Step onto the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus, or hop into a Zoom class, and it becomes immediately apparent what higher education is all about—people. The students arrive on campus each semester to elevate their knowledge and prepare themselves for graduation and beyond. The faculty and instructors lead and support students’ drive to learn and to dive into new and exciting topics. And the individuals working behind the scenes developing programming and initiatives that take the collegiate experience to the next level.
The Division of Student Success at UT is celebrating its first anniversary this month. With a mission of maximizing students’ strengths and helping them achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals, Student Success collaborates with students every day to encourage their path forward and enhance the experiences that will make their time at UT and beyond successful and meaningful.
“Student success means that each student that I work with, or who works with our office, grows as a person and as a learner so that they may continue their educational pursuits and be enriched by the journey,” said Jessica Osborne, associate director of the Academic Success Center. Osborne has worked at the center since May 2013 and specializes in assessment and outreach. Certified by the National Tutoring Association as an academic coach, Osborne is passionate about higher education and working with UT students. She identifies the unique qualities of UT students as “their drive, their determination, and their caring Volunteer spirit.” She adds, “I am routinely impressed by what our students achieve and how caring and committed our staff is to their success.”
As an assistant director of Honors & Scholars Programs since 2019, Ashton Cooper will experience the graduation of the first Honors Leadership Program cohort this year. He says he has been honored to work with such a hard-working, resilient student scholar group. “I believe student success to be fostering a healthy appreciation for thinking and learning while also promoting holistic well-being,” said Cooper. “It is important to get to know scholars for this to happen—to learn what their goals are, encourage them, and support them.” Cooper, who has been at UT since 2015 as a doctoral student and then a full-time staff member, said, “Staff at UT are caring and supportive. It is great to work at a place where care is at the heart of what we do.”
Carrie Worley, assistant director of New Student Orientation, has worked at UT for over five years and has been with Student Success since March 2020. “Becoming a part of this division has been a trailblazing experience,” said Worley. “We have completely reimagined the orientation experience for our new Vols.” Worley was integral in implementing the New V.O.L. Experience, which encompasses three phases of orientation and culminates with Big Orange Welcome, happening now until February 27 for the spring semester. “Our scholars have such a drive and passion for all things,” said Worley. “They fully embrace the Volunteer community and spirit, which is something that truly lives on even after they graduate.” Worley also works with campus partners to integrate programming into Big Orange Welcome and looks forward to how the initiative will expand and develop in the future.
Veterans Success Center Coordinator Thomas Cruise has worked full-time for UT and the center for three years. Before that, he attended UT as a student veteran, having served in the US Air Force for six years. “Student success is very personal to me because not that long ago I was a student on this campus experiencing all the things that students are experiencing today,” said Cruise. “From a student veteran perspective, student success means knowing and understanding the challenges our students face and to make it my daily goal to ensure that their success is a top priority.” Cruise has focused on developing relationships with campus partners, which resulted in the first campus-wide veterans appreciation dinner, bringing together faculty, staff, and student veterans. “What I found was that the staff I interacted with were not only open to working with our office but were more than willing to go the extra mile to ensure a great professional relationship,” said Cruise.
Leaders within Student Success like Osborne, Cooper, Worley, and Cruise are integral to UT’s values and mission to create an exceptional academic and collegiate experience for students from all walks of life.