Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

News & Noteworthy

Emilie Wise with Kyle Ross, executive director of NACADA, and Teri Farr, president of NACADA.

Two University of Tennessee academic advisors won awards during NACADA’s 2023 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida October 4-7. Emilie Wise, coordinator for academic advising in the College of Arts & Sciences, was a winner of the NACADA Outstanding Advising Award in the primary advising category, and Lisa Byrd, associate director of advising for the Tickle College of Engineering, won the Outstanding Advising Award in the administrator category. 

Each college or university is only allowed to submit one person per category, and those individuals must meet specific eligibility requirements as well as be evaluated and scored on a set of criteria set by the NACADA. Academic advising at UT 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. In addition, TennACADA, UT’s on-campus advising association, works with individuals to submit for these awards. 

Lisa Byrd

“Emilie and Lisa’s dedication to academic advising at UT are reflections of our commitment to academic excellence and supporting our undergraduate scholars in achieving success in the classroom,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “I am proud they have been recognized for their excellent contributions as true ambassadors of the Volunteer spirit.” 

The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) 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.

First-Year Student Carter Davis


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In an effort to foster personal and academic development, the First-Year Programs (FYP) department within the Division of Student Success (DSS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville continues to embark on a unique initiative that involves close to 6,000 students completing a Clifton Strengths assessment prior to the commencement of classes.  

This proactive approach is particularly emphasized among First-Year Students (FYS) who are not only required to complete this assessment as part of their First-Year Seminar (FYS 101) course, but are also guided throughout the academic year on how to leverage their identified strengths for optimal academic and career success. 

First-Year Student Diana Vermillion


The Clifton Strengths Introduction in FYS 101: 

The foundation of this initiative lies in the incorporation of the Clifton Strengths assessment into the First-Year Seminar (FYS 101) curriculum. As part of their introduction to university life, First-Year students delve into the exploration of their unique strengths through the Clifton Strengths assessment.

This serves as a catalyst for self-discovery, laying the groundwork for a transformative academic journey. 


This year marked a special highlight in UT’s Clifton Strengths initiative as division leaders in Student Success randomly selected a group of First-Year students who completed the assessment before the start of classes.

Among this cohort, a standout individual was awarded a special item from the VolShop, creating a positive and motivating environment for students to actively engage with their strengths.

Guidance and Application: 

The integration of Clifton Strengths in FYS 101 goes beyond mere identification; students are actively encouraged to understand how they can best leverage their strengths to promote both academic and career success.

Faculty and mentors work closely with students to connect their strengths to various aspects of their academic pursuits and potential career paths. 

Memorization as an End Goal: 

A noteworthy objective of this initiative is that, by the end of the Fall semester, all First-Year students should be able to recite their top-5 Clifton Strengths from memory.

This commitment to memorization is not just a rote exercise; rather, it underscores the intention to internalize and integrate these strengths into students’ daily lives, providing a solid foundation for future academic and professional endeavors. 

First-Year Student Faith Branson


Benefits and Long-Term Impact: 

The Clifton Strengths initiative at our institution transcends traditional academic metrics. By investing in students’ self-awareness and understanding of their unique strengths, we aim to cultivate a generation of graduates who are not only academically adept but also empowered with a profound understanding of their capabilities.

The long-term impact of this initiative is anticipated to extend beyond the classroom, influencing career choices, personal development, and the overall success of our graduates in a rapidly evolving professional landscape. 

First-Year Student Carlos Gomez


In an era where holistic development is increasingly valued, UT’s embrace of the Clifton Strengths initiative signifies a commitment to nurturing the multifaceted potential within each student.

Through targeted integration into the First-Year Seminar curriculum and ongoing support, UT aspirse to empower students not just with knowledge but with a deep understanding of their individual strengths, paving the way for a successful academic journey and fulfilling careers. 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted its inaugural Thrive Summit on Wednesday, November 15 to an audience of faculty and staff, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Arthur Brooks, and co-hosted by the Division of Student Success and The Baker School of Public Policy & Public Affairs. 

Provost John Zomchick provided opening remarks to kick off the Thrive Summit, stating, “As a university, we have a responsibility to promote well-being among our students and among each other. Today’s wonderful program shows we take this responsibility seriously.” 

Dr. Brooks, a New York Times bestselling author and columnist at The Atlantic, is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Public and Nonprofit Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School, where he teaches courses on leadership, happiness, and social entrepreneurship.  

His address to the 155 attendees focused on how neuroscience relates to managing and understanding your emotions, which can lead to happiness and better well-being.  

“It’s not trying to eradicate emotions; it’s trying to manage emotions,” Brooks said. 

Brooks arrived on UT’s campus Tuesday, November 14, and had the opportunity to speak to first-year student scholars and UT leadership to learn more about well-being work on Rocky Top and relate his expertise and experience to how the university can move forward with efforts to incorporate well-being practices inside and outside the classroom.”

“I’m really encouraged by what I see here,” Brooks said at the conclusion of the Summit. “I think that happiness is the center of excellence at UT.”  

After spending two days at UT, Brooks left feeling strongly that the university is taking a unique approach to lifting student well-being and is creating a community where all students will thrive.

Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, closed out the keynote portion of the Summit with remarks on UT’s current work on integrating well-being in the classroom. She highlighted the current efforts of the Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows, as well as the faculty teams who are leading student success grants.

“By leaning into our students’ strengths and promoting their well-being, we know that we will help build resilient, capable students who will thrive not only on campus and in the classroom, but in the workplace and their communities,” Williams said during her remarks. 

Members of the UT faculty and leaders within the Division of Student Success then facilitated breakout sessions with additional updates on the university’s use of the PERMA Model of Well-being, ideas for applying that framework, and considerations regarding the unique needs of all undergraduate Vols.


“I enjoyed the UT Thrive Summit and thinking about the PERMA model in the context of incorporation in the classroom,” Emily Rodriguez, assistant professor of practice in UT’s College of Social Work, said. “I plan to implement more strengths-based feedback for the students to do self-reflection more often throughout the semester.” 

The Division of Student Success, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, will be recruiting the next cohort of Volunteer Experience Faculty Fellows to serve during the 24-25 academic year. There are additional opportunities to learn more about the Volunteer Experience and well-being listed on the Student Success website. 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Renowned speaker and author Arthur Brooks recently engaged with a captivated audience of First-Year students on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, sharing insightful perspectives on happiness, leadership, and personal fulfillment.

The event left a lasting impression on student scholar attendees, who were quick to share their takeaways.

Kidist Girmai, a junior in business marketing, emphasized the notion that happiness is not an absolute state but rather a continual journey toward improvement. She encapsulated this idea with the quote, “You can’t be happy; you can only be happier.”

Kenan Assay, a junior in psychology, highlighted the importance of leading with positivity rather than anger. Her reflection, “Don’t lead with anger, but uplift others,” underscored the power of uplifting and supporting those around us as a key aspect of effective leadership.

Ava Davis, a junior in architecture, contributed the idea that happiness is not a fixed destination but a direction. By expressing, “Happiness is not a destination; it is a direction,” Davis emphasized the need to focus on the journey and continuous improvement rather than fixating on a perceived endpoint.

Jalen Blue, a graduate student, shared a profound perspective on leadership, stating, “Leadership is helping others on their journey to finding their why.” This insightful statement reinforces the idea that true leadership involves guiding and empowering others to discover their purpose and motivation.

Seth Abbott, a master’s student in engineering and MBA business administration, acknowledged the inevitability of struggles on the path to success. With the statement, “We need the pain of struggling to get the bliss of reward,” Abbott highlighted the transformative power of challenges in achieving meaningful accomplishments.

Emalee Thackston, an MBA graduate, emphasized the importance of taking responsibility for one’s happiness and adopting intentional actions for long-term rewards. Her perspective advocates against seeking instant gratification, promoting the idea that true fulfillment comes from deliberate and sustained efforts.

Mykah Sheffield, a master’s student in social work, concluded the student reflections by emphasizing the significance of gratitude. “Being grateful for what we have and not worrying about what you don’t,” she expressed, emphasizing the importance of cultivating gratitude as a foundation for contentment.

Arthur Brooks’ speaking event left an indelible mark on the audience, inspiring them to reconsider their approach to happiness, leadership, and personal development.

The diverse range of student scholar perspectives showcased the universality of these themes and their relevance to various fields of study and personal journeys.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Division of Student Success and the Office of the Provost welcomes New York Times best-selling author and Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks to headline the UT Thrive Summit on Wednesday, November 15, as the event’s keynote speaker.

Brooks, who serves as the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Public and Nonprofit Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, has authored 13 books and has most recently coauthored a book with Oprah Winfrey titled Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier. He also writes a weekly column for The Atlantic called “How to Build a Life.” 

In addition to his keynote address, Brooks will also be speaking with groups of UT students, including those from various First-Year Studies courses on Tuesday, November 14.  

Dr. Brooks’ intimate conversation includes a copy of “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier” and a ”fireside chat” style interview with questions to commence afterward.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Arthur Brooks to the University of Tennessee to share his insights with our faculty and students,” said Dr. Amber Williams, Vice Provost of Student Success. “His expertise and perspective on leadership and social innovation will undoubtedly inspire and empower our community to strive for excellence.” 

The UT Thrive Summit is a one-day program designed to provide a professional development opportunity for faculty, staff, and the community at large to engage in activities with a focus on them better understanding the university’s student well-being strategy, discovering well-being practices to incorporate in the classroom, and engaging with the Volunteer community. 

“Dr. Brooks’ visit is a remarkable opportunity for our university to engage in meaningful conversations about leadership, economics, and the pursuit of happiness,” Williams said. “We believe his talk will leave a lasting impact on our students and faculty, encouraging them to embrace new ideas and take bold steps towards success.” 


Fall on Rocky Top is a vibrant season. Campus comes alive as new Vols transition to college, and returning students rejoin the community to continue their journey towards graduation. While football season is in high gear and students seek out opportunities with student organizations and the like, there is another season at play starting in late August. That is career and internship fair season.

Many new Vols cannot imagine looking toward and deciding their future while adjusting to a new academic schedule, learning study and time management skills, and maintaining a sense of well-being. It is during these times of navigation and introspection that their Volunteer community steps up to provide the support and resources they will need to develop their strengths and participate in dynamic opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience.

Opportunities for experiential learning help students learn more about their career goals, develop their experience and skills, and start to create a network of peers and professionals who can support them in finding their long-term career outcomes. Students connect with potential organizations for part-time jobs, internships, and full-time jobs. Because some employers attend these fairs in the fall to hire May grads and summer interns for the following year, students should participate and prepare early.

Natalie Feller, a recruiter from Oracle and alumna of UT, said the career fairs are a great way to connect with students. “The university has done such a great job in preparing students for these events,” she said. “The students that we have hired from UTK have built an incredible track record of success at Oracle and we will continue to build upon this relationship for years to come.”

The Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration hosts and supports numerous general and major-specific career fairs throughout the academic year, and the fall season for 2023 is ending. In addition, the center hosts events and drop-in hours throughout the year to help Vols build their resumes, practice their interview pitch and skills, create their LinkedIn profiles, and more.

This semester, the CCDAE hosted the Part-Time Job Fair August 29; Engineering & STEM Job & Internship Fair September 18; Supply Chain Management Job & Internship Fair September 26; and Business, Retail, & Government Job & Internship Fair September 27. These fairs welcomed 4,013 students and 411 employers. During this fall’s job fair series, the CCDAE also offered career fair tours every hour with a staff member to help students build confidence and learn how to approach a fair and connected first-year students with employers who were first-year friendly.

In addition, the CCDAE supported job fairs hosted by Accounting September 12, Herbert College of Agriculture October 3, Communication & Information October 4, Construction Science October 19, Nursing October 25, and Veterinary Medicine November 2. Looking toward spring 2024, they will host or support the Spring Job & Internship Fair, Education Fair, Summer Experiences Fair, and Architecture & Design Fair.

Lauren Allen, a senior majoring in construction science, attended the program-specific fair on the 19th. “One of the biggest ways I have found internships is coming to the career fairs,” Lauren said. “I would definitely recommend students attend!” Lauren has secured two internships from the fairs and attended the most recent to find a full-time job.

While job and internship fairs are an excellent opportunity for undergraduate Vols to learn more about available opportunities and different industries, students should also utilize the coaches and resources at the center to learn effective job search and career-related strategies.

Several times throughout the year at UT, inspired by the camaraderie of a traditional barbershop, students gather for a special event, “Barbershop Talk,” designed to bring Black and Hispanic men together. These Barbershop Talks provide a safe, welcoming space where participants can openly discuss life’s experiences, share their stories, and seek advice while enjoying the hospitality of getting a haircut. 

Dedric Robinson, a sophomore majoring in marketing, said, “Barbershop talk has been an amazing experience for me because it gives me the opportunity to have meaningful and fulfilling conversations with my peers and faculty that I value heavily while letting go of any concerns or stress that were on my mind before walking into Barbershop Talk.” 

This UT Success Academy event offers more than just a trim; it is a chance to connect, enjoy delicious food, and build a strong community of support between students, faculty, staff, and local community members. Barbershop Talk is an opportunity for UTSA’s diverse community to engage in meaningful conversations around things affecting their personal, social, and academic well-being. All UTSA members can participate, learn, and bond in a familiar environment like the barbershop. 

Joshua Rich is a junior majoring in biomedical engineering and member of UTSA, but also serves as one of the barbers for the event. “Barbershop talk has impacted first and foremost the clientele I receive. It puts me out there so people know that I cut hair and is good for business,” Rich said. “It is also just a great time for us young men to share thoughts through deep conversation and build friendships and connections.” 

UTSA’s most recent Barbershop Talk on October 11, 2023, had the most participants ever with over 50 students in attendance. The program has hosted six Barbershop Talks since they began in fall 2022. Mike Dorsey, known as “Coach Mike D,” moderates the discussions. Special guests have included Reggie Lane, UT’s director of player development, Tyvi Small, vice chancellor for Diversity & Engagement, Anthony Prewitt, director of Multicultural Student Life, and David Ndiaye, director of Student Disability Services.  

Coach Mike D is an inspiring peak performance coach, author, and podcast host. As a devoted coach, he has made it his mission to encourage, empower, and enhance individuals to reach their maximum impact and find fulfillment in every aspect of their lives. Through his weekly podcast “Impact and Fulfillment with Coach Mike D” and his social media presence, Mike D drops gems of wisdom to help people get the most out of the life they have been gifted through an authentic lens. 

There will be one more Barbershop Talk this semester and three to four in spring 2024. 

UT’s 2023 Discovery Day took place Tuesday, September 12 in John C. Hodges Library. This year’s exhibition featured the largest number of student researchers since its inauguration in 2015.  

Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, and Meredith Malburne-Wade, director of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, offered opened remarks and welcomed researchers, faculty, staff, and guests to two sessions, one from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and one from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.

This year’s event featured 115 student researchers presenting 105 projects. These students represented seven colleges and 41 different majors. In addition, 74 faculty members from eight colleges and 39 different departments mentored these researchers, with 17 of those mentors supporting multiple posters. 

One of the student researchers who presented was Jamisen Mobley, a senior majoring in biological sciences with a concentration in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology and a minor in public health.

Her presentation was titled “Evaluating the Potential of Oncolytic Herpes Simplex Viruses to Enhancing Anti-Tumor Immunity within the Glioblastoma Setting.” 

“This past summer I was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Joseph Jackson at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in his oncolytic therapeutics’ lab as a student in the Advancing Access to Careers in Medicine Scholars Program,” Mobley said. “When presenting at Discovery Day I was able to display and explain my research amongst my peers and faculty. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and getting the opportunity to be an expert on my findings from my time in the lab this summer.” 

Discovery Day is one of two signature symposiums throughout the academic year for undergraduate students to present their research. Occurring each fall, Discovery Day showcases research from the previous spring and summer semesters.

Student scholars work with a faculty mentor, create dynamic posters, and are on hand throughout the symposium to present and answer questions about their research.  

Vice Provost of Student Success, Dr. Amber Williams recently joined the ASCEND Podcast as a special guest to share her knowledge, wisdom, and insights on how campuses can increase their retention and student success efforts! The podcast, co-hosted by Jared Tippets and Eric Kirby, focuses on why student retention and completion are so important, and why previous retention efforts have not always worked.

Listen below on SPOTIFY:


The University of Tennessee and Dr. Amber Williams, Vice Provost for Student Success, are proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Melissa Irvin as the new Associate Vice Provost (AVP) for the Division of Student Success (DSS). 

As AVP, Dr. Irvin will provide executive leadership to the Academic Success Center, Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration, campus-wide Advising Initiatives, and Vol Success Teams, and serve as a pivotal leader in the Salesforce CRM implementation project.  

Over the course of her career, Dr. Irvin’s accomplishments and experience have demonstrated her expertise in higher education and academic leadership. Her track record at the University of South Florida, particularly in increasing retention and graduation rates, showcases her commitment to student success.

Her involvement with various offices, including Academic Advocacy, High-Impact Practices & Undergraduate Research, and Technology & Analytics, indicates a well-rounded approach to enhancing the overall learning experience for students. 

Dr. Irvin’s national reputation for innovative academic advising and technology-driven strategies implies that she brings fresh perspectives and modern solutions to the challenges in higher education. Her dedication to student welfare and academic excellence aligns closely with the values and mission of the University of Tennessee. 

“I am thrilled we were able to attract such a talented leader to help us continue to enhance our student success strategies,” said Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams. “Dr. Irvin is the right leader at the right time—bringing national best practices in academic advising, case management, and technology to Rocky Top.”   

“Growing up in Tennessee I have witnessed first-hand the impact that UT has on the state and on the nation as a change-maker setting standards in undergraduate education and transforming the lives of its students, Dr. Irvin said. “I am honored to join the dedicated and brilliant folks in the Division of Student Success, and embrace the Volunteer spirit of service, scholarship and success.” 

During Dr. Irvin’s tenure at Tennessee Technological University, where she served as Assistant Vice-President for Student Success, the institution achieved record-high fall-to-fall retention rates and successfully implemented student success technology tools, enhancing overall academic support for students.

Dr. Irvin was also recognized as a 2014 Fellow within the Tennessee Board of Regents Maxine Smith Fellowship Program, a reflection of her commitment to student achievement. 

Dr. Irvin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Minor in English from Duke University, followed by her Master of Education Leadership, Administration & Supervision (Higher Education) from Middle Tennessee State University. She obtained a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University. She’s an active member of NACADA and EDUCASE. 

Dr. Irvin replaces Dr. Leonard Clemons who was recently named Vice President of Student Affairs at Austin Peay State University.