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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, 2022.

This year’s event was hosted in UT’s Student Union with 997 students showing 654 projects from a wide range of disciplines and methodologies. On May 2 during a closing awards ceremony, participating colleges presented a total of 91 awards for excellence in undergraduate research and creative achievement.

Senior Ashlyn Anderson is a Haslam Scholar, Torchbearer, Fulbright recipient, and UT representative at the Posters at the Capitol research event. She said, “EURēCA has offered a world of opportunity to showcase my research, connect with other passionate peers, and recognize the importance of undergraduate research. It has given me a platform upon which I have strengthened my presentation and poster creation skills, all while being scaffolded by faculty and staff.”

In addition, the 2022 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.

Laura Russo, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and recipient of a Faculty Research Mentor award in the natural sciences, said EURēCA was a great opportunity for her students to prepare and present their research projects. “For many of them, it is their first presentation, and they are very nervous, but they learn a lot from the process and enjoy seeing the other research projects that are ongoing,” she said. “This is definitely a great way for us to share our work at UTK.”

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 233 faculty mentors, as well as postdocs and graduate students helping to mentor undergraduates in their research groups. In addition, 150 campus and industry judges participated, and division representatives worked with Undergraduate Research & Fellowships for the entire academic year to provide this opportunity for students.

“EURēCA was new to me, but I am so excited to have been a part of it,” said Jennifer Ware, an award-winner in the humanities division, senior in Judaic Studies, and first-time EURēCA participant. “EURēCA gave me, not only the opportunity to share my current research, but an important line to add to my CV. I appreciate everyone who put in countless hours to give undergraduates the opportunity to experience a research platform that will provide skills that are necessary for those of us continuing on a path that includes research.”


UT’s Programs Abroad Office at the Center for Global Engagement recently announced this year’s recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The entire article can be read here.


Soon-to-be graduate, Tasimba Jonga, received UT’s highest student honor this spring being named a 2022 Torchbearer. Jonga has also been named a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University where he will be a graduate student in management science and engineering. The entire article can be read here.


Following a national search, the University of Tennessee has selected Patrick Akos as the next associate vice provost for Student Success and executive director of Honors & Scholars Programs, beginning July 1. In this role, Akos will chart a bold, new vision for UT’s honors programs and will enhance and expand the university’s undergraduate research and fellowships enterprise. 

“Dr. Akos is a visionary and collaborative leader prepared to transform UT’s efforts to support our undergraduate student scholars through honors, undergraduate research, and fellowships initiatives,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said.   

Akos and James Williams, director of Honors & Scholars Programs and associate professor in the College of Education, Health, & Human Sciences, will enhance collaborations with UT faculty to re-imagine the university honors experience through innovative pedagogy and a rigorous curriculum effective student support services. Director Williams, who has served as a faculty member in CEHHS since 2014, brings a successful record of innovating undergraduate curriculum and serving as an advocate for student scholars to his role as director of the Honors & Scholars Program. 

 “The honors experience should encourage students to dig deeper and go further with their academic interests,” Director Williams said. “I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Akos and our acclaimed faculty to enhance the honors experience for current and future Volunteers.” 

With Erin Darby, faculty director of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships and associate professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Andrew Seidler, director of Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, Akos will strengthen UT’s undergraduate research and fellowships initiatives by expanding access and enhancing support services. 

Akos, who will serve as a consultant to the university during the summer, expressed his enthusiasm for joining UT. “I am honored to join this vibrant community of innovative thinkers and doers and look forward to collaborating with faculty and staff to advance the success of all Volunteers.” 

Akos currently serves as a professor in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research, teaching, supervision, clinical practice, and leadership are grounded in a strengths-based framework. He examines how best to support and cultivate well-being, especially during educational and career transitions. Pending approval from UT’s Board of Trustees, Akos will continue as a full, tenured professor in the College of Education, Health, & Human Sciences. 

The search committee, which included broad faculty and staff representation and opportunities for campus partners to engage with finalists, was led by Christopher Stripling, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications. 

Reflecting on the comprehensive search process, John Zomchick, provost and senior vice chancellor, said, “I am grateful to the search committee and the UT community for engaging in a collaborative process that resulted in the selection of Dr. Akos.” 

A campus-wide reception will take place this fall to welcome Professor Akos to the UT community.  

Contact: Kelsey Kyne, kkyne@utk.edu 


The University of Tennessee held its inaugural Career Outcomes Summit on March 3 in the Student Union Pilot Flying J Ballroom with faculty and staff attending. The Summit was sponsored by the Division of Student Success and the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration. 

The Summit connects faculty and staff at UT with information on students’ post-graduation outcomes to evaluate their success while at college. The data collected from the career profile enables UT to improve academic and student success initiatives that support scholars as they set and achieve their post-graduation goals, securing employment or continuing education. This strategy aligns with UT’s Strategic Vision, particularly Goal One of cultivating the Volunteer Experience. 

Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams welcomed attendees, emphasizing UT student scholars’ experience on campus and how they articulate their collegiate experience into career-ready dialogue.  

“Our undergraduate scholars learn and hone their academic and leadership potential inside and outside of the classroom,” Vice Provost Williams said. “Our goal is to help scholars understand how to articulate those skills and other collegiate experiences so they’re competitive in the job market or continuing education.” 

Suzie Allard, associate dean for research & director of the Center for Information & Communication Studies, attended in person and reflected on how faculty can help students highlight and develop what they are learning in the curriculum to match the “soft” skills and competencies employers are looking for. Allard said it would be like adding a superpower to the curriculum. “It is an essential part of our strategic plan to help our students find their path from our education to their careers,” Allard said. “This helps our state industries and government have the best people to fill their jobs.” 

75% of the graduating class reported an outcome, and of those who completed the survey, 88% of our bachelor’s graduates had a positive outcome. 60% of our students are employed in-state, with a $51,365 mean salary, and 68% completed an internship or similar experience.   

Post-graduation outcomes include obtaining employment, attending graduate or continuing education, performing military service, and other outcomes. The Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration utilizes multiple outlets for getting career outcomes and collects this data for up to six months after graduation. These include attending on-campus events to gather information, participating in calling campaigns, and researching online outlets such as LinkedIn for post-graduation outcomes. National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provides career outcomes guidelines for higher education institutions on collecting and reporting post-graduation career outcomes. 


SCORE, a Tennessee-based team of professionals supporting student success across the state, published a blog story highlighting the UT Success Academy. The entire article can be read here.


As I reflect on the first semester of the UT Success Academy (UTSA), success would be an understatement! I am proud of the amount of progress we have accomplished and the relationships that have been built in such a short period. In four months, we were able to welcome 113 first-year students as members of the inaugural cohort and host the Fall Kick-Off extended orientation 10 days before the start of the fall semester as an introduction and connect students with upper-division peer coaches and other scholars in the program.

This fall, student scholars completed customized individual success plans detailing academic, social, and personal goals. These plans will be developed each semester and include goals for each course, setting dates to meet with their academic advisor and attend academic success workshops, and how they plan to use their strengths during the semester. Student scholars also attended monthly Link-Up events engaging in activities around servant leadership, social identity, and personal well-being. More informal programming included a professional dress etiquette workshop, the creation of a fantasy football league, and a video game tournament where students competed in NBA2K, FIFA, and Smash Bros.

People have asked what I enjoy most about being the program director, and it is tough to pinpoint one aspect of my job. There are moments when a student will run into the office excited about passing an exam or a project they are working on, when I feel like the friend or confidant needed at the time, or even small moments when everyone is asking for internship recommendation letters! If I had to choose, it would be walking into the room at an event and seeing the cohort all in one space connecting. Moments like these reinforce what this program is about. The UT Success Academy is here to ensure that student scholars understand their strengths and how they connect to their goals, provide a structure for support along the way, and build a community – a family – of people that are here to cheer them on through the finish line.

As the program director, I do not believe we could have asked for a better start to the UT Success Academy than the one we had this fall. The community and relationships developed over the past four months will last our student scholars a lifetime to come. I am extremely proud of this group and the work they have done this semester to become the best version of themselves.

I look forward to seeing what goals our student scholars want to accomplish for the spring and how we can support those goals. We will continue to create a space for our student scholars to develop relationships and celebrate our wins, big or small.

Aaron Dixon, UTSA Program Director


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has been selected as one of eight universities and colleges to receive a $25,000 grant as a member of the inaugural Promising Practice Accelerator for the American Talent Initiative 

The university has set a bold vision to enhance all students’ persistence and graduation rates, emphasizing low-income students and other special populations. “We’re honored to be chosen for this inaugural grant. This grant further allows us to transform the student experience and supports critical goals in the university’s strategic vision,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “By challenging our students and developing the systems to support them, we believe our Volunteers will thrive.”  

This fall, the accelerator grant will allow UT to pilot a transformative experience for more than 100 low-income new Volunteers. UT will develop a customized summer bridge program, personalized academic support, and facilitate financial wellness resources and conversations by creating a comprehensive approach to student well-being and success. 

“We are excited for this opportunity to enhance the Volunteer experience for students on campus. The ATI initiative aligns well with UT’s access mission and will further help students achieve their educational goals,” Kari Alldredge, vice provost for the Division of Enrollment Management, said. “We are grateful to have been selected among seven other outstanding schools across the country and cannot wait to see how the grant-supported initiative positively impacts the lives of our students.” 

Bloomberg Philanthropies fund the grant. The other seven schools selected include Barnard College (New York, NY), Hope College (Holland, MI), Lebanon Valley College (Annville, PA), Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ), Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY), University of Dayton (Dayton, OH), and Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC). ATI facilitates research, practice-sharing, and communications campaigns around presidential leadership, access and affordability, community college transfer, student veteran engagement, and student success and equity in the academic experience. With this support, members can make measurable progress toward aspirational lower-income student enrollment goals and minimize equity-based graduation gaps by 2025. To learn more about ATI, visit www.americantalentinitiative.org.


The Office of the Provost is moving forward with promoting the Volunteer Experience, as articulated in goal one of the Strategic Vision. This comprehensive, university-wide approach promotes student well-being inside and outside the classroom. One effort in that approach is establishing academic department Student Success Grants to support the integration of well-being pedagogy in priority, high-enrollment courses.

The first grant awarded in fall 2021 supports the Division of Biology’s Biology Booster Shot project, submitted on behalf of co-applicants, Professor Randall Small and Lecturer Caroline Wienhold. “The Provost’s Office is excited to support the Division of Biology and this effort that will engage with the Volunteer Experience by infusing well-being into the department’s classrooms to enhance student success,” Amber Williams, vice provost for Student Success, said. “This step is the first among many initiatives designed to create the conditions where every student scholar thrives. I’m grateful to the Biology faculty for their commitment to enhancing the undergraduate experience.”

The Biology Booster Shot is a three-pronged approach to improving student success in the 100-level introductory biology courses, specifically BIOL 150 and 160. The project, which is expected to take two years and will serve as a pilot project for future grants, will:

  • Enhance learner support programs in collaboration with the Academic Success Center
  • Refocus the learning objectives and pedagogical approaches in these courses
  • Create a culture of continuous reflection and innovation framed in well-being for faculty and staff

Faculty from BIOL 150 and 160 courses attended a two-day retreat Tuesday, January 11 and Wednesday, January 12 to focus on innovative methods of incorporating well-being and the grant’s outcomes into the classroom. Day one focused on the framework for infusing well-being strategies into the classroom. Faculty were able to share existing practices and brainstorm new ideas under each element of PERMA. Day two centered on equity-based teaching, best practices in policy and assessment, and idea generation, with Dr. Rachel Ellestad attending to share what faculty are doing in engineering fundamentals.

As part of grant, the Division of Biology is working with Teaching & Learning Innovation to develop sustainable professional development and curriculum review processes for faculty. Implementing enhanced ways to onboard and support new instructors will build community among our faculty and ensure ideas and momentum are built upon semester to semester, ultimately contributing to student success. “TLI is thrilled to be working with General Biology on this project,” Virginia Stormer, associate director in TLI, said. “What is so impressive about this group of faculty is how enthusiastic and invested they are in the success of their students. The retreat was a wonderful opportunity for the faculty to learn from each other and to generate ideas to create a consistent and supportive experience for all students in Biology 150 and 160 courses.”

“In our project, we are focusing on both students and faculty, because feeling supported, feeling part of a community, finding meaning in your efforts, and achieving, isn’t something only students need,”  Wienhold, also assistant director of Biology Teaching & Learning, said.

In addition, they are collaborating with the Academic Success Center to expand biology students’ tutoring options, namely creating a method for peer tutors to participate during class and form a team with the instructor. This work is meant to create a culture of students seeking academic support and making large classrooms feel more personable and smaller.

“We expect the team-based professional development and curriculum review processes and peer tutor program we develop in general biology courses will serve as a model for the upper-division biology courses and other large-enrollment or team-taught courses,” Small, also director of Biology Teaching & Learning, said.

Dr. Wienhold explained the importance of students’ success in biology, saying UT faculty want students to be informed citizens and critical consumers of data who understand the scientific process. Most of the 7,000 students enrolled annually in general biology are not biology majors and have different interests. “If we can help students find meaning in the content and connection through relationships with their peers, their tutors, and their instructors, we hope that will sustain their interest in biology and push these students to continue to learn and engage with science,” Wienhold said.


The UT Success Academy (UTSA) was featured on knoxnews.com on December 28, 2021. Writer Rebecca Wright highlighted the academy’s role in motivating and enhancing first-year Black and Latinx men’s transition to the University of Tennessee and the support of their well-being through the four-year cohort program.