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Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success. 

“Our students want the opportunity to solve complex, real-world problems and use the knowledge they gain here at UT to better their future and accomplish their academic, personal, and professional goals,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “In line with UT’s strategic vision, we created the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success initiative to provide student scholars with the opportunity to engage in rich learning by developing their math skills in a way that will enrich their learning in all their courses.” 

Through this initiative, UT students and faculty share tips for succeeding in lower-level math courses so students can better analyze and solve problems in real life. Vols’ futures will involve math, no matter the occupation being a musician, engineer, teacher, or fashion designer. “There is a lot of evidence that success in math classes is closely correlated to success in college,” Conrad Plaut, professor and head of the mathematics department, said. “Students who are successful at math are successful in other classes. At the same time, mathematics is more and more an important part of modern life.” 

The Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips allow students to show up to their classes prepared, manage their time, actively participate, know when to reach out to instructors, and ultimately take responsibility for their learning. 

Lexi Huskey and Kaleigh Hellard, both first-year students majoring in kinesiology, utilized academic success resources after viewing the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success videos. Huskey set up appointments with her academic advisor and coach and participated in tutoring. “I had experienced test anxiety before and wanted support since I had not taken math courses for a while,” Huskey said. “The tips helped refresh my learning and motivated me to go to the coaching and tutoring appointments.” 

Hellard also met with her advisor and became more aware of the services on campus. “I was not aware of some of the academic resources at UT before learning about the Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success tips,” Hellard said. “I have been better prepared and aware of the support I have here.” 

Malissa Meadows, distinguished lecturer and lower division chair in Mathematics, says success in math is important to students’ development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Although specific math processes may not be used after graduation, Meadows says “Learning how to persevere as they complete a multi-step problem, determining how specific wording and other details impact solutions, reasoning through complex processes, and building confidence as they successfully navigate the course content will give them a foundational toolkit that they can use in other courses as well as their careers.” 

Meadows also appreciates the peer-to-peer component of Start S.M.A.R.T. for Math Success and how the information will resonate better for students learning from other students. “My hope is that the Start S.M.A.R.T initiative will resonate with students from the first day of class so that they never get into that hole,” Meadows said. “I believe it will have a positive long-term impact.” 


  1. Vol Success Tips – From time management to technology, our Vol Success Tips help you stay on top of your game in the classroom. 
  2. Reach out to your instructors – Your instructors are a partner in your academic success! Build these relationships by asking questions in class, attending office hours, and by checking and responding to Vol Mail regularly. 
  3. Vol Study Center – Vols who study together, succeed together! Visit the Vol Study Center for study sessions and space, Supplemental Instruction, free printing and more! Don’t wait to engage, as students who use Vol Study Center resources have higher GPAs than students who do not. 
  4. Success Workshops – The Academic Success Center offers weekly success workshops, both online and in-person to help you be your best inside and outside the classroom. Check out our session on Optimizing your Learning in Every Environment on August 30!  
  5. Wellbeing – Your health and wellness are a cornerstone to your overall success. Through the Center for Health Education & Wellness, UT offers resources to help you enhance the eight dimensions of wellness. 
  6. Be mindful of deadlines – Be prepared for key deadlines so you stay on track .  Check-in frequently with One Stop Student Services to stay up-to-date with registration dates, study days, and more. 
  7. UT Libraries – The UT Libraries are your place to get assistance with research, find materials, and even participate in the Volunteer Experience Escape Room. They also have librarians available to help you get started on research and understand where to find the information you’re looking for. 
  8. Take a break – Sometimes we all need to take a break from the books and recharge. The Center for Student Engagement offers dozens of events to get you connected to campus. 
  9. Find a study space – Need a change of scenery?  UT offers indoor and outdoor study spaces so you can hit the books while exploring a new area of campus. 
  10. Keep up with Canvas – Canvas is the online learning management system for UT. You can view important documents for your courses, check deadlines, and communicate with classmates. View OIT’s resource guide for helpful tips.

Patrick Biddix, professor in the College of Education, Health & Human Sciences, as the division’s inaugural faculty fellow. Professor Biddix will serve in this role for the 2021-2022 academic year and the summer 2022 semester. 

“Dr. Biddix is a respected member of the higher education community and an expert in assessment in student affairs,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “His contribution and support within our division will transform UT’s student success initiatives and enhance the undergraduate academic experience for all our Volunteers.”  

As a faculty fellow for Student Success, Professor Biddix’s responsibilities will include coordinating the division’s data collection and assessment activities, leading efforts for publishing peer-reviewed articles and pulse-style surveys, and holding a leadership role within the UT Strengths Advisory Council. 

“Student success is an inclusive philosophy and practice that considers student development as the responsibility of all members of the campus community,” Professor Biddix said. “I look forward to helping capture and showcase the many ways our in- and out-of-classroom experiences support our future Volunteer graduates. As a proud UTK undergraduate alumnus and rural Tennessee native, I am especially grateful to be part of this exciting and transformative effort for my alma mater.” 

In addition to being a professor of higher education, Professor Biddix is also associate director of the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at UT. He teaches graduate courses in research, assessment and evaluation, and special topics in higher education and student affairs. In 2015-2016, he served as a Fulbright Scholar in Montreal, Canada, where he studied student success and engagement in the classroom and alternative learning spaces. 

“Dr. Biddix’s research and writing has focused on student success and is nationally recognized for his expertise in this area,” Jimmy Cheek, director of PERC, said. “The college completion agenda is a primary focus of our center, and I am delighted that Biddix has been named Faculty Fellow and given this important responsibility.”


2021 NACADA Global Awards to recognize their significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising within higher education. Ashleigh Powers won the outstanding advisor award, Jeremy Mobley won the exceptional new advisor award, and Shanna Pendergrast won the outstanding advisor administrator certificate of merit. Powers is a coordinator for academic advising in the Department of Psychology.

Mobley is a student success advisor for the Herbert College of Agriculture, specializing in advising for Animal Science students. Pendergrast is the associate director of Advising Services for the College of Arts & Sciences and is a member of the Global Awards Committee for NACADA.  

“Academic advising is a critical component of students’ educational experience and success, and we congratulate and thank Ashleigh, Jeremy, and Shanna for their leadership and contributions to our Vols’ success,” Amber Williams, vice provost for the Division of Student Success, said. 

Academic advising serves to develop and enrich students’ educational plans in ways consistent with their aspirations, interests, strengths, and values—preparing them for a life of learning in a diverse and global society. 

The National Academic Advising Association was chartered in 1979 and had over 10,000 members representing all 50 US states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and several other countries. The goals of the NACADA program include recognizing outstanding advising throughout higher education, offering a global advising rewards system, encouraging broader support of advising personnel and programs, and ultimately improving reporting services for students. 



a shared first place in the SEC for the prestigious award.

Congress established the Goldwater Scholarship Program in 1986 to honor US Senator Barry M. Goldwater. The most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarships in the United States, Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Since 2010, 24 UT students have been named Goldwater Scholars. This year’s recipients are Keri Burge, Elijah Hix, and Owen Queen, all juniors. To learn more about our student scholars and their accomplishments, click here.