Two new Tennessee Tech University Student Services Staff directors have arrived on campus, and while Counseling Center Director Cynthia Webster is returning to a familiar environment, Minority Affairs Director Jamie Mells is using his honed skills in adjusting to a new place.
Webster is a Tennessee Tech alumnus who received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1982 and a master's degree in 1983. She says it was at TTU she realized psychology was her career choice.
"After all, what's more interesting in this world than the human psyche?" she said.
Her background includes clinical, teaching and consultation experience at the University of Georgia at Athens, where she earned her doctorate in 1994, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, in addition to her early teaching experience as a graduate student at Tennessee Tech.
After moving to Loudon, Tenn., in 1999, she pursued consultation and writing, but the university environment and the Tennessee Tech campus coaxed her back to Cookeville.
Webster, who says she's somewhat of a rarity in psychology because she enjoys being a generalist in her teaching, has conducted research in diversity and has a special research interest in first generation college students. She says she and her staff plan to expand current services and develop new areas that will help students achieve academic and personal goals.
"It's important to normalize many issues we deal with in order to be a more user-friendly, visible part of the campus," said Webster. "Topics such as dealing with relationships, career choices, managing stress, and achieving success in a diverse world are examples of how we can serve the student body as a whole."
Webster's husband, Bill, works for State Farm Insurance, and their children live in Knoxville and Birmingham. She loves to hike, travel and visit her grandchildren.
Mells loves hiking, too, but the Alps are his favorite site. As a son of a career military family, Mells spent several years in Germany and Belgium, as well as Italy, Spain, and France.
He holds degrees from the University of Maryland's Munich/Augsburg Campus and Austin Peay State University. Throughout his education and work experience, he's made several adjustments from big city to rural life. He's a veteran at handling culture shock, and says this will help him relate to students trying to adjust to a different environment.
"I think the epitome of the college experience is to find excitement in learning," he said. "My focus will be helping students find knowledge about themselves and others outside of the classroom."
Mells says he will concentrate on coordinating educational efforts to enhance the academic experience of all students. He also wants to expand the scope of programs, plays and other activities sponsored by the Minority Affairs Office.
"I've been pleasantly surprised at the opportunities available here in the community and at the university," he said. "I want to build on that and explore new ways we can get people from varied backgrounds together to learn from each other."
Mells was most recently an associate development manager for Circuit City in Jackson, Tenn., and has several years' experience as a residence hall director at Austin Peay.