Division of Student Life

Courage to Climb

Stephen Spates, a second-year doctoral student in Communication Studies brings a high level of academic achievement that can be matched only with his sense of humility and enthusiasm for his work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A native of Michigan, Stephen traversed the route from his home state to the South several times in his pursuit of higher education; the results of which include a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in communications

In addition to his graduate coursework, Stephen has assumed a leadership role within his department as the president of the College of Communications and Information Studies Graduate Student Association (CCIGSA). Stephen identified his primary role in this position as that of a leader who promotes the relationships and accomplishments of students within the college, with a specific emphasis on building collaborate relationships with faculty members. “We work to keep a comradery and sense of pride among us.” Stephen also utilizes this leadership role as an opportunity to exercise his passion for the “pay it forward” philosophy. He stated that his greatest personal inspiration came from his own mentors and he is deeply dedicated to serving in that role for others.

Stephen is also a very active member of numerous local, national, and international professional organizations for communications. Stephen was recently invited to travel to London to present on his work regarding the tailoring of health communications to diverse cultural groups. “Being able to go to London to present at a conference was a bit of a milestone for me.” Stephen’s extracurriculars do not end at the professional conference circuit. He is an active member of his church where he serves as a musician and organizer for community activities. “This past summer, we did a back-to-school driveā€¦and collected and provide backpacks to the community. We have out at least 50 full-packed backpacks to kids in the community.”

Currently, Stephen is preparing to enter the dissertation phase of his doctoral study in which he intends to continue his research in organizational communications. Upon completion of his Ph.D., Stephen hopes to secure a tenure-track faculty position at a Research I university where he plans to take his emphasis on research, teaching, and service into his future work.

Congratulations and good luck, Stephen!


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