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The Importance of Giving Back

The McGees on vacation at the southernmost point in the US

Regularly giving back to their alma mater, the UT College of Communication and Information, is a strongly ingrained habit of 1993 graduates Erica and Ryan McGee.

“My father worked in higher education development so I know the value of giving back first-hand,” said Ryan.  “Given the transition the college went through in the late 90s and early 2000s by adding additional departments/schools and the reorganization that took place, Erica and I are delighted that CCI is thriving!”

Erica Allen McGee met her future husband Ryan McGee at UT in Dr. Sam Swan’s class during their junior year. (Ryan claims he met Erica in their Com 101 class, but she doesn’t have the same memory).

Today, Erica has a successful career in the performing arts as an actress, appearing in many theater productions, and as a vocalist, performing the national anthem at sporting and special events.  Ryan is a senior writer for ESPN the Magazine and a frequent contributor to ESPN.com where he writes mainly about NASCAR and college football.

As communication professionals, they have seen technology alter the landscape of their professions. However, they feel that their UT educations prepared them well for the technology changes with which they have been faced. In particular, Ryan says that Dr. Swan shared predictions about future industry changes related to the Internet, satellite television, and mobile phones in 1991, that turned out to be accurate.

When Erica and Ryan attended UT, their video classes often utilized second hand equipment. Editing required hours of work to do what now takes only a few minutes.  As a result, they have chosen to give back to the college to help provide students with current hardware and software learning tools that are essential to preparing them for future professional careers.  Gifts from alumni such as Erica and Ryan coupled with increased investment by the university have made a big difference in the facilities and equipment available to CCI students for obtaining hands-on experience.

Ryan also shared the role internships and field trips played in helping to prepare him for his career. One of his best UT memories was going on JEM’s annual New York City field trip with Dr. Swan in the early 90’s where his group met ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings.  (Internships and field trips continue to play an important role in the development of CCI students. See for example the UT Daily Beacon story about JEM’s 2013 field trip to New York where JEM students met with CNN Anchor Anderson  Cooper,  and  the Circle Park News story about 2012 summer internships, http://www.cci.utk.edu/internship-opportunities).

Erica and Ryan have fond memories of Circle Park and their time at UT. Although they now live in Charlotte, NC, they continue to be loyal Volunteers and strong supporters of CCI.  Ryan works with many UT grads at ESPN, and they named their daughter “Tara”, which is Irish for “rocky hill” (i.e., Rocky Top).