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Ph.D. Program - Counseling Psychology

Current Students Profiles

Click on each students name to view a brief bio.

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 .

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!

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!

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.

Trevor Dunn

I entered the Counseling Psychology program at UT in 2013, after earning my M.A. in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. I grew up in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis- St. Paul) area, but am enjoying the milder winters in Tennessee.  During my time at U of MN, I received a grant to do international research on how Minority Stress may affect Brazilian gay and bisexual men, which was later published in the APA Journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. 

At UT, I work with Dr. Dawn Szymanski on a variety of topics related to multicultural-feminist research.  I am especially interested in topics related to underrepresented populations, international research, sexual minority mental health, and masculinity. I also am teaching undergraduate psychology courses, and I am currently doing my practicum at the Student Counseling Center on campus.

In my free time I enjoy hiking, biking, exploring new cities, exercising, learning languages, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Chandra Feltman

I entered the Counseling Psychology program in 2012 after completing my M.A. in Clinical Psychology at Eastern Illinois University. My research interests primarily focus on feminist issues with a specific emphasis on sexual objectification. I'm currently in the beginning stages of writing my dissertation, which will focus on exploring the links between social networking and self-objectification in college-aged women. Clinically, I am extremely passionate about working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I look forward to gaining even more experience acting as both a counselor and advocate for this population in particular.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my partner, traveling, seeing live music, trying new restaurants, hiking, cuddling with the cutest dog in the world (Iggy, my 100 lb Great Pyrenees), and, of course, Netflixing (yes, it's a verb).

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,

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 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

Ed GarnesAward-winning writer, activist, counselor, and 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. Garnes has received The Atlanta Tribune Man of Distinction Award and holds a B.A. in English Writing from DePauw University and an M.A. in Counseling from Michigan State University where he studied as a Competitive Doctoral Enrichment Fellow in Counseling. His seminal essay “Black Boy Blues Suite: A Love Poem To My Father In E -Flat” appears in the anthology Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community edited by Gil Robertson.  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  Garnes currently serves as a Graduate Diversity Enhancement Fellow at the University of Tennessee where he is a member of Dr. Patrick Grzanka's Social Action Research Team (SART) as well as a Graduate Assistant for PIPES: Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science.  Garnes 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.

For more info or to contact Ed Garnes, visit

Danielle Graham

I entered the Counseling Psychology Program after completing my M.A. in I/O Psychology at the University of Akron in Ohio.  As a graduate student, I studied research on feedback in the workplace.  Here at UT, I am developing my research interests in Performance Psychology alongside that of workplace issues.

I currently hold a teaching assistantship for which I am the instructor of an Honors section of General Psychology.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending quality time with friends, watching movies, and exploring the outdoors of Tennessee.

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.

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:

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.

Joel Muller

I entered the counseling program in the fall of 2012 after completing my B.S. in psychology from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN. I was originally born in New Zealand, but grew up in Australia before moving to the U.S. in 2004.

My advisor is Dr. Joseph Miles, and my research interests pertain to process and outcomes in intergroup dialogue, and intergroup dialogue around the topic of nationality. Currently, I am teaching General Psychology and do clinical work at the Student Counseling Center.

My hobbies include painting, poetry, dancing, hiking, going to the movies, and recreational sports.

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: 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:

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.

Cora Powers

I entered the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2013 after earning my Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Leadership Studies at the University of Kansas. As an undergraduate student, I worked with Dr. Mary Fry in the Sport and Exercise Psychology lab on studies related to team climate and individual orientations towards success.

My experiences as a college student athlete greatly contributed to my interest in performance psychology.  I currently work with Dr. Jake Levy on topics relating to sport and performance and I look forward to continued involvement in both research and clinical aspects of this branch of psychology.

I am from Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. I enjoy swimming, running, playing guitar, and spending time with my sweet dog, Otis. Email:

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

Shelby Reyes

In the Fall of 2012 I entered the Counseling Psychology program here at UTK.  I was born and raised in sunny Miami, Florida where I learned to play water polo as a child.  I went on to play Division 1 water polo for the University of Maryland, College Park (Fear the Turtle!) where I earned my B.S. in Psychology.

My current research interests broadly involve personality and gifted individuals (ranging from academics to sports to musical talents).  My master's thesis involved looking at water polo player personality and team dynamics.  Currently, I am working on my dissertation which will involve looking at the retention rates of women choosing a STEM major/career which is something I am particularly passionate about.  Dr. Jacob Levy has guided and mentored me as my advisor and I have worked with him on other various projects involving performance ability.

In my free time I like to enjoy downtown Knoxville with friends, go to a music show, listen to records, practice yoga, and indulge the foodie within me by trying out a new restaurant or cooking a yummy meal.  Please feel free to email me if you have any questions:

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!

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:

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 ( with any questions!

Yacob Tekie

I joined the Counseling Psychology program with B.A in Educational Psychology and a minor in Sociology and social work from the University of Asmara, Eritrea, East Africa. After completing my undergraduate, I joined the Eritrea Institute of Technology where I worked as Graduate Teaching Associate, teaching different psychology courses as well as involving in research related to perception, attitude and knowledge of college students on HIV/AIDS and risk taking behaviors, college depression and vulnerability to stress in relation to stressful life events. Apart from my teaching assistantship, I was volunteering at a psychiatric hospital providing therapy to inpatient and outpatients, mainly focusing on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Major depression, Dissociative and somatic disorders.

Currently, at the University of Tennessee, I am teaching Psyc 295: Research Analysis as well as holding a Psychology Advanced Practicum Clinician position at the UT Student Counseling Center (UTSCC) providing individual counseling and co-leading Feel Better Fast workshop (coping skills based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy) to college students.

My line of research focuses on two parts: a) Trauma (PTSD) and protective factors of trauma, including attachment, meaning-making, resilience, social support, posttraumatic growth, emotional intelligence, affect regulation and hope among refugees, survivors of torture, immigrants and asylum seekers, b) college student retention and college adjustment. My hope is to be a scientist-practitioner and social justice advocate balancing Research, teaching and Clinical practice.

My advisor, Dr. Brent Mallinckrodt, editor emeritus of Journal of Counseling Psychology provides me a remarkable guidance in research, teaching and personal life. I had the opportunity to participate in his research Revision of the Working Alliance Inventory and Development of a Brief Revised Version Guided by Item Response Theory. As an international student, it's the support of my colleagues; advisor, the faculty and other supporting staff of the Psychology department that made me come this far. The Psychology department, especially, the Counseling Program has an awesome faculty who make the graduate school very friendly and manageable.

I was born and raised in Eritrea. I value family relations and have strong family support. I enjoy Photography, hiking in the Smoky Mountains, playing soccer, painting and woodcarving.

Elizabeth Thomas

I entered the program in the Fall of 2013 after graduating with my Masters degree in General Psychology from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. I am originally from Mount Orab, Ohio which is about 40 miles east of Cincinnati.

 I am currently working with Dr. Gina Owens researching the cognitive and emotional effects of trauma for students and veterans. I am also interested in how ethnic/racial identity development affects the outcomes of trauma. In 2014 I was accepted into the APA MInority Fellowship Program and I am honored to be able to represent that family of fellow scholars committed to mental health equity for underrepresented populations.

I enjoy spending time with my husband, attending church, eating good food, watching sports, doing yoga, and knitting. I also enjoy a plethora of television shows, from Downton Abbey to Game of Thrones. The most fantastic things in the world are a good cup of coffee, some great music, and the company of amazing friends, all of which I have found in the brief time I have been in Knoxville. If you want to know more about any or all of the above please feel free to email me at:

Brittany White

I earned my undergraduate degree from SUNY - Fredonia in 2012 in Psychology. I am currently in my second year of UT's Counseling Psychology program, working with Dr. Joe Miles. My research interests broadly include multicultural psychology and social justice. Specifically, I am interested in experiential learning/teaching techniques involved in addressing difficult topics like power and privilege, with one of these techniques being intergroup dialogue. Intergroup dialogue is a facilitated, face-to-face encounter that strives to create new levels of understanding, relating, and action between two or more social identity groups who have a history of conflict or potential conflict (Zúñiga & Nagda, 1993). Currently, Dr. Miles and I are looking at the experience of intergroup dialogue facilitators and how this experience positively impacts social justice identity development, multicultural competency, and group facilitation skills in counseling psychology trainees.

My current clinical placement is at the University of Tennessee Psychological Clinic, where I work in a community mental health setting. As part of my placement, I conduct therapy and assessment intakes, psychological assessments including intelligence and personality testing, and individual therapy with a variety of clients.

When I can find free time, I love to bake and garden (Tennessee grows amazing tomatoes!).  Plus, the Smokies provide tons of amazing hiking opportunities, which are great to clear your head by yourself or with a group of friends.

Marlene Williams

Before joining the UTK Counseling Psychology Doctoral program in 2014, I attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. I am from Houston, Texas and I currently hold a M.A. in psychology. I wish to pursue research regarding Race and Racism specifically in the experiences of Black women. Eventually I hope to become a professor and a licensed psychologist. Currently, I am a graduate assistant to Dr. Jioni Lewis in the Race and Racism Lab.

In my spare time, I enjoy attending church, hanging out with friends, watching old episodes of New Girl and spending time with family. I have a passion for social justice advocacy and am excited to apply all that I learn here at UTK in my social justice advocacy work in the future.  Email:

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