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All posts by Leigh Shoemaker

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Emily earned an MS in counseling with a concentration in the Mental Health Counseling program in 2009. Originally from Irmo, SC, she now lives in Knoxville, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Outpatient Clinician
Helen Ross McNabb Therapy Center
Knoxville, TN

The Therapy Center provides individual and family services including trauma related treatment for individuals of all ages, in particular survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as other forms of abuse and neglect. I provide therapy for the child and adolescent referrals. I also coordinate the services provided under the Project Against the Sexual Abuse of Appalachian Children (PASAAC) grant we receive through United Way, which includes the facilitation of a psycho-educational support group for Non-Offending Parents and caregivers of children who have been sexually abused and other forms of community outreach.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student

I presented with Marianne Woodside and other selected students “It’s all about me: Viewing adolescent challenges through case studies” at the Smoky Mountain Counseling Association conference in September of 2008. I also served as secretary of Chi Sigma Iota in April of 2008 – 2009.

Accomplishments since Graduating

I recently participated in the “Child Sexual Abuse-Awareness, Prevention, and Response” video through my work with the Community Coalition to Protect Children, which was created by the Knox County School District to be used for training purposes with the Knox County School teachers.

Personal Interests

I love watching football, do it yourself projects, being outside and spending time with my dog, Folly. I got married to a good ole Tennessee boy at the end of October, and we hope to eventually re-locate to Charleston, SC with the rest of my family.

What sold you on this program?

What initially sold me on this program was the fact that the focus was on mental health counseling, instead of “community counseling” which was the title given to the degree at the other universities I was considering. I also realized that while it was a longer program, I was going to graduate fully prepared and certified to start my career as a counselor. However, I have to say that more important than what sold me on the program was what kept me in the program, which was the family type atmosphere created with the other individuals in my cohort, and the belief that the professors truly cared about me and wanted me to succeed.

What do you think was the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

I think that the most rewarding/challenging part of the program was finding and defining myself as an individual, as well as a mental health counselor. It can be quite the daunting task to examine and challenge personally held beliefs and values, however it is a necessary task in order for one to develop a sense of self and where this self fits into the counseling profession.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

I thought I would be working with adults at this point in my career, in particular criminal offenders because in school that was where my interests lay. I thought that I could never work with children because it would just be too hard. However, my job led me to families which ultimately caused my supervisor and myself to come to the conclusion that I have an uncanny ability to reach and work with children. I am glad that the program provided me with enough education and sense to see that children and adolescents who have experienced abuse and neglect was my true calling, many of whom without the help face a higher probability of turning to a life of crime.

There is a certain sense of pride you feel when you come across another person who has been through the program, and the question that usually follows is “Spurgeon, Diambra, or Cochran?”

The Professional Orientation and Ethics poster presentation session is on November 15th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the second floor Claxton Atrium.

MS students from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling programs will present of the following topics: Confidentiality for Minors in K-12 Schools, Implications of Reporting Child Abuse on the Therapeutic Relationship, B.2.C. and HIV Ethics and Effectiveness of Online Counseling, and Ethical and Legal Implications of Counseling Through End-of-Life Decisions.

R. Steve McCallum, professor in School Psychology, was one of eight honored with the 2016 Alumni of Distinction Award by the University of Georgia (UGA) Graduate School.

McCallum was recognized for co-founding and acting as consulting editor for the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, serving as an officer in school psychology organization at the state and national level, and being elected as a Fellow of the American Psychology Association.

McCallum,Steve_1“Receiving the Alumni of Distinction Award from UGA is very special. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate the start I received at UGA; the education was excellent, and I was fortunate to establish lifelong friends and co-workers while a student there. To know that the university also appreciates my contributions provides amazing validation of my work and the efforts from excellent students and colleagues who collaborated with me over the years. This recognition would not have occurred with their strong commitment to shared goals and outcomes.”

The UGA Graduate School explains that recipients of this award must be recognized in their professional fields at the regional, national, and international levels as evidenced by publications and awards received, served as mentors and role models in their profession, and contributed to their local and global communities.


Learning Environments &
Educational Studies

Ashlee earned a PhD in education with a concentration in the Learning Environments and Educational Studies program in 2014. Originally from Clarksville, TN, she now lives in Knoxville, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling
College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville, TN

I coordinate CSE 200: Survey of International Education. This is an undergraduate course that fulfills a general education culture and civilization requirement.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student

I was able to present A LOT as a student, and some of those presentations became publications. That really helped me to develop a solid research trajectory.

Accomplishments since Graduating

I was able to parlay my graduate teaching associate position into my current work, which I love. I’ve found that teaching and working with undergraduates has been really fulfilling, and I count those relationships as major accomplishments.

Personal Interests

I have a three-year-old, so that takes up quite a bit of my time! I also enjoy stand-up comedy and live music.

What do you think was the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

I think the faculty with whom I was able to work were outstanding, particularly my advisor and mentor, Barbara Thayer-Bacon. She was (and is) an incredible advocate, whose insight made the whole program rewarding.

What would you tell an incoming/current student in the program/department?

As for advice for potential/current students, try to learn how to say “no.” I remember committing to so many projects that, when it came time for the dissertation, I was swamped (not to mention caring for a little one).

What was the most memorable experience during your time here?

I’d say that my most memorable experiences involved my work with my peers. We formed a really tight-knit group that has carried me through a lot of challenging work. Finding humor with friends through the stress and fatigue was invaluable.

Adult Learning

Sara is currently seeking her PhD in educational psychology and research, with a concentration in the Adult Learning program. Originally from Tehran, Iran, she received her BA in English literature and MA in educational psychology from Allameh Tabatabaei University and joined UT Knoxville in 2013. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • Travis Hawk Fellowship, Educational Psychology and Counseling Department, University of Tennessee, for outstanding academic credentials and success in academic journey. $1000. 2015
  • Alexander N. Charters Adult Education Research Grant-in-Aid, Syracuse University. Co-principal investigator with G. Ruttencutter. Grant awarded to conduct archival research for Exploring the intersection of adult education and critical theory. $1,850. 2014


Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2016). Action comes first and foremost in Iran. 4th Action Research Network of the Americas Conference. Knoxville, Tennessee.

Simarasl, N. & Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2015). How Self-directed are Iranian Women Entrepreneurs? Global Issues Conference: International Women’s Rights. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2015). Self-directed learning and brain executive functions. 29th International Self-Directed Learning Symposium. Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. & Ruttencutter, G. S. (2014). From Russia with Love. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Ziegler, M., Ferris, E. J., Overton, M. D., Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. & Ruttencutter, G. S. (2014). Live Online: Possibilities and Pitfalls of Synchronous Online Teaching and Learning. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Overton, M. D., Bailey, A., Nasrollahian Mojarad, S., Seidler, A. E. & Shih, C. K. (2014). Jump-Starting Self-Directedness in Adult Learning Using Mobile Apps. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S., & Tullier, J. D. (2014). Self-Directed Learning and Cognitive and Metacognitive Capabilities in Adult Learners. 28th International Self-Directed Learning Symposium, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Nasrollahian Mojaran, S. (2015). Book Review. [Review of the book Adult learning: Linking theory and practice.] Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 63(1), Spring, 67-68.

Current Occupation

Graduate Research Assistant
Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Personal Interests

I enjoy watching movies and following on my country’s cinema. My other favorite non-academic activity is to record my voice while reading books every mornings in order to send it to my dear ones back home.

As the oldest and only daughter of the family, I have a lot of responsibilities in regard to my parents and brothers that I take care of them even from here, that is thousands of miles away from home. This long distance hasn’t been able to undermine my care and love for the ones who are inseparable parts of my heart and identity and I am even more deeply connected to them from my new home.

Future/Vocational Goals

I am a social activist at this time and I will definitely preserve this social identity in my future profession and processes.

My goal is to become a faculty and researcher in the future and I want my students to identify me as a researcher and then an educator.

What is the best tidbit/find you have about UT/Knoxville?

I started my journey as a PhD student and also in the United States in Knoxville and I am so happy with my experience here. Knoxville is a beautiful city with kind and precious people who were very welcoming from the very first day I entered the city and made me feel at home. This was also true about UT Knoxville, as I could conveniently settle down and adapt to the new system and academic environment that I was in.

What do you think has been the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

I owe much of my accomplishments here to my supportive and understanding adviser, Ralph Brockett, my lovely and wholehearted best friend, Gwen Ruttentcutter, and all of the considerate and appreciative faculty members and colleagues from whom I have learned a lot. My most important take away from this program will be the confidence that it gave me through its learner-centered approach to teaching and learning. I am now much more self-reliant than the beginning of my journey and have taken important steps in developing my academic and consequently social identity so far.