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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is celebrating the critical contributions of graduate and professional students March 27 through 31 during its annual Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week.

Each year, the Graduate School partners with Graduate Student Senate and colleges and units across campus to host instructional opportunities and fun experiences for graduate and professional students.

UT works with prospective graduate students, current graduate students, and faculty and staff through programming, professional development and research support to contribute to the success of graduate education. With more than 300 graduate majors, degrees and certificate programs, UT is the state’s largest and most comprehensive graduate institution.

“This appreciation week provides us an opportunity each year to celebrate the many ways graduate and professional student enrich our campus community,” said Dixie Thompson, dean of the Graduate School. “The energy and creativity of our graduate and professional students lead to discovery and scholarly expressions that are critical to our university’s mission.”

Meet some of UT’s current graduate students to learn how their achievements and research are positively impacting our local, state and global communities.

Victoria Bertram, Communication Studies

Victoria Bertram of Paducah, Kentucky, is a doctoral student in communication studies. She teaches organizational communication courses in the College of Communication and Information and is a finalist in UT’s Three Minute Thesis competition this year.

Bertram is currently working on her dissertation, which looks into the correlation between employees’ relationship development and their organizational experiences, and a project funded by the US Department of Agriculture that works to improve general and mental health support for family farm members.

Katelin Hubbard, Nutrition 

Katelin Hubbard of Huntington, West Virginia, is working toward her Ph.D. in nutrition while raising her two young children. She hopes her story shows other moms that earning a degree and being a mother are not mutually exclusive.

Hubbard is president of the Graduate Nutrition Student Association and a member of the Eastern Tennessee Child Obesity Coalition. She has presented on nutrition and health at Knox County High School and the Tennessee 4H Junior High Academic Conference STEM Fair, and she is a finalist in this year’s Three Minute Thesis competition at UT.

Her dissertation focuses on Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Leighton Chappell, Recreation and Sport Management

Leighton Chappell of Flushing, Michigan, is a second-year master’s student studying recreation and sports management.

Chappell is vice president of the Graduate Student Senate and has hosted multiple events to engage graduate and professional students on campus. He has served as a graduate representative on campus committee groups including the Technology Fee Advisory Board and the Curriculum Committee. In addition to his GSS work, Chappell teaches fellow Vols in the Physical Education Activity Program.

After graduation, Chappell plans to earn his doctorate and hopes to work in athletics in the UT System.

Hannah Thompson, Child and Family Studies

Hannah Thompson is a graduate student in the Department of Child and Family Studies.

Earlier this year, Thompson and Assistant Professor Lori Caudle received a $5,000 student-faculty research award for their project “Social Emotional Learning Trauma-Informed Intervention Preschool Study (TIIPS): A Partnership with Rural Southeastern Teachers.” The award will provide financial support for project activities, stipends for partnering teachers and research materials such as a 360-degree smart camera.

Caroline Znachko, Biological Anthropology

Caroline Znachko is a doctoral student in biological anthropology from Fairfax, Virginia. She serves her peers on the Department of Anthropology Diversity Council and the Anthropology Graduate Student Association. At UT’s 2022 Three Minute Thesis competition, Znachko won the People’s Choice Award and placed second overall.

Znachko and her adviser, Dawnie Steadman, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center and professor of anthropology, recently received a student-faculty research award to explore the association between epigenetic and skeletal biomarkers of early life stress in the university’s Donated Skeletal Collection. She is interested in learning how the physical embodiment of marginalization in childhood affects health trajectories across the lifespan and seeks to apply a structural vulnerability perspective to forensic settings to improve death investigation.

Featured Events

CVs for Graduate Students

Monday, March 27, 3 to 4 p.m.

This workshop, hosted by the Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration, will include information helpful for students who have never written a CV and tips for streamlining existing CVs.

Graduate Student Appreciation Night at UT Baseball

Tuesday, March 28, 4:30 p.m.

Celebrate graduate and professional student education at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to graduate students to attend a Vols baseball game.

Three Minute Thesis Final Competition

Wednesday, March 29, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The 12 finalists in UT’s 2023 Three Minute Thesis competition will make their final presentations and awards will be presented for first, second and third places as well as the People’s Choice award.

Graduate Student After Hours

Thursday, March 30, 5 to 7 p.m.

Graduate students are invited to stop into the Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration after hours to have professional headshots made or meet for a quick 1-to-1 with a career coach.

Get to Know GSS!

Friday, March 31, 1 to 3 p.m.

Enjoy coffee and snacks while meeting current Graduate Student Senate leaders. Students will have a chance to take a tour of the new GSS office and learn how GSS serves graduate and professional students.

For a full list of Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week events, visit the campus events calendar and select the GPSAW tag.


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,