UT Alum, Award-winning Reporter Brittany Tarwater Brings Industry Experience to the Classroom
Caption: Award-winning reporter and alumna Brittany Tarwater (’09) working for WVLT News. Tarwater is the School of Journalism and Media’s newest full-time assistant professor of practice.
One of alumna Brittany Tarwater’s (‘09) favorite classes as a student was Journalism and Electronic Media 460—colloquially known to students then as UT Today.
The class operated similarly to a newsroom while students worked on their writing, editing, and broadcasting skills. Professor Emeritus Sam Swan taught the course. Tarwater said Swan “fanned the flames” for her when it came to pursuing a career in broadcasting. She added his patience, advice, and guidance helped her to be successful and, to this day, he remains a significant person in her life.
Tarwater will return to Journalism and Media 460 Advanced Television News Reporting and Producing this spring, only this time as its instructor instead of as a student. Teaching the course one of her mentors once helmed is part of her new duties as the School of Journalism and Media’s newest full-time assistant professor of practice.
“Brittany Tarwater is an award-winning journalist and alumna that has given back to the school, college, and university in countless ways in the past,” Courtney Childers, interim director of the School of Journalism and Media, said. “She now brings her broadcast journalism expertise to the classroom every single day as a full-time JEM faculty member teaching multiple classes, mentoring The Volunteer Channel students, and helping pave the way for the Media Center in the College of Communication and Information. We are so lucky to have her join this faculty.”
Tarwater is no stranger to teaching as she has been an adjunct lecturer in the School of Journalism and Media since 2019. Professor Catherine Luther encouraged Tarwater to consider teaching after observing her professionally.
Luther, who in 2023 transitioned as director of the school to director of CCI’s Integrity Information Institute, said Tarwater always impressed her as a student and she continued to be impressed while watching her news reports on television. This made Luther think about the knowledge and skills someone like her might impart to students, so she approached Tarwater about being an adjunct lecturer.
Tarwater said teaching never crossed her mind until then, but is glad Luther approached her about doing it.
“UT looks a lot different than it did when I stepped on campus in 2005, but what has always remained steady is the dedication this institution has to its students’ growth and success,” Tarwater said. “I am thrilled and honored by the responsibility to help carry the torch. It is not one I take lightly and I look forward to investing in the students the way so many of my great mentors at UT invested in me.”
Tarwater credits mentors including Swan, Luther, and School of Communication Studies Associate Professor John Haas for her success in the industry. She said they encouraged her at times when she was having doubts, all while teaching her the technical skills needed for the industry. She hopes to pay forward their dedication and commitment to future generations of Vols aspiring to be journalists.
Luther said she is thrilled Tarwater agreed to expand her teaching responsibilities as an assistant professor of practice. She said that a number of her former students have shared with her how much they learned from Tarwater—not only about news reporting and producing, but about the industry itself. Luther said Tarwater has also been instrumental in helping students secure newsroom positions upon graduation.
“Her positive, can-do attitude and her teaching and mentorship skills will make our program an even stronger one in so many ways,” Luther said. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with Brittany as a colleague in her new role.”
Bringing Experience to the Classroom
An award-winning reporter, Tarwater brings years of experience to the classroom.
After graduating from the school’s master’s program in 2013, she began working as an anchor and reporter at WYMT in Hazard, Kentucky, before returning to Knoxville in 2015 after accepting a position with WVLT News.
Throughout her career, Tarwater has received a number of accolades for her work including Emmy awards for writing, breaking news, and instructional reporting, and several regional Edward R. Murrow and Tennessee Associated Press awards.
A true Vol for life, Tarwater has managed to marry her passion for giving back to the community with her journalism. This is reflected in one “labor of love” story “Crisis in the Water: Bringing Awareness to Drowning Prevention.”
The former Lady Vol swimmer loves the water and felt there was a need to draw attention to the leading cause of deaths in children ages one to four—other than birth defects—and the second leading cause of death in teenagers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The story won a Midsouth Regional Emmy Award for an Informational/Instructional Program. She also won another Midsouth Regional Emmy for her story titled “Prevent the Tragedy: Drowning Dangers.”
“Drowning prevention is certainly a passion that my husband and I both care for,” Tarwater said. “I felt it was not just an interest of mine but also a responsibility of mine to be able to share those stories. I’m so thankful it is recognized with those Emmys but that’s mostly because that helps the message grow.”
Tarwater will continue to serve East Tennessee as an anchor at WVLT. She also serves the community beyond journalism having sat as co-chair of YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley Keys of Hope Women’s Program. She is also a board member for the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.
Tarwater resides in Knoxville with her husband, UT alumnus and Olympic gold medalist Davis Tarwater, and their two children.
“I’m thrilled to join an already outstanding group of people, especially at my alma mater,” Tarwater said. “I think we have such great talent here and we are supported so well. I’m just incredibly excited to see what the future brings and to be a part of it is truly a dream come true.”