Basler named to Outstanding Alumni Award

Dr. Julie Basler, the president of Platt College in Colorado since September 2019, hasn’t been to the University of Tennessee at Martin campus since 1996. She was on campus for Homecoming last week for the first time in 27 years, and the occasion was even more special than a long-overdue return.

Basler (pronounced “BOZ-ler”) received the 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award presented at the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Program on Oct. 21. She and fellow award winners Brandon Anderson (Outstanding Young Alumni Award) and James Wingett (University Service Award) were recognized after the first quarter of UT Martin’s Homecoming game against conference rival Charleston Southern.

“I am so humbled,” she said of being named to her award. “I think – out of anything I’ve done in my career – receiving this award means the world to me. It really solidifies that, all those years ago, I’ve really felt that UTM really set everything in motion for me.

“Saying that, I don’t just mean my education. The most valuable thing I gained from UTM, by far – that I’ve never gained the same way from any other university I’ve ever attended – was the quality of mentorship. It was given to me, and then, I modeled it in my own career.”

Basler is in her fourth year in the University of Tennessee Promise Scholar Mentor program and earned United States Volunteer Service Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“I’ve worked with students from Knoxville and from Martin,” she said. “I have worked with students who tend to be more interested in liberal arts, specifically in English.”

Basler said her mentors as a student at UT Martin were Dr. Daniel Pigg, a professor of English – in which Basler earned her bachelor’s degree in 1995 – and Dr. Robert Nanney, the chair of the department of mass media and strategic communication.

“Coming back and seeing my mentors – the people who mentored me and believed in me – means more to me than any award,” she said. “Along the way, when I was in graduate school (at Murray State University), when I couldn’t make the decision of ‘Should I accept this salary? Should I do this position? What do you think?’, I always found that I dialed Daniel Pigg and Robert Nanney.”

Basler said she passes on a word of encouragement to the students she mentors just as Nanney did and still does for her.

“I did a podcast recently where I talked about mentorship, and I talked about the power of one thing that Robert Nanney did that was so powerful and it’s so simple,” she said. “Every time he ends a conversation with me – even in my 50s now, and as a college president – he always says, ‘I’m so proud of you.’

“He has always said that to me for the past 30 years. Any time I’ve ever posted something on Facebook or I had a promotion, he always ends every statement with ‘I’m so proud of you.’ So, any time I walk into a classroom or I see a student, I always end by saying that. It seems so simple, but it’s so powerful. That’s how that power of mentorship turns its way around.”

Basler said Pigg was someone who would be open and direct with her when she asked him for an opinion on something she didn’t feel right about.

“He would shoot straight from the hip and say, ‘No, mm-mm. You’re being crazy about this,’” she said. “Everybody needs somebody to tell them to put their big adult pants on, and Dan Pigg has always been that person for me.

“One thing Dan Pigg said to me when I was an undergrad – I wanted to declare English as a major my freshman year. I would say, ‘What if I graduate and maybe I could do some writing for the newspaper?’ or something like that. He told me one time, ‘It’s not ‘What if;’ it’s ‘When I.’ I thought that was a really powerful statement.”

After earning her master’s degree in English at Murray State, Basler went to Columbia State Community College, where she was the coordinator of fine arts and associate professor of English and speech communications.

“I told (Pigg) I am staying at Columbia State forever,” she said. “I said, ‘This is the best job,’ and he said, ‘No, no you won’t. You’re going to lead,’ and I said, ‘What if I…,’ and he said, ‘It’s not ‘What if’; it’s ‘When I.’’

“I thought that he saw value in me as an 18-year-old gal from a small town when I couldn’t see my own value – and that perhaps describes the faculty at UTM. They find value in every student.”

The Mount Pleasant native completed her doctorate degree in English through Middle Tennessee State University after beginning her service at Columbia State.

Basler’s return to the Martin campus was her first since starting her graduate program at Murray State in 1996. Before making that trip last week, she said she was excited about making the return trip “home.”

“That’s what I say, ‘Back home to UTM,’” she said. “I’m just absolutely thrilled and so excited. I’ve already had a ton of people reach out to me and say they want to connect with me. I can’t think of a better way to come home than that. That’s the kind of relationships you build at UTM.”

Basler is married to Steven Basler, and they have two daughters: Hannah, who is a business administration and marketing major at LaSalle University, and Avery, who is a high school junior.

PHOTO: Dr. Julie Basler waves to the home crowd after being introduced as this year’s winner of the Outstanding Alumni Award. The introduction of all Alumni Award winners was made at the end of the first quarter of the Skyhawk’s Homecoming game against Charleston Southern on Oct. 21. She was joined by UTM Chancellor Dr. Yancy Freeman.

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