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Mary Ziegler

Student Spotlight: Jeffrey A. Russell

Adult Learning

Jeffrey is currently seeking his PhD in educational psychology and research with the Adult Learning program. Originally from Brentwood, TN, he graduated with his BS and a Post-Bacc. from Middle Tennessee State University and earned an MS in English with a writing emphasis from Belmont University. In 2012, he joined Adult Learning at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. We asked him to reflect on some past and current experiences. Read his responses below.

  • Joined Behavioral Intervention Team at Pellissippi State Community College
  • Promoted from instructor to tenured assistant professor of the English Department at Pellissippi State Community College

Presentations & Publications

  • Russell, J., & Vess, K. (2017). Expressive writing: Giving students a voice to their learning experiences! American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, Memphis, TN.
  • Vess, K., & Russell, J. (2017). Mind the gap: How to help fledgling online students through C.A.R.I.N.G. Appalachian College Association, Kingsport, TN.
  • Russell, J., & Vess, K. (2016). Educating the next generation: A practical guide to the millennial student! Appalachian College Association, Kingsport, TN.
  • Brown, C., & Russell, J. (2016). Millennials: From entitlement to empowerment. Two-Year College English Association-Southeast Conference, Knoxville, TN.
  • Russell, J. (2016). Fostering transformative learning: Overcoming barriers using expressive writing and gratitude. Tennessee Association for Student Success and Retention, Chattanooga, TN.
  • Russell, J., & Vess, K. (2015). Academic entitlement: Challenging assumptions and moving forward. Pellissippi State Community College Success Conference, Knoxville, TN.
  • McCrary, M., Gibson, I., & Russell, J. (2015). Intrusive teaching: Teaching English 1010 and its co-requisite as a single class. Tennessee Association For Student Success and Retention Conference, Dickson, TN.
  • Vess, K., & Russell, J. (2014). Academic entitlement: Are we preparing students for real life?
    American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, Charleston, SC.
  • Vess, K., Teel, C., Ambrose, V., & Russell, J. (2014). We’re only human! How emotions influence our teaching, health, and well-being. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, Charleston, SC.
  • Russell, J., & Vess, K. (2014). Flourishing students: Using reflective gratitude journaling to improve student retention. 2014 Appalachian College Association Summit Event, Knoxville, TN.
  • Russell, J. (2013). The effects of reflective journal writing: A tool for improving student success. Tennessee Association for Student Success and Retention Conference, Dickson, TN.
  • Russell, J. (2013). Using reflective journaling to improve adult learning in the community college classroom. American Association of Adult and Continuing Education 62nd Annual Conference, Lexington, KY.
  • Russell, J. (2010). Finding healing through writing in psychotherapy. Trauma: Intersections among Narrative, Neuroscience, and Psychoanalysis Conference, Washington, D.C.
Current Occupation

Assistant Professor
English Department
Pellissippi State Community College

Personal Interests

I love playing music, and I love spending time with my family. In my free time (which is not often), I enjoy reading, writing, and movies. Also, I am avid hockey and college football fan. Since I am a proud father, I spend much of my time taking my daughter to her extra-curricular activities such as soccer and gymnastics. Overall, I have many interests, and I like to meet people who are passionate about their own interests.

Future/Vocational Goals

I plan to continue researching expressive writing, positive psychology, and transformative learning. In particular, I want to continue my work to see how writing and other forms of written disclosure can provide a voice for college students transitioning to college or the workplace. My colleague, assistant professor Kellee Vess, and I are currently working on a model to help students make this transition. I am a firm believer that students can succeed when given the proper tools to help with their coping skills, interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being. I want to continue my work in finding ways to help students become more self-regulated and successful in the classroom and beyond.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

When I first began this journey, I thought I would be pursuing a PhD in English. When I started teaching at the community college level, I realized I felt more connected to learning and teaching methods. My first thought was to apply to the Theory and Practice in Teacher Education program, but after I met with associate professor Susan Groenke and discussed my goals, she mentioned the Educational Psychology and Counseling program. Then, I met with professor Ralph Brockett and professor emerita Mary Ziegler, I realized that I was in the right place. They sold me on the program for two reasons. First, Mary and Ralph treated me like I was already in the program and listened to all my ideas and plans. Second, I felt that their background, publications, and expertise were top-notch, and, after learning about the program, I knew from that point this was the place for me.

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

I would tell an incoming student to focus on research and collaborate with others in the program as much as you can. Such great ideas can be developed with your peers! Also, I would advise a new doctoral student in the program to get involved early with a variety of studies and go to conferences. Students need to go to conferences early in their doctoral program to network, and they need to submit to journals and conferences as much as they can to gain experience and learn about new opportunities in the field.

Adult Learning

Steven earned a PhD in educational psychology and research with a concentration in the Adult Learning (formerly Adult Education) program in 2007. He is originally from Altoona, PA and currently lives in Cookeville, TN. We asked him to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where he’s at now. Read his responses below.

Current Occupation

Associate Professor & Interim Director
School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Tennessee Tech University (TTU)
Cookeville, TN

Interdisciplinary Studies majors create a customized/personalized major built upon two emphasis areas. Because of the nature of our department, I have the opportunity to teach a variety of courses: Adult Learning; Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Introduction to Religious Studies; Introduction to Honors; Academic and Community Connections (a summer course for student-athletes); Introduction to the University Experience (freshman student-athletes); and even an honors colloquium – Intro to Ancient Greek!

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student
  • #1 – Finished my Dissertation!!
  • Phi Kappa Phi – 2007
  • Chair of the Graduate Student Group, American Association for Adult and Continuing Education
Accomplishments since Graduating
  • Receiving the TTU Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, and the Award for Excellence in First-Year Experience Instruction in 2016 – teaching is somethings I am passionate about.
  • Serving as the current president of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education.
Personal Interests

I am passionate about family. My wife Becky and I have been married for 32 years. Jordan and Taylor, our two sons, both graduated from TTU, and live in Knoxville. I enjoy traveling with Becky and any family members we can bring along, fishing (especially in my Kayak), fixing things, playing guitar, and hanging out with special friends.

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

My experience at UT Knoxville truly prepared me for my career at TTU. I was honored to work with some amazing faculty who pushed me and challenged me to branch out and grow: Ralph Brockett and Mary Ziegler in Adult Education, John Peters in Collaborative Learning, Sandra Thomas in Nursing, Howard Pollio in Psychology, and Kathy Greenberg in Educational Psychology. UT Knoxville also gave me opportunities to teach in Educational Psychology and Career and Personal Development that greater prepared me to be a university professor.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

I took a position at TTU teaching Educational Psychology courses to undergraduate teacher education students while in the dissertation process. After three years on an that annual contract, I became the first faculty member in the new College of Interdisciplinary Studies. Everything happening in this new program fit my background, experience, and training. Within the past three years we were able to create courses and a minor in Religious Studies, the area of my first three degrees. Did I expect this? No. But it is wonderful to end up exactly where you belong!

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

My relationship with professor Ralph Brockett has continued on in my career beyond UT Knoxville. He has been a constant encourager and colleague, supporting me along the way and still mentoring me as only Ralph Brockett can! At the end of my time as a student I became friends with Jonathan Taylor, who followed me as the Program GA in Adult Education. Over the past few years we have researched, presented, written, and traveled together. On top of that, together with our wives and children we have developed a very special family friendship. Another amazing gift received because of my time at UT Knoxville.

“I am truly grateful for my time at UT Knoxville, and would consider myself a proud product of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. My experiences at UT empowered me to grow academically and professionally, and led me to my current position (Steve McCallum recommended me to TTU). Whenever I have the opportunity, I encourage potential students to take a strong look at the Adult Learning program at UT.”

Adult Education

Linda earned an MS in educational psychology with a concentration in the Adult Education program in 2015. Originally from Cleveland, TN, she now lives in Chattanooga, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN

I support the efforts of the staff, faculty, and students of the College of Arts and Sciences in a variety of roles.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student

While in the program, I was honored to receive nominations for membership to Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society and Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society.

Accomplishments since Graduating

This semester finds me in a new role – college professor – as I am teaching as an adjunct at both UTC and Chattanooga State. My course at UTC is a First Year Experience class, which is aimed at helping first year students acquire the tools needed to successfully transition to college life. My course at Chattanooga State is an online section of Educational Psychology, and I am thrilled to be able to have an impact on students who aspire to be teachers. I have always wanted to teach and, now, thanks to my time in the program at UT Knoxville, I have the credentials, knowledge, and experience to revel in the accomplishment of this long-held goal.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy reading, expanding my culinary skills, and putting my Netflix subscription to good use watching movies and catching up on those TV series I missed while in school. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends and getting some exercise walking Daga, my German Shepherd.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

After going back to school and finishing up my undergraduate degree in psychology when my youngest child went off to college, I felt that there were other educational endeavors to be explored and conquered, so I started examining possibilities. The EdPsych Online MS degree program at UT met all of my requirements. It combined both my field of work and my undergraduate field of study; it was online, so it was easily accessible; with my fee waivers as a UTC employee, the expense did not create a stumbling block; and the curriculum looked diverse and challenging. It was a great decision.

What was the most memorable experience during your time here?

While I had many wonderful experiences over the span of my two years in the program, some stand out more than others. Overall, the two courses I had spring semester of 2015 combined together to make the best learning experience of my life.

I had Survey of Adult Education with clinical assistant professor, Cathy Hammon, and we studied thought leaders, pros and cons, and key ideas of each of the seven philosophies of adult education. I came out of this course feeling a true scholar of adult education.

My other course that semester was Program Development and Operations with professor emerita, Mary Zeigler. The highlights of this course revolved around developing a new educational program from the ground up and learning about the amazing life of Myles Horton and the life-changing work done at the Highlander Folk School. And, yes, there was a field trip. Over half of our online class made time, on a Saturday, to travel to New Market, Tennessee for a day of work and conversations at the Highlander Research and Education Center.

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

Some important thoughts I would like to offer:

  1. Discard all of your preconceived notions of online classes because these are designed to allow for the benefits of sitting in an actual classroom with your colleagues and professors while in any variety of settings.
  2. Learn your APA Manual forwards and backwards and make it your friend.
  3. Share your strengths with your classmates and allow their strengths to buffer your weaknesses, especially during group work (and there will be plenty of that).
  4. Be an active and engaged participant in the learning communities of your classes because you share in the responsibility for not only your learning, but your classmates’ learning as well.
  5. It’s OK that you don’t know what you don’t know—everything will fall into place along the way.
  6. Reflection is one of the strongest learning tools you have at your disposal, so do it often.
  7. Walk at graduation. You worked hard and deserve the pomp and circumstance.

“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all of the wonderful people who made my grad school experience such a life-changing experience. The administration and staff who serve as the backbone of program were friendly and always readily available. I never had to wait long for a call or returned email. The professors shared their wisdom and demanded high-quality effort in an encouraging and accepting environment. They provided me with a vision of what I want to be as a teacher. My classmates grew from comrades in arms to good friends. I look forward to following where their lives go in the future. Finally, I need to give a shout out to my good friend and colleague Susan Long. We applied to the program together and spent most class nights over two years sitting together in an office or study room in the library at UTC with our laptops and a stash of treats. We shared the ups and downs of graduate school and talked each other off the ledge more than once. I know the experience was richer and definitely more entertaining because of her.”