Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Shawn Spurgeon

Shawn Spurgeon


Shawn Spurgeon, associate professor, received the 2018 American Counseling Association (ACA) Counselor Educator Advocacy Award.


This award recognizes a counselor educator for work in fostering an awareness of, and expertise in, advocacy among counseling students.

ACA believes it is vital to the continued health and wellbeing of the counseling profession that its members become interested and engaged in advocacy and the policymaking process, and fell comfortable and effective in doing so.


Counselor Education

Marinn earned a PhD with the Counselor Education program in 2010. She is originally from Bristol, TN and currently lives in Rock Hill, SC. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Associate Professor & Program Director
Counseling & Development Program
Winthrop University
Rock Hill, SC

I have the privilege of coordinating the day-to-day operations of our programs in Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling in addition to teaching, research, and supervision. I teach courses in ethics, addictions counseling, crisis and trauma counseling, and multicultural counseling. I also see a small caseload of clients at our on-site clinic where I specialize somatic trauma-focused approaches.

Accomplishments since Graduating

I currently am serving as the President-Elect of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC). This organization is near and dear to my heart, and I found a “professional home” among its membership. It is an honor to be asked to serve ASERVIC in this capacity.

Personal Interests

I am learning to garden a bit, and I love hiking, singing, live music, spending time with friends and family, reading, playing with my dogs, and of course Tennessee athletics. Go Vols!

Accomplishments Earned as a Student
  • President (April 2008 – April 2009). Chi Sigma Iota. Upsilon Theta Chapter. University of Tennessee.
  • Member. (2009-2010). Awards Committee. Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education.
  • Member (2008-2010). Awards Selection Committee. Chi Sigma Iota International.
  • Empty Plate Coordinator (September 2006 – May 2009). Multicultural Interest Network; Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
  • Member (October 2006 – March 2007). Graduate Student Steering Committee, Association for Creativity in Counseling.
  • Graduate Student Representative (July 2006 – June 2007). Tennessee Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.
  • Public Relations Chair (July 2006 – June 2007). Tennessee Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.
  • Outstanding Doctoral Student. (2009). Upsilon Theta Chapter, Chi Sigma Iota.
  • Donald Hood Student Research Grant. (Spring 2009). Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education.
  • Outstanding Student. (Spring 2008). University of Tennessee.
  • Multi-Level School Counselor of the Year. (2006). Tennessee Counseling Association.
  • Outstanding Mental Health Counselor of the Year. (2006). Smoky Mountain Counseling Association.
What was the most memorable experience at UT?

I had some amazing peers in my cohort. Despite the challenges of our academic lives, we found ways to have fun, celebrate accomplishments and milestones, and enjoy professional conferences.

What would you tell an incoming/current student?

It can be easy in graduate school to get caught up in the academic work and lose sight of the fact that you are at the flagship institution for the University of Tennessee system. Take advantage of all it has to offer including exploring exciting areas for your cognate and specialization as well as all the athletic and cultural events.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

Definitely not! When Shawn Spurgeon, associate professor, first approached me in my master’s program about pursuing a doctorate, I responded with a vehement, “No,” but I love teaching and supervision! Learning and pursuing those skills made me a better clinician, and it is a true to joy to get to train future professional counselors.

“The faculty in the Counselor Education program are some of the best in the country. It is my privilege to be able to call them mentors, colleagues, and friends.”

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

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Emily earned an MS in counseling with a concentration in the Mental Health Counseling program in 2009. Originally from Irmo, SC, she now lives in Knoxville, TN. We asked her to reflect on past experiences with EPC and discuss where she’s at now. Read her responses below.

Current Occupation

Outpatient Clinician
Helen Ross McNabb Therapy Center
Knoxville, TN

The Therapy Center provides individual and family services including trauma related treatment for individuals of all ages, in particular survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as other forms of abuse and neglect. I provide therapy for the child and adolescent referrals. I also coordinate the services provided under the Project Against the Sexual Abuse of Appalachian Children (PASAAC) grant we receive through United Way, which includes the facilitation of a psycho-educational support group for Non-Offending Parents and caregivers of children who have been sexually abused and other forms of community outreach.

Awards and Accomplishments Earned as a Student

I presented with Marianne Woodside and other selected students “It’s all about me: Viewing adolescent challenges through case studies” at the Smoky Mountain Counseling Association conference in September of 2008. I also served as secretary of Chi Sigma Iota in April of 2008 – 2009.

Accomplishments since Graduating

I recently participated in the “Child Sexual Abuse-Awareness, Prevention, and Response” video through my work with the Community Coalition to Protect Children, which was created by the Knox County School District to be used for training purposes with the Knox County School teachers.

Personal Interests

I love watching football, do it yourself projects, being outside and spending time with my dog, Folly. I got married to a good ole Tennessee boy at the end of October, and we hope to eventually re-locate to Charleston, SC with the rest of my family.

What sold you on this program?

What initially sold me on this program was the fact that the focus was on mental health counseling, instead of “community counseling” which was the title given to the degree at the other universities I was considering. I also realized that while it was a longer program, I was going to graduate fully prepared and certified to start my career as a counselor. However, I have to say that more important than what sold me on the program was what kept me in the program, which was the family type atmosphere created with the other individuals in my cohort, and the belief that the professors truly cared about me and wanted me to succeed.

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

I think that the most rewarding/challenging part of the program was finding and defining myself as an individual, as well as a mental health counselor. It can be quite the daunting task to examine and challenge personally held beliefs and values, however it is a necessary task in order for one to develop a sense of self and where this self fits into the counseling profession.

Did you end up where you thought you would?

I thought I would be working with adults at this point in my career, in particular criminal offenders because in school that was where my interests lay. I thought that I could never work with children because it would just be too hard. However, my job led me to families which ultimately caused my supervisor and myself to come to the conclusion that I have an uncanny ability to reach and work with children. I am glad that the program provided me with enough education and sense to see that children and adolescents who have experienced abuse and neglect was my true calling, many of whom without the help face a higher probability of turning to a life of crime.

There is a certain sense of pride you feel when you come across another person who has been through the program, and the question that usually follows is “Spurgeon, Diambra, or Cochran?”

First-year Counselor Education students have prepared the annual Professional Issues in Counseling Poster Session Presentation.

The poster presentation is happening Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the Atrium located on the second floor of the Claxton Complex.

This event highlights the ethical, legal, and professional issues faced by professional counselors. Students will present current research findings and answer questions regarding their work.

Shawn SpurgeonShawn Spurgeon says, “please stop by during this time to see and hear the wonderful work our students are doing.”

If you have any questions about this event, please email We hope to see you there!

To receive updates and reminders, join the event on our Facebook page!