Category: Environment

Abomination to Advocation

Reverend Alaina Cobb has experienced hate from a young age due to her identity. After seeing what the culture she was raised in looked like, she knew she had to do something. Her activism grows from her experiences growing up, but mostly from her children, fueling her to fight for others and their ability to be “fully human.”  As a mother, as a reverend, and as a fighter, Alaina Cobb is changing the world around her.

Meet the Storytellers

Allie Schrenker

Allie Schrenker is a committed athlete majoring in Communication and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with plans to graduate in May 2019. She is an international rugby player and an editor for UTC’s literary journal. She is currently pursuing a career in photojournalism and can be reached at


Samantha Sargent

Samantha Sargent is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Originally from Memphis, TN, she came to Chattanooga to study Communication and Sociology. Sargent wishes to use this degree to pursue a career in digital media. Contact her at

Princess Petrus

Princess Petrus is a junior at UT Chattanooga studying Communication and Spanish. She enjoys photojournalism and uses her skill to convey social problems through visual images. Petrus has a passion for learning other people’s stories and aims to connect with those around her. Contact her at rkt446@mocs.utc.


Katie Raabe

Katie Raabe is a Communication major and International Studies minor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga planning to graduate in May 2019. With a focus in Creative Writing, Katie is passionate about people and telling their stories in expressive and visual forms. Contact her at



To Continue the Mission

The 33rd anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle accident was January 28th. Wife of the late Commander Dick Scobee, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, and their daughter Kathie Scobee Fulgham, remember this day with peace and find power in making huge efforts to further the mission of the Challenger. It’s about keeping the fallen astronauts memory’s alive.

Kathie Scobee Fulgam (left) and June Scobee Rogers (right) pose for a portrait on February 10, 2019. (photo by Jessica Boggs)

For Dr. Rodgers, living during the age of space exploration has shaped her views on the importance of NASA. She remembers the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon and waking her children up in their South Carolina home that night so that they, too, could witness history.

“That was the most marvelous thing that could have happened in our country with the space program”, she said. “It became a wonderful part of history”.

Kathie Scobee Fulgam shows golden Apollo 11 coin on February 10, 2019. (photo by Jessica Boggs)

Fulgham is a board member of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, a foundation that, among many things, recognized two major space exploration events with customized coins. The first coin manufactured was in remembrance of the Apollo 11 landing. It is a completely unique style.

 “It’s concave and has two sides. On one side the helmet of an astronaut looking out and seeing the American Flag is pictured, the way the astronauts saw it. On the other side is the very first footprint on the moon” Fulgham describes.

The coin has a larger purpose than to just be a collector’s item. Each time a coin is purchased, the funds are split into three areas: the Smithsonian receives half, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation receives a quarter, and the Astronauts Scholarship Foundation receives a quarter. The first day the Apollo 11 coin was released, it raised $31 million in funds.

 There will soon be a second coin, this time in honor of the Challenger crew.

 “It’s a celebration of everything mankind has done to get here”, said Fulgham.

The day of the Challenger accident is one that most people will never forget. For the families of the crew, this is an especially daunting day.

“Numbness. Numb. Just quiet. We just wept”, said Dr. Rodgers about witnessing the event. “It was tragic to our family. It was tragic to the nation. All the world knew.”

After losing their beloved husband and father, Commander Dick Scobee, these two women took it upon themselves to do something about it rather than dwell on the sadness.

“My priority was to continue education and further the mission NASA had begun”, said Rodgers. “We wanted people to remember how they lived. What they were willing to risk their lives for. Not just how they died.”

25 years and 25 centers later the Challenger Center at UT-Chattanooga was built as the first to be built on a college campus. Chattanooga is also the first home of the Micronaut program for children.

Leader of the mission, Cary Garrett, helps the team successfully run their simulated mission in space. (Photo by Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel)

“There’s a lot to be said about this University of Tennessee”, Rodgers said. Dr. Perry Storey is the director of UTC’s very own Challenger Center. He hopes the efforts of the Challenger Center help students gain an interest in space exploration. By hosting children’s field trips, private tours, and allowing UTC students to come and go, Dr. Storey and his colleagues keep the memory of the Challenger alive.

The control room where teams work together to have a successful mission in space. (Photo by Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel)

Dr. Storey said, “A new generation means a new generation of technology. The students of today will be the ones to do more exploration in space.”

The Challenger Centers promote interest in space exploration, in hopes to raise the next generation of people interested in science.

“I’m so proud of the students and educators for being inspired by our centers” Dr. Rodgers said.

We have Dr. Rodgers, Mrs. Fulgham, and directors of Challenger Centers like Dr. Storey to thank for bringing the Challenger Center program to life.

Meet the Storytellers

Jessica Boggs

Jessica Boggs, Senior at UTC, is graduating this May with a degree in Communication and a minor in International Relations. Jessica is an experienced photojournalist and graphic designer. She is passionate about speaking for those without a voice through the lens of a camera. Contact Jessica at

Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel

Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel is an artistic photographer who focuses on weddings, elopements, and portraits. She loves the 1970s and country music and incorporates those styles into her photographs. Johnny Cash is among her favorites. Her work is displayed on and she can be contacted at

Lauren Justice

Lauren Justice is a senior at UTC, majoring in Communication. She is experienced in marketing, journalistic writing, public relations, and design. After graduation, she wants to continue working for her current company, Red Bull, by transferring to the culture department. Contact her at

Marielle Echavez

Marielle Echavez is a junior pursuing a degree in Communication and a minor in Psychology. She manages her own branch of custom apparel on campus. She has a passion for videography and being creative. She plans to pursue video production post-graduation. Contact her at

Climbing in Chattanooga

Caleb Timmerman attempts “Rustoleum” (V6) at the Upper Middle Creek boulders on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. (Photo by Elian Richter)

Climbing has been a part of Chattanooga since the 80’s, but Rob Robinson’s discovery of the Tennessee Wall put the city on the radar of climbers around the nation. In the past five years, the climbing scene in Chattanooga has experienced a surge in its popularity.

Outdoor hobby magazines such as Outside Magazine and Climbing Magazine recognized this boom in attention.  In 2015, Climbing magazine coined Chattanooga, “America’s new climbing capitol.”

Climbers nationally have noticed the endless amounts of climbing that Chattanooga offers and are moving here to pursue it.

Matthew Waits attempts to climb a route named “Jahreusalem” (5.13b) at Deep Creek. Waits was accompanied by his belayer Ethan Ibach and his friend Erin Flettrich on Saturday, September 8, 2018. (Photo by Elian Richter)

According to Chattanooga Climbing Impact Report, climbers had a total economic impact of $694,055 in Hamilton County. Additionally, 16,565 non-resident climbers visited Chattanooga in the 2015-2016 season.

“The influx of climbers is constantly outweighing the exodus of climbers in Chattanooga,” said Mike O’mara, a sales representative at High Point Climbing and experienced traditional style climber. O’mara previously lived in Illinois and would drive eight hours with the sole intent of climbing in Chattanooga. After frequent weekend excursions, he decided to make the leap to move.

“The climbing here was definitely a big factor in why I moved because it’s just that great,” said O’mara.

There are two main contributors to a great climbing environment, the rock composition and accessibility, and Chattanooga checks both of those boxes.

In this region the rock is sandstone, which has a soft but gritty texture like a fine grain sandpaper, and lends itself to better climbing.

“Chattanooga is a great place for climbing for several reasons, the sheer abundance of rock here which allows for new routes and cliff lines to be developed constantly,”said O’Mara. “The rock quality and composition is some of the best in country as far as density and hardness.”

Matthew Waits attempts to climb a route named “Jahreusalem” (5.13b) at Deep Creek. Waits made it to the end of the climb but took a few falls along the way on Saturday, September 8, 2018. (Photo by Elian Richter)

Although rock composition is a major factor for a climbing, accessibility is just as important.

Phil Purney, rock climber of 20 years and local climber of 10,  shed some light on what makes Chattanooga rock climbing unique to anywhere else. “It’s a fun small city, where in just a few minutes, I can be outside, out in the woods,” said Purney. “The access is not common. It’s world class convenient climbing.” Purney specializes in sport climbing, a style that emphasizes moderate to tall climbs ranging from 30ft to 120ft with a few pre-placed bolts in the wall to attach a rope to in case of a fall.

Drew Mayo is a local climber that is recognized for developing much of the Upper Middle Creek bouldering area, located on Signal Mountain. When asked about what makes Chattanooga a great climbing city Mayo said, “It’s the proximity to some of the greatest quality stone and some of the most loved stone.”

Mayo said that when he originally began developing the area, he didn’t intend on telling anyone else about his discovery, but later changed his mind and began spreading the word of this new spot.

“At first it was a selfish pursuit and then it turned into “I want to enjoy this with my friends,” said Mayo. “Only for so long can you sit there in the woods and be alone and enjoy something. Nature’s really enjoyable, but when you don’t have anyone to share it with it kinda feels a little empty.”

Although the future of Chattanooga is uncertain, the climbing community will continue to grow and evolve.


Climber Profile-Drew Mayo

Drew Mayo begins a workout on gymnastic rings in the upstairs training area of a climbing gym on Sunday, September 16, 2018. (Photo by Elian Richter)

Drew Mayo is a local rock climber and dedicated developer of climbing areas in Chattanooga. The Upper Middle Creek boulders on Signal Mountain are one of the most notable areas he has helped to establish.

There are several steps that go into the process of developing a rock climbing area; his first step is to look at and examine the rock.

    “I’d usually just sit there maybe five minutes in front of the rock by myself, just looking and wondering, ‘Can I use that?’, ‘Can I grab on to that?” said Mayo. “If I did end up finding something that was usable, I would take my brush and I would try to clean off any of the lichen or moss.”

Mayo said that since the Cumberland Plateau is home to the world’s largest hardwood plateau forest, the leaf and branch buildup on these rocks can be extremely dense and take extensive amounts of time to clean.

“Usually it was like a two, three day process because once you clean all the leaves and dirt off the top, you throw that to the side, you throw that away, and usually it’s wet,” said Mayo. “So you get all the moss off and the holds that you saw, the incuts and such, they’d be soaking wet; and if you know climbing, you’re not supposed climb on wet sandstone because that’s when it becomes fragile and can break really easily.”

Mayo said at that point, he would have to wait a day, or sometimes several, until the rock was dry enough to be able to try the climb he’d worked so hard to clean.

There are still many undiscovered places around Chattanooga for climbing, said Mayo, and he already has a new location in mind to start developing this fall.



About the Storytellers

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Abby Ray

Abby Ray, a senior at UTC studying Communications and Business Administration, is from Memphis, Tennessee. She currently works as an intern at Delegator, which is a digital advertising agency in Chattanooga. A few of Ray’s passions are working out, watching the Memphis Grizzlies and scrolling through twitter.



Elian Richter

Elian Richter is an climbing instructor and action photographer. Elian works at High Point Climbing gym as a certified instructor and as a backup photographer. He now combines the skills learned from climbing with the skills he’s acquired in photography to do photo shoots for climbers and outdoors enthusiasts.



Ayriel Ayers

Ayriel Ayers is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She’s skilled in photography, human development, and public relations. As the NAACP President, Resident Assistant for UTC housing, and a Community Service and Membership Development Chairwoman for her sorority, her leadership and positivity characteristics continually pointed her to success.



Copyright 2018, Rising Rock Media, all rights reserved.

Get These Darn Kids Outside!

Julie Novak carries a bag of litter through the forest of Prentice Cooper State Park
Julie Novak carries a bag of litter through the forest of Prentice Cooper State Park. This was part of a TenneSEA sponsored student trash clean up on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. (Photo by: Benjamin Wilt)

In today’s age of increasing dissonance related to environmental issues, it can be hard to advocate for widespread policy and lifestyle changes. Julie Novak, who works for a clean water advocate group called TenneSEA, has noticed this disparity and is doing her part to influence the future by getting kids from local public schools excited about keeping the environment clean, and getting them involved.

Continue reading “Get These Darn Kids Outside!”

The Steward

The Steward tells the story of cavers working to preserve the Steward Spring cave following incidents of vandalism.

About the Storyteller

The Steward was created by Chris Halleen. This video was made in COMM 4800, Directed Project, during the Spring 2017 semester.

Chris Hallen received a BA in Communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in summer 2017.

Copyright 2017, Chris Halleen, all rights reserved.