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The 2015–2016 Trailblazer Series was presented by the Commission for Blacks and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

The purpose of Trailblazer Series is to promote and honor African Americans who are affiliated with the University of Tennessee or the larger Knoxville community. These individuals are trailblazers in their field and have been instrumental in advancing civil rights, diversity, and inclusion through an annual speaking series.

The series works collaboratively with The Volunteer Channel to produce videos of each speaker. Teams of four to five students will shoot and produce videos of the speakers. These videos will be available as a live stream during the event and will be archived on this website. This exciting collaboration makes the Trailblazer Series more widely available and creates portfolio pieces for The Volunteer Channel students, as well as providing exposure to them about diversity and inclusion efforts at the university.

The series is proudly co-sponsored by UT student organizations, including the Black Student Union.

The Trailblazer Series events occurring during Spring 2016—Don Frieson and Cynthia Fleming—are part of the forty events celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Frieson Black Cultural Center.


The 2014–2015 series was awarded the Ready for the World Initiative grant. The series serves multiple student learning objectives to help create internationally and interculturally competent students, as well as assists provides intercultural awareness and curricular transformation through the partnership with The Volunteer Channel.

The inaugural year of the series saw partnerships with the Departments of Psychology and Theatre, the College of Law, the College of Engineering, and the UT System Office of the President.