YPK Member Spotlight

Mary Virginia Ireland

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Mary Virginia was born in Atlanta, Georgia but has lived all over the southeastern United States. She attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia where she received her bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education. She continued her studies at The University of Alabama where she received her master's degree in Higher Education Administration. Currently, she works at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the Tickle College of Engineering as an academic advisor. On evenings and weekends, she works at Ta'Vie Boutique in Turkey Creek as a stylist and sales associate. She also enjoys volunteering once a week at Centro Hispano where she teaches English to Latino adults. In her free time, she loves to exercise, read, spend time with friends and family, travel, and try out local dining hotspots.

What makes you unique?

As the daughter of a minister, I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and travel to many different countries. My ability to speak two languages and interact with people who are different from me makes me unique. I have the ability to connect with others and create community wherever I go. In all I do, I try to be a light and bring a sense of joy, humor, and comfort to those around me.

How do you bring your unique perspective to YPK?

I strive to bring my unique perspective to YPK. At my jobs and at Centro Hispano, I am constantly in contact with many different people. Therefore, I try to reveal the various communities within Knoxville to YPK and how we can better serve and include those communities in all that we do. I believe this perspective also guides my role on the YPK Marketing Committee and in the YPK Leadership Certificate Course. 

What are you passionate about?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very passionate individual, sometimes too passionate! As a higher education professional, I am passionate about student advocacy and ensuring that all students have the resources they need to be successful not only at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but our world. As a professional stylist, I am passionate about helping every client that walks through the doors of Ta'Vie feel good about themselves and is able to express themselves through their clothing. Personally, I am very passionate about serving the Latino community. Outside of teaching ESL, I love attending events in Knoxville that showcase the Latino culture such at the HoLa Festival. I am also very passionate about Star Wars. I am such a nerd when it comes to this franchise and could discuss the films and theory for hours. Lastly, I am very passionate about travel. I have been to over 23 countries and countless states in the US. When I travel, I feel a sense of connection to the greater world and admire the various cultures and traditions. 

Randy Miller


Randy grew up in a small town in the mountains of Western North Carolina. He attended college at East Tennessee State University, where he majored in engineering technology and minored in business management. After college he started working for Lisega Inc., a company that specializes in piping systems for nuclear and commercial power plants. In his spare time, Randy has been taking on some entrepreneurial roles including starting his own excavation business, real estate development and operating a wedding venue.

What makes you unique?

I’m no different than anyone else. I have been blessed and fortunate to live in a place where I can become anything I want. Growing up in a small town is where I learned the importance of family values, faith, patriotism, and work ethic. I still try to live by these values to this day. It’s not easy starting up your own businesses while working a full time job but I do it because I love what I do. Being passionate about everything I do in life has made me who I am today and not allowed me to give up on my dreams. I do enjoy the smaller things in life though such as going on hikes, hitting the gym, Thai food, and bingeing Game of Thrones.

How do you bring your unique perspective to YPK?

Being in YPK has given me a great opportunity to meet other professionals in a variety of fields. I think by having different work backgrounds in both an office setting and out in the field can help inspire others who may be looking to have a little “side job” but not sure where to begin. I love meeting new people and learning about their passions in life.

What do you love about living and working in Knoxville?

I have been in Knoxville for nearly four years now and its been a great experience so far.  It’s a much larger city than the place I grew up but it still has that small town feel. I have been able to meet some great people here and the culture here wonderful.  In my opinion, there is no better place to work than in Knoxville. It’s such a growing area and has tons of potential for more and I hope to contribute to that growth.


Desiree Wakefield

Desiree was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and graduated from Ishpeming High School. She then moved on to receive her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Northern Michigan University. She and her husband packed their belongings and moved to Knoxville just three months after graduating college with no real direction or reason. They've been in Knoxville for two and half years and absolutely love it. Desiree currently works for the Hyatt Place Knoxville Downtown as sales manager. She works everyday to build her network and business community. She enjoys running and adventuring in the outdoors with friends and her sweet fur baby, Lady Bird. She is passionate about making a difference in other's lives and enjoys life each and every day!

What makes you unique and how do you bring your unique perspective to YPK?

What makes me unique? My ability to find light in every situation and my willingness to put myself out there. YPK is the perfect opportunity to build relationships. It is important that everyone who is a part of YPK takes advantage of this. I am always striving to help people as well myself develop professionally, personally and socially. I feel as though YPK gives us the ability to do just that!

What was the last experience that you grew from or made you a better person?

I would say that moving to Knoxville has been the greatest leap that I've taken thus far. It was a whole new world moving 15 hours from everything that I knew. I knew not a single person in Knoxville but managed to figure it out by putting myself out there and working hard. I am developing into the person that I've always wanted to be in my job and in my community and I've never been happier!