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Kathy Gibbs Named Assistant Vice Chancellor for SASSI


Kathy Gibbs, MEd, MS, has been named assistant vice chancellor for the Office of Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI). She previously served as director.

Gibbs joined UTHSC as an educational specialist in 1993 to develop, implement and evaluate retention programs for students, including peer tutoring, academic counseling, outreach, and workshops. In 2000 Gibbs became director for SASSI.

Kathy Gibbs, MEd, MS (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

Throughout her tenure with SASSI, Gibbs has transformed the department from being a resource for students who need academic assistance to being a full-service center where students receive quality interactions, strategies, and techniques impacting their academic performance, student experience, mental health and well-being, all while maintaining confidentiality.

Gibbs said she will continue to work with the university community to shift the culture on campus from reactive to preventive. “My vision is for our office and our campus to be a model of how to successfully create and provide quality programming to place mental hygiene and mental health as a priority in the culture of the health science campus alongside academics, making these a priority within the colleges, programs and the curricula.”

Since 2014, Gibbs has been the co-chair for the executive committee of the Wellness Council and co-chair for the Behavioral Intervention Team and Care Team. She helped create programming with multidisciplinary teams focused on wellness and prevention.

Earlier this year, Gibbs and the team at SASSI launched an innovative model for student mental health, counseling, and case management services by integrating these with academic support.

Gibbs received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Montevallo in 1979, a Master of Education in 1990 and a Master of Science in 1992, from the University of Memphis.

She has been recognized by students, faculty, staff, and administrators at UTHSC for her continued support of university initiatives and missions. In 2017, Gibbs was honored with the 2017 Chancellor’s Exempt Staff Award, which recognizes non-faculty exempt employees for their unwavering commitment and service to the university community. She is also the recipient of the IMHOTEP Award, the highest honor given to a staff member by the Student Government Association Executive Council for involvement in student activities and initiatives.

SASSI Adds Staff, Plans to Expand Student Mental Health Support

Through the recommendation of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, the Office of Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI) has increased its staff.

New additions to the team include Rachel Bolick, care navigator; Justin Dodson, a full-time counselor; and Clay Woemmel, a counselor focusing on residents in the Office of Graduate Medical Education. With more staff, SASSI plans to have after-hours counseling available to students at least three nights a week.

“This will assist us as a health science campus in leading the way to normalize mental hygiene, mental health and self-care to impact learning, performance, and hopefully, communicate how valuable our students and residents are to us and will be to their future patients,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for SASSI Kathy Gibbs said.

Later this year, SASSI plans to launch an app for faculty, staff, and students to further assist the campus on prevention and awareness of mental health and well-being. In the fall, Gibbs and her team will offer suicide prevention training to help people identify symptoms of depression and respond accordingly. A CARE network website will launch later in the year, which will be a central hub for resources in areas from financial aid to food insecurity. All these improvements, Gibbs said, are because of the continued support of administrators at UTHSC, including Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer, and Lori Gonzalez, PhD, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs at UTHSC.

“What will make this successful is working as a community with faculty, staff, and students so that all SASSI services (academic and counseling) will be integrated into our campus culture,” Gibbs said. “It will be just what students do to adjust quicker to the academic demands, learn even more, and better cope with challenges they have not had before, such as balancing self-care and studying. Our hope is that integrating and normalizing accessing services and resources in our community will facilitate a more preventive approach, thereby reducing stress and anxiety.”