Graduating Senior Makayla Crawford Found a Home at UT and CCI
Makayla Crawford had no connection to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville when she began her college search. She had offers to play lacrosse at the Division I level from some schools but knew there wouldn’t be a future for her in the sport after college.
The Raleigh, N.C. native decided to make a visit to Knoxville to find out more about all UT had to offer.
“I came here and instantly loved it. I know everyone says it’s cliché, but it felt like home. It really did,” Crawford said. “I wanted to go to a college where I didn’t know anybody. I did that so I could find out my true passions were and what my values and morals were. I wanted to find a place that really pushed me to find what I am passionate about.”
Crawford, 21, got all of that and more during her college experience at Tennessee. She will be graduating May 19 with a degree in information sciences with a concentration in user experience design.
Crawford started college as a psychology and sociology major, but once the Covid pandemic hit, she realized it wasn’t her true passion. She began doing research about information sciences and was drawn to the field.
“I discovered how much I loved it. I love being able to talk to people, I love being on a computer, I love designing, and I love seeing results,” Crawford said. “It was the perfect major for me. It really encompasses everything I value.”
Crawford has embraced every opportunity UT has offered. She is a member of the Minority Enhancement for the University of Tennessee, a resident assistant in Volunteer Hall, and a student worker for UTK Greek Life. She is also president of the Mu Zeta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the past president of the National Panhellenic Council.
Crawford’s work hasn’t been overlooked. She was recently named UTK Chapter President of the Year and received the UTK NAACP President of the Year award.
“I am a busy bee,” said Crawford, who played club lacrosse in her first two years at UT. “I thrive when I am busy. That is my favorite thing to do.”
Crawford has gained a lot from all of her classes and extracurricular activities. She has formed lifelong friendships and connections with professors that will sustain after she graduates. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been rewarding.
“My college experience is the building blocks of me now,” Crawford said. “I have learned so much about growth and failure. Failure is inevitable, especially when you are coming into roles so young. The goal is to start building, and I’ve had to fail a lot of times. But I realize those failures are good things and are how you eventually excel and combat all the challenges.”
Crawford comes from a big extended family. Her grandmother is one of 14 children and her parents come from families with a combined 13 siblings.
“I have more cousins than I could ever possibly count,” said Crawford, who has two older brothers. “Growing up, our house was always packed. There were so many people living with us. It’s all about helping others because you never know when you might need somebody.”
Many of her relatives will be traveling to Knoxville to attend her graduation. They will be coming from as far as Scotland, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos. Her family is renting a cabin in Sevierville for the weekend, and they all plan to go to Dollywood.
Three days after she graduates, Crawford will be traveling to Greece with her childhood best friend to celebrate their graduations from college. They have done a big trip together every two years.
But Crawford won’t be leaving Knoxville for good. She has accepted a job offer at 21st Mortgage Corporation in Knoxville. She plans to start building her portfolio and get certified in areas related to user experience design.
Crawford feels confident her time at UT has prepared her well for the future.
“I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is you deserve to be in every space that you want to be in,” she said. “Also, don’t be scared to make connections and don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to grow.”
Written by Rhiannon Potkey