The best are getting better.

Founded in 2008 through a gift from Knoxville's own Haslam family, the Haslam Scholars Program (HSP) is a highly competitive program that admits 15 students from every incoming class. The scholarship program pays for all tuition, fees and books and also provides funds for research, study abroad and technology.

In only its third graduating class, two Scholars are primed to earn international prestige for the HSP.

Brianna Rader has earned finalist status for the Marshall Scholarship and semi-finalist status for the Mitchell Scholarship, and classmate Lindsay Lee has earned finalist status for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Although both seniors still face rigorous interviews, Rader said the HSP prepared her.

"We are expected to excel in our classes, complete research and an honors thesis, and apply for nationally competitive opportunities," Rader, a senior in the College Scholars program, said.

Rader, who has spearheaded the UT Sex Week movement, plans to work in public health and explained the international opportunities afforded by the potential scholarships.

"The Marshall Scholarship would allow me to study for two years in the UK to get an master's degree in global health at UCL (University College London) and a master's degree in health systems & public policy at The University of Edinburgh," she said.

Lindsay Lee, a member of the HSP senior class majoring in math and Spanish, will interview in late November in hopes of becoming only the third Rhodes Scholar from UT in the last 85 years. The scholarship funds two years of graduate education at the University of Oxford.

"It's a total honor and complete surprise to be chosen even as just a finalist for this award," Lee said. "To think that I'm in the same situation as people like Bill Clinton and Rachel Maddow once were is astounding."

Before either Rader or Lee ever competed for scholarships like the Rhodes or the Marshall, they competed for the Haslam Scholarship.

Acceptance is a lengthy process, as a selection committee narrows UT's best applicants into a pool of 60 students. Only 30 finalists are invited to campus for personal interviews, where they must prove their potential to earn a place in the program.

"The weekend consisted of interviews, dinners, a particularly nerve-wracking session where you were asked one question in front of the entire committee and all the other finalists, and even a game night," Bryson Lype, a freshman Haslam Scholar in political science, said.

The 15 students chosen as Haslam Scholars receive a personal invitation to the program from a member of the Haslam family before embarking on their collegiate career. For their first four semesters, these students take a core curriculum together, studying Research for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, Foundations of Modernity, Energy in the Modern World and Perspectives on Globalization. During the summer after their sophomore year, the classmates travel to another country. Last year's class spent three weeks in Costa Rica studying biodiversity, and this year the class of 2016 will travel to Scotland.

"These classes are meant to orient us to the world," Rader said. "The classes focus on what it means to be a part of our globalized society."

Rader said she was able to study at Yale University's Summer Institute for Bioethics and research concussions and Hepatitis B thanks to connections and perks from the HSP.

In addition to academic pursuits, HSP students are required to complete a service-learning project during their third year.

"Service is also a component to the HSP because we are expected to give back to the community that gave each of us so much," Rader said.

Lee said that her involvement with the program has also impacted her personal life.

"Most important, I think, is the fact that HSP has allowed me to form long-lasting relationships with the other scholars in the program, who are all amazingly brilliant and driven," Lee said. "They're some of my best friends and will be for the rest of my life."