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Louis RocconiLouis Rocconi, assistant professor, won an AccessLex Institute/Association for Institutional Research (AIR) grant in the amount of $50,000.

“I am honored to receive this grant and grateful to AccessLex and the Association for Institutional Research for supporting my research.”

The project being funded by this grant is titled “Measuring quality in legal education: Examining the relationship between law school rank and student engagement.”

The purpose of Rocconi’s study is to examine how law school rankings, such as US News and World Report, relate with other indicators of law school quality, especially student engagement. Student engagement more accurately describes what students experience while enrolled and has been linked to desirable outcomes such as high academic performance, diverse interactions, and satisfaction. Rankings play an integral role in students deciding which school to attend and what job placements they receive after graduating. So, it’s important to understand if, and how, rankings measure this experience.

​The AccessLex Institute/AIR Research and Dissertation Fellows Program is a grant competition promoting scholarship on issues related to access, affordability and value of legal education specifically, and graduate and professional education more broadly.

Adult Learning

Sara is currently seeking her PhD in educational psychology and research, with a concentration in the Adult Learning program. Originally from Tehran, Iran, she received her BA in English literature and MA in educational psychology from Allameh Tabatabaei University and joined UT Knoxville in 2013. We asked her to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read her responses below.

  • Travis Hawk Fellowship, Educational Psychology and Counseling Department, University of Tennessee, for outstanding academic credentials and success in academic journey. $1000. 2015
  • Alexander N. Charters Adult Education Research Grant-in-Aid, Syracuse University. Co-principal investigator with G. Ruttencutter. Grant awarded to conduct archival research for Exploring the intersection of adult education and critical theory. $1,850. 2014


Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2016). Action comes first and foremost in Iran. 4th Action Research Network of the Americas Conference. Knoxville, Tennessee.

Simarasl, N. & Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2015). How Self-directed are Iranian Women Entrepreneurs? Global Issues Conference: International Women’s Rights. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. (2015). Self-directed learning and brain executive functions. 29th International Self-Directed Learning Symposium. Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. & Ruttencutter, G. S. (2014). From Russia with Love. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Ziegler, M., Ferris, E. J., Overton, M. D., Nasrollahian Mojarad, S. & Ruttencutter, G. S. (2014). Live Online: Possibilities and Pitfalls of Synchronous Online Teaching and Learning. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Overton, M. D., Bailey, A., Nasrollahian Mojarad, S., Seidler, A. E. & Shih, C. K. (2014). Jump-Starting Self-Directedness in Adult Learning Using Mobile Apps. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education 63rd Annual Conference, North Charleston, South Carolina.

Nasrollahian Mojarad, S., & Tullier, J. D. (2014). Self-Directed Learning and Cognitive and Metacognitive Capabilities in Adult Learners. 28th International Self-Directed Learning Symposium, Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Nasrollahian Mojaran, S. (2015). Book Review. [Review of the book Adult learning: Linking theory and practice.] Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 63(1), Spring, 67-68.

Current Occupation

Graduate Research Assistant
Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Personal Interests

I enjoy watching movies and following on my country’s cinema. My other favorite non-academic activity is to record my voice while reading books every mornings in order to send it to my dear ones back home.

As the oldest and only daughter of the family, I have a lot of responsibilities in regard to my parents and brothers that I take care of them even from here, that is thousands of miles away from home. This long distance hasn’t been able to undermine my care and love for the ones who are inseparable parts of my heart and identity and I am even more deeply connected to them from my new home.

Future/Vocational Goals

I am a social activist at this time and I will definitely preserve this social identity in my future profession and processes.

My goal is to become a faculty and researcher in the future and I want my students to identify me as a researcher and then an educator.

What is the best tidbit/find you have about UT/Knoxville?

I started my journey as a PhD student and also in the United States in Knoxville and I am so happy with my experience here. Knoxville is a beautiful city with kind and precious people who were very welcoming from the very first day I entered the city and made me feel at home. This was also true about UT Knoxville, as I could conveniently settle down and adapt to the new system and academic environment that I was in.

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

I owe much of my accomplishments here to my supportive and understanding adviser, Ralph Brockett, my lovely and wholehearted best friend, Gwen Ruttentcutter, and all of the considerate and appreciative faculty members and colleagues from whom I have learned a lot. My most important take away from this program will be the confidence that it gave me through its learner-centered approach to teaching and learning. I am now much more self-reliant than the beginning of my journey and have taken important steps in developing my academic and consequently social identity so far.

Upsilon Theta is a chapter of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), an international honor society that values academic and professional excellence in counseling. The Upsilon Theta Chapter was established at UT Knoxville in 2004. To learn more about this chapter, we interviewed the current president (Everett Painter), president-elect (Nathan West) and co-faculty advisors (Casey A. Barrio Minton and Shawn L. Spurgeon). See their Q&A’s below.

Casey Barrio-Minton


Casey A. Barrio Minton
Associate Professor
Co-Faculty Advisor of Upsilon Theta


What is Upsilon Theta all about?
Our chapter is one of nearly 300 active chapters around the world with a dedication to promoting strong professional identity and recognizing excellence among counseling students, professional counselors, and counselor educators. In addition to recognizing excellence among our members, our chapter seeks to promote excellence and sense of community in our program. We have ongoing professional development events (workshops), community engagement projects (e.g., service to Ronald McDonald House and Odd Fellows Cemetery), and social events (e.g., tailgate, family bowling night). Our members also participate in CSI international programs including essay contests, leadership development programs, awards, and grants.

How do you define the role of the faculty advisor?
I see the role of the faculty advisor as mentoring students in their leadership development and ensuring consistency or stability for the chapter. Although the work of the chapter is most often done by students, students may be fairly new in their leadership development, and they often are in the chapter only one or two years prior to graduation. The chapter adviser, then, can help student leaders understand what it means to be in CSI, understand chapter history, and create their own priorities and programs within the mission of the organization. The faculty advisor also serves as a bridge or liaison to the program faculty about the happenings of the chapter and ways to support our students’ development outside of the classroom. CFAs also have access to CSI headquarters and support, so we can make sure the chapter stays in compliance with bylaws — on things like elections procedures, finances, and reporting.

How do you envision the future of Upsilon Theta?
Upsilon Theta has a strong past and a solid future. Our programs are well-attended and growing. Our student leaders frequently participate in CSI International programs and have a chance to network with other professional counselors around the country. In the years to come, I am excited to see how the chapter extends its community engagement activities and finds creative ways to recognize excellence among our members.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
CSI has been an instrumental part of my development as a counselor and counselor educator. I believe strongly that chapters help develop strong advocates and leaders for the program. I am honored to be a part of this community.

Everett Painter


Everett Painter
PhD Student in Counselor Education
President of Upsilon Theta


What has been the most rewarding/challenging experience as the president?
The most rewarding aspect is working in collaboration with peers and faculty to create initiatives and activities on behalf of the chapter. We are an active, service oriented chapter and it’s a very meaningful experience to assist students in the work we do. It takes a true group effort to accomplish our tasks. The most challenging is always the planning.

How else have you been involved in the chapter?
I previously served the chapter as president-elect and treasurer. I also do what I can to promote CSI to others. And I was selected by CSI to be a Leadership Intern for the coming year. This will have benefits for the chapter.

What is Upsilon Theta all about?
We recognize excellence in counseling at academic and professional levels. Beyond that, we are service oriented and feel we have a responsibility to contribute to our fellow students, the department, and our community. Activities that serve that purpose generally involve social, workshop, and service oriented events.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
It’s a privilege to work with my peers within the context of a department that is so supportive. Because of that support and encouragement, we are able to do what we do and are actively looking at how we can grow the chapter, increase our activities, and explore new opportunities.

Shawn Spurgeon


Shawn Spurgeon
Associate Professor
Co-Faculty Advisor of Upsilon Theta


What is Upsilon Theta all about?
We focus on two aspects of development for our students: academic excellence and interdependence with the community. We participate in projects related to community enhancement and focus our efforts on collaborating with organizations in the community to develop programming that supports the community’s efforts to grow and develop.

How do you define the role of the faculty advisor?
My role is to provide support, direction, and challenge to the leadership group. I consider myself to be a collaborator, guide, and support person. I see the students as an integral part of the community so I focus my energy on helping them build relationships with each other and with the community. There are times when I need to be more directive in planning and programming but even in those moments I tend to allow for processing and input as well.

What has been the most rewarding/challenging experience as the faculty advisor?
The most rewarding aspect of my role as faculty advisor has been the growth of the students and growth of the chapter. We have worked hard to develop a great relationship with the community and now I think the next step is to develop a national presence for our chapter in the international organization. The most challenging aspect of the experience is helping students balance time between their commitment to Upsilon Theta and their commitment to academic excellence in service to their future clients.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with students and to see them grow and develop as leaders. Upsilon Theta has grown by leaps and bounds and it will continue to be an integral part of the UT community.

Nathan West


Nathan West
PhD Student in Counselor Education
President-Elect of Upsilon Theta


How else have you been involved in the chapter?
My induction into CSI was in early 2015, so I was a member for the spring semester before beginning the president-elect role last summer. I have attended several social, service, and educational events since I started at UT in the fall 2014 semester. I have not had a lot of specific responsibilities as president-elect, as my primary goal has been to learn the ropes in preparation for the upcoming year. I have been involved as a general member of the executive council, which meets throughout the year to plan, review, and maintain chapter issues and events. I have also been in charge of taking and collecting pictures of CSI events for a year-in-review slideshow that is a part of our final event at the end of the spring semester.

What is Upsilon Theta all about?
I think the chapter is about connection and service. Being in Upsilon Theta brings opportunities for connection beyond what is possible in class time alone. From what I have experienced and heard from others, I believe this connectedness can help counselor education feel like more than just “school.” I think socializing in a context where the common bond is the counseling profession helps students learn more about their identity as members of the field. It also helps students sort of place themselves amongst the larger themes and goals of the profession as a whole, particularly when it comes to matters like counseling values and social advocacy. I know this has been true for me. This chapter provides those connective opportunities and works to channel toward a common goal of making a positive impact on the community.

Upsilon Theta provides this atmosphere through a variety of activities. At the beginning of each fall semester there is an informal “kick-off” event that gives everyone a chance to spend time together and welcome new members. Other social events throughout the year (such as an annual tailgating party, typically hosted by a faculty member, on a Saturday in the fall) help to continue social bonds in our program. Service events further that same goal of cohesiveness while focusing our efforts on connecting with and supporting the community in some way. This year members of Upsilon Theta have been a part of service at the Ronald McDonald House and the Odd Fellows Cemetery here in Knoxville. A third focus of our chapter is ongoing professional education and training. Each year we have training events/seminars designed to benefit counseling students and local professionals. Those are three ways that goals are put into action in our chapter of CSI: social, service, and education.

How do you envision the future of Upsilon Theta?
I think that the chapter has a lot of momentum right now, as participation has been strong and energy has been high this year. This has been particularly true for service-oriented events. I hope that we can build on that momentum and continue to strengthen ties with the community. Beyond events directly focused on community service, I think one way to do that will be to maintain involvement with practicing counselors in the area. In the past, CSI has teamed up with local counseling organizations to provide resources such as professional training seminars. I think continuing those types of events and continually finding new ways for CSI and local counselors to work together will be an important focus for the future.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I have been really impressed by the hard work and know-how demonstrated by the executive council this year. Having seen the initiative and quality work of everyone around me, I feel both intimidated and excited as I start to think about my roles, tasks, and shoe-filling in the year ahead.

Members of the Upsilon Theta Executive Council serve one-year terms. Other officers serving out the 2015-16 year include:

Workshop Chair:
Service Chair:
Social Committee Chair:
Public Relations Chair:

Brittany Pollard
Lindsay Bock
Amanda DeDiego
Emily Brown
Mary Frances Street
Kevin Webster
Nina Morgan
Anna Lora Taylor

Upsilon Theta also celebrated its CSI Induction Ceremony earlier this year. Photos from this event can be found on the EPC Facebook page.

University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS) won a three-year $100,000 grant (totaling $300,000) from the United Way of Greater Knoxville.

Bob Kronick“The grants were competitive and we got ours through hard work among the collaborative team.” – Bob Kronick, director of UACS


The grant was written by Bob Kronick, professor and director of UACS, Mark Benson, school coordinator of UACS, and Dareen Basma, Counselor Education PhD student. Through Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, United Way will award UACS a total of $300,000 over a three-year period.

UACS is an initiative to address unmet social, economic, and academic needs of Knoxville students and community members. They have two full-service community schools, one at Pond Gap Elementary School and a newer one at Inskip Elementary School. Funds from this grant will largely be used to hire staff to support the efforts at Inskip. The mission of UACS is to “create challenging learning opportunities for students to excel by providing a nurturing environment supported by the family, community, staff, and students.”