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Chi Sigma Iota

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.

Student Spotlight: Katie Graham

School Counseling

Katie is currently seeking her MS in counseling with the School Counseling program. Originally from Knoxville, TN, she graduated with her BS in child and family studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and joined EPC in 2016. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • Chi Sigma Iota Nomination for Outstanding Entry Level Student Award | November 2017
    This award is to recognize an individual CSI Chapter member who has excelled in scholarship, extracurricular involvements, service to the chapter, and evidence of excellence and commitment to the profession.
  • Most Outstanding First Year Student – School Counseling Program | Spring 2017
    Awarded by the UT Knoxville Counselor Education program, this award recognizes students who exemplify excellence during the course of their first year in the program.
  • Public Relations Chair of Chi Sigma Iota – Upsilon Theta Chapter, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, Spring 2017
  • Grief Outreach Initiative Mentor
  • PiPES (Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science) Team Member

See resume for additional details.

Katie Graham teaching

Current Occupation

Substitute Teacher
Knox County Schools
I have worked as a substitute teacher for Knox County Schools for the past five years. Since beginning grad school, I work primarily for L&N STEM Academy located downtown. This role allows the much needed flexibility while in school, as well as giving me the opportunity to work with students.

Personal Interests

Outside of school and work, I love spending time with my family and friends. We like to check out different festivals and events that Downtown Knoxville often has to offer, as well as just hanging out and watching a movie on the couch. I also enjoy traveling with my sister and experiencing new cultures together.

Future/Vocational Goals

My internship at Karns Middle School has solidified my interest in working with middle school students. My goal as a school counselor is to achieve a Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) and to serve not only the school but the community in which it resides. I am also considering returning to school within the next few years to work towards a PhD in Counselor Education.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

Once I decided that I wanted to pursue school counseling, I began to search for which program would be the best fit for me. Since Knoxville is my home and after attending UT for undergrad I am really biased but I wanted to keep my options open. However, after speaking to different individuals in the school system, it was clear that UT Knoxville’s program was distinguished and produced competent professional school counselors. I emailed the program coordinator at the time, professor Melinda Gibbons, and asked if we could meet so that I could ask some more questions about the program. Her willingness to meet with me gave me a glimpse of the faculty support that I would receive in the future. Now I cannot imagine being anywhere else!

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

I would tell an incoming student who joins this program to take full advantage of the opportunities that are available. By stepping out of my comfort zone I have been able to learn and meet people that I would not have been able to otherwise. I would also tell them to utilize the support that the faculty and their cohort can provide. There have been many instances within my time here that I would not have made it without that support.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Jordan is currently seeking her MS in counseling with the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Originally from Kingston, TN, she received her BA in sociology with minors in religion and psychology at Maryville College. She joined UT Knoxville and EPC in 2015. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • “Most Outstanding Student – Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program” awarded by the UT Knoxville Counselor Education Program, Spring 2017
  • “Most Outstanding First Year Student – Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program” awarded by the UT Knoxville Counselor Education Program, Spring 2016
  • Member of Chi Sigma Iota – Upsilon Theta Chapter, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, Fall 2016
  • See resume for more details
Current Occupation

Throughout graduate school, I have worked as an advocate at the Family Crisis Center, a domestic violence program within the Helen Ross McNabb Center (HRMC). I am also currently employed as an advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, another HRMC program. In each of these roles, I work to empower individuals who have experienced trauma, whether in the form of intimate partner violence or sexual assault/abuse.

Personal Interests

Outside of school and work, I enjoy taking advantage of the incredible live music scene that Knoxville has to offer. I love hiking and camping in Big South Fork; most recently, I have begun to conquer my fear of heights by learning how to rock climb. I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for as well as an incredibly supportive family. I live in South Knoxville and can often be found snuggling with my precious pup, Norah.

Future/Vocational Goals

My internship at the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee solidified my desire to seek employment as a counselor for trauma survivors. In the future, I would love to work in a community mental health agency that specializes in therapeutic trauma services.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

When I decided to pursue a degree in counseling, I knew that I needed a program that would be trauma informed, theoretically sound, collaborative, and supportive. Because I was already working in the field as an advocate for youth and young adult survivors of interpersonal violence, I met plenty of clinicians from a variety of programs. To put it simply, I was most impressed by the individuals with a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from UT Knoxville. I had several pivotal conversations with recent UT grads in which I learned:

  1. Faculty and staff genuinely care about their students.
  2. Faculty members encourage students to explore various theories and techniques.
  3. Recent graduates felt prepared to enter the workforce and provide competent clinical services.

During my time in the program, each of these factors has been affirmed, time and time again!

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

One of the most unique and life-changing aspects of my time in the program has the process of developing deep and meaningful relationships with my peers. I can honestly say that my cohort has been my primary support system and my source of sanity during grad school. So, my advice to incoming students is this: Take full advantage of this unique time in your life. Be intentional about getting to know your peers. Sit in a different chair each class period so that you interact with your full cohort. You’ll be surprised at the wealth of knowledge, humor, humility, and love that will blossom out of these relationships!

The Upsilon Theta Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), is the 2017 recipient of the CSI Outstanding Individual Program Award for its engagement with the Odd Fellows Cemetery Project. This award honors a chapter program that provides outstanding community service or professional development. The criteria include planning, committee involvement, length of time, recruitment strategies, advertising, media, and attendance at program. Two people were integral to this award – current service chair Justin Hawkersmith, and past service chair Kevin Webster.

Justin is a master’s student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and co-chaired the position with Kevin last fall. Kevin (’16) is an alumni of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and became the service chair in 2015. With the guidance and support of current and past faculty advisors (Casey Barrio Minton and Shawn Spurgeon, respectively), they helped create and grow relationships Upsilon Theta built with the Knoxville Reanimation Coalition and Katherine Ambroziak (associate professor from the College of Architecture and Design), who heads the project at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Kevin said, “I was sincerely elated and surprised, not because I didn’t think our project was worthy of recognition, but because I had not done anything like this before. Although recognition is not necessary, it can help keep momentum going for an organization. It can stimulate even bigger and better ideas and growth. I hope the award motivates others who join CSI to think about not only what they can do but also what is possible. I am also excited for what this means for the Knoxville Reanimation Coalition, the group whose mission it is to maintain, revitalize, and enhance the East Knoxville community. I think they are doing some of the most important work in Knoxville. They don’t do it for recognition; they engage in hard work to improve the neighborhood that is home to them.”

Justin expressed, “I am truly honored to be receiving this award and to see how Kevin and Katherine Ambroziak’s hard work has paid off. If there is anything I would like to add to this piece, it would be how important service and advocacy (the driving force of service) are to the counseling profession. If we truly want to serve our clients whether we are in schools or in mental health settings, we need to be active and intentional members of our community, and I think service events through Chi Sigma Iota are excellent way to begin that meaningful process of engagement.”

Kevin explained the application process:

Every fall, CSI opens applications for chapter awards and student nominations for national positions. Casey Barrio Minton (associate professor), our current chapter advisor and long-time member of CSI, encouraged us to apply for the chapter award. I agreed with her that I thought it was a good idea, and I was happy to help. I honestly did not think we would have a chance because I thought the relationship was too new. However, since CSI-UT’s participation in the the Odd Fellows Cemetery project, our student engagement in service activities improved tremendously – in part because of the uniqueness of the project itself, in part from some new enthusiasm coming from the student board, and in part because I think there are some emerging ideas coming from the counseling community regarding social justice and community-level work that individual “therapy” simply does not address. Service and building community relationships are critical aspects of my life that I love and want to share with others, and I tried to provide that opportunity for anyone who was interested while I was service chair. So, naturally, I think others picked up on that.

Justin Hawkersmith and myself worked on the application proposal with Casey Barrio Minton and Katherine Ambroziak to submit letters of recommendation for the project. We spoke on not only what it meant to engage CSI counseling members in a project that was off campus and in a predominantly black community but also on the importance and meaning of the project itself. The cemetery represents an important part of black history and black heritage in Knoxville, and its current dilapidated state is worth the reflection and attention of the greater Knoxville community. Counselors, who more often than not are white and middle class, will go on to work with individuals from a variety of communities different than their own, but may not have an in-depth understanding of those communities and the issues within them. Given the current climate of our society, it is integral more than ever that organizations and university groups build and foster relationships and work on real problems.

Barrio Minton really helped make the process easy. Writing the application was the easy part, because the project meant a lot to me and Justin and I hoped to really see it continue even after I graduated from the program. Barrio Minton really helped pull it together, helped us stay organized, and made sure we had what we needed to submit a quality proposal.

Upsilon Theta was recognized and awarded during a ceremony held at the ACA Annual Conference and Expo in San Francisco, CA from March 16-19, 2017.

For more information about this project, check out the following Counselor Education blog stories:
CSI-UT Sponsors Service Event at Odd Fellows Cemetery
CSI-UT Returns to Odd Fellows Cemetery to Continue Service
CSI-UT Sponsors Service Event at Odd Fellows Cemetery

Jennifer Moralejo, PhD candidate in Counselor Education, has been chosen as one of ten Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) Leadership Fellows. She is currently the social chair of Upsilon Theta, the CSI chapter at UT Knoxville. Moralejo also serves on the workshop committee and strategic planning committee.

Jennifer Moralejo“I am honored to represent Upsilon Theta through this opportunity. I look forward to meeting and collaborating with Chi Sigma Iota leadership and other selected fellows. Overall, I am excited for this opportunity and the upcoming year.”

Chi Sigma Iota 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. When asked what the application process was like Moralejo explained, “Faculty and peers were supportive. Part of this process required that I reflect upon my leadership philosophy and how being a fellow may further develop my ideas, skills, and experiences. It was an honor to even be considered for nomination and definitely surprising and exciting to be selected for the fellowship.”

Moralejo will be attending the American Counseling Association (ACA) Annual Conference and Expo in San Francisco, CA in March 2017. As CSI Leadership Fellow, she will provide a minimum of fifty service hours on a CSI task force/committee and one hundred hours on special projects, attend the CSI Leadership Training, attend CSI activities, receive a $600 grant from CSI, receive a $100 dollar grant from her nominating CSI chapter (Upsilon Theta), and be recognized at the CSI Awards Ceremony during the ACA Annual Conference and Expo.