Recent hire Jenny Wells has spent most of her professional career advising K-12 students—including eight years with Hamilton County Schools.
Dr. Delight Yokley arrived on campus in mid-September to ease the transition for incoming first-year students through the new “A Moc’s First Year” initiative.
A new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga monthly celebration helped them forge a bond.
The welcoming event, initiated by the Chancellor’s Office, brings together new Mocs staff hired during the previous month. For instance, employees who joined UTC in September were invited to an Oct. 24 meet-and-greet—which also included several Executive Leadership Team members and administrative support staff.
“I want new staff to feel welcome from the moment they get to campus,” Chancellor Steve Angle said. “I want them to know how valuable they are and how eager all of us are to see them succeed. This event is one way to send that message, and I hope that our entire campus will create and embrace opportunities to engage new members of the UTC family.”
Wells, the new supplemental instruction program coordinator in the Center for Academic Support and Advisement, had previously met Yokley in passing. The welcome event allowed them to spend quality time together and have their first genuine conversation.
“I knew her role is focused on first-year students,” Wells said, “and when I saw her at the coffee, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to make sure I get a chance to talk with her.’ We started sharing notes on our experiences as new employees to UTC and discovered how much of our vision and goals in our individual departments overlap.
“There’s a lot of synergy in what she’s hoping to build and what I’m hoping to build as a component of that big picture.”
Yokley, assistant provost for student success, joined UTC on Sept. 18 to direct “A Moc’s First Year,” the Quality Enhancement Plan proposed in the spring for the University’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) reaffirmation.
She most recently served as the dean of the Learning Commons—a variety of first-year experience and student success programs—at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, where she participated in and led many activities that will now be a part of her UTC portfolio.
“When you’re new to an institution, you’re stepping into a culture that’s already there. When you see somebody new, it’s like, ‘I’m not doing this by myself. There’s somebody else that understands you’re stepping into this newness,’” Yokley said.
“I think it was really cool that the institution and the chancellor took time to welcome us and that there were so many people in his leadership team that were there … I’ve not been at a place where people are genuinely excited about you joining their team and being a part of them.”
Bryant Fairley, director of engagement for the UTC Division of Access and Engagement, moved his wife and two children from California to Chattanooga for “a once-in-a-career opportunity.” His portfolio includes nearly 13 years at California State University, San Bernardino and four years at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
“The opportunity to really help engagement take shape is exciting,” said Fairley, who started at UTC on Sept. 4. “As a university, especially a university with this rich heritage, the opportunity to help to foster and develop engagement—community engagement, relationship to service learning, curricular-engaged learning—is an exciting opportunity.
“In California, the system started their centers for community engagement about 20 to 25 years ago—so as a discipline or focus, it is relatively new within the field of higher education. To be able to help shape the direction of what it will look like here is a once-in-a-career opportunity.”
Fairley said this was the first time he had been part of a “welcome to campus” event—which came on the heels of his family’s cross-country move.
“When people ask what our impression is of Tennessee, I honestly say I’m still surprised we moved because we had a long time in the California State University system,” he said. “It still shocks me that we made this big leap to the Eastern Time Zone.
“I think that our big surprise, to be honest with you, was that Southern hospitality is a real thing. Everybody has been authentically genuine and welcoming. We are experiencing it in really rich and rewarding ways.”
Brooke Stappenbeck is a recent College of Engineering and Computer Science hire, serving as the dean’s administrative assistant. Higher education—as an employee—is new to her after a work history in nonprofits and health care.
“It’s funny. I told my husband, ‘I’ve always felt kind of like the square peg in the round hole and, since being here, I feel like I have found my place,’” Stappenbeck said. “I had always held education dear to my heart and I have a lot of educators in my family.
“My grandfather was an engineer, but he also was a professor at Tennessee Tech—and then in retirement, he actually taught at Chattanooga State. So I’ve always loved the world of education.”
Along with spending time at the welcome event with her CECS predecessor, Christy Waldrep—now the assistant to Provost Jerold Hale—Stappenbeck said she was excited to get the chance to meet others from across UTC.
“It was a great way to get connections immediately across campus,” she said. “I was grateful for that experience.
“We were able to put names with faces and I was really impressed with the authenticity of the leadership team. That really stuck with me and made me excited and motivated to be part of this team and this family.”