A Passion for Community
Community made a tremendous difference in Clarence Vaughn’s life. As director of the Office of Diversity and Community Relations at the Haslam College of Business, he wants to pass on that blessing to others. Starting off on a rocky path, he was expelled from high school but with a supportive community of family and friends around him, he enrolled in junior college. After transferring to Florida A&M, he ultimately graduated with honors.
“My story shows that the decisions you make are important, but the community you build around you is also very important,” Vaughn says. “I was fortunate to have family and friends around me who wanted me to be successful.”
After completing his undergraduate degree in business management, Vaughn and his wife, Syreeta, moved to East Tennessee where she attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Vaughn started a job at a rental car company, working his way up to a managerial position. A few years later, a friend who worked in a bank encouraged him to apply. Vaughn became a senior credit manager at Wells Fargo, where he fell in love with banking. He then pursued an executive MBA in organizational management from Syracuse University.
Continuing his banking career at SunTrust and US Bank, he managed the Bearden office in Knoxville and became the diversity and inclusion manager for the region. That’s where he found the nexus of his love of community and service to others. “I realized this type of work taps into my skill set and passions.”
In 2016, Vaughn accepted an opportunity to work for the City of Knoxville under Mayor Madeline Rogero as executive director of the police advisory and review committee. The committee’s job was to investigate incidents between officers and civilians when the civilian had filed a complaint. The role was a big switch from his previous banking career and included training on law enforcement, criminal justice, and the judicial process. During his four years at the City of Knoxville, Vaughn also worked to build community programs that support and mentor young people.
Joining Haslam in 2020, Vaughn brought myriad skills to his new role. “My experience serving in the community makes me passionate about bridging cultural gaps between people on campus, and between the college and the surrounding region,” he says. “I enjoy finding ways to encourage faculty, staff, and students to get involved in the community.”
Vaughn appreciates the broad reach of his role at Haslam, but says helping students is the most fulfilling aspect. “I love getting to be involved in planting seeds early through our summer programs such as Business Education for Talented Students (BETS). Some of those students will be the first in their families to go to college, and we get the chance to engage with them on campus and encourage them. That’s extremely rewarding.”