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All posts by Sarah Bennett


The Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling is pleased to announce newest faculty member, Patricia Higgins. Dr. Higgins will serve as Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Master’s in Educational Psychology degree beginning June 1, 2022.

Dr. Higgins joins the department with a twenty-year background in International Education. She most recently served as the International Admissions Specialist for Pellissippi State Community College and as Adjunct Instructor for the University of Tennessee Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling.Graphic that says "Welcome to the Team, Patricia Higgins, PhD" and includes a headshot of Dr. Higgins.

Dr. Higgins earned a PhD in Educational Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research Methods in Education from the University of Tennessee in 2019. Additionally, she holds certification in English Language Teaching Leadership Management from TESOL and was awarded the Friends of Educational Psychology & Counseling Research Grant in 2019.

Upon the distinguished retirement this summer of current Ed Psych Online Co-Coordinator, Dr. Cathy Hammon, Dr. Higgins will assume the role of Ed Psych Online Co-Coordinator.

Dr. Higgins is passionate about applying her extensive experience and research to the EdPsych Online graduate program at the University of Tennessee.

Dr. Higgins lives in East Tennessee with her partner, Matthew, and fur-kids. She enjoys gardening for pollinators, watching classic films, and soaking in the beautiful East Tennessee outdoors.

The Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling is honored to gain Dr. Patricia Higgins on its team.

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The Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling is pleased to welcome newest faculty member, Hyunhee Kim.

Kim joins the department as an Assistant Professor, and will teach courses in School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Counselor Education beginning in fall 2022. Profile photo of Hyunhee Kim, PhD, newest faculty member of the Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling

Kim earned a dual major BA in Education & Ethics Education from Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea in 2003, as well as a Master’s in Educational Counseling from Seoul National University in 2008. A PhD in Counselor Education will be awarded from The Pennsylvania State University (CACREP-accredited) in 2022.

Kim holds additional certifications as a Professional Counselor from The Korea Counseling Association, and School Counseling and Teaching Certificates from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Korean Ministry of Education. She was named the 2018 “Emerging Leader” by the NARACES, and received the “Exemplary Doctoral Research & Practice Award” from the AARC in 2020.

Hyunhee’s research primarily focuses on the role of relationships in educational settings. “I am particularly interested in developmental assets and protective factors that help students thrive, regardless of the adversities they may encounter.”

Hyunhee credits her upbringing on the beautiful Jeju Island, South Korea, for her deeply instilled values of “peace, collaboration, and adaptability,” which she looks forward to contributing as a Tennessee Volunteer and leader. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her family, practicing yoga and meditation, and enjoying music.

The Department of Educational Psychology & Counseling is honored to gain Hyunhee Kim on its team.

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Leia Cain

Educational Psychology & Counseling’s Dr. Leia Cain, Assistant Professor of Evaluation, Statistics & Methodology, discussed some of her research on February 9 in the first virtual lecture of a series hosted by The Commission for LGBT People and the UT Pride Center.

Leia Cain, an Assistant Professor for the Educational Psychology & Counseling PhD Program in Evaluation, Statistics & Measurement, kicked off the UT Pride Center’s latest lecture series on February 9 with a compelling talk entitled, “Spilling the (Sweet) Tea: How Southern U.S. Queer Students Thrive in Icy University Climates.”

Cain holds a PhD from the University of South Carolina. Her current research focuses on “LGBTQ+ Student and Faculty Experiences in Higher Education.”Photo of a mason jar filled with sweet tea and a straw, set on an outdoor table.

Among the topics discussed in the lecture, Cain shared her recent research on the positive and negative experiences of LGBTQ+ students and faculty in Southern culture, and how institutions can be more inclusive.

For more information about this lecture, and to register for upcoming lectures, visit the UT Pride Center in the Student Union, room 373, M-F 8am-5pm.

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Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), Loidaly González-Rosario (she/her/ella) received her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in August, 2021.

Headshot of Counselor Education Alum, Loidaly González-Rosario

Dr. González-Rosario recently graduated from the CACREP-accredited Counselor Education PhD program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is now serving as an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Grief, Loss & Trauma and a second Graduate Certificate in International Children, Youth and Families from the University of Tennessee.

She received her MS in Counselor Education from Florida International University in 2016, and her BS in Elementary Education, with ESOL Endorsement, from Florida International University in 2013.

Loidaly is from Miami, Florida, and is fluent in Spanish and English.

Her passion is for “social justice advocacy, community action, and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse students in the public school system.”

“I use the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies to ground my work. I strive to uplift the voices of youth and families in research and advocate for families across systems.”

Loidaly was an active volunteer at the CentroHispano de East Tennessee during her studies in Knoxville, for which she led the development of a youth mentorship program, and created a bilingual mental health resource guide of language-accessible services in East TN.

She was the recipient of the National Board of Certified Counselor’s Minority Fellowship in 2019, which is awarded to a doctoral student to “increase the impact of service to marginalized populations. Loidaly has also been the recipient of the SACES Emerging Leaders award in 2020-2022, as well as other distinguished awards and fellowships.

Loidaly enjoys gardening, reading, crafting, and hanging out with her “fur-babies” in her spare time. Looking for great food when studying in Knoxville? Loidaly recommends Sticky Rice Cafe and La Herradura.

The Educational Psychology & Counseling Department at the University of Tennessee is extremely proud to be apart of the scholarly journeys of its students, like Loidaly, and will continue to follow Dr. González-Rosario’s endeavors with enthusiasm.


Full Interview:

Degree/Program/Concentration

PhD Counselor Education, 2021              

Hometown

Miami, FL

Awards, Accomplishments, Publications, etc. you would like to share

Most Notable are the National Board of Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program and the Counselor Education & Supervision Fellow

Current Occupation or Career Goals

Currently an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University in Asheville, NC

Would you like to share your hobbies and personal interests with us?

Gardening, Reading, and Crafting are some of my joys in life. Also, snuggles with my fur babies!

Tell us about your research interests

My work centers around social justice advocacy, community action, and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse students in the public school system. I use the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies to ground my work. I strive to uplift the voices of youth and families in research and advocate for families across systems.

What is something you love/loved doing in the Knoxville area, or a restaurant you would recommend?

Knoxville is such a unique place to live! Some of my favorite things to do was connection with small non-profits like Centro Hispano de East TN and volunteering my time for the benefit of the entire community! Also, some great restaurants to try out are Sticky Rice and La Herradura! They were monthly, and sometimes weekly staples to my survival in grad school.


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2021 Educational Psychology & Research graduate, Dr. John Walker, took time to tell us about his research and experience in the Evaluation, Statistics, and Methodology PhD program, and shared some advice for incoming graduate students.

Profile Photo of John Walker, ESM graduate

John graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology and Research in the fall of 2021. He studied under the Evaluation, Statistics, and Methodology concentration, with his dissertation research being the first of its kind to focus on differential item functioning (DIF) under a multidimensional graded response model framework. “DIF,” says John, “is important to detect in instruments like surveys because it could tell us if an item is bias toward one or more groups, which in turn tells us about the validity of the instrument, a backbone of instrument development.”

By studying three different approaches to psychometric analysis of DIF — classical test theory, item response theory, and factor analysis — Dr. Walker’s study “showed that under different circumstances (e.g., how many participants completed the instrument), one method may be preferred over another…Depending on what’s most essential for an instrumental developer or psychometrician, they’ll now know which approach is best to use to determine if their multidimensional graded repose model instrument contains biased items.”

John also holds a Master of Policy Studies from the University of Sydney, and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Grand Valley State University.

Currently, John is working in the roles of Psychometrician for Illuminate Education, and part-time Lecturer for the University of Tennessee.

Dr. Walker is continually contributing to the pool of research in the rapidly growing field of Evaluation, Statistics and Methodology, and has also been the distinguished recipient of several awards, including the EPC Graduate Student Research Excellence Award (2021) and the Sydney Achievers International Scholarship (2014).

To incoming graduate students, John’s advice is that students should always build periodic rest and relaxation into their schedules, to prevent burnout: “Make sure you take care of yourself, spend some time on your (non-academic) interests, and most importantly don’t neglect your family. A graduate program takes a long time to complete, so it’s important to get away from your work; otherwise, you’ll burn out.”

Of the many places in Knoxville where students can enjoy some well-earned downtime, John would particularly recommend Orange Hat Brewing Company in Hardin Valley area, or anywhere in Market Square.

The EPC department congratulates John, and the rest of the EPC class of fall 2021 once again for their hard work, achievements, and contributions to the fields of Educational Psychology & Counseling.


Full Interview:

Tell me about your journey as a graduate student, the ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.

One of my biggest struggles throughout my time as a graduate student was juggling full-time work and school. I often would take three to four courses at a time during the fall, spring, and summer. I had to manage my time well, find time to do my schoolwork, and take can of my mental and physical health, simultaneously. Although I was left with little time to socialize, I found ways to make this work and complete my degree in less time than if I were to take the more conventional approach of taking one or two courses per semester while working full-time.              

What advice do you have for students just starting this program?

Find time for yourself and your family. You don’t have to be doing your research or schoolwork 100% of the time. Make sure you take care of yourself, spend some time on your (non-academic) interests, and most importantly don’t neglect your family. A graduate program takes a long time to complete, so it’s important to get away from your work; otherwise, you’ll burn out.

Tell me about your research interests.

As of late, my research has focused on the experimentation of new methods to address non-convergence issues in computer adaptive tests, the examination of student growth patterns for curriculum-based measures in early math and reading, and the use of computer adaptive tests for survey data fitted to bifactor graded response models.

Would you like to share your hobbies and personal interests with us?

Outside of work, I enjoy playing my guitar, home brewing, and going on long walks with my wife and dog.

What is something you love/loved doing in the Knoxville area, or a restaurant you would recommend?

There are a lot of great places to visit in the Knoxville area. If you have a dog, Plum Creek Dog Park is a great place to let your dog expel some energy. For beer drinkers, I’m partial to Orangehat Brewing in Hardin Valley. You’ll also find a lot of great restaurants and nightlife in and around Market square.


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