The Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence is awarded annually to an outstanding student currently pursuing a PhD who has completed at least four semesters of study.
Yacob Tekie is pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology and expects to graduate in December 2018. Originally from Eritrea, Tekie was accepted to UT in 2008 but could not begin his program at that time because authorities refused to allow him to leave the country.
After many unsuccessful attempts to escape from the East African nation of Eritrea, he finally arrived in Knoxville in 2012. In almost four years, Tekie has completed a master’s degree in psychology and expects to finish both a master’s in statistics and a graduate certificate in evaluation, statistics, and measurement in May 2017.
Tekie previously served as a psychology advanced practicum clinician at the UT Counseling Center and is now serving as a substance abuse counselor at the Cornerstone of Recovery treatment facility. Since 2013, he has served as a graduate teaching associate in psychology courses and has been invited to speak at graduate seminars and national conferences on topics of coping, resilience, and strategies for helping survivors of torture.
He is working with faculty in the College of Law Immigration Clinic as a social justice practicum intern to develop a combined service for refugees that meets both their legal and psychological needs. His career plans include combining academic research and teaching with applied work to perfect treatment techniques for trauma survivors and ways to deliver the treatments to underserved populations.
One nominator said that “in thirty-one years of faculty service, I have never worked with a student as courageous or determined as Yacob. He has an effervescent personality, positive outlook, and warmth that is instantly engaging and uplifting for everyone he meets.”