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Evaluation, Statistics & Methodology PhD

Two students and one faculty member from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling received awards at the Graduate Student Senate Awards Ceremony and Breakfast on April 5, 2019.

Brenna Butler at GSS Awards Ceremony

photo contributed by the Graduate School, Steven Bridges

Brenna Butler | Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching

“As a graduate student considering a future career involving teaching, this award made me feel validated in my ability to teach in an effective way. It was also great to be recognized for my work as a GTA and realizing that the effort placed into this role was appreciated.”

Brenna is a PhD student in the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program and a Graduate Teaching Associate for EDPY 550 – Applied Statistical Concepts, EDPY 577 – Statistics in Applied Fields I, and EDPY 677 – Statistics in Applied Fields II.

This award is presented to graduate teaching assistants and associates for extraordinary performance in teaching.

Gary J. Skolits at the GSS Awards Ceremony

photo contributed by the Graduate School, Steven Bridges

Gary J. Skolits | Graduate Research Mentor of the Year

The Graduate Research Mentor of the Year award was a special surprise and honor for me. Spending quality time working with graduates students on their research efforts is its own reward. To be appreciated and recognized by the students themselves for these research mentoring efforts is a singular honor for me as a faculty member. This award truly will be a career highlight.

Gary is an associate professor and program coordinator of the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program.

This award recognizes faculty and staff members who have shown outstanding commitment to mentoring graduate research students.

Arden Szepe at the GSS Awards Breakfast

photo contributed by the Graduate School, Steven Bridges

Arden Szepe | Excellence in Service

Service holds a special place in the field of Counselor Education and in my heart. Being recognized with this award was validating in my development as a counselor educator and advocate for the counseling profession.

Arden is a PhD Candidate in the Counselor Education program. She was recently recognized as a Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) Fellow for 2019/2020. Arden currently serves as president of the Upsilon Theta chapter, UT’s local chapter of CSI, and as a member on the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Board for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Previously, she served on the National Career Development Month Committee for the National Career Development Association.

This award is presented to graduate and professional students who are extraordinary campus leaders, participate in service learning or other community initiatives, and/or provide service leadership to their academic discipline through service in professional organizations.

Evaluation, Statistics & Measurement

Erica is currently seeking her PhD in educational psychology and research with the Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program. Originally from Blairs, VA, she graduated with her BS in chemistry at North Carolina A&T State University in 2005 and an MS in environmental science and policy at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in 2009. She joined the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and EPC in 2016. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • UT Graduate Student Senate Travel Award, Fall 2017


  • Echols, E., Ladd, R., Parlier, R. T., Osborne, J. D. (2018). Distance learning in evaluation, statistics, and measurement: Synchronous & asynchronous – A guide to merging your life as an evaluation doctoral student and distance learner. Roundtable presentation submitted for the American Evaluation Association National Conference, 2018, Cleveland, OH (under review).
  • Osborne, J. D., Ladd, R., Parlier, R. T., Echols, E. (2017). Am I a student? Am I an evaluator? I’m both! – A guide to merging your life as a professional evaluator and evaluation doctoral student. Roundtable presentation at the American Evaluation Association National Conference, 2017, Washington, D.C.
  • Echols, E. (2016). Outcomes evaluation proposal for the Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER). Poster presentation given for EDPY 533 Program Evaluation Fall 2016 at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
  • Echols, E. (2016). Survey of best practices for graduate recruitment of underrepresented minorities (URM) in STEM at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Poster presentation given for EDPY 583 Survey Research.

Current Occupation

Recruitment & Communication Specialist
Program for Excellence & Equity in Research
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Erica currently works as the recruitment and communications specialist for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville NIH funded graduate and training fellowship program, Program for Excellence and Equity in Research.

Personal Interests

I enjoy being active in the community. I volunteer with various programs that introduce urban youth to science, science careers, and higher education. I also enjoy playing a variety of musical instruments.

Future/Vocational Goals

My goals are to continue to learn frameworks that are applicable not only in my current position but also in future higher education pursuits. My interest in evaluation and assessment stems from work experience in gauging the impact and progress of students matriculating through various programs I’ve worked with in higher education. As I continue to grow my skills in statistical analysis and program evaluation, my long-term career goal is to own and operate my own consulting firm supporting external evaluations for various higher education, public service, and non-profit entities.

What sold you on this program?

I work full time here at UT and was looking for a doctoral program that aligns with my research interests in evaluation and assessment in higher education, with special interest in understanding workforces that lead to student success in STEM. The Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement program was a perfect fit for me and my interests.

What would you tell an incoming student who joins the program/department?

While it is important to begin with the end in mind, be sure to enjoy the journey.

Congratulations to the 2018-19 fellowship and scholarship recipients from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling!

Zach Budesa Counselor Education
– J. Wallace & Katie Dean Graduate Fellowship

Sam Burmester Learning Environments & Educational Studies
– J. Wallace & Katie Dean Graduate Fellowship

Kristin Fowler School Psychology
– J. Wallace & Katie Dean Graduate Fellowship

Ben Gaertner School Counseling
– Eugene & Mary Sue Akins Graduate Fellowship

Rachel Geren Clinical Mental Health Counseling
– Charles Lowell Thompson Fellowship

Patricia Higgins Adult Learning
– Travis Hawk Fellowship

Jennifer Hightower Counselor Education
– Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence

Baileigh Kirkpatrick School Psychology
– Mary Phipps Shepherd Graduate Fellowship

Sarah Lucchesi School Counseling
– Eugene & Mary Sue Akins Graduate Fellowship

Brenda Murphy Learning Environments & Educational Studies
– Travis Hawk Fellowship

Christina Peterson Evaluation, Statistics & Measurement
– Travis Hawk Fellowship

Ashley Scheyder School Counseling
– Helen Carter Murray Scholarship

Arden Szepe Counselor Education
– Dr. Stephen Lee Alderton Graduate Fellowship

Shelby Wright School Psychology
– Dr. Richard Yoakley Fellowship

Jennifer Ann Morrow, associate professor, co-authored a national report titled The Assessment Profession in Higher Education: Addressing the Varied Professional Development Needs of Practitioners.

Jennifer Ann Morrow“I am very grateful for the support of my UT and AALHE colleagues who encourage my passion for teaching and engaging in quality higher education assessment work. I look forward to continued collaboration with my students and colleagues in this important area.”

The report was released by the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) and Watermark. The organizations stated a mission to work collaboratively in striving to develop resources that help assessment practitioners and institutions advance the practice of meaningful assessment, provide opportunities for assessment professionals to connect, as well as conduct and share research on current assessment practices and results.

AALHE and Watermark explained the report provides insights into several area of assessment including:

  • practitioners’ perceptions of assessment
  • the roles/positions and activities conducted by assessment practitioners
  • practitioners’ professional development needs

The report authors – Laura Ariovich, Conna Bral, Patricia Gregg, Matthew Gulliford, and Jennifer Ann Morrow – provided practical recommendations for institutions and professional organizations to better support assessment practitioners, particularly in the area of professional development.

  • Collaborative sharing across institutions and assessment personnel should be examined as a viable method for supporting the work of assessment practitioners.
  • Professional associations, individual institutions, and consortia should offer professional development opportunities in a wide variety of delivery methods to meet the varied needs of practitioners.
  • Topics addressed in professional development offerings must include both assessment tasks, such as conducting data collection and analysis activities, and more complex assessment work, such as creating assessment cultures and facilitating change in higher education organizations.

“We see a real alignment in our organizations to advance the practice of assessment and help institutions use better data to improve student learning and institutional outcomes – an area that is of critical and growing importance to the future of higher education,” said Monica Stitt-Bergh, AALHE President. “We share the belief that this collaboration has been mutually beneficial for our organizations and higher education more broadly.”

“We have a great deal of respect for AALHE, its researchers, and the leadership it provides for the higher education community,” said Kevin Michielsen, CEO of Watermark. “This study underscores our commitment to supporting and empowering higher education with the kind of information and insight needed to drive decision making that ultimately improves student and institutional outcomes.”

Founded in 2009, the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education is a non-profit professional association for assessment practitioners at colleges, universities, and higher education support organizations. It serves the needs of those in higher education for whom assessment is a tool to help them understand learning and develop processes for improving it. AALHE provides resources and a forum to support assessment practitioners’ professional development and the research, documentation, open discussion of issues, strategies, policies, and processes associated with the use of assessment to improve student learning and institutional effectiveness in fostering student success. For more information and to become a member, visit

About Watermark™
Watermark’s mission is to put better data into the hands of administrators, educators, and learners everywhere in order to empower them to connect information and gain insights into learning which will drive meaningful improvements. Through its innovative educational intelligence platform, Watermark supports institutions in developing an intentional approach to learning and development based on data they can trust.