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Denee Stewart Freeman

Title of Program: Child and Adolescent Development: Literature, Performing Arts, and Pedagogies of Empowerment

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Year: Junior

Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2022

Description of Program: My program aims to understand the learning, development, and socialization of children and adolescents with special concern to societal factors that empower or constrict these individuals.  Specifically, this program also investigates the ways that arts, literature, and media impact development in childhood and adolescence, both in terms of their negative consequences and their beneficial effects. Through a deeper understanding of how literature and the performing arts can empower children and adolescents, my program looks at areas of potential intervention implementation and populations that are more at risk for negative developmental outcomes.

Departmental Emphases: Psychology, English, Theatre, Sociology, Child and Family Studies, and Cultural Studies in Education

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Amy Billone, English, and Dr. Deborah Welsh, Psychology

Plans after graduation (career, graduate/professional school, etc.): I plan to explore and apply for national scholarships and fellowships to continue by academic study abroad in a different cultural setting. I also anticipate going to graduate school for either child studies or psychology and possibly getting an MFA, as well. I hope to end my career path in the nonprofit sector in art and literary promoting organization or to continue on in academia, as a professor and researcher, making child and teen voices the forefront of academic discussions.

Other Academic Interests: Leadership Studies

Study Abroad: I anticipate studying abroad with my Haslam Scholar’s cohort after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Research Experience of Internships: For the past year, I’ve worked in Dr. Gordon’s Couple Lab as a research assistant. First I worked under Katie Lenger studying a brief mindfulness intervention for couples. This past spring and continuing into the summer I’m working under Erica Mitchell on several projects including a grant on a brief intervention for couples at the transition to parenthood and coding qualitative data on a relationship and communication intervention for Knox high schoolers. In terms of internships in the Summer of 2019, I worked as a media intern for the Nashville Children’s Theatre.  

Part-time employment; Hobbies; Campus Clubs/Activities: I am a part of the honors Haslam Scholars Program in the cohort of 2018. I’ve also been very involved in the Jones Center for Leadership and Service during my time at UT in various roles and programs including a 2019 Team Leader for Ignite Serves, a 2020-2021 Jones Center Ambassador, a new Leadership Knoxville Scholar. Through the Haslam Scholar’s program, I volunteer at Pond Gap Elementary, and this spring I founded and was the primary instructor for a new K-5th Theatre Club. My main student organization is UTK Mock Trial where I have been both a witness and lawyer, served as team captain and secretary, and just started my position as Vice President of External Affairs for the upcoming year. I work part-time as an actor for the UT Law: Trial Advocacy Clinic, as well. In my free time, I love to read and write poetry at any coffee shop I can find.


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