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Community Engagement Academy

The Community Engagement Academy (CEA) is an interdisciplinary professional development program designed for new UTK faculty (0-3 years), postdocs, and graduate students who want to learn the foundations of community engagement and engaged scholarship and apply knowledge to research and practice. CEA provides background literature, facilitated discussion, mentoring, and presentations designed to increase their knowledge and enhance their practice of community engaged scholarship throughout Knoxville and East Tennessee by creating new partnerships and/or building upon existing ones.

Emerging engagement scholars will participate in seminars, with optional opportunities for engagement available through the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach (OCEO) initiatives. OCEO is committed to the principles of equity, shared governance, reciprocity, and mutual decision-making. Seminars are co-led by UTK faculty, staff, community partners, and national experts.

Current Cohort

Samantha McIntyre

PhD Student, Sociology

Research interest focuses on substance use recovery.

Gladys Hlorgbe

Master’s Student, Nutrition and Public Health

Research interests focus on school and community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity and increase access to healthy foods for vulnerable populations, as well as the promotion of physical activity levels.

Eliza Galvez

PhD Student, Social Work

Research interests include migration-related trauma and help-seeking practices among Latinx immigrants; risk and protective factors for the mental health and well-being of Latinx communities; culturally-relevant prevention programs for Latinx communities; culturally-responsive trauma-informed care for Latinx and immigrant communities.

LaKesha Lee

PhD Candidate, Public Health

Research interests revolve around disease prevention in rural Appalachia, specifically, how anthropogenic and pathophysiological factors conjointly influence disease outcomes.

Alisa Poe

MFA Student, Nursing

Research interests include nurse wellbeing, academic practice partnerships, and health disparities in rural Appalachia.

Temvelo Matsebula

PhD Student, Math Education

Research interests include Early Childhood teachers’ self-efficacy in relation to their identity as they teach math to children and the impact this has on Black students’ identity.

Sompa Reza

PhD Student, Public Health

Research interests include health disparities.

Mikayla Greene

Master’s Student, Excercise Physiology

Research interests include maternal and child health.


Cole Green

PhD Student, Child and Family Studies

Research interests focus on approaches of justice and how they intersect with the family across the lifespan, as well as holistic and restorative alternatives.

Shailey Curtis

PhD Student, Child and Family Studies

Research interests focus on the familial relationships impact on adolescent development and how (dis)similarly parents and adolescents perceive the family, each other, and how these perceptions predict adolescent outcomes.

Curry Wilson

PhD Student, Public Relations

Research interests lie at the intersection of ethnic public relations, message effects, and culture.


Kayla Stuart

Master’s Student, Forestry

Research interests focuses on characterizing the constraints Black and Brown individuals from underserved communities when considering careers in natural resources.

Kate Wright

PhD Student, Creative Writing (Poetry)

Research interests in focuses on increasing writer self-efficacy and the links between writer self-efficacy and post-secondary application completion at Knoxville’s Flagship high schools.

Rizwan Majeed

PhD Student, Community Nutrition

Research interests include migration, eating habits, malnutrition, breastfeeding, AI and nutrition education, and the transfer of nutrition education from one setting to another.

Leul Negussie

Master’s Student, Epidemiology

Research interest focuses on developing countries and rural health and health equity.

Hannah Thompson

PhD Student, Child and Family Studies

Research interests in the well-being and care of the early care and education workforce, trauma-informed/ reducing care practices, systems of oppression, adverse experiences, and social determinants of health.

View Previous Cohorts Below

Zakary Amen

PhD Student, Social Work

Research interests focus on housing, homelessness, weather, and infrastructure as well exploring the ways individuals utilize methodology and large data networks in the social sciences.

Jamian Coleman

Assistant Professor, Counselor Education

Research interests focus on investigating the well-being and quality of life of persons living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS, substance use disorders, and psychiatric disabilities within marginalized communities.

Cynthia Navarro Flores

Assistant Professor, Psychology

Research interests focus on reducing mental health disparities for marginalized youth and families by (a) understanding mechanisms by which mental health problems and resilience develop following adversity (e.g., adverse child experiences, trauma, discrimination) and (b) increasing access to culturally competent evidence-based interventions.

McKenzie Granata

PhD Candidate, Public Health

Research interests revolve around disease prevention in rural Appalachia, specifically,   how anthropogenic and pathophysiological factors conjointly influence disease outcomes.

Yunjung Kim

Post Doctoral Research Associate, Kinesiology

Research interests involve preventing sexual abuse for youth sports, analyzing polices and prevention schemes, and understanding stakeholders of youth sport clubs/programs.

Su Chen Tan

Master’s Candidate, Public Health

Research interests include refugee mental health disparities and community-based interventions to mitigate the impact of post-migration stressors on refugee mental health.

Alejandro Vázquez

Assistant Professor, Psychology

Research interest involves increasing mental health service access among minoritized youths and their families.

Francia Zelaya

PhD Candidate, Mathematics Education, TPTE

Research interest centers in teachers, Hispanic parents, and the Community engagement toward an equitable learning space in mathematics and STEM, focusing on racial justice.

Kenyette Garrett

PhD Student, Social Work

Research interests investigate the educational experiences of Black students in White spaces, particularly in music education.

Emilie Holloway

PhD Student, Implementation Science in Community Nutrition

Research interests revolve around maternal and child health, specifically, exploring breastfeeding/chestfeeding rates and the introduction of solid feeding among families with lower income.

Myia Makupson

PhD Student, Counselor Education and Supervision

Research interests explore the impact of the “Strong Black Woman” schema on doctoral student’s mental health.

Frank May

PhD Student, Microbiology

Research interests focus on understanding how mobile genetic elements drive interactions between microorganisms and how resulting interactions influence marine ecosystems on a broader scale.

Deidra Rogers

PhD Student, Adult & Continuing Education

Research interests explores spirituality, BIPOC adult learners’ social-emotional learning, service learning, and community engagement.

Jaquelina Schmittlen-Garbocci

PhD Student, Science Education, Theory & Practice in Teacher Education

Research interests revolve around equitable science education in Latinx communities and the practice of learning and teaching science in formal and informal settings.

Dale TeGantvoort

PhD Student, Higher Education Administration

Research interests center on the executive leadership pipeline at public research universities and identifying best practices in developing future leadership.

Namrita Varier

PhD Student, Information Sciences

Research interests revolve on topics such as polarization, misinformation, and fake news.

LeAnn Wills

PhD Student, Counselor Education

Research interests includes assessing school counseling interventions for effectiveness with diverse populations and school counselor readiness regarding school crisis response.

Phoebe Tran

Assistant Professor, Public Health

Research interest focuses on determining whether secondary cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention disparities exist between US rural and urban residents in the Southeastern US.

Ji Youn Yoo

Assistant Professor, Nursing

Research interests focus on how alterations of the gut microbial compositions and diversity (called gut dysbiosis) affect the host immune dysregulation, leading to critical adverse health outcomes.

Dominique Bulgin

Assistant Professor, Nursing

Research interest involves health promotion in Black communities experiencing chronic illnesses through

strategies for disease self-management.

Anujit Sarkar

Assistant Professor, Nursing

Research interests include exploring the interaction between oral and gut microbes and its implications on human health.

Jessie C. Tanner

Assistant Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Research interests revolve around the evolution of communication in acoustically communicating animals, especially treefrogs.

Jun Ai

Assistant Professor, Child & Family Studies

Research interests focus on providing equitable and high-quality early care and education for all children and their families, especially those from non-dominant communities.

Christopher Rogers

PhD Candidate, Sociology

Research interests are focused on inadequate medical care, misdiagnoses, and lack of high-quality medical care for Black patients in the hospital setting as material representations of racism.

Kimberly HIll

PhD Candidate, Higher Education Administration

Director, Project Excellence

Research interests include examining the benefits of pre-college access programs and retention of underrepresented students at higher education institutions.

Quannah Washington

Quannah Washington

PhD Student, Higher Education Administration
Coordinator, Office of Community Engagement and Outreach

Research interests will explore how adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect educational outcomes in Black Americans.

Camren Murray

Camren Murray

PhD Student, History

Research interests revolve around working with juniors and seniors at Austin East High School as they apply to post-secondary institutions (i.e. 4 year, 2 year, and vocational).

Isis Fukai

Isis Fukai

PhD Student, Energy Science and Engineering

Research interests include strategies for effective communication in scientific research related to energy, environmental, and natural resource sustainability.

Yetunde Fadipe

Yetunde Fadipe

Master’s Student, Public Health Nutrition

Research interests focus on community-based interventions to increase access to healthy foods for vulnerable populations.

Jill Malolepszy

Jill Malolepszy

PhD Student, Higher Education Administration
Associate Director, Office of Equity and Diversity

Research interests center on the role of restorative justice as a practice in higher education in preventing and responding to harm.

Shalini Yerukala

Shalini Yerukala

Research Specialist III
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

Research interests revolve around creating sustainable, eco-friendly management strategies for plant diseases, and outreach to farmers.

Janine Al-Aseer

Janine Al-Aseer

Clinical Assistant Professor, Theory & Practice in Teacher Education
Director, University Assisted Community Schools

My research centers community voices around equitable access to high-quality education and providing holistic services to children and their families.

Temitayo Abayomi

Temitayo Abayomi

PhD Student, Nutrition

My research explores the behavioural aspects of infant and young child nutrition and the development of interventions to positively modify those behaviours across the socio-ecological gradient, especially amongst vulnerable populations.

Jalen Blue

Jalen Blue

PhD Student, School of Communication Studies

My research interests include organizational communication, leadership, and DEI within the context of higher education.

DeLisa Hawkes

DeLisa Hawkes

Assistant Professor, Africana Studies and English

I study literary depictions of the relationships between Black and Indigenous peoples in nineteenth- to twenty-first-century African American literature.

Morgan Fleming

Morgan Fleming

PhD Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I aspire to leverage my research examining the impacts of climate change on salamanders to inspire students’ connection with the ecology of Appalachia and initiate conversations about practical conservation strategies for rural communities.

Joy Jenkins

Joy Jenkins

Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Electronic Media

My research explores changing roles, routines, and practices in newsrooms with a particular focus on local media.

Miranda Rutan

Miranda Rutan

PhD Student, College of Education, Health and Human Sciences

My research centers critical care and communities of care within formal and informal learning settings through a critical feminist lens.

Kelly Sauskojus

Kelly Sauskojus

PhD Student, English

I’m a graduate student in the rhetoric, writing & linguistics division of the English department. I’m interested in how place, race & religion affect the writing that takes place at some of the community gardens I work at in East Knoxville.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith

Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

My research interest is investigating the cardiovascular disease risk factors in informal community caregivers caring for ill relatives.

Mary Terry

Mary Terry

PhD Student, Theory & Practice in Teacher Education

I am researching the functions of racial identity and belonging in educational contexts.

Jillian Walton

Jillian Walton

PhD Student, Microbiology

My community engagement interests revolve around creating a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable community within the Knoxville area.

Kristen Wyckoff

Kristen Wyckoff

Lecturer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

My current outreach efforts focus on assisting and providing training to small water and wastewater utilities in Appalachian areas of Tennessee. I am also actively participating in efforts in LGBTQIA topics.

Corey Day

Entomology & Plant Pathology

Kimberly Mitchell


Jeremy Kanter

Child and Family Studies

Rebekah Hermann

Industrial Engineering

Jessica Jones

Haslam College of Business

Kertesha Riley

Counselor Education

LaTrice Wright


Kristen Ravi

College of Social Work

Kiley Compton

Educational Psychology & Counseling

Joseph Winberry

Communication and Information Sciences

Paula Lazarim

Counselor Education

Micheala DiPillo


Laura Knight

Industrial Engineering