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Featured Speaker

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, finds accomplished and inspiring individuals to address the graduates each term.

Michelle Harding – Spring 2017

Michelle Harding came to UT after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Virginia and after gaining 10 years of industry experience. She will graduate in spring 2017 with a PhD in business administration with an accounting emphasis. She has already accepted a tenure track position as an assistant professor of accounting at Virginia Tech, starting in fall 2017.

Harding’s interests in tax disclosure and policy steered her to a dissertation entitled “The Impact of Increased Tax Return Reporting on Financial Statement Tax Disclosure Quality: Evidence from IRS Schedule UTP.” When she graduates, she will be the first African-American female to receive a PhD in accounting from UT. Being the only African-American PhD student in Haslam motivated Harding to help found UT’s Multicultural Graduate Student Organization (MGSO). The MGSO was created to help build community among UT’s diverse graduate student population and provide professional development opportunities that expose students to the wealth of resources available on campus. Harding feels that this has been her most important accomplishment at UT outside of successfully completing the doctoral program.

Harding credits many people in the Haslam College of Business as playing a critical role in her success. She lauds the influence and guidance of her dissertation chair LeAnn Luna, recognizes Robert Fuller for his role in encouraging her research pursuits, and speaks very highly of Linda Myers for providing an environment that gives PhD students equal access, rewards their effort, and celebrates their success. And she is optimistic about the direction of the college and supports its investment in authentic diversity, especially through the efforts of college administrators such as Tyvi Small and Dean Stephen Mangum.

A native of Williamsburg, Virginia, Michelle’s accomplishments extend beyond the classroom and beyond UT. She has traveled to four continents, and three of these visits were for short-term mission trips. She volunteers as a mentor in Knoxville and previously showed her volunteer spirit in Orlando and Nashville. She currently serves on the board of Girl Talk, Inc., where she has volunteered as an after-school mentor to girls in third through fifth grades at Green Magnet Elementary School.

Past Speakers


Chisa HuffmanChisa Huffman is receiving her Master of Science in Nursing degree with a concentration in Nursing Administration and a minor in Nursing Education.  Previously, she earned her Associate of Science in Nursing from Pellissippi State Community College in 2014 and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2015.  In the fall of 2017, she will continue her graduate studies when she enters the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at UT.

Mrs. Huffman began her professional career in the health insurance industry, and when the opportunity presented itself, she began her studies to become a nurse.  She took her first job as a Registered Nurse at Blount Memorial Hospital.  Chisa has received a number of academic honors including being inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honors Society.  She was nominated by the College of Nursing Dean to be the liaison for the American Association of College Nurses – Graduate Nursing Student Association.  In that capacity, she encourages her fellow students to become actively engaged and pursue leadership opportunities in the nursing profession.

Chisa was selected in fall 2016 to become the first ever Nurse Executive Leadership Resident with the Hospital Corporation of America.  This organization represents more than 200 hospitals in the U.S.  In this capacity, Chisa works with the Corporation’s senior leadership in building a residency program that will eventually spread nationwide.  This program will be used to develop and train the next generation of nurse leaders.  In her capacity, Chisa is at the heart of the strategic planning that will help shape nursing leadership in the years ahead.

Chisa is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of those around her.  She is a mentor for tnAchieves – helping students in the Tennessee Promise program transition from high school to college.  Additionally, she is a mentor in the Amachi program which provides mentoring and support to children impacted by incarceration.

Chisa is a native of Fort Worth, Texas.  Ten years ago she married a Tennessee native, Ed Huffman.  They, along with their son E.J., live in Maryville, TN in a home built, by hand, by Ed’s grandfather.


Graham_TaylorGraham Taylor is a Tennessee native, having been born in Chattanooga to a family that is now spread across Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville. He received a BS in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in May 2007 and is currently set to graduate in spring 2016 with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from UT.

While an undergraduate, Graham served as a research assistant in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. He was heavily involved in the analysis of fluoroscope video and X-ray images showing the motion of prosthetic knee and hip implants during actual usage to provide data to industrial medical device manufacturers. He also took part in an NSF Research for Undergraduates program to develop tools to reliably distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells in tissues and cell cultures.

As a graduate student, his work has centered primarily on research in the field of droplet interface bilayers, thin lipid bilayers that serve as actual physical models for cell membranes. His research has resulted in two published first-author papers, with two more first-author papers in preparation. Together, these works form the basis of two provisional patent applications filed through the UT Research Foundation in 2015.

One particularly innovative aspect of Graham’s research involves the development of a new method of measuring the surface tensions and thickness of droplet interface bilayers. These rapid measurements can be used to study the effects of nanoparticles, drugs, and other molecules on membranes far faster than traditional measurement methods. Outside of the lab, Graham co-founded a company, T&T Scientific, with colleague Nima Tamaddoni. T&T Scientific, funded in part through the Boyd Venture Challenge program, has already launched its LipX extrusion device which is the world’s first single-use, fully assembled liposome extruder. The LipX line of extruders brings tremendously improved efficiency and reduced cost to other researchers around the world.

When he’s not staring through the microscope and playing with droplets and bubbles, Graham enjoys whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking. Between his scientific endeavors and his love for the outdoors, Knoxville seems the perfect place for him to be.


View More: http://osucollegeofartsandsciences.pass.us/microbiology-grads

Dr. Jerreme Jackson is a native of Lawrence, Kansas and the son of Marvin and Joyce Reese. He received academic and athletic scholarships to attend the University of Kansas as a member of the men’s track and field team. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in genetics from the University of Kansas, he was employed as a scientist at Xenotech L.L.C., specializing in assisting pharmaceutical researchers with in vitro pre-clinical studies on drug metabolism. He next worked in the genomic and proteomic laboratory of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, testing the in vitro effects of novel ingredients on feline and canine gene expression. The interactions with world-renowned scientists and access to state-of-the-art facilities piqued his scientific curiosity, and he began applying to graduate programs.

Dr. Jackson was accepted into the Genome Science and Technology program, a joint life sciences graduate program between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and joined an insect physiology research group on the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, studying intestinal regeneration under the leadership of Dr. Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes in the department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. He received graduate fellowships from the Program for Equity and Excellence in Research and DuPont. His research was presented internationally at the Society for Invertebrate Pathology and the Entomological Society of America, where his work on in vivo stem cell-mediated epithelial regeneration received the 2012 President’s Award for Outstanding Display in physiology, biochemistry and toxicology. He was awarded the PhD in Life Sciences in spring 2015.

Dr. Jackson is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics department at Oklahoma State University and plans to acquire a tenure-track professorship and advance our understanding of the diverse biological mediators of intestinal health. He is happily married to Amanda Jackson and extends his gratitude to Dr. Jurat-Fuentes, his family, and numerous faculty and staff who supported him throughout his graduate studies.

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