The Charles R. Burchett Extraordinary Contributions to Campus Life award is named for the World War II veteran, former Knox County Schools administrator, and UT dean of students to honor students and student organizations for extraordinary contributions to campus life.
With its mission to recruit, mentor, and retain women in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the group SYSTERS: Women in EECS has seen success—in the form of an increase in the percentage of women in the department from 6.1 to 9.6, in the growth of outreach by the group to area middle and high schools, and in the hosting of a number of camps and events designed to encourage current students and to welcome new ones. The group relies on a combination of peer mentoring and tutoring. It provides workshops in skills that are central to the discipline but not covered in the curriculum, and sponsors student life activities.
Systers was founded by Denise Koessler, who earned a doctorate in computer science in 2014. Koessler sought to create an environment for women in engineering that was welcoming and geared toward encouragement and collaboration. In just a few short years, it has become one of the most active student organizations in the College of Engineering and has garnered local and national media coverage.