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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.


Amber Carmody, BS, 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 3 years and the advocacy intern her Senior year.  She has a Bachelors degree in Neuroscience from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her research interests include relationships of people with IDDs and ASD, early intervention, and the neuroscience behind Autism. In her free time, Amber likes to play with her service dog, Brady, hang out with FUTURE students, go to concerts, watch sports, listen to musicals, hike, and binge shows and movies.


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.


Jessica Kotik, MA, is a Graduate Teaching Associate currently teaching the Life Skills courses. She is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the School Psychology Program. She graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Sociology. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and a graduate certification in Grief, Loss, and Trauma from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Jessica is currently working on her dissertation, which is focused on identifying strategies that increase active participation from students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the college classroom. Her hope is that her research endeavors can provide college instructors with class-wide interventions to make the classroom a more inclusive and accessible space for all. 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 third-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 interventions to improve student writing, student motivation for writing and generalized anxiety in the classroom. In her free time, she likes to meditate, practice mindfulness, read, and spend time with family and friends.


Mason Austin 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. He is an undergraduate in his senior year studying Psychology and Religious Studies. After graduating from UT, Mason plans on attending graduate school to study social psychology or IDD psychology. His research interests include implicit biases, moral reasoning, and social interactions among people with IDDs. In his free time, Mason enjoys hiking, kayaking, fishing, playing sports, and listening to live music.


Cate Zaleski 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, and she plans to attend graduate school for Occupational Therapy. She has also been a peer mentor for the past year before she took on a staff position. Not only is she involved in FUTURE, but she is also a member of Phi Mu and Volteam. In her free time she loves to hang out with friends, and show her Vol spirit!