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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.


Mary Jo Krile, MSEd, is a special education PhD candidate and in her fourth 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.


Loidaly M. González-Rosario, MS, NCC, is a doctoral student in the Counselor Education program here at the University of Tennessee. Prior to joining the VFL family, she was an elementary teacher and school counselor in Miami Dade County Public Schools. She holds a certificate in teaching, and School Counseling in the State of Florida with an ELL and SPED endorsement. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree at Florida International University. Her research interests include school counseling practices, play therapy in schools and counseling with hispanic/latino children. She enjoys life with her cat, Garbanzo, gardening, and enjoying the outdoors. She loves cooking healthy and hardy meals while listening to dance-worthy jams!


Chelsea Wilson, BS, is a Graduate Research Assistant currently working as the Academic Support Specialist for FUTURE. She is a first-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 research interests include academic and behavioral interventions, specifically related to feedback and group contingencies. In her free time, she enjoys binge watching “The Office” and “New Girl,” playing volleyball (especially sand), traveling, photography, and spending time with friends and family. 


Jessica Kotik, BS, is a Graduate Teaching Associate currently teaching the Life Skills courses. She is a second-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program and is also working concurrently on a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis. She graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in sociology. Her research interests include peer revision techniques and their impact on writing, self-efficacy in writing, and writing motivation. In her free time, she likes to spend time with friends and family, go to musicals, and travel.


Jane Persaud, BS, is a Graduate Research Assistant currently working as the Internship Support Specialist for the FUTURE program. She is a first-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program. She graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Her research interests include self-efficacy in writing, interventions to improve student writing, and student motivation for writing. In her free time, she likes to meditate, practice mindfulness, read, and spend time with family and friends.


Jerry Spangler, MS, NCC,  is a Graduate Teaching Assistant currently teaching the Service Learning course for FUTURE mentors. He is a third-year doctoral student in the counselor education program. He completed his master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Lipscomb University. His counseling interests include creative arts, play, and garden therapy.  



Ian Kirkpatrick, MA, is the program’s Outreach Coordinator. His main duties are to increase on-campus awareness of the program and create efficient ways of recruiting prospective FUTURE students in the Knoxville area. He recently received his MA in Appalachian Studies with a concentration in Culture and Music from Appalachian State University. He is also currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.  When he is not at FUTURE, he enjoys attending folk festivals throughout the region, clogging, line dancing, and singing ballads.


Heather Austin is the advocacy intern for the program. She focuses more on involvement, inclusion, and special projects. She began working as a peer mentor for FUTURE, and due to her increased interest in advocacy, she transitioned into a more formal role. She is in the Special Education Program studying to become a teacher here. After graduation, Heather plans to become a teacher in the Knoxville area to stay close to the program and help more students continue their education. She also enjoys seeing the students she works with grow everyday, learn new things, and get excited when they accomplish a goal they set for themselves. Heather enjoys spending her down time with her new kitten and reading when she is not with friends and family.