September 18, 2013 Rocky Top Revamp: Landscape Architecture Alumnus Reinventing UT Campus

By Christine Copelan as published by The Torchbearer

In eighth grade, Bethany Morris penned a letter to herself, outlining her hopes for the future. In it, she reminded herself to become an architect.

Two degrees and an abundance of dedicated work later, her childhood dream has become a reality.

Now, as UT’s Landscape Response Team project manager, Morris is reinventing the very campus where she learned her craft. Her challenge is overseeing the major campus makeover outlined in the campus master plan. Updated in 2011 to better reflect the Top 25 vision, the master plan calls for revamping the look of the campus with an eye to improving its academic mission, promoting sound energy and environmental principles, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, developing comprehensive solutions for traffic and parking, respecting the heritage of existing buildings, and enhancing the sense of community.

Morris completed her bachelor’s degree in architecture in 2008 and earned her master’s degree as a member of the first landscape architecture graduating class in 2011. Having spent eight years of her life at UT, Morris developed an intimate connection to the campus that puts her in a unique position for the work she’s now doing.

“I’m attached to the campus, and I got to experience campus…whenever I could venture out of the architecture building to get food,” Morris jokes.

“Having studied both landscape and architecture helps. The different disciplines have their priorities. I can speak architect when I need to, but I can also talk landscape. Having a knowledge of the different disciplines is definitely an advantage,” Morris says.

The master plan envisions a seamless melding of architecture and landscape to give UT a distinctive feel. Morris wants everyone who steps onto the campus—student or otherwise—to have a powerful and memorable impression.

“We want you to feel like you’re part of a community, from the large-scale things like Pedestrian Mall to small things like an outdoor study space. Even if the only time you’re on campus is for a football game, once you cross that threshold you’ll know you’re at UT,” Morris says.

As the campus makeover continues, Morris says she’s thrilled to have a hand in creating the campus’s future.

“What I say here matters in a way that I didn’t comprehend in school. In school, your final project is there but it never gets built—but here, my comments matter and are implemented. It’s exciting to see the landscape and architecture having these dialogues, and I’m in a position to influence it,” says Morris. “I feel lucky that I’m here at this particular time.”