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Associate Department Head &
Director of Graduate Studies

Joel F. Diambra joined the University of Tennessee in 1999 in the Counseling, Deafness, and Human Services Department. Diambra has been part of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling since 2003. He currently serves as associate department head and director of graduate studies in EPC and is an associate professor in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Counselor Education, and School Counseling programs. We asked him to reflect on his experiences. Read his responses below.


What are some different roles you’ve served at UT and/or within EPC?
At UT, I was an assistant professor and now associate professor. I currently serve as a member of the Graduate School Student Diversity Enhancement Committee. I’ve also served on the Faculty Senate and Athletic Committee for a 3-year term. I’ve enjoyed being a Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program Mentor for a number of years, Office of Disability Services Admissions Appeals Committee member, visited incoming freshmen via House Calls, facilitated Life of the Mind to incoming freshmen, and teach two ongoing FYS 129 courses.

Within EPC I’ve served as a Human Services Field Experience Coordinator, Peer Mentoring Coordinator, School and Clinical Mental Health Program Committee Faculty Member, Counselor Education PhD Program Coordinator, and most recently Associate Department Head and Director of Graduate Studies. I have served as committee member and currently serve as a search chair for a faculty position search.


What are a few of your most recent accomplishments?
I recently won a state award and had three very recent efforts that led to students presenting and publishing for the first time.

  1. In November 2015, the Tennessee Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Chapter honored me with the Charles Thompson Counselor Educator of the Year Award.
  2. Brittany Pollard, Rose Gamble, Bre Banks and I just had Teaching a Human Sexuality Course: What are Students Thinking? accepted for publication in the American Journal of Sexuality Education.
  3. Eric Heidel, John Breckner, Jeannine Studer and I just received notification that Psychometric Properties of the School Counselor National Model® Activity Scale (SCNMAS) will be published in the upcoming Tennessee Counseling Association Journal.
  4. In December 2015, Brooke Bagley (CMHC alumnus and current clinical supervisee) and I had our ACA presentation and subsequent manuscript focused on her work as a Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor accepted for publication in Counseling Today. I believe this is Brooke’s first publication. She was also accepted to present a workshop on this topic at the Tennessee Counseling Association and Smoky Mountain Counseling Association.
  5. I have been providing supervision to 3 current doctoral students with a focus on diversity/multiculturalism: Jennifer Moralejo, Derrick Shepard, and Nathan West. With their leadership, we submitted a newsletter manuscript outlining our efforts and it was accepted for publication in the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (SACES) Newsletter. We also submitted proposals regarding our efforts to conduct a Tennessee Counseling Association workshop and American Counseling Association poster session, coming spring 2016 in Montreal, Canada. Both were accepted. I find great satisfaction in assisting current and former students achieve accomplishments for the first time.

In an attempt to help others first coming to UT, complete the following statement: If I knew then what I know now about UT, I would…

  1. Buy a bicycle or hover board as my work transportation. You can park a whole lot easier and closer without a car.
  2. Start boasting about UT sports. Over time, I’ve been amazed at a how well UT does nationally in various athletic venues: women’s basketball, women’s softball, track and field, swimming/diving, tennis, men’s basketball, and men’s football. “It’s great… to be… a Tennessee Vol.”


What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t in academia?
I can think of three things I’d likely be doing:

  1. Buying low and selling high. 🙂 One of my hobbies is purchasing cars and motorcycles (and just about anything if the price is right), repairing them, enjoying them for a period of time and selling them for a profit.
  2. I would likely be building a counseling practice too. Before entering academia, I had already established my own private practice and considered expanding the practice to include a host of other therapists to provide comprehensive therapeutic services.
  3. I would likely be living overseas or traveling/living for long stretches of time in foreign lands. I back packed around the world for one year when I was 23 and could easily see myself moving to, settling-in, and working in different countries for about 1-3 year stints.


What sold you on UT?
The faculty. When I interviewed I was impressed with the faculty. They were bright, energetic, warm, genuine, challenging, and supportive. I had applied for a position in Australia and was one of three finalists. Australia was my 1st choice; however, I ended up being their 2nd choice. I remember being so disappointed until I received an amazing follow-up email after my interview from Sky Huck. I cried when I read his email, realizing UT Knoxville was really the right place for me. I still have that email.


What do you think has been the most rewarding about your work in EPC?
In my role as a professor, it is most rewarding to assist students in achieving new accomplishments (e.g., presenting or publishing). As an administrator, realizing overall just how amazing and strong (i.e., students, staff, and faculty) we are as a department!

Diambra with three students.

Name one fact about yourself that most people don’t know.
I lived in Brazil as a child, married in Japan during my world-wide backpacking trip, and minored in Japanese and Southeast Asian Studies. Okay, that’s 3 facts. I’m also very good at not following directions. Oops, 4 facts.


Amanda DeDiego, PhD student, and Alessandra Rhinehart, PhD candidate, have each been chosen as one of ten Chi Sigma Iota Leadership Fellows.

Amanda DeDiego and Alessandra Rhinehart

Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) is an international honor society that focuses on promoting academic and professional excellence in counseling. CSI was established in 1985 and was created for counselors-in-training, counselor educators, and professional counselors.

The CSI Leadership Fellows Program is a yearly award designed to cultivate and support graduate counseling students by developing their skills, network, and competencies as future counseling professionals in a changing, multicultural society.

DeDiego and Rhinehart will be attending the American Counseling Association (ACA) Annual Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida next month. As CSI Leadership Fellows, they also will provide a minimum of fifty service hours on a CSI task force/committee, receive a $600 grant from CSI, receive a hundred dollar grant from their nominating CSI Chapter (Upsilon Theta), and be recognized at the CSI Awards Ceremony with a plaque at the ACA Annual Conference and Expo.

CSI Leadership Fellows_021215_SClark_15

In Upsilon Theta, DeDiego acts as Workshop Chair planning professional development activities, at times partnering with other university organizations. Rhinehart has served as Secretary, President Elect, President, and is currently acting as Past President, advising the current President. She is also on the CSI International Awards Committee Panel.

Didego and Rhinehart expressed special excitement over their training at the ACA conference next month, because they will be learning from Presidents and CEOs from organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

CSI Leadership Fellows_021215_SClark_26

Sherrie Bruner, Everett Painter, Alessandra Rhinehart, and Anna Lora Taylor teamed up to enter the American Counseling Association (ACA) Graduate Student Ethics Case Study Competition and placed 3rd overall. All four are in the Counselor Education Program –  Bruner, Painter, and Taylor as PhD students and Rhinehart as a PhD Candidate.

CE ACA Case Study Winners

ACA explains that this competition is an opportunity for graduate students to analyze a potential ethical case and create an appropriate decision-making plan of how to respond.

Once receiving the case scenario, Bruner, Painter, Rhinehart, and Taylor had to identify the dilemma, list their proposed ethical actions, justify those proposed actions, and describe the decision-making model used to arrive at that decision. They chose Welfel’s ethical decision-making model. Painter explained that this model incorporates reflection as a final step, which is not explicit in many other decision-making models. The team’s full essay response is posted on the ACA website.

CE ACA Case Study Winners around table

They placed third out of thirty-nine teams, each winning a fifty-dollar gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore, a certificate, and letter of recognition. Plus, their names are going to be published in Counseling Today, and their team essay response will be submitted to VISTAS (an online peer-reviewed article database) for consideration of publication. Also, they have all been invited to attend the ACA Annual Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida next month to be recognized at the National Awards Ceremony. Bruner and Rhinehart are planning to attend the conference.

CE ACA Case Study Winners around conference table