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Association for Death Education and Counseling


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.


Laura S. Wheat has been elected to the Association for Death Education and Counseling’s (ADEC) Board of Directors.

Laura Wheat“Some of the best researchers in thanatology (death, dying, and bereavement) in the world, some of the most skilled clinicians, and some of the brightest students are part of this organization, and I can truly say that they, and ADEC as a whole, have changed my life.”

ADEC is a nonprofit, professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence and recognizing diversity in care of the dying, death education, grief counseling and research in thanatology (the study of death and dying). It is an international organization with almost two thousand members in more than thirty countries.

It is also the oldest interdisciplinary organization in the field of dying, death, and bereavement with members including clergy, counselors, educators, health well-being specialists, hospital/hospice personnel, funeral directors, philosophers, psychologists, social workers, sociologists, therapists, etc. This enables collaboration and communication across disciplines and offers a diversity of information related to thanatology.

Wheat has been a member of ADEC since 2007. She has held four different roles in the organization, totaling six years of service. When she was Chair of the Student Initiative Committee five years ago, she had the opportunity to sit on the Board of Directors as a non-voting member. She explained that ever since, it had been a dream of hers to be on the Board of Directors. On April 11, 2015 that dream was realized as she was sworn in and attended her first Board of Directors meeting as an official (voting) member.

Before being sworn in Wheat stated, “I am so very excited to be doing this. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and I am nervous about whether I’m really ready for it.” However, her nominee was confident that she was ready for this position. After Wheat accepted the nomination, her name was on the slate for the annual election during which all members of ADEC can vote. She won her very first election.

Laura at the Swearing In ADEC 2015

When asked about the future of her new position on the Board of Directors Wheat explained, “ADEC is undergoing a tremendous transition as it tries to grow and become more inclusive of the international community as well as incorporating acceptance of non-death losses, and the incoming Board will have a pretty big job to do in managing that process.  I will have to help not only with the architecture of what ADEC is becoming but also capturing the hearts and minds of current members so that we can all share a common vision for the future.  This is not going to be an easy job, but I will do it gladly.”