 meals are served to the community, with more than 80 percent given to the homebound. The Love Kitchen has been featured on local news stations and even reaching the global community on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Ellen Turner passed away on April 23, 2015 at UT Medical Center. Helen Ashe passed away on Feb. 13, 2018.

Robert Kantowksi, who has served as manager of the Love Kitchen for seven years, said times were tough when the sisters passed.

“When Ellen died, it tore me up to see her gone, and I cried. She was just this little 82-pound lady who cared about people and she let people know that God loves you,” he said. “I have a hole in my heart now that they’re gone. But I know they’re in a better place. They’re up there right now with God looking down at the Love Kitchen.”

94-year-old Lance Owens has volunteered at the Love Kitchen for years despite his failing eye-sight. He knew the sisters for over 30 years, since they were at his church on Chestnut.

He sat in his wheelchair with a hoodie and cap on making jokes and reminiscing about the sisters.

“I liked the way they conducted themselves. They were very reserved and made good conversation,” Owens said.

“Was there anything bad about the sisters Mr. Lance?” Kantowski asked.

“Yeah,” Owens said. “There weren’t enough of them”.

Known as the sister’s non-familiar grandson and the executive director of the Love Kitchen, Patrick Riggins knew the sisters for 18 years. He got involved with the Love Kitchen when he began picking up food for them.

Riggins talked about countless memories he had of the sisters, including their visit to go see Oprah; how the sisters were initially opposed to flying, their brief problem when ordering chicken from room service and how they were treated like royalty while in Chicago for the show.

“I’d clown around with the sisters. They had this youthful exuberance around them where you could joke and laugh with them,” he said. “That’s kind of what you miss.”

Despite the sisters passing, the Love Kitchen has no plans of slowing down.

“It’s not the end of the Love Kitchen,” Kantowksi said. “It’s the beginning of Helen and Ellen’s legacy”.

Although the two heartbeats of this nonprofit are laid to rest, their legacy boldly lingers throughout the Love Kitchen.

Edited by Taylor Owens









A look into the lives of graduate assistants

Graduate Assistant Appreciation Week comes to a close today, but the University of Tennessee remains appreciative of its graduate students. Often overlooked, graduate students fulfill teaching duties, advise students and conduct their own research. But who are these graduate students?

Jordan Schools works with the Honors Leadership program in her first year studying sports psychology.

“I chose to go to grad school because I want to pursue a career in academia, and it was my dream to go to graduate school at UT,” Schools said. “The biggest difference between undergrad and graduate is the amount of writing. I research and write all day, everyday. Aside from that, probably how specific everything you learn is. It all has a purpose towards your end goal, and that is nice.”

After graduate school, Schools hopes to apply for the doctorate program at UT and work in a kinesiology department.

Corrine Tandy assists students in the Haslam Scholars Program. Tandy, a Ph.D. candidate, focuses on comparative and experimental medicine, studying epidemiology and infectious diseases.

“I initially entered my program as a forensic anthropologist after earning my Masters at Boston University. A Ph.D. is the terminal degree in that field, so I entered to study skeletal biology before changing my focus to public health and epidemiology,” Tandy said.

Upon degree completion, Tandy looks to work in the public health sphere. 

“I think the most important thing anyone can do while in grad school is to take care of themselves. We hear a lot of narratives about working all day and night to make sure the work gets done,” Tandy said. “I think it goes without saying that it is essential to stay on track and work hard, but unfortunately, I think many of us do it at the expense of our personal lives or mental health.”

Tandy advises future and current graduate students to take care of themselves while they work.

“You can do grad school AND have a life, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes,” Tandy said.

In his first year, Jaye Rochelle studies management and human relations. Rochelle works with undergraduates in the 1794 Scholars Program.

“Top differences between graduate and undergraduate is that there is less busy work and its generally more specialized,” Rochelle said.

After graduate school, Rochelle wants to work as an athletic counselor or possibly pursue a Ph.D.

“If you are coming to grad school, be prepared to read and think critically. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Grad school is there to let you disagree with people and lead discussions in the class room,” Rochelle said.

If you are considering going to graduate school and do not know where to start, visit the Graduate School page on UT’s website.

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

A Complicated Meth: Pharmacy regulations confusing, unhelpful in battle against methamphetamine

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the United States, nearly 50 million people suffer from nasal allergies. Waking up to a congested nose is an experience many Americans understand.

East Tennessee resident Nancy Blackwell is among that group. Suffering from allergies since she was a child, Blackwell has depended on relief from one particular drug.

“Sudafed is the only thing that works for me,” Blackwell said.

Looking for relief, she often finds herself headed to the nearest pharmacy. Although she is no stranger to the usual “behind the counter” routine, Blackwell recalls a time where she felt having allergies was “almost a crime.”

“I always stocked up on Sudafed,” Blackwell said. “But one day that labeled me as a criminal.”

She entered her local pharmacy, only to find that the Sudafed was not in its usual spot. Upon asking a clerk for help, she was directed to the pharmacy.

“I walked up to the pharmacist and told her what I wanted,” Blackwell said.

The next thing she knew, her driver’s license was being logged into a computer data base, questions on her use of Sudafed and her condition were demanded and a feeling of criminal intent surrounded her.

“I understand why they do it,” Blackwell said. “But I’m no criminal. I just want some relief.”

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Blackwell’s story resonates with many who suffer from severe allergies. Today, pharmacies are required to verify identification from the buyer of any product containing pseudoephedrine and to answer two questions.

Do you have high blood pressure? What is your intended use?

If answered correctly, the pharmacist will ensure that the buyer has not purchased their legal limit within the past 30 days. After the buyer is screened, questioned and booked, they are free to leave with their drug of choice.

These laws were put into effect in Tennessee in 2005. The regulations stemmed from an epidemic that has plagued the state, as well as the country, for years.

Reason for implementation: hinder and ultimately stop the illegal production of methamphetamine.

Efforts to control the sale of pseudoephedrine date back to 1986. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) introduced legislation that would make the drug a controlled substance. Under this label, individuals would need to present a prescription to purchase.

Consumers complained. Lobbyists fought the change. Ultimately, the legislature denied the label change and continued the approval of over-the-counter sales.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Danger Drug Task Force Director Tom Farmer recounts the sudden restrictions in the law and the impact it has had on the country since.

“Law enforcement across the country were asking ‘What are you [legislators] doing’?,” Farmer said. “We knew then that this was going to be a huge problem.”

Farmer’s prediction would come true. Since the initial denial, DEA has reported an increase in the amount of methamphetamine seizures. In 1986, 234 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized, compared to 2,946 kilograms in 2014 in the United states.

After 20 years in law enforcement, Farmer has seen these statistics play out first hand, watching meth users and manufacturers repeatedly getting arrested, to nearly losing their lives in explosions, only to return to their illegal practices.

Frustrated, overwhelmed and over budget in his enforcement efforts, Farmer has shifted his attention from this constant cycle. His theory, summed up in just a few words, may be the key in solving Tennessee’s meth problem.

“You stop the sale of pseudoephedrine,” Farmer said. “You stop the meth.”

Though frustrating, there has been progress in diverting sales of pseudoephedrine. Nancy Blackwell’s experience on a stuffy Spring morning was the result of the Tennessee Meth Act of 2005. This law required all businesses that sold products containing pseudoephedrine to log and track each sale.

The law also limited the amount a consumer could purchase within a 30-day period. This new tracking database would work two-fold in providing businesses with the means of knowing who they can and cannot sell to, as well as providing law enforcement information on repeat buyers, which might help in tracking down meth makers.

Generally, the tracking system has worked as intended. However, just as bacteria react to antibiotics, drug abusers have begun to adapt to and overcome their new obstacle.

Farmer’s agency began seeing a steady increase in meth production across the state, but no pharmacy data to support it. During lab seizures, boxes of pseudoephedrine were always found in the area. But when referencing the suspects to the tracking system, little to no information was provided.

A new type of criminal emerging. The most common name: smurf.

“We found that our suspects were picking up random people, often homeless off the street,” Farmer said. “They’d drop them off to different pharmacies to buy the pseudo for them.”

“Keep the change” was the smurf’s motivation. Their only job was to buy as much pseudoephedrine as they could with the money that was provided. If there was change left over, their services were paid from that.

A pharmacist in East Tennessee, who has been in the industry for nearly two decades, has had their share of suspicious customers. To protect their identity, the pharmacist chose to speak under the condition of anonymity. We’ll call this pharmacist Miller.

Miller recalls the sales of pseudoephedrine products a “battle between job and ethics.”

When a person suspected of drug abuse seeks to purchase the product, they are met with the same process as any other customer. However, Miller’s moral judgment has provided different tactics.

“There’s been times that I’ve hidden the medicine,” Miller said. “If I see the same people come in to buy Sudafed, I’ll just tell them we’re out of stock.”

Though admirable, these morals do not coincide with standard business practices. Company executives require their pharmacists to sell the product that the customer requests, in accordance with current laws.

“If they have a valid ID and are not over their sale limit, we’re required to provide the product,” Miller said. “Professional judgement is allowed, but not beyond the scope of the law.”

Following current law, pharmacies across the state continue to sell pseudoephedrine to individuals meeting their legal limit. As new entries are put into the system, tracking becomes more difficult than ever.

Smurfing was the new enemy.

“This changed everything,” Farmer said. “How could we possibly track a system like this?”

Determined to kill the root of the meth epidemic, Farmer’s theory of sale prevention never left his mind. It was more apparent that current regulations were not enough. Farmer has since shifted his focus to lobbyists in Washington D.C., hoping to enact the legislation that was struck down in 1986.

The battle has moved from meth labs, drug abusers and smurfs, to federal buildings, legislators and lawyers. However, several attempts by Farmer’s agency to require pseudoephedrine to be labeled as a scheduled narcotic have failed.

“The benefit outweighs the harm” of pseudoephedrine, legislators argue. After all, 50 million people are suspected of suffering from nasal allergies.

Farmer argues that, while he does not deny the need for pseudoephedrine, multiple alternatives are designed to be just as effective.

“There’s no cure for the common cold,” Farmer said. “But pseudo is not the only relief. There are safer options out there, but those won’t line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies.”

One of these options is a form of pseudoephedrine that cannot produce meth. A brand titled, “Nexefed” claims to produce the same results as Sudafed, without the chemical properties that allow meth production.

Miller has used this brand as an additional tactic to curb drug abusers. However, price tends to be the deciding factor.

“I wish Nexefed was the only option,” Miller said. “But when you compare the price to regular Sudafed, there’s no contest. Sudafed is always the better deal.”

As the war against methamphetamine continues to grow across Tennessee, soldiers like Farmer and Miller are left only with the powers they are granted. Met with opposition, they find their efforts against meth hindered by powers beyond their control.

Those powers revolve around pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists in Washington D.C. with a common goal expected of all businesses: money. However, this goal is gripping the state of Tennessee, as well as the nation, in an epidemic that’s losing the grip from those trying to combat it.

Farmer vows to not give up. Now facing imports of methamphetamine from other countries, his efforts grow more challenging every day.

“I will keep making the calls, taking the trips, writing the letters, until I’m relieved of my duties or dead,” Farmer said. “I took my oath many years ago to protect and serve and I’m not about to slow down now.”

After 31 years of combative efforts, Farmer’s progressive nature will be put to the test. As the United States faces threats and challenges across the globe, an internal war has been waging over three decades.

“I don’t know where it will all go from here,” Famer said, “but I hope I live to see the end of it.”

Don’t we all.

Declining Birth Rates: From Japan to the United States

The birth rate in Japan continues to decline year-on-year, while the overall population continues to rise due to immigration. According to the CIA World Factbook of 2017, Japan is ranked 2nd for highest median age (47.3). As of October 2016 (  Japan’s birth rate fell below 1 million for the first time since 1899, while there were 1.3 million people that died the same year. If the declining birth rate continues to drop, Eric Johnston from JapanTimes states that, “896 cities, towns and villages throughout japan are facing extinction by 2040.”


Now, the problem seems to spread across the sea, as millennials in the U.S. refuse to have kids as well.

What is the problem with the population decline? Why do the local residents in either countries refuse to have kids?

A Graph from Osaka university (Slide 4) shows a result of a survey as to why Japanese citizens consider not to marry or to have children. The chart is separated by genders. Translated, it looks like this:

Either genders have the belief that being single means that they will have more freedom for hobbies and meeting with friends etc.

Another factor Osaka university points out is the progression of women in the workforce. The prominent answer on the female side is due to the fact that more females are now in the workforce with higher wages. This complements the other top answers, as they believe that it’s more convenient to focus on their work when they don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone else.

Below are some explanations from the survey as to why fewer Japanese people are considering marriage, or having kids.

Taking the subject matter from Japan to the United States, online articles from Rooster and Healthyway gives us some insight as to why some people in the U.S. might not consider having kids. Both articles had similar reasons, such as:

1.       The fear of raising kids in a bleak future.

2.       Financial problems.

3.       Fear of ruining their children with terrible parenting.

4.       More people wanting to pursue their goals in life. (College/Work)

5.       Fear of commitment of marriage/having kids.

Mary Sauer from Healthyway also mentioned the current position women are in, similar to the survey data seen from Osaka University. (Ex: Women are under less pressure and have more options, etc.)

According to Asia matters for America it is possible that millennials across the pacific have similar negative connotation towards having children too early. California has the highest Japanese population in the United States. To see if there are any correlation with the given data, we take a look at California’s birth rate and overall population, courtesy of the California Department of Finance:

While there might not be a direct correlation between Japanese people directly affecting U.S millennials, it’s important to consider that there is a possibility that the decline in birthrate might affect the environment you live in as well.