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With plans to make their own impact on the world, nine University of Tennessee students will take on Washington D.C. after securing internships with the United States Congress through the Congressional Internship Program (CIP). The summer program runs anywhere from six to 10 weeks during which the students work closely with legislative staff on a variety of projects. 

The Congressional Internship Program, a partnership between the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration and the Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, gives students from all majors with an interest in government, public policy, and Capitol Hill careers the opportunity to see the inner workings of Congress.  

The summer 2023 Congressional Internship Program interns and the offices where they are working are:  

  • Benjamin Bridges, majoring in biological sciences, interning for Senator Blackburn 
  • Brady Cusick, majoring in political science, interning for Representative Fleischmann 
  • Jude Ellison, majoring in economics, interning for Representative Burchett 
  • Jay Frazier, majoring in political science, interning for Representative Burchett 
  • Rebecca Giles, majoring in history, interning for Senator Hagerty 
  • Keristen Layrock, majoring in political science, interning for Representative Cohen 
  • Lucy Marret, majoring in political science, interning for Senator Hagerty 
  • James Mccord, majoring in economics, interning for Representative Burchett 
  • Abby Zehnpfenig, majoring in political science, interning for Representative DesJarlais

Bridges, while interning for Senator Marsha Blackburn, researched legislation on healthcare topics such as Medicare and biopharmaceuticals and attended several Senate committee hearings and Intern Lecture Series (ILS) during which he learned more about healthcare in America, the possible improvement of connections to care for victims of substance abuse, and artificial intelligence and human rights.  

By attending the Senate committee hearings and ILS, I had the chance to meet many people who were very supportive in learning about my future aspirations and eager to impact positive change in our country,” Bridges said. “All-in-all, I could not think of a better, more insightful way to have spent the first half of my summer and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to represent the University of Tennessee in Washington D.C. and have worked in the United States Senate.” 

In 2020, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Division of Student Success (DSS), led by Vice Provost Amber Williams, unveiled its groundbreaking Vol Success Teams program. This innovative initiative has revolutionized the support and guidance offered to first-year and transfer scholars embarking on their educational journey at UT.

With an unwavering commitment to student success, the dynamic Vol Success Teams program provides an unparalleled support system, pairing each incoming student scholar with a dedicated trio of experts: an academic advisor, an academic coach, and a One Stop counselor. 

Together, these skilled professionals collaborate to create an enriching and seamless first-year experience, laying a strong foundation for the student scholars’ academic pursuits at UT.

To gain deeper insights into the day-to-day operations of Vol Success Teams, we had the privilege of speaking with professionals from each of the three areas that constitute this transformative program. Through these conversations, we discovered consistent themes that underscore why Vol Success Teams are such a success:

  • A focus on partnership and fostering connections between students and various offices on campus.
  • A holistic advising model that encompasses academic planning, self-exploration, career exploration, and experiential learning.
  • The successful establishment of a welcoming and supportive environment during virtual advising sessions, utilizing platforms like Zoom.
  • Building and maintaining personalized relationships with students throughout their college journey.
  • The positive impact of personalized advising and continuity of support on student success and graduation rates.

Let’s further explore these themes below and discover how they contribute to the overall success and well-being of students within the Vol Success Teams program.

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The Division of Student Success is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Francis Canedo as the new Director of University Honors at the University of Tennessee, commencing July 28.  

With an impressive career trajectory, Dr. Canedo brings a wealth of experience and a strong academic background to this prestigious role. She joins University Honors from her previous positions as an Instructional Dean, Dean of Humanities, and tenured Foreign Language Department Chair.  

Her dedication to education is perhaps best exemplified through her past service as a board member at the Tennessee Foreign Languages Institute and as a Maxine Smith Fellow with the Tennessee Board of Regents. 

Dr. Canedo will be joining a leadership team consisting of Executive Director Dr. Pat Akos and Haslam Leadership Scholars faculty lead Dr. James Williams. Together, they will guide and shape the future of University Honors.  

“Her previous colleagues and supervisors describe her as a fearless, natural born leader and raved about the trust she inspires. She is going to be a tremendous leader for University Honors, UT, and the State.” notes Dr. Akos. “We have outstanding curricular and organizational leadership in place. We will continue to evolve our programming to be cutting edge and vibrant for our students confronted with today’s and tomorrow’s wicked challenges.” 

Dr. Canedo shared, “I am genuinely thrilled to join the University Honors Program at UTK. I eagerly anticipate working with exceptional students and being a part of their enriching academic experiences. It is an immense privilege to have the chance to collaborate closely with students, distinguished faculty members, and dedicated staff. I am committed to learning from others, contributing my skills and perspectives, and actively participating in the University’s community.”  

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Cody Russell

Meet Cody Russell, a former U.S. Army veteran turned student, whose journey epitomizes the incredible potential and exciting opportunities that are offered for those at UT transitioning from service member to scholar. 

Not long ago, Russell entered the first floor of Hodges Library and made his way into the Veterans Success Center (VSC), a department within UT’s Division of Student Success (DSS) that offers assistance and guidance to active duty service members, veterans, reservists, guardsmen, and family members using their VA educational benefits.  

As someone looking for an opportunity, the VSC became a catalyst for Russell; illuminating his path towards newfound purpose and a deeper understanding of his own capabilities. 

Through unexpected encounters, inspiring mentors, and moments of introspection, Russell’s first chapter in his educational path at UT has left an indelible mark on his life and ignited a flame of inspiration that will continue to serve him as he continues forward with his academic journey. 

Opportunity Awaits 

Having encountered a veterans’ program at a different institution that failed to live up to his expectations, Russell’s sentiments were tinged with ambivalence. However, a renewed sense of hope blossomed within him as he embarked upon his journey at Rocky Top. 

Russell decided to give the Veterans Impact Program (VIP) a try after speaking with Tom Cruise, assistant director at UT’s Veterans Success Center, and a former student veteran. Cruise assured Russell that the one-semester cohort program – created to support incoming student veterans during their first-year transition to UT – had a lot to offer. 

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to be here at UT,” said Russell, 29, who moved with his wife to Knoxville more than a year ago. “I just wanted to get back into school and finish out my degree. But when I got here I saw this was much more than I realized.”

Cruise explained to Russell that the VIP offered a transition course designed specifically for veterans, customized individual academic plans, academic coaching, social events, and peer learning assistance. There is also a financial incentive given to participants at the end of their first semester, and at the end of their first year if they successfully complete all program requirements.  

“The Veteran Impact Program was designed to aid in that challenging time of transition from military service into higher education,” said Cruise. “We are honored to provide such a unique service to our veterans, not only academically, but financially and socially as well.” 

In the face of doubt and uncertainty, Russell went from questioning the path ahead to finding assurance and renewed confidence, as these tools provided by the VIP not only helped support his academic journey but also offer tangible rewards that further fueled his determination to excel. 

“I talked with Tom and Tom was very adamant on ‘This is a lot bigger than you probably think. We have a lot going on. We have a lot of resources,’ Russell said. “Not very many universities have this kind of program where you can really integrate with something. Now that I’ve been here. I feel like I’m a part of UT. I’m not just here for a degree. I’m here for a lot more than a degree now.” 

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The Division of Student Success (DSS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is proud to welcome Meredith Malburne-Wade as its new Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research & Fellowship (OURF). 

An esteemed professional with an impressive track record in fostering inclusive excellence and student development, Dr. Malburne-Wade most recently served as the Director of the Office of Student Awards, Initiatives, and Research (STAIR) as well as the Office of Fellowships and Awards (OFA) at James Madison University (JMU). 

Over the course of her career, Dr. Malburne-Wade has created and expanded fellowship and research offices, has grown the First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) Program, and has seen significant successes with student access to Goldwater, Boren, Gilman and Fulbright among others fellowship and scholarship opportunities. 

She is an experienced faculty member, grant writer and an accomplished author and scholarly contributor in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century American Literature and Drama including her book Revision as Resistance in Twentieth-Century American Drama. 

Dr. Malburne-Wade was a first-generation/low-income college student, and received her B.A. from Wellesley College, her M.A. from Georgetown University, and completed her Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  

She will start her position at UTK in mid-July. 

“Meredith is a rising star, said Dr. Pat Akos, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success and Executive Director of University Honors. “Everyone I talked to at her previous institutions raved about her. She will be a key leader maintaining and growing our fellowship success and expanding a culture of undergraduate research as a high-impact practice for new efforts like The Vol Edge.” 

“I was deeply impressed by UTK’s clear dedication to student advancement through research, engagement, and inquiry,” said Dr. Malburne-Wade. “I am excited to join the OURF team as we continue to build on the current successes while finding new ways to offer inclusive, challenging, and life-changing opportunities to UTK’s talented and dedicated student body. I am excited and grateful for the opportunity.” 

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The Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently announced Dr. Sharon Jean-Philippe as the incoming Faculty Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (OURF) within the Division of Student Success. 

Dr. Sharon Jean-Philippe

In her new role, Dr. Jean-Philippe will work with the OURF Director and OURF staff to foster a campus culture where undergraduate research is a deeply engaging experience that is accessible to all students. 

Dr. Jean-Philippe comes to this role as a highly accomplished professor in the UT School of Natural Resources, with expertise in forest dynamics, experiential learning, and the recruitment and retention of urban youth in agriculture. As a dual degree earner from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she brings extensive experience and knowledge to her new position. 

Under Dr. Jean-Philippe’s leadership, OURF will continue to provide students with unparalleled opportunities to engage in research that enhances their education and prepares them for successful careers.  

She has been actively involved in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students throughout her academic career, including talks on academic preparation, co-op opportunities, internships for students, and how to engage diverse student bodies. 

“Sharon has hard shoes to fill, but I am confident she will continue and extend the extraordinary work in undergraduate research at UT. Her expertise is perfect for our strategic direction on Vol Edge and opening opportunities for undergraduate research for all students” said Dr. Pat Akos, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success. 

Dr. Jean-Philippe has made significant contributions to community engagement through urban forestry while her research work, such as the Community Riparian Restoration Project, has helped to restore and improve the environment in East Tennessee communities. 

Dr. Jean-Philippe’s research portfolio is equally impressive and has been recognized by the Society of American Foresters Conference, the Tennessee Urban Forestry Conference, the Open Journal of Forestry, and the American Journal of Plant Science.  

Moreover, her research grants have received funding from such prestigious organizations as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“I couldn’t be more excited about Dr. Jean-Philippe in this position,” said outgoing OURF Faculty Director Dr. Erin Darby. “In her faculty role, I have found her a committed partner, collaborator, and leader in undergraduate research, as is clearly visible in both her stellar research record and her deep commitment to student mentorship. Sharon’s leadership in OURF will build upon the office’s strong record of success to take our undergraduate research programs to the next level.” 

Sharon has long been a stalwart advocate for undergraduate research experiences as a faculty member,” said Laura De Furio, acting director for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships. “In her urban forestry research group, her innovative community partnerships and student-first mindset have demonstrated how research opportunities can provide truly transformative experiences to undergraduates at UT. We are thrilled to welcome her to OURF’s leadership team.” 


Michael Camponovo has been recognized for this work with electromagnetic radiation, but it’s his work as director of UT’s GIS Outreach & Engagement Laboratory that has earned him the recognition of Campus Career Champion by the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration. As director, Camponovo fosters interest and excitement about GIS and geospatial technologies while encouraging Vols to pursue a career in geography. 

As a partner with the CCDAE, Camponovo plans the Geography Career Mingle each fall and utilizes alumni connections and his professional network to find employer partners willing to discuss their career with students to highlight the variety of career options in the industry. He researches and utilizes connections to find internships/jobs for students and shares them via email and a Microsoft Teams channel that he created for students. 

Alexis Andershock, the CCDAE’s senior career coach who nominated Camponovo, said his willingness and desire to help students is inspiring. “He is a creative colleague that is always looking to improve career success for his students and ensuring every sub-industry of geography is included in the career mingle,” Andershock said. “I value our partnership and am honored to call him a colleague and friend.” 

On the academic side, Camponovo coordinates the employer partners and projects for the GIS in the Community course (GEOG 420) creating real-world examples for students to apply their geography knowledge and get experience in the industry. He teaches Practicing Geography (GEOG 499), which is a career course that outlines how students can turn their degree into a career and prepares them for that process through resume and interview activities, doing so only after collaborating with the CCDAE to ensure the course outline and assignments matched their philosophy. In addition, during teaching, he utilizes “You Majored in What?” by Katharine Brooks, which is used in the career course taught by the CCDAE.  

Camponovo is the second member of the Volunteer community to be recognized as a Campus Career Champion. Lisa Parker, a distinguished lecturer of Hispanic Studies and director of the Language and World Business Program in the College of Arts & Sciences, was the first in November 2021. Campus Career Champions exemplify UT’s Strategic Vision, specifically Goal One of Cultivating the Volunteer Experience, by promoting career readiness in and outside the classroom. 

The Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA), led by Undergraduate Research & Fellowships in the Division of Student Success, took place on April 25, 2023.

This year’s event was hosted in UT’s Student Union with 1,179 students showing 868 projects from a wide range of disciplines and methodologies. On May 4 during a closing awards ceremony, participating colleges presented a total of 161 awards for excellence in undergraduate research and creative achievement. Nine colleges and the Baker Center for Public Policy were represented with students from over 56 departments participating. 

Sarah Lange, a senior majoring in addiction and behavioral neuroscience in the College Scholars program, was one of the undergraduate Vols to present two research projects. “For the past three years, research has been my outlet for inquiry and critical thinking, my space for creativity, and my celebration of innovation,” Lange said. “My experience at the University of Tennessee has opened my eyes to the depth of material that research can explore, and I am exceptionally grateful for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships for this opportunity!” 

In addition, the 2023 Faculty Research Mentor Award Winners, sponsored by URF, were announced. This award recognizes UT faculty who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers. At least two undergraduate students must nominate them, with at least one having participated in the recent EURēCA. 

Since 1997, EURēCA has become one of UT’s premier undergraduate research events and is an annual spring event that showcases research and creative activities across all disciplines by currently enrolled undergraduate students in collaboration with a faculty mentor. This year, student research was overseen by 331 faculty mentors, as well as postdocs and graduate students helping to mentor undergraduates in their research groups. In addition, 224 campus and industry judges participated, and division representatives worked with Undergraduate Research & Fellowships for the entire academic year to provide this opportunity for students. 

Tyler Myers, a senior majoring in microbiology and neuroscience and 2023 Goldwater Scholar, said, “”EURēCA gave me an opportunity to showcase my own research while celebrating the hard work of my peers. Participating in such an interdisciplinary event as EURēCA helps unify our campus through a shared interest in academic exploration and creative endeavors.”

Nathaniel Bradley with members of the CCDAE team receiving his award.

One undergraduate and one graduate student recently received the Lumsden-Greenberg Excellence in Career Management award. Nathaniel Bradley is a senior in English with a concentration in technical writing and a Wildlife and Fisheries management minor. The graduate student awardee was Ekramul H. Ehite, a graduating PhD student in biosystems engineering.

This award recognizes students who have demonstrated success in their career development journey and engaged with relevant resources/experiences. These students utilized Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration (CCDAE) services, including individual appointments or classes, gained direct skills through internships or other experiential learning, and attended career workshops, events, or fairs. Additionally, these students have developed a personal brand and have been able to articulate their skills, knowledge, and abilities with confidence through the job search or graduate school admissions process.

Bradley, the first student awarded, participated in several career coaching appointments while changing his major, attended drop-in resume review hours, and attended one of the Career Conversations. He had also utilized Handshake to apply for positions. He is a member of the Student Disability Services Advisory Board and has participated in several experiential learning opportunities, including opportunities through the Departments of Wildlife and Fisheries and Anthropology. He has also worked part-time at a public library, which helped lead to his post-graduate goal of attending graduate school for library and information science.


Ehite attended 20 different career development events over the past year! These included numerous employer info sessions for engineering, Prepare for the Fair, job fairs, and the Memphis VOLTrek for engineering students. On a recent multi-day employer visit, Ehite researched and connected with the employers ahead of the trip, had thoughtful questions for each of the employers, and has connected with employers after he returned to campus. Multiple employers and the trip organizer commented on both Ehite’s skills and achievements, but also on how pleasant their interactions were with him throughout our visit. In addition to his graduate research, he interned at Johnson & Johnson in 2022. He is currently in the process of interviewing with several companies for engineering-related positions, including one he met on the CCDAE’s VOLTrek.

Goal area one of the university’s Strategic Vision, Cultivating the Volunteer Experience, calls for collaborative and experiential educational opportunities that are responsive to the needs of learners. While many efforts are being lifted to respond to this call, one unifying strategic investment that UT has named is a sustained focus on our scholars’ well-being.   

Following recommendations from the Strengths Advisory Council, the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student Success committed to extending UT’s investment in student well-being into the classroom. In August 2022, Dr. Sally Hunter began her appointment as the Volunteer Experience faculty director. In October 2022, faculty members were invited to apply to become Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows. In January 2023, the 18 faculty fellows from all nine undergraduate colleges were announced to the university community.  

As spring 2023 comes to a close, these 18 Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows are halfway through their fellowship. Over the course of the semester, through a partnership with Teaching and Learning Innovation, the fellows have engaged in workshops and sharing best practices regarding teaching pedagogies that support the well-being of students and faculty alike. One of the goals of this initiative is for the fellows to engage their colleagues in dialogue regarding practices that are best suited to their field and classroom type. Each fellow has submitted their tentative plans for fostering these discussions or creating resources for their own units.  

“Working with colleagues across campus and disciplines has helped me identify shared challenges we all face every day and develop straight-forward tools to make us better faculty and members of our shared community,” Laura Knight, assistant professor of practice in the Tickle College of Engineering, said. “Although generally, STEM students and faculty might demand a slightly different set of tools than those used in a humanities classroom, by working together, we are realizing the similarities and synergies of teaching with a shared PERMA model.” 

The fellows have had many discussions over the course of the semester on the importance of introducing tools and language that are an easy lift to support the excellent teaching that is already occurring on this campus.  

“Promoting and fostering the well-being of our students will enable better and more meaningful classroom experiences for all learners,” Jennifer Fowler, distinguished lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. “Creating an environment where students feel connected to their classmates and teachers, and where they are engaged, motivated, feel valued and a sense of accomplishment, can make a real difference in their academic careers.” 


This group will reconvene in August 2023, and the faculty fellows will then work in small groups to: (a) create both general and field-specific toolkits of well-being resources; (b) host informal sessions to speak with small groups of colleagues about the resources that are available and share existing practices; and (c) present more formally in venues such as department retreats, department faculty meetings, and Faculty Senate. 

“While the focus of this initiative is on tending to the well-being of our students through their most common touchpoint on campus, it has been so rewarding to see the community being built amongst the fellows themselves,” Hunter said. At the final meeting of the semester, the fellows shared not only their tentative plans for fall 2023 but also the way they were affected by the opportunity to share interdisciplinary ideas and form relationships across colleges. 

Those interested in learning more about the PERMA Model of Well-Being and how to integrate an asset-based framework in the classroom can visit the Teaching and Learning Innovation resource page on Fostering the Volunteer Experience