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Inspire Leadership: Rebecca Juarez

by Kiera Przygoda

I sat down with Wellness Coordinator Rebecca Juarez within the Center for Health Education and Wellness, to talk about her impact on leadership and diversity inclusion over her four years at the University of Tennessee.

As a wellness coordinator, Rebecca’s role concentrates on alcohol and other drugs. She focuses on health promotion, alcohol and drug misuse prevention, coordination of large-scale events, and programming opportunities to educate students about drinking and drug use. The mission of the Center for Health Education and Wellness is to empower all Volunteers to thrive by cultivating personal and community well-being. Rebecca stated that the goal is to “provide information and education around these topics so that students can make informed decisions around their health and wellness behavior.” Additionally, Rebecca focuses on intervention, which relates to incidents, violations, or higher risks associated with alcohol or other drug use. She will meet with students in a group setting or in private one-on-one meetings.

“No two days are the same. Some days I see students in one-on-one meetings, sometimes its organizing programs and events, and some days its work out of my office coordinating support within the community for specific events and programs to be set up.”

Rebecca Juarez earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee. She first went out into the field as a clinical therapist in community mental health. She decided to pursue a different direction when the wellness coordinator position became available in the Center for Health Education and Wellness. “I always had a great interest in working around alcohol and other drugs and wellness. I had an interest in working with college students as it is a unique population, a population I had not worked with heavily in my previous work, and because it is during a critical life stage as it relates to alcohol and other drug misuse.”

She is involved in several different professional organizations such as the National Student Affairs Professional Association (NASPA) and American College Health Association (ACHA). ACHA is geared toward higher education professionals that specifically focus around health-related topics. Additionally, she serves on the executive committee as program chair for the Coalition for Health Safe Campus Communities (CHASCo) in the state of Tennessee. In this role, Rebecca provides guidance for coalition members around initiatives, campaigns, and programming to align with current evidence-based best practices.

Rebecca was awarded the Outstanding Staff Member award at this year’s Women’s Appreciation Awards. She was acknowledged for her ability to make women of color feel comfortable and welcome on campus. “I have placed a great deal of value and appreciation for the importance of diversity and inclusion. My education in social work and my code of ethics as a profession has to do with social justice, oppression, and diversity and inclusion. For me, it is about constant growth and learning and it comes from a sense of empathy, knowing that each individual has their own life experiences, and approaching it with a sense of openness.”

Rebecca has shown great leadership throughout her time in the UT community. “I don’t look at leadership as being over people but rather being a part of a community that helps to move the community forward.” She values motivation and impact, especially how to create an outward impact on a community. Rebecca believes that lifting people up and celebrating their successes is an important quality for a leader. “I think of leaders as a supportive and collaborative effort. I look to different places to see examples of great leadership and my hope is that I take those findings inward and see how that aligns with who I am and how I best embody those pieces of leadership that I find value in.”

Rebecca Juarez shows great leadership at the University of Tennessee. She admires the writing and research of Brené Brown, whose work encompasses topics such as vulnerability, courage, and leadership. Rebecca incorporates these ideas into her professional practice and frames the journey “to be great and to dare greatly is to have a great sense of vulnerability. It is about falling down and scraping your knee, but then getting back up and figuring out where to go from there.” The university is fortunate to have Rebecca Juarez cultivating diversity and inclusion throughout our campus by incorporating it into her daily work and her philosophy as a leader.

Kiera Przygoda is a junior at the University of Tennessee majoring in communication studies. She is the undergraduate public relations intern for the Office of Communication and Marketing. She has a passion for writing and media and a love for Disney. Kiera is also a student assistant at SEC Network and VFL Films.