She remembers wearing a little UT cheerleading outfit as a kid, cheering on her favorite team from her home in Dayton, Tenn.
Now that little girl from Dayton is all grown up, and instead of a cheerleader's uniform, Katie Arnold sports the homecoming crown.
"It's very humbling and a big honor since I'm such a big Volunteer fan," said the nursing major and newly crowned Miss Homecoming. "It's great to be able to represent the university."
As a close friend of Arnold, Keri Bowerman, fellow senior in nursing, saw Arnold's anticipation build throughout homecoming week. At Saturday's game, Bowerman had a great view of Arnold's reaction to winning.
"It was amazing ... you could just see pure joy on her face. She was really proud to represent UT as Miss Homecoming," Bowerman said.
Arnold has been a Vol fan her whole life, and UT was the only school she applied to.
"It was always the plan to come to the big state school," she said. "When I came on my tour I just knew it was the perfect fit."
And Arnold has fit into the volunteer tradition with ease. Volunteering with the Knoxville YWCA and the Knoxville Family Justice Center with her free time, she focuses on serving those who have suffered domestic violence. The work ties into her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, which supports the victims of domestic violence.
Arnold's dedication to service inspires UT alumna and Alpha Chi chapter advisor Betsy Pickle.
"Her fire for community service, whether it's campus or the greater Knoxville community, is just very heartening to see in a young person," Pickle said.
As the president of Alpha Chi, Arnold was heavily involved in this year's homecoming competition, a competition which Alpha Chi won in partnership with the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi.
"It's been a joy to work with her over the past year and see how she is able to light a fire," Pickle said. "She's very positive about UT life in general and Greek life in particular, and I think she's a great example of a Greek leader on campus."
Even as Greek life and community service keep Arnold busy, she still manages to thrive in the College of Nursing. Katie McCay, director of students services for the College of Nursing, elaborated on Arnold's commitment to her major.
"She's a very dedicated nursing student," McCay said. "She gave up her spring break to provide healthcare services to a lot of people who really don't have access to them."
The spring break McCay mentioned, a service trip to Costa Rica, was not the only Alternative Break Arnold has participated in. After attending an Alternative Fall Break trip as an underclassman, Arnold has served as a trip coordinator for the past two years.
Upon graduating in the spring, Arnold hopes to stick around Knoxville.
"I plan on staying and working at a local hospital. In about two years, I plan on going back to get my master's degree and become a nurse practitioner," Arnold said.
In the meanwhile, Arnold will serve as Miss Homecoming, a role that Pickle sees as more than just a title.
"What they look for in the Miss Homecoming is someone who represents the best of UT female students, someone who excels academically and through community service," she said. "But I think there's also something about personality ... there is no one with more enthusiasm or spirit or heart than Katie Arnold. She has an amazing love for UT — it's extraordinary."