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Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) Students to Participate in 2023 Big Ears Music Festival

Students Chosen to Serve as First-Ever Hospitality Ambassadors

Six Students from Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management (RHTM) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS) will serve as first-ever Hospitality Ambassadors at the upcoming Big Ears Festival in downtown Knoxville. The Big Ears Festival is one of the most exciting music festivals in the United States, with attendees from all 50 states and dozens of countries worldwide.

A group of fair-complexion students, five  female and two male pose on the steps in front of a brick building.  The students are in two rows and are smiling in the photo.

Back Row (L-R) Dani Netherland, Sydney Hughes, Sarah Cornelius, Paul Vaughn Front Row (L-R) Rosemarie Poplin, Helen Johnson, Jack Babb (RHTM PhD Candidate)

The six student Hospitality Ambassadors were chosen by HTM faculty through a multi-step application process. At the Big Ears Festival, they will work directly under one of three positions; VIP & Donor Relations, Artist Transportation & Coordination, or Artist Hospitality. Experiential learning opportunities such as this are excellent opportunities for HTM students interested in festivals, event planning, and customer service.

“Our students continue to be interested in event and festival management and what an incredible honor it is to partner with Big Ears to provide them with this unique ambassadorship,” said Stefanie Benjamin, associate professor in RHTM. “Through this volunteer experience, our students will build their resumes and network with people worldwide.”

The 2023 festival runs from March 30th through April 2nd and will feature over 140 artists from across the globe, representing a wide diversity of musical genres. Each year, the festival takes place in downtown Knoxville in more than a dozen venues, ranging from intimate clubs to historic theaters to repurposed industrial spaces.

“Big Ears is excited to welcome advanced HTM students into our festival production for the first time,” said Tom Welsh, Managing Director of Big Ears. “ They will get real-world professional experience in the fast-paced environment of one of the world’s most unique music festivals.”

In addition to the real-world learning experience  for HTM undergraduates, this year’s festival will serve as a research opportunity for Jack Babb, a PhD student in RHTM. Jack will collaborate with Casey Fox, Big Ears Director of Development, on gathering dissertation data on connectivity and well-being at the festival.

“Having such a world-renowned festival in Knoxville continues to open doors to new partnerships, experiential learning opportunities, and research collaborations for our Volunteer community,” said Benjamin.

Through its eight departments and 12 centers, the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences enhances the quality of life for all through research, outreach, and practice. Find out more at