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Alumni Spotlight

Applied Educational Psychology

Ashlee earned an MS with the Applied Educational Psychology program in 2018 and currently lives in Fayetteville, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

General Education Teacher
Ralph Askins Elementary-Fayetteville City Schools

Currently, I am teaching 4th grade English language arts and social studies. I have been teaching for nine years in grades 1, 2, and 4.

Accomplishments Since Graduating

Although small to some, my greatest accomplishment was becoming a more successful teacher. Initially, I wanted to go through the EdPsych Online program to enhance my teaching/teaching style. Throughout my experiences, I have done just that. I have become a more competent and confident teacher who exhibits improved teacher self-efficacy. I find myself taking on more leadership roles and taking more instructional risks to create engaging and beneficial lessons. Also, I have challenged myself to teach to as many learning styles as I can.

Personal Interests

Being a teacher and mother, I find that I do not have time for many hobbies. However, I do love to spend time traveling and outdoor activities. Visiting the beach is a favorite! We also love UT football!

My husband and I enjoying searching for unique antiques. I love cooking and trying new foods. We are avid readers in our home as well.

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

For me, I believe my co-learners and professors were the most rewarding part of the program. They are some of the most hard working and compassionate people I have ever met. I believe to have found some lifelong friends along the way. Being an online program, many may find that hard to believe, but it is true. We watched each other “grow” throughout the program. We shared our triumphs, as well as hardships. We helped each other through coursework and learned to rely and trust people that we may or may not ever meet in person. Being a student who lived 4 hours from campus, this meant so much! I always felt connected, which I understand can be difficult for any online program. This particular program put much effort into making it a positive experience.

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

“You can do it!” I knew going into a graduate program it would be difficult to juggle my work, family, and coursework. However, with organizing and some planning on my part, I was able to manage everything. I would also tell an incoming student to not be shy about reaching out to the professors and other students. Making connections is a vital part of this experience.

How did your experiences as a student help you in your professional/personal life after graduation?

I wanted to become a better teacher and I have done just that. I know that I am much more confident than I ever was before. The classwork and projects pushed me out of my comfort zone. Just last year I co-led a presentation on teacher mindset to my faculty. I would have never been able to do that before this program. The assignments challenged me and definitely pushed me into becoming a whole new teacher.

School Counseling

April earned an MS with the School Counseling program in 2012 and currently 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.

  • Awarded Tenure from Knox County Schools, spring 2018
  • Coalition Member of the Year from the Metro Drug Coalition, 2016
  • On the Leadership Team at Richard Yoakley, since 2012
Current Occupation

School Counselor
Richard Yoakley School
Knox County, Tennessee

Personal Interests

My husband and I have taken up hiking in the last few years. We especially enjoy hiking in the nearby Smoky Mountains. So far, we have just done day hikes, but we plan to start camping in the future.

Another hobby of mine is making jewelry. I enjoy making jewelry from glass, stones, metals, and found objects. It’s a fun, creative outlet.

Future/Vocational Goals

I very much enjoy my role as the school counselor at Richard Yoakley School. I plan to stay in this role for the foreseeable future and continue to improve my school counseling program. One day, I might pursue a leadership position in the school system.

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

I remember feeling welcomed and informed when starting the program. Our professors did a great job explaining expectations and program goals. I felt very prepared to complete assignments, and I also felt that I was cared about as a person. The school counseling program is rigorous with high standards and expectations, which is a great thing. I know I received a high quality education which prepared me for my current profession.

What is the best tidbit/find about Knoxville?

Two of my favorite things about Knoxville are the Market Square Farmer’s Market and the trails at Ijams Nature Center. The market is a great place to buy local produce as well as crafts, and Ijams Nature Center is a beautiful place to be in nature yet still close to the city.

Instructional Technology

Lindsey earned an MS with the Instructional Technology program in 2016 and currently lives in Littleton, CO. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Instructional Design Coordinator
Child Care Quality Initiatives
Office of Early Childhood
Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)

I work in a team of two (hopefully four by the end of the year) to design self-paced online learning for the Colorado Shines Professional Development Information System (PDIS). These courses are targeted at early care and learning professionals, with the goal of increasing the quality of care and education provided in child care programs across the state.

Accomplishments since Graduating

In my first nine months at CDHS, I led development on the first hybrid course to exist in the PDIS: Medication Administration Training, a four hour, licensing required course for child care providers across the state of Colorado. Also, at the end of December 2017, my husband and I bought our first house.

Personal Interests

I’m a fiction writer in all my waking hours. A baker, an amateur painter, a paddle boarder, an always-losing-my-callouses guitarist, a gamer, a yoga aficionado, and a literature/media nerd. I also like to travel with my husband and spend time with our four cats.

Accomplishments Earned as a Student

I received invitations from several honors societies (Gamma Beta Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Kappa Delti Pi), so I suppose that means I made it to a top tier of my class.

On a personal level, I maintained my grade level, kept interest in my classes, and didn’t crumble under pressure – even when I was finalizing my portfolio while packing our place and preparing for a cross country move – so I’d consider that an accomplishment.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

Yes. I’d been in the eLearning world prior to entering the IT Online program and that’s where I wanted to be once I got my degree. Though instead of working for a vendor, I ended up on an in-house design team (of two and soon to be growing), so this let me drastically expand my skills with project management, authoring software, and the creation of graphics and audio, in addition to writing content.

How did your experiences as a student help you in your professional life after graduation?

When I came to the program, I didn’t really speak the lingo of instructional design and technology (“dual coding, what’s that?”), so the foundational knowledge was helpful when talking about the work I’d done in the past, as well as in the first few months of being on the job.

Additionally, as a student, you deal with a lot of different personalities from a variety of backgrounds and not all of those personalities have technology backgrounds. Getting experience navigating the waters of instructional design with people outside my specific area was good practice for the job I’m doing now. While many people are happy to listen to and go with what a designer has to say, others do want additional information on why you’re making the design choices you are. Having had to explain or clarify design concepts in my classes gave me a leg up on doing so out in the working world.

What would you tell incoming/current students?

If you’re new to the world of instructional design and technology, start thinking about what you want to do within the field. You’ll learn a lot of foundational knowledge about education and how people learn in the program, and you’ll get familiar with the technical jargon, but there are a variety of ways to apply that knowledge out in the world and a varying set of skills for each area. Having an idea of where you want to be so you can direct your individual studies in that direction is immensely helpful for your future career.

Adult Education

Cassandra earned an MS with the Adult Education program in 2017. She is originally from Atlanta, GA and currently 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

Accounting Specialist III
Office of the Bursar
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN

I currently work for the Bursar, Susan Forman, at UT Knoxville.

Accomplishments since Graduating

Greatest professional accomplishment since graduation has been the opportunity to work one-on-one with the Bursar to assist with daily duties of the position. I am beyond blessed to have a boss that completely supported me while I obtained my master’s. After finishing the program, I requested to learn more of the daily operations of the Bursar, and my boss has spent a great amount of time teaching me new programs, especially those in Banner. She continuously provides me opportunities to further my knowledge and enhance my career.

Personal Interests

My husband and I enjoy traveling and when we have the opportunity on the weekends we like to engage in short excursions and enjoy local culture. My parents are very close to my husband, I have to admit that he is their favorite child, and quite often they come with us on our trips. This gives us all the opportunity to spend quality time together, including going to church together on Sundays.

Accomplishments Earned as a Student

While conducting research for my final comps, I centered my topic on the transformative learning experiences of veteran students involved in combat. I have the upmost respect for the men and women who serve our country. My husband, father, uncle and great uncle are all Veterans. One of my greatest accomplishments was being able to interview a University of Tennessee veteran student that was an Army combat medic. To hear their experiences, how it related to their learning and helping others learn was one of the most rewarding experiences during my program.

What would you tell an incoming/current student?

Going into the program, my first thought was that I would come to know more about how adults learn so that it would help me create a successful learning environment in my position at the University of Tennessee. Teaching in the Atlanta Metropolitan School District gave me the experience to learn how culture and backgrounds influence learning, but only on a small scale. This program has introduced to me a worldly, holistic view of learning. Teaching at a public school system was just barely scraping the surface of what adult education would entail. After two years in the program, I have learned how the principles of adult education originated, how adult learning models and theories can facilitate learning, and how as individuals we can take all of our experiences and meanings and contribute to a successful learning environment both in and outside of the classroom.

The one thing that has remained constant is I have always viewed educators as individuals who love learning. This still remains true in higher adult education, but I have a new respect for adult educators. It is those in this field who love learning on a level that they have invested a great deal of time and research to help adult education learners. I realize that this program was never about changing the way we think because of curriculum, it was allowing us as individuals to be presented with new ideas, concepts, and experiences to help us facilitate our own learning. Everyone has a story, a journey, that has brought them to this program. We all have vast backgrounds, experiences, ideas, concepts, and thoughts that can contribute to learning. The key of this program was allowing us to come to our own understanding of what all of it meant for us individually.

How did your experiences as a student help you in your professional/personal life after graduation?

One learning experience that was particularly important to me was studying the movements in adult education in Cathy Hammon’s, clinical assistant professor, course “Survey of Adult Education”. It was interesting to see how adult education developed over time from the works of Socrates and Plato, to the modernist view of adult education. During my undergrad, I researched the Renaissance period due to its rich history of literature and art that resonated during that time. It was in Hammon’s course that I would learn the influence of that particular era on modern andragogy in practice. In humanistic adult education, what really stood out to me was one of the thought leaders; Martin Luther. As a Christian, my religion came from the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther. During my adolescent years, I learned about the Protestant Reformation but did not connect it to humanistic adult education. This was a very personal moment for me in the adult learning environment; to connect my religion to adult education. All of a sudden, I was able to connect something that is a very deep, personal belief for me to its importance in adult education.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

Currently at my position at the University of Tennessee, I have been putting into place the ideas and concepts that I have learned in this program. During Qi Sun’s, associate professor, course, “Facilitating Change in the Educational Environment”, we learned that we can take a look outside the box if we have a barrier in the educational environment to understand the reasons why an individual views change as positive or negative. By understanding how the individual views their experiences and how they have resonated with their critical reflection of their experience, we can facilitate a successful learning or workplace environment. On a daily basis, we come across individuals that seem to create a barrier in the workplace or learning environment. At first, it may seem easy to be discouraged. However, putting in place the concepts and ideas I have learned in this program helps me understand why others view certain aspects as positive or negative from their experiences.

“This program has a been a road; there were some smooth stretches, bumpy rides, some curves, some twists, some obstacles, but it was all leading to somewhere. A destination unlike any other, not a specific destination, but one that encompassed knowledge all along the path. It was not about where I was going, a specific mark; it was about the journey, about what I learned. This program was never about finding answers, it was about losing the questions and finding your own learning. One important aspect that I have learned in this program is that learning is life-long, it is a continuous journey. It does not stop because we reach a certain age or we graduate. All the lessons in life that are accumulated from the time of birth, are on-going and every experience contributes to our overall learning.”

Counselor Education

Marinn earned a PhD with the Counselor Education program in 2010. She is originally from Bristol, TN and currently lives in Rock Hill, SC. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Associate Professor & Program Director
Counseling & Development Program
Winthrop University
Rock Hill, SC

I have the privilege of coordinating the day-to-day operations of our programs in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling in addition to teaching, research, and supervision. I teach courses in ethics, addictions counseling, crisis and trauma counseling, and multicultural counseling. I also see a small caseload of clients at our on-site clinic where I specialize somatic trauma-focused approaches.

Accomplishments since Graduating

I currently am serving as the President-Elect of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC). This organization is near and dear to my heart, and I found a “professional home” among its membership. It is an honor to be asked to serve ASERVIC in this capacity.

Personal Interests

I am learning to garden a bit, and I love hiking, singing, live music, spending time with friends and family, reading, playing with my dogs, and of course Tennessee athletics. Go Vols!

Accomplishments Earned as a Student
  • President (April 2008 – April 2009). Chi Sigma Iota. Upsilon Theta Chapter. University of Tennessee.
  • Member. (2009-2010). Awards Committee. Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education.
  • Member (2008-2010). Awards Selection Committee. Chi Sigma Iota International.
  • Empty Plate Coordinator (September 2006 – May 2009). Multicultural Interest Network; Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
  • Member (October 2006 – March 2007). Graduate Student Steering Committee, Association for Creativity in Counseling.
  • Graduate Student Representative (July 2006 – June 2007). Tennessee Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.
  • Public Relations Chair (July 2006 – June 2007). Tennessee Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.
  • Outstanding Doctoral Student. (2009). Upsilon Theta Chapter, Chi Sigma Iota.
  • Donald Hood Student Research Grant. (Spring 2009). Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education.
  • Outstanding Student. (Spring 2008). University of Tennessee.
  • Multi-Level School Counselor of the Year. (2006). Tennessee Counseling Association.
  • Outstanding Mental Health Counselor of the Year. (2006). Smoky Mountain Counseling Association.
What was the most memorable experience at UT?

I had some amazing peers in my cohort. Despite the challenges of our academic lives, we found ways to have fun, celebrate accomplishments and milestones, and enjoy professional conferences.

What would you tell an incoming/current student?

It can be easy in graduate school to get caught up in the academic work and lose sight of the fact that you are at the flagship institution for the University of Tennessee system. Take advantage of all it has to offer including exploring exciting areas for your cognate and specialization as well as all the athletic and cultural events.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

Definitely not! When Shawn Spurgeon, associate professor, first approached me in my master’s program about pursuing a doctorate, I responded with a vehement, “No,” but I love teaching and supervision! Learning and pursuing those skills made me a better clinician, and it is a true to joy to get to train future professional counselors.

“The faculty in the Counselor Education program are some of the best in the country. It is my privilege to be able to call them mentors, colleagues, and friends.”