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Ph.D. Program - Counseling Psychology

Current Students Profiles

Click on each students name to view a brief bio.

Saumya AroraI entered the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in Fall 2019. Prior to this, I was at the University of Minnesota, where I earned my B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. I'm originally from California, and I love getting the opportunity to experience life in different states!
During my time at the University of Minnesota, I worked on-campus at the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life, where I obtained a lot of my passion for social justice and advocacy. In my role there, I managed a group for LBGTQIA+ people of color, and also developed a training for staff and faculty on creating more equitable environments for LGBTQIA+ students. 
My advisor is Dr. Kirsten Gonzalez, and my research interests lie in the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ people of color. I hope to use an intersectional lens to determine this group's needs when seeking therapy, and work towards evaluating individual and systemic solutions. In the future, I would love to be in academia, as well as have a private practice in order to continue serving the needs of this population. 

In my free time, I enjoy trying new restaurants, watching horror movies, and wearing bright eyeshadow! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at sarora3@vols.utk.edu.

Danielle BissonnetteI entered the Counseling Psychology Doctoral program at UT in the fall of 2017 after earning my BA in psychology (with minors in counseling and peace and justice) from Villanova University. I'm from Connecticut originally and did my undergrad in Pennsylvania, so this is my first time living in the south, but I'm loving it! At Villanova I researched disordered eating in LGB youth and spent a lot of time tutoring male prison inmates and female ex-offenders. I was passionate about my peace and justice studies, particularly in regards to issues related to incarceration, systemic racism, homophobia, and sexism, which led me to UT because of the program's strong emphasis on social justice and multiculturalism. 

At UT I work with Dr. Dawn Szymanski on issues related to gender, sexuality, and feminism. My main areas of interest include gender roles, masculinity in various social contexts, and LGBT issues. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, my email is dbissone@vols.utk.edu .

Rachel CarrettaIn 2015, after earning my B.A. in psychology and LGBTQ sexuality studies from the University of Michigan, I joined the UT Counseling Psychology Doctoral program. My research interests include LGBTQ mental health, experiences of dual minority individuals, self-objectification, and other issues surrounding gender, race and sexuality. My mentor is Dr. Dawn Szymanski and currently I am pursuing research on relations between women’s experiences of street harassment and mental health outcomes. In the future, I would like to pursue a career in academia at a large university.

I am originally from New Jersey and this is my first time living in the South. Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying the food, beautiful weather, and great live music!

Summer CollinsA Columbia, Missouri native, and military spouse, I have always been passionate about advocating for the needs of service members, veterans, and their families.  I received my BA in Political Science from University of North Carolina-Wilmington and worked on political campaigns and in the U.S. Senate before discovering my love of psychological research.  Earning my M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology at University of Missouri allowed me to begin synthesizing my interests in veterans’ issues and psychology through research on applications of sport psychology principles within veterans’ populations and symptom patterns in historic case studies of trauma in warriors.  Entering the UT Counseling Psychology doctoral program in 2019, I have the privilege of expanding my research to include exploring perceptions of social support and help-seeking behaviors in veteran populations under the mentorship of Dr. Gina Owens.

In my spare time, I enjoy relaxing on my patio with my husband and pup, Abby, kayaking, scuba diving, and have recently taken up archery.

Katie CookI entered the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Tennessee in 2019. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at the University of Tennessee in 2018 with a double minor in Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS). As an undergraduate, I volunteered with Contact Care Line, an organization that answers crisis calls through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I also worked with Dr. Erin Hardin and Dr. Melinda Gibbons on the Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science (PIPES; pipes.utk.edu) grant, which is funded through the National Institutes of Health. This project allows us to provide career education to high school students in rural Appalachia.

At the graduate level, I am excited to have the opportunity to continue my studies under the guidance of Dr. Hardin. My main research interests are in career development and academic achievement in underserved populations. I am continuing to work with PIPES as a graduate research assistant, and I am also working for the ASPIRE program (aspire.utk.edu), in which I provide academic mentorship to college students from Appalachia. In my spare time, I enjoy being with friends and family, traveling, and cooking. Please feel free to reach out: kcook28@vols.utk.edu.

Elliott DeVoreI entered the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program at Tennessee in the fall of 2016 after working for three years as a Residence Director (RD) at the University of San Francisco.  My job consisted of supervising a student staff of 13, creating curriculum and facilitating social justice workshops regarding LGBTQ issues, and Racism and Whiteness. I was also fortunate enough to teach a course on peer counseling and serve as the staff advisor to the Queer Student Alliance.  As an RD, I was a front line responder to student crises such as sexual assault, attempted suicide or active suicidality, and substance misuse.  In this collaborative support role, I partnered with Hospital Staff, campus Staff Psychologists, and academic success coaches to ensure the holistic wellbeing of students.

Prior to my work at USF I completed an M.Ed in Education, Student Affairs and a Graduate Certificate in Social Justice in Higher Education at Iowa State University (ISU) where I worked with Dr. Nancy J. Evans as my advisor.  At ISU I conducted research with Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld on Gay and Lesbian youth raised in conservative Christian households that was published as two chapters in the 2014 book Conservative Christianity and Sexual Orientation in Social Work: Privilege, Oppression, and the Pursuit of Human Rights by editors A. Dessel and B. Bolen.  My graduate studies and personal interests also centered upon the intersections of racism, Whiteness, and education which culminated in my published paper K-20: Examining the Critical Connections of Racism and Whiteness Within Educational Policy (2013).

At Tennessee I work with Dr. Joe Miles whose lab focuses on topics including intergroup dialogue, lgbt issues, and health equity.  My research interests broadly include the gender identity development of gender queer and non-binary people, the resilience and distress tolerance of queer and trans activists, the effects of attachment style on emotional affect in intergroup dialogue, and the process of navigating HIV stigma for mixed status gay couples. East Tennessee has been calling my heart since completing my B.A. in 2011 and I could not be more excited about being back and working with others to create a more just community.

In my free time I love experiencing the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, running, drinking coffee and craft beer, exploring my own gender through drag, and singing with the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus.  Feel free to email me with questions about school, Knoxville, or anything! edevore@vols.utk.edu.

Allen Donahue

I am prior-service military, fourth generation Army, from pick a place on the map and I probably have family somewhere close by. But, I consider home to be Panama City, FL; San Antonio, TX; and Monterey, CA (remember…military). When leaving the Army in late 2005, I decided that the best way I could continue to serve my military brothers and sisters would be as a partner in addressing any psychological health needs. So, after completing B.A.s in Psychology and Criminal Justice from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), I began working in research for the DoD looking at PTSD in the active-duty and veteran populations, personally focusing on evidence-based cognitive-behavioral PTSD interventions. At the same time, I worked towards and earned a Masters in Community Mental Health Counseling at UTSA. Having identified that I wanted the credentials to continue conducting research as well as engaging in clinical practice, I chose UT's Counseling Psychology Program to train and work with Dr. Gina Owens as part of her Military Stress and Health Research Team, in Fall of 2012.

Since coming to UT, in large part due to interactions with peers and colleagues, I have experienced a broadening in my research interests into areas of self-care, self-compassion, resilience building, perception and meaning-making, as well as maladaptive coping and comorbid addiction and abuse tendencies. Additionally, furthering my development as a therapist and clinician, I have had the opportunity to work extensively with individuals (veterans and civilians) experiencing the effects, ranging from mild to very severe, of various types of trauma and comorbid alcohol- and substance-abuse. I plan to take these experiences into continued work with active-duty and veterans in either the DoD or VA.

Keri Frantell

Keri FrantellI started in the UT Counseling Psychology program in 2014 working with Dr. Joe Miles. I graduated with a BA in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where my research focus was on taboo words in the university setting. I earned my MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an addictions specialty from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I worked on research projects regarding career exploration, first generation students, and a re-entry program for mentally ill prison populations.

I have enjoyed working in the field with a variety of populations. I especially loved my time working in a residential treatment center with children and adolescents who are on the autism spectrum, have cognitive disabilities, and have mood disorders, working with adults in residential treatment with OCD, and counseling adults in day treatment who have substance use disorders and trauma backgrounds. At UT, I’ve spent time doing therapy at the UT Counseling Center and Cornerstone of Recovery.

I really enjoy group work in both practice and research. Coming to UT, I truly found a passion in research, and have had many opportunities to get involved in projects I’m interested in. Some of my main research areas have been on intergroup dialogue (IGD), reproductive justice, LGBT populations, political issues in the state, and social activism. I enjoy both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research, with a particular love for participatory action research.

In my spare time, I enjoy going to sporting events in the area, following my favorite teams from back home (especially the Milwaukee Brewers), spending time with friends, reading, and when possible, visiting with family. Please feel free to contact me, keri.frantell@gmail.com.

Kevin FryI entered the Counseling Psychology program here at UT in Fall 2015 working with Dr. Joe Miles. I am originally from Reading, PA (hometown of Taylor Swift and the Reading Railroad from the Monopoly game board!) where I first became interested in social justice through volunteer work with the American Red Cross.

I graduated with my B.A. in Psychology and History from Ithaca College in Upstate New York in 2011. (Ithaca is “gorges”!) While at Ithaca, I conducted research as a member of the Center for Research on the Effects of Television (CRETV) research team. I investigated the gender, weight, and appearance messages children are exposed to on television shows and the effectiveness of media literacy curricula used with children in elementary schools. I focused my history major on 20th century social and cultural history, investigating sexism and racism in our nation’s more recent past. My historical background informs my social justice interests.

I spent three years working as a clinical research coordinator in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, first in The Heart Center and then in The Center for Injury Research & Policy. (O-H-I-O!) I mostly conducted cardiogenetics research, investigating the psychosocial impacts of congenital heart disease on adolescents and young adults. During my time at NCH, I began a project investigating how rates of sexual debut and contraception use among adolescents and young adults with congenital heart disease compare to their healthy peers. My work also investigated gender differences in how parents of these adolescents and young adults communicate differently with their children about contraception and unplanned pregnancy risk. I also assisted in the publication of a new genetic knowledge measure. My publications can be found in Journal of Adolescent Health and Clinical Genetics.

However, my true passion is for social justice, especially as it relates to the LGBTQ community. I have had the honor of volunteering with Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus, OH (one of only 10 LGBTQ youth centers in the country) where I have had rewarding opportunities working closely with queer youth. Specifically, my personal research interests involve how people’s beliefs regarding sexual orientation are associated with negative attitudes towards the LGB community and how these beliefs that lead to heterosexism can be changed through interventions. I also have interests in the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth and gay men’s health issues. While I am passionate about working with all marginalized groups, clinically I am most interested in working with LGBTQ individuals, especially LGBTQ youth. I also strongly value teaching and hope to one day obtain a faculty position in a psychology department at a liberal arts college.

In my free time, I like spending time with my dog Savvy, watching cheesy television sitcoms, and eating unhealthy foods.

If you have any questions about me, my work, or about being a student in the Counseling Psychology program here at UT, please do not hesitate to contact me at kfry1@vols.utk.edu. I’d love to hear from you!

Cecile A. Gadson

I entered into the Counseling Psychology program in fall 2014 with a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Towson University and B.A. in Psychology (minor in Women's Studies) from Winthrop University. During my undergraduate experience I researched modern forms of "hooking-up", sexting, gender differences in sexual communication, and risk factors of sexual assault. My master's thesis focused on gender microaggressions in digital sexual communication. Currently I am working under the mentorship of Dr. Jioni Lewis where I am exploring gendered racial microaggressions against Black women in the Race and Racism lab. Specifically, I plan to build a program of research focused on the intersection of race and gender as it relates to the physical, emotional, and mental health of young Black women. Clinically, I am interested in working with children and adolescent girls. Academically, I enjoy teaching and providing spaces for diversity dialogues which I express through my past involvement in the Center for Student Diversity at Towson University and giving numerous guest lectures on multiculturalism in psychology. This coming summer and fall, I will be teaching undergraduate psychology courses.

I have gained some international travel miles by being a military brat but I was born in South Carolina and from the Buckeye State (O-H-I-O!). I am a proud Winthrop Ronald E. McNair Scholar (Go Eagles!) and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

For fun, I like to watch Netflix, have dinner gatherings with friends, listen to live music, and cook. I also enjoy being active in my community through service and social justice advocacy.

Please feel free to email me at cgadson@vols.utk.edu.

Ed GarnesAward-winning writer, activist, counselor, and basketball coach, Atlanta native Edward M. Garnes, Jr. is the founder of From Afros To Shelltoes, a community-based organization uniquely focused on cultural productions that bridge generation gaps between youth, elders, and the hip-hop community. Since beginning UT’s program in 2015, Garnes’ work both within the Department of Psychology and throughout the UT community has been firmly in keeping with the social justice mission of the counseling psychology program and UT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He has been a Graduate Diversity Enhancement Fellow and received the Summer Pre College Service Award from the Tickle College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity. Garnes served as both a mentor and tutor at UT’s Thornton Athletics Student Life Center and as a student member of the Department of Psychology Diversity Council. His work as a GTA earned him a Psychology Graduate Student Association Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award. In the fall of 2019,& Garnes defended his thesis research study entitled “FACEDOWN IN THE MAINSTREAM: BLACK MEN'S EXPERIENCE OF GENDERED RACISM AND RESILIENCE IN RELATION TO COLLEGIATE SENSE OF COMMUNITY." He is a member of Dr. Jacob L. Levy’s research team and current research and clinical interests include Black men at PWI’s, career development among athletes, multicultural and social justice issues, mental health promotion, community outreach, and racial and ethnic identity development. Garnes has been awarded The Atlanta Tribune Man of Distinction Award and holds a B.A. in English Writing (concentrations in Black Studies & Mass Comm) from DePauw University, M.A. in Counseling from Michigan State University, and M.A. in Psychology from University of Tennessee. As a highly sought after commentator on hip hop, black identity, manhood, and popular culture, Garnes has appeared on Young Black Entrepreneur Magazine, CNN’s Headline News, Fox’s MY TV Network, Sirius Radio, CBS Radio, and allhiphop.com. He co-stars in the internationally acclaimed documentary film series Elementary Genocide directed by Rahiem Shabazz. His national manhood tour& Sweet Tea Ethics has featured famed brothers Dr. Cornel West & Clifton West.

Emily KellerA lifelong resident of Virginia, I earned my Bachelor of Science degree majoring in both Psychology and Justice Studies with a concentration in Criminal Justice from James Madison University (JMU) in 2013. During my time as an honors student at JMU, I served as a teaching assistant for two psychology classes, tutored a student in a program serving children “at-risk” for child abuse and neglect, and volunteered as a student helper at an assisted living center. In addition, I spent a semester as an editing assistant for a book chronicling the criminalization of mental illness, where I conducted literature searches, proofread content, and edited chapters. One of my areas of interests involves the connection of video games and violence. Thus, I designed and executed a study concerning the analysis of violent content of popular video games that might affect pathological gamers, which culminated in the completion of my undergraduate honors thesis.

I earned my Master of Science degree in Clinical-Counseling Psychology at Radford University in May 2016. As a student, I investigated issues surrounding trauma in rural populations, primarily focusing on potential treatments and the intersection of spirituality. As a component of my clinical education, I interned for two semesters at a local state hospital that offers acute psychiatric treatment. In addition, I taught two undergraduate sections of Introduction to Psychology for two semesters and consequently fell in love with teaching.

Now in my first year in the UT Counseling PhD program, I am working with Dr. Gina Owens. Under her mentorship, I will work on an ongoing project focusing on meaning making and PTSD in veteran populations. In addition, I am hoping to further my knowledge concerning rural versus urban trauma in the context of meaning making for my master’s thesis.

In my spare time, I enjoy teaching my pet cockatiel new tunes to whistle. He’s a total nerd and a huge fan of music associated with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones. He also likes to interrupt my attempts to learn how to crochet. Additionally, I enjoy playing video games in moderation and building up my television show knowledge.

Jasmine KoechI entered the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in Fall 2019. Prior to this, I completed my master’s degree at the College of William and Mary in Experimental Psychology and a bachelor’s degree at West Virginia University in Psychology and Latin American Studies. 
While enrolled at West Virginia University I participated in the McNair Scholars Program, a program for underrepresented students on campus planning to pursue a PhD, where I received extensive mentorship and guidance as I navigated my introduction to research and was provided resources to assist in applying to graduate school. In my master’s program I was able to provide mentorship to underrepresented, often first-generation, undergraduate students as they became affiliated with research projects, navigated academia, and fostered a supportive, safe environment for them to vent about negative experiences on the predominantly White campus. I continue my advocacy work in Knoxville working with Centro Hispano as a mentor for students from various backgrounds with various career/education goals.
I work with Dr. Kirsten Gonzalez in the Research on Social Intersections at Tennessee (ReSIsT) Lab. My research interests include Latinx identity and positive experiences related to this identity, barriers to mental health care access for Latinx individuals, advocacy and social justice. In the future I would like to work in academia in a professor position offering the opportunity to diversify universities as well as serve as a mentor for underrepresented students, especially students of color. I also would like to have a private practice aimed at servicing the Latinx population in a way that removes barriers traditionally associated with mental health treatment (e.g., language barriers, finances, etc) for this group. Finally, I will continue my advocacy and social justice work to help alleviate oppressive systems affecting students of color and those with marginalized identities on the interpersonal, and hopefully institutional, levels.

If you have any questions or would like to chat, feel free to reach out to me at jkoech@vols.utk.edu.

Renee Mikorski

I entered the Counseling Psychology program in the Fall of 2014, just after completing my master's degree in Psychology from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Before that, I worked at the VA Hospital in Boston after receiving my bachelor's degree from Boston University in both Psychology and Biology. My mentor is Dr. Dawn Szymanski and my research interests include body image, sexual objectification of women, LGBT mental health, and feminist issues. I am originally from New Jersey so I am missing the pizza and bagels but Tennessee makes up for it with the fantastic hiking and great music!  In my free time, I enjoy biking, cooking, hiking and spending time with friends. Email: rmikorsk@vols.utk.edu.

Anahvia MoodyI graduated from Harvard University in May 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Global Health and Health Policy before entering the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program in Fall 2016. In college I spent a lot of time gaining clinical experience working as a Community Residence (milieu) Counselor in two different adolescent residential treatment programs: a short term, acute program and a longer term borderline personality disorder/dialectical behavior therapy program. I was also an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Jason Mitchell's Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) Lab and Dr. John Weisz' Lab for Youth Mental Health.

Currently I am working with Dr. Jioni Lewis as a graduate research assistant and mentee in her lab which explores race and racism, microaggressions, intersectionality, social justice, and Black women's issues. During graduate school I hope to study the intersection of racialized gender roles and the impact of experiencing and witnessing racism and racial violence on the mental health of Black women and girls. Professionally, I hope to become a licensed psychologist and practice with youth and young adults in high-needs areas.

In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, playing with my dog, Cinnamon, and watching The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and almost any other BBC TV show.

Sean Murphy

Sean MurphyStarting UT’s Counseling Psychology program in the fall of 2017 was a bit of a homecoming for me. Although born in North Carolina, I was raised about 50 miles west of Knoxville in Harriman, Tennessee  and still consider East Tennessee my home. I earned a bachelor’s at New York University with a double-major in Film and Psychology. Afterward, I entered the 2008 Teach For America (TFA) corps and taught secondary math in Eastern North Carolina, where I met my beautiful wife Becca and earned a Master’s in School Administration through NC State’s Northeast Leadership Academy. Before starting UT, I also coached teachers with TFA in New York City and taught secondary English at Fulton High School here in Knoxville (Go, Falcons!).

I am privileged to work with Erin Hardin, whose Possibilities in Post-Secondary Education and STEM-M (PiPES) project is what initially drew me to UT’s program. Currently, our PiPES team of undergraduate and graduate students from across the university provide educational interventions in Campbell and Union county high schools. We talk with tenth graders about future career opportunities and the wide-variety of post-secondary education options that can get them there, you should definitely take a look here: http://pipes.utk.edu. I am personally interested in studying mental health stigmatization in rural communities, specifically Appalachia, and how it works to maintain maladaptive behaviors (such as self-inflicted violence and substance abuse) by discouraging help-seeking behaviors. 

I enjoy hanging out with my wife and two daughters (Madeline, 4, and Esther, 2) and being active in my church community. I am obsessed with art of all sorts, but especially music, movies and TV (“you know you’re living in the golden age of television when you take a show like The Americans for granted”). I love that Knoxville is one of the garden spots of the universe and try to take advantage of our glorious surroundings as often as possible. If you have any questions or want simply to drop a line, please feel free to contact me: smurph41@vols.utk.edu.

Erica PeppersPrior to entering the Counseling Psychology program in the Fall of 2015, I completed a master's in Public Health and two bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My professional experience includes twelve years of research experience and three years as a bilingual crisis counselor in Houston, Texas.

I am interested in health disparities research and in meeting the needs of chronically underserved communities. Currently, I work with Dr. Jioni Lewis where I hope to explore my interest in the physiological impact of minority stressors on mental health. The broader areas of interest I hold are nestled within the field of multicultural psychology and in determining the impact of delayed or non-existent mental health services. I would ultimately like to contribute to deciphering what innovative methods could be developed and sustained to help mental health practitioners better meet the needs of marginalized populations in a culturally relevant manner.

My favorite thing to do is to laugh! I usually fill my free time with those who give me the most joy and energy- my family and friends. When I am unable to travel to my family and friends, I am usually watching a show or movie that is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud. In addition, my love for food, traveling, and discovering new things often leads me to seeking new comfort foods in the least expected places.

Marjorie PerkinsA Kansas City native, I earned my Bachelor's in Psychology in 2015 at the University of Missouri. In addition to playing piccolo in Marching Mizzou, I drove cars for a safe-ride home program, played in the basketball and volleyball bands, was active in Griffiths Women's Leadership Society, and represented the Girl Scouts as a speaker at a variety of events. I also stayed busy researching a wide-variety of topics in psychology, such as conflict in adolescent and young adult couples, health psychology, and eventually, trauma. After graduating in three years, I attended the University of Northern Iowa where I earned my Master's in Clinical Psychology. While at UNI, I served as our assessment clinic coordinator in addition to seeing clients in our community clinic. I served as a research assistant in a lab that studied college students with ADHD and completed my thesis on civilian stigma towards military servicemembers with PTSD.

Currently, I am a first year doc student in Counseling Psychology, researching military stress and health in Dr. Gina Owens' lab. We are currently working on a study involving veterans and moral injury. I am also working a qualitative study dealing with veterans and meaning-making. My research interests include trauma, conditions of the military environments, and clinical implications for trauma, particularly through the lens of psychological flexibility. 

In my downtime, I enjoy playing with my dog Wren, hiking, reading, sewing, cooking, and experiencing all of the unique, quirky adventures that Tennessee has to offer.

Lex Pulice-Farrow

Lex Pulice-FarrowI entered the University of Tennessee’s Counseling Psychology doctoral program in the Fall of 2018, following the completion of a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 2017 and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (minor in English Literature) from Agnes Scott College in 2014.

Presently, I am working with Dr. Kirsten A. Gonzalez, where we are exploring the intersections of race, gender, sexuality within the current sphere of political and social events. I am currently involved in research involving the LGBTQ community’s mental health and well-being following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as reflections on the #MeToo movement and the rise of sexual assault in Hollywood.

Academically, I enjoy teaching and creating spaces that are affirming of students with diverse sexual and gender identities, which I express through my past involvement with Towson University’s Center for Student Diversity, and through my work at TU as an adjunct professor. 

During my time at Towson, I worked in Dr. Paz Galupo’s Sexual and Gender Identities Lab, with my research focusing broadly on the experiences of gender and sexual minority individuals. My Master’s thesis focused directly on the microaggressions that occur in the romantic relationships of trans individuals.

For fun, I enjoy hiking and camping with my dog and partner, racing Ironman triathlons, and have other, nerdy interests such as tabletop games (Dungeons and Dragons) and Live Action Role Play (LARP). I am also a cooking and fitness enthusiast.

Please feel free to reach out to me via email me at lpulicef@vols.utk.edu.

Pamela RosecranceI am a first year Counseling Psychology Ph.D. student. I came to the program after working for four years in human resources field, first at a social justice organization and then a university. I completed my bachelor's in business management at Colorado State University and post-baccalaureate for counseling and psychology professions at the University of California, Berkeley.

My advisor is Dr. Erin Hardin and my research interests are in self-efficacy, career development, and college readiness. I am a graduate research assistant with the Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science (PiPES) project, striving to make a positive difference in rural communities by teaching career development intervention workshops in targeted high schools.

I have lived in California for the past four years and grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado. In my free time I enjoy spending quality time with friends, reading, writing at coffee shops, hiking, cooking, and dancing.

Jason Ruggieri

I entered the Counseling Psychology program at UT in the Fall of 2014.  Before I moved to Knoxville, I completed two master's and one bachelor's degree: an M.S. in Counseling at Indiana University Bloomington (2012-2014), an M.S. in Sport Psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia (2009-2011), and a B.A. in Psychology from The College of New Jersey (2003-2007).

Originally a New Jersey native (and not the Jersey you see on TV!), I grew up an avid athlete.  I played soccer, basketball, and baseball competitively through high school.  I rowed for TCNJ during my undergrad program, and played beach volleyball during the off-season.  Naturally, I gravitated toward the study of sport psychology.  I was honored to work with mentors like Dr. Ruth Hall (TCNJ), Dr. Michael Sachs (Temple), and Dr. Jesse Steinfeldt (Indiana). They nurtured this passion and guided me toward my current pursuits.

In the Counseling Program I work with Dr. Jacob Levy.  My research interests include exercise adherence and positive health behaviors, transition in athletes, and performance anxiety, but my interests are not limited to sport and exercise.  I have experience working with students in special education, and have worked on research projects studying romantic relationships, traumatic brain injury, and perceptions of sexual assault.

In my free time, I like traveling to spend quality time with my friends and family out of state.  I thoroughly enjoy a combination of video gaming and exercise as recreation, but I leave plenty of time to go out and karaoke with my friends in the program!

Kody Sexton

Kody SextonHello! My name’s Kody (he/him/his), and I entered the Counseling Psychology program in Fall 2019. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, I completed my master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University and my bachelor’s in English Literature at Bowling Green State University. Prior to starting the program at UT, I worked as an academic/career advisor and instructor for students pursuing technology majors and careers. 
Here at UT, I work with Dr. Erin Hardin and serve as a Graduate Research Assistant for two programs: Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science (PiPES) and Appalachian Students Promoting the Integration of Research in Education (ASPIRE). My responsibilities include teaching college student success classes, delivering a career intervention for high schoolers, and providing academic coaching.
My interests lie at the intersection of mental health, vocational psychology, and social justice. I’m especially interested in the career development and resiliency of populations who face marginalization. Additionally, I’m interested in narrative career counseling and college pedagogy. 
For fun, I love reading, being outdoors, visiting local coffee shops (Knox has some great spots!), and spending time with family, friends, and my dog!

If you’d like to connect, please feel free to reach out (ksexto11@vols.utk.edu).

Elliot SpenglerBefore entering in to the program in the Fall of 2016, I earned my B.A. from Butler University and my M.A. from Ball State University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a year of working at an autism clinic in between. During my internship at the Ball State college counseling center, I was involved in the Stress Management and Mindfulness outreach team and the Diversity outreach team where I helped facilitate SafeZones and coordinated the LGBT Mentorship Program. At Ball State, I also became involved in various research projects ranging from a meta-analysis on the relationship between confidence and clinical judgment accuracy to a task analysis on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy to a path analysis on the psychological help-seeking process for sexual minorities. My current research interests are investigating psychosocial interventions that foster positive development and mindfulness while identifying tangible interventions to reduce prejudicial attitudes and increase resiliency to buffer against the established negative impact of the minority stress model.

In my spare time, I love any outlet to spend time in the beautiful outdoors, exploring Knoxville and the surrounding areas, watching or playing sports, listening to live music, and spending quality time around quality people. Please feel free to reach out: espengle@vols.utk.edu.

Charlotte Strauss Swanson

Charlotte Strauss SwansonI entered the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in the fall of 2018 after working for three years as the Director of the Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention Office at Vassar College. In this role I focused on both violence prevention and survivor advocacy efforts at the college. This included organizing large-scale prevention education initiatives and providing counseling and support services to students who had experienced sexual and interpersonal violence. Before working at Vassar, I earned my master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and bachelor’s degree in sociology from Occidental College.

At UT, my mentor is Dr. Dawn Syzmanski and my research interests focus broadly on social justice, feminist issues, and trauma with an emphasis on sexual objectification and sexual violence prevention/response in diverse communities.

In my free time I love hiking, biking, knitting, travel and spending time with friends. I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York and this is my first time living in the south - so far I’m loving the warm weather, exploring the outdoors, and taking advantage of southern comfort food! Please feel free to email me (cstraus3@vols.utk.edu) with any questions!


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