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Volunteer 40 Under 40 Courtney Vick Flexes UT Spirit at Whataburger

Courtney Vick (‘12) is happier than ever with her current position as a field marketing coordinator for Whataburger that she said, “It’s been a lot of fun, I feel like it’s almost a pinch me kind of thing. I truly have the best job in the world and people tell me that all the time.”

Not only is she loving her role, but the journalism alumna is being recognized for the work she is doing for Whataburger and in her community by being honored as one of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s 2023 Volunteer 40 Under 40.

Vick wasn’t initially planning to attend UT for her degree. She lived in Lebanon and attended an all-girls school in Nashville. She wanted to travel out of state to spread her wings for college. What she didn’t necessarily want to do is end up at the same school her brother was attending—the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. But, as fate would have it, Vick became a journalism student at UT’s College of Communication and Information anyway after a high school internship with Talk of the Town in Nashville.

“In retrospect, I had the best time at UT. I was able to get involved and there were many opportunities for me because it was a state school. I got the chance to meet people from all over Tennessee, the United States, and the world, and there were opportunities I wouldn’t have had elsewhere,” she said. “Even though it was a large school and university, I always felt I got the assistance and the support I needed and that people were cheering for me as a student. For me, UT felt inclusive and I had friends with a wide array of interests and backgrounds. That’s what was fun about UT; you not only got your education in the classroom, but outside of it as well. This social education and genuine curiosity about others is something I appreciate every day because it assists me in my job. It is what drew me to studying journalism. I loved learning about people and had a passion for it. The skills I developed in the classroom have served me well in my current role and are transferable.”

While she was a student, Vick said she always received support from faculty, including retired JEM Professor Sam Swan, who sent her a congratulatory note when the Volunteer 40 Under 40 news was announced. She is one of a select few CCI students who was awarded the Torchbearer Award, the highest student honor for undergraduate students.

Along with everything she learned and all the opportunities she took advantage of, including the journalism trip to New York City, Vick graduated with the Volunteer spirit. UT continued to support her even after she graduated, and that encouraged her to join UT’s Young Alumni Council and the Nashville Area Alumni Board in 2014. 

As for her career, Vick decided to pursue an MBA at Cumberland University, where she would work for nearly eight years in various positions from fundraising and development to career services. Vick often found herself doing work that supported students and their success—a bit of foreshadowing for some of the work she currently does for Whataburger. 

While one of the things she really loves about the job is introducing Tennessee residents to the Texas quick-service restaurant chain, which opened its first location (since the 1960s) in the state in January 2022, there’s another part of Vick’s position that really ignites her passion for helping others. She gets to work within the communities where Whataburger has restaurants and share Whataburger’s philanthropic mission through the company’s Feeding Student Success initiative, which focuses charitable giving at the intersection of food insecurity and education through college resource rooms, scholarships, and community philanthropy. This gives Vick the opportunity to work with students, teachers, schools (pre-K through college), community leaders, food banks, and partner organizations like the Titans and the Nashville Sounds. 

“Before this role, I was always fundraising for students and scholarships, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be on the other side to work with individuals to give back. I am able to meet with  community members and see what their needs are at the schools and food banks and work with them to see how Whataburger can best support them,” she said, noting she has also been able to show support for teachers and law enforcement in those communities.

While Vick’s work is centered in Tennessee, she travels often to other territories in the southeast and Texas, and no matter where she goes, it seems like she always runs into another Vol and can find some sort of connection to them. Of course, Whataburger and the university’s colors boast a very similar color scheme, a similarity that many Louisiana State University fans couldn’t overlook when Vick’s Whataburger tent was set up at the LSU versus Tennessee game this past year.

“I had one woman come by and pick up a fan, and she brought it back 15 minutes later because she said her husband wouldn’t let her use it because of the colors,” Vick said with a laugh.

While she’s living her dream right now through her job and volunteering, being awarded with the Volunteer 40 Under 40 was truly icing on the cake. 

“It was exciting and a complete shock. I’m very honored to be part of this class and seeing who my peers are within 40 Under 40, everyone is accomplished in various jobs and industries. It makes me proud to be a Vol because I see now as an alum what I saw as a student. We are a university that graduates the best and the brightest, some truly world-class citizens, and with those connections, you can go anywhere and meet a Vo,l and Knoxville is only a short drive away,” she said.