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Program Staff

Emma Burgin, PhD, is the program coordinator. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee in counselor education and supervision. Her master’s degree in clinical/community psychology is from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and her bachelor’s degree is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her experience includes working as the internship and transition coordinator for FUTURE and as a clinical mental health counselor in various outpatient and inpatient settings. Her research interests include postsecondary education for students with IDD, mindfulness and acceptance-based counseling, creativity, professional development of counselors, etc. Outside of work, Burgin serves as a clinical mental health therapist at a local psychiatric hospital. She enjoys reading historical fiction novels, going to concerts, playing with her pug mix puppies, watching Tar Heel basketball, and traveling. 


Mary Jo Krile, MSEd, is a special education PhD candidate and in her second year of teaching the digital literacy courses for FUTURE. She is originally from North Dakota. Her education background includes a master’s and bachelor’s degree in special education. Prior to moving to Tennessee, Krile was an elementary special education teacher for three years and a high school special education teacher for one year. She enjoys teaching the digital literacy courses, and her overall goal is to help FUTURE students become independent in a technology-driven society.


Arden Szepe, MA, NCC, is a graduate teaching assistant in the FUTURE program, currently teaching career and life planning courses. She is a second-year doctoral student in the Counselor Education program at UT. She earned her master’s degree in counseling and human services from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and is a National Certified Counselor. Her experience includes working as a mental health counselor in various settings with adolescents and families. Her research interests include career development over a lifespan, adolescent development, clinical supervision, etc. In her free time she enjoys spending time outside with her two dogs, reading, traveling, and cooking.


Wes Allen, MS, LAPC, NCC, is a graduate teaching associate currently teaching life skills courses. He is in his second year in the doctoral program in counselor education at UT. He completed his master’s in clinical mental health counseling from the University of North Georgia and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. His primary professional experience has been working in community mental health and with issues related to substance use. His research interests include the development of educator identity within the framework of counselor educator identity development, professional identity development, and wellness practices of healthcare providers. On the weekends he enjoys reading, playing with his young son, and spending time with family.


Jessica Kotik, BS, is a first-year PhD student in the School Psychology program at the University of Tennessee. She recently graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in sociology. This is her first year working with FUTURE, and she is extremely eager to meet and work with all the awesome students in the program! In her free time, Kotik likes to spend time with friends and family, go to musicals, and travel.


Charaya Upton, MA LPC MHSP, NCC, is a graduate research assistant currently working at a psychiatric hospital as a mental health therapist. Upton is a first-year doctoral student in the UT Counselor Education program. She earned her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Tennessee Tech University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Mental Health Service Provider. She is also a National Certified Counselor. Her experience includes working as a mental health therapist at Ten Broeck TN and as a case manager with children, adolescents, and families. Her research interests include clinical supervision, work with the psychotic population, child play therapy, and student development. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, photography, playing musical instruments, and traveling.


Carrielynn O’Reilly, is a graduate research assistant for the Tennessee Behavior Support Project at UT and a doctoral candidate in the field of special education. She earned her master’s degree in special education from Montana State University. She also earned a degree in history from Eastern Illinois University and a secondary education degree from the University of Great Falls. She currently holds Montana teaching certificates in reading, special education, and history as well as graduate certificates from Texas Tech University in autism and deaf-blind education. Her teaching experiences include working as a wilderness team leader and providing transition support in a private residential setting for students diagnosed with severe emotional behavior disorders. She also worked as a special education case manager in the public school system for eight years, primarily with students diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities. Her research interests include postsecondary transition, positive behavior support systems, and inclusionary practices. In her free time she enjoys playing in the outdoors with friends.


Meredith Abercrombie, BA, is the program’s outreach coordinator. Her main duties are to increase on-campus awareness of the program and create efficient ways of recruiting prospective FUTURE students in the Knoxville area. She recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a BA in public relations and a double minor in marketing and political science. She is also currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and hopes her experience will lead to a career in the nonprofit sector. When she is not at FUTURE, she enjoys cooking, hiking, playing ultimate frisbee, and spending time with her cat, Ziggy.


Natalie Campbell focuses on strategic planning and engagement for the program. She began working with FUTURE as a peer mentor, and due to her increased interest in advocacy work, she has transitioned into a more formal role. Campbell primarily handles program advocacy efforts and tackles other special projects. Through the College Scholars program, she studies disability as well as legal and political philosophy. In addition to her studies, she has held internships at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Down Syndrome Program and Knox County ARC. She’s also studied international education opportunities for people with IDD with the Fulbright Commission. After graduation, she plans to go to law school to practice disability rights law. Campbell also enjoys her role as chief of staff of the Student Government Association and increasing FUTURE student involvement in various organizations across campus. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, especially her sister, Olivia, who has Down Syndrome.