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Program Staff

Emma Burgin, PhD, NCC, 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, she enjoys reading historical fiction novels, going to concerts, playing with her pug mix puppies, watching Tar Heel basketball, and traveling.


Macey Pierce is the Program Support Assistant, acting in a fluid capacity to support students and staff in administrative and interpersonal roles. She previously worked with FUTURE as the Americorp Independent Living Coordinator and returned to assume this position. She has a Bachelor’s degree in both psychology and game design. She spends her free time napping and pursuing esoteric knowledge.




Katie Upchurch, BA is the AmeriCorps member serving as the Outreach Coordinator this year. Her main duties include management of mentors and making connection between the FUTURE Program and other on campus and in the Knoxville community. She was a mentor with FUTURE for 1 year and a board member of Best Buddies UTK for 3 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a concentration in disasters, displacements, and human rights. In her free time, Katie likes to read, go to concerts, and explore Knoxville.


Sydney Sandefur, BS is serving as the Career Transition and Independent Living Coordinator with the FUTURE. She is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Education and a minor Psychology. Her concentration was in Therapeutic Recreation. She is originally from Alpharetta, GA and enjoys hiking, shopping, and playing with her dog in my free time.



Chelsea Wilson, BS is a Graduate Research Assistant currently working as the Academic Support Specialist for FUTURE. She is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program. She graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish. Her current research is focused on computer-based reading interventions, specifically in their effectiveness with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In her free time, she enjoys visiting new restaurants, playing volleyball (especially sand), traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Addie Welch, BS is a Graduate Teaching Associate currently teaching the Life Skills courses. She is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology program. She graduated from Emory University with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology with a minor in Creative Writing. While at Emory, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant at the Emory Autism Center and the Marcus Autism Center. After undergrad, she worked for two years as a full-time research assistant at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development on an NIH-funded Autism Center of Excellence grant. She hopes to make evaluating and working with students with ASD the focal point of her career. Her hope in teaching Life Skills is that the courses help her students navigate college life and promote their self-management skills to increase their resilience and independence.


Jordan Sloan is the advocacy intern this year. He currently works on projects to promote inclusion, support, and advocacy for the FUTURE students. He has previously been a FUTURE mentor and teacher’s assistant and has now transitioned into a staff role. She is a senior in the AUSP 3+1 program, and this is her second semester working with FUTURE. Jordan is also an ASL interpreter.


Katie Powell is the access intern for the FUTURE program this year. Her main goals are to help students get scholarship money along with access to many on or off- campus opportunities. She is a junior majoring in Therapeutic Recreation. She has also been a peer mentor for the past year before she took on a staff position.



David Castleman is currently working as the Internship Support Specialist for the FUTURE program.