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ESC Representatives


Chair: Elisha Hodge
First Vice Chair: Tom Cervone
Past Chair: Charles Primm

To find your representative, choose your campus area from the list below:

Tom Cervone
Term ends in 2022

Tom Cervone is pleased and honored to be back at the Clarence Brown Theatre as managing director following 5-year hiatus during which he served as executive director for both Dogwood Arts and the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation. Prior to that, Cervone spent twenty-three years with UT’s Clarence Brown Theatre, serving as managing director for 17 (1995-2012). Throughout that time, Tom was very active within the UTK community, having served as Exempt Staff Council chair for two years, co-chair of the LGBT Commission, a member of the Diversity Council as well as many other UTK student, staff and faculty organizations. He also received the Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Service to the University in 2010.

Cervone spent many years on the board of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Greater Knoxville, and currently serves on the advisory board for the College of Business at Maryville College, the board of the WordPlayers as well as the inaugural BOD of River and Rail Theatre Companies. He has also served as chair of the curriculum committee for Leadership Knoxville and has been a member of their BOD as well. Recently, Cervone was appointed to the Foundation Board of West Liberty University, his alma mater. He is a proud and longtime member of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Cervone holds his undergraduate degree in Speech and English Education with an emphasis in Theatre from West Liberty University in West Virginia and a Master of Fine Arts and an MBA from UT. He is a graduate of and was selected as the Class Representative of the Leadership Knoxville class of 2011. Most recently, Cervone was inducted into his undergraduate alma mater’s class of 2015 Wall of Honor.

Johnny Jones
Term ends in 2023

Johnny Jones has 28 years of service with The University of Tennessee and has served as Exempt Staff Council Representative for Arts & Sciences Basic Sciences for the past 3 years.

Marcus Hilliard
Term ends in 2024

I have 13 years of intercollegiate athletics administration experience placing an emphasis on building and sustaining relationships across campus. I’m a 2009 graduate of UT and pride myself on serving others.

Beth Kurtz
Term ends in 2024

For the past several months I’ve served as the interim representative, replacing Charles Primm when he took a position with the UT System. I’ve enjoyed serving and would welcome the opportunity to continue serving for a full term. If I’m re-elected, I would love any feedback on how this position can be more useful for you.

George Drinnon
Term ends in 2024

A veteran and alumnus of the University of Tennessee, I started as an academic advisor in the Haslam College of Business in 2002 after time in private industry. Over the course of my time in Haslam, I have been an advisor, assistant director, director, and executive director and have had 19 years to experience the challenges and benefits of working and supervising at UT. I can approach the position of Exempt Council Representative from various perspectives with the desire to serve all my colleagues best interests.

Emma C. Burgin
Term ends in 2023

“I am entering my fourth year as staff at the University, serving as the Program Coordinator for the UT FUTURE Program in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. FUTURE is an inclusive postsecondary education program for students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I earned my doctoral degree in Counselor Education from the University of Tennessee in 2017 and am a National Certified Counselor.

In addition to my 20 FUTURE students, I supervise about 100 undergraduate peer mentors who work with FUTURE each semester. I serve as a site supervisor for Therapeutic Recreation and Counseling students. I also have mentored with the 1794 Scholars Program and recently signed up to be a UT Promise mentor.

In 2020, I was chosen as one of five national Disability Policy Advocates, representing UT disability interests to local, state, and national policymakers. I have worked with University administrators to advocate for my students to receive services from Student Disability Services and UT Housing. I have been actively involved in the efforts to start a University Commission on Disability.”

Amber Mathes
Term ends in 2023

Amber Mathes works in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a Financial Specialist. Mathes assists faculty, staff, and students with all things related to post-award management as well as providing support for some pre-award activities. Mathes is currently serving as Vice-Chair of the Tickle College of Engineering Staff Advisory Committee. Mathes recently received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee and is looking for opportunities to become engaged in campus activities and give back to the University.

Janet Jones
Term ends in 2022

Janet Jones has worked at the College of Veterinary Medicine for more than 30 years. Jones began veterinary nurse in the hospital, and has held numerous positions. She currently serves as the clinic director for the Small Animal Hospital. Jones is a licensed veterinary medical technician (LVMT), and completed her BS in Business Management at UTK.

Among Jones’ accomplishments at UTCVM is the establishment of a career path for veterinary technicians. This was the first career path established in the College. UTCVM has also established a year-long rotating internship for graduate veterinary technicians in the small animal hospital.

Jones received the Reed Outstanding Service Award and was awarded Veterinary Technician of the Year in the state of Tennessee. She’s served on the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for seven years, ending her tenure as Vice President.

Jones enjoys problem solving and looking for ways to make improvements.

Kevin W. Thompson
Term ends in 2023

Kevin Thompson has served for ten years as director for the Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center located in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Kevin spent 10 years with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, and was involved with the development and management of a beef cattle producer marketing alliance and a genetic improvement program for Tennessee beef cattle producers.

Following graduation from the University of Tennessee with a B.S. and M.S. in Animal Science, Kevin spent 7 years as a Research Associate at Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center. In 2015 Thompson served as a member and then as Chairman of the UTIA Advisory council. He currently serves on the Maury County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

John Goddard
Term ends in 2024

John Goddard holds a BS and MS in Animal Science from the University Of Tennessee. He has been a UT Extension Agent for 40 years in Bradley, Hawkins and Loudon Counties. His first 13 years were spent conducting 4-H programs in each of the 3 counties. The last 27 years he has been an Adult Agriculture/Community Resource Development Agent in Loudon County. He works with Beef and Dairy Cattle Producers as well as local row croppers and homeowners. He volunteers with the 4-H & FFA livestock projects and helps coach Livestock Judging and Skillathon teams. Goddard has been involved in numerous university led demonstrations with local producers. He is the former Chairman of the Exempt Staff Council and served on the Employee Relations Advisory Board.

Heath Nokes
Term ends in 2022

Heath is a 19 year veteran with UT Extension, having served in Moore, Cannon and Warren Counties. Heath served as the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Moore and Cannon and transferred to Warren County to serve as the Agriculture Agent in 2013. In Warren County Heath is responsible for serving producers in one of the most agriculturally diverse counties in the state, with production focusing on beef cattle, row crops, fruit and vegetable production and nursery production. Heath received his Bachelor’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and Master’s Degree from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Heath previously served as Chair from 2017-2018 is now serving his second term on Exempt Staff Council.

Rita Jackson
Term ends in 2023

“I have worked with the Extension Service for 23 years. I served five years with Mississippi State University and the past 18 years with University of Tennessee Extension. I have served in both rural and urban areas as a 4-H Agent, FCS Agent, Area Extension Specialist, Interim Regional Program Leader, and currently as a State Extension Specialist. My office is located in the West TN AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, TN. I received my BS in Family and Consumer Sciences, MS in Ag and Extension Education, and am currently enrolled in the Learning and Leadership doctoral program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I thoroughly enjoy working with UT staff on the county, regional, and state levels, but I especially enjoy working with our Extension program participants across the state.”

Eric Amos
Term ends in 2022

“I have been at the TN Language Center for almost 2 and 1/2 years. I very much enjoy my job here. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Cross-cultural communication. I have held various coordinating/management jobs related to that degree including this current job and living in China for almost 3 years along with trips to about 15 other countries. I believe in open and honest communication and equality for everyone. ”

Norma Wilcox
Term ends in 2022

Norma Wilcox is the Solutions Consultant for the North Central Region of Tennessee. For over 25 years she has been responsible for promoting the resources of UT CIS to business and industry. Her mission is to help businesses succeed, grow and create high quality jobs.

Before UT, Ms. Wilcox worked with the Small Business Development Center at The University of Central Missouri counseling small businesses on marketing and business planning. She also helped create MoPAL (Missouri Product Assistance Laboratory) at UCM. MoPAL provided quality measurement services for product design and development for small businesses. Her industrial experience was with The General Electric Company as a Sales Engineer for the motor and motor control divisions and with The Eaton Corporation as a Product Application Engineering Coordinator.

Wilcox has a MBA from The University of Central Missouri and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University.

Kaley Walker
Term ends in 2022

Kaley Walker works with 12 separate counties in East Tennessee to assist each of them in improving their counties operations and relationships among themselves, other TN counties, state officials and their citizens.

Elisha Hodge
Term ends in 2022

Elisha Hodge currently serves as a legal consultant with the University of Tennessee, Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) and has been employed in that capacity since October 2014. Since coming to MTAS, Hodge served as the chair of the IPS Diversity Committee, served on multiple strategic plan micro-goal committees and search committees, and participated in the IPS Leadership Academy. Elisha also serves on the committee that selects interns for placement with MTAS and CTAS customers.

Before joining MTAS, Hodge served as the Open Records Specialist in the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury from 2007 until 2009. In 2009, Hodge was promoted to Open Records Counsel for the State of Tennessee and filled that role until joining MTAS. Prior to joining the Comptroller’s office, Hodge prosecuted cases and served as advisory counsel for the Tennessee Department of Health. Hodge graduated from the University of the South (Sewanee) in 2001 and Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2003.

Victoria Leidy
Term ends in 2024

Currently an academic advisor for over two years at the College of Nursing, working with adult, distance education learners continuing online to complete their BSN. Prior to academic advising with UTK, I worked in the University Libraries at the University of Toledo in Ohio. In both roles I’ve been able to lead other and demonstrate leadership by example for my students. Other relevant experiences include many years in customer service as well as five years working in insurance and employee benefits. I am honored to be nominated for this advisory role and would love the opportunity to serve my peers as their representative.

James H. Hodge
Term ends in 2023

James Hodge is a senior auditor in the Office of Audit and Compliance. James has 20+ years of experience as an internal auditor, and serves on several local boards and community organizations.

Michael Smith-Porter
Term ends in 2023

Michael Smith-Porter has worked at UT for 6 years, and currently serves as a project coordinator. In this role Michael oversees special projects and manages strategic partnerships for the Office of the Vice Provost of Enrollment Management.

Theresa Sears
Term ends in 2022

Theresa Sears serves as assistant director in the Office of Sponsored Programs under the Office of Research & Engagement, Knoxville. Theresa’s background includes over twenty five years’ experience in a university setting, of which over fifteen years are in research administration. Prior university experience includes Associate Director of Grants Administration, Wake Forest University Health Sciences; Senior Grants Management Specialist, University of Louisville; and Client Services Coordinator of Student Financial Aid, East Tennessee State University.

Theresa’s previous experience consists of more than 30 years at various corporate and educational organizations serving in leadership and managerial roles. Prior to work in a university setting, Sears served as Assistant Vice President and Data Processing Manager at a mid-size corporate financial institution.

Kenneth Wagner
Term ends in 2023

“I have been with the College as an Exempt employee since 1997. While I’m based in the Nashville office, I travel frequently to Knoxville since my role included both cities. I believe that I’ve always had a “statewide” view of things that impact all University employees – and not just those who are Knoxville-based.”

Bonnie Johnson
Term ends in 2024

My name is Bonnie Johnson, and I serve as the Coordinator in the Pride Center. During my time at UT, I have also had the privilege of serving on many other university committees (as well as having leadership positions within them), such as the Council for Diversity and Interculturalism, the Commission for LGBT People, the Student Life Diversity Committee, and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Advisory Board, to name a few. I am passionate about equitable treatment and access for exempt staff members, particularly those with multiple/marginalized identities, and in a few short years I have already established a track record of successful advocacy, particularly from a policy/practice lens for LGBTQ+ people. I am a strong collaborator, educator, presenter/facilitator, and relationship-builder dedicated to improving our campus for all Volunteers. If elected I look forward to serving you and taking your issues as exempt staff to the relevant parties in the ERAO.

Matt Ward
Term ends in 2021

Matt was born in Knoxville and grew up in Fountain City area.

He has had a long relationship with the University of Tennessee. It started as a child being a fan of all Tennessee athletics. After graduating from Central High School, Matt was accepted as an undergraduate student at UT. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in December of 1998.

Matt’s professional career began in 1999 at the University of Tennessee in the Office of Human Resources. In HR, he worked in Recruitment, the Temporary Help Pool, and Compensation. Human Resources gave him the opportunity to learn about all the people who make up the UT community. Matt saw how important the actions, and interactions, of the community are in the day to day operations of the University of Tennessee at the Knox campus and across the state of Tennessee.

In 2012, Matt was accepted into the Professional MBA program through the Haslam College of Business, graduating with his master’s degree in December 2013.

From 2014, he has been in his current position with the Office of Budget and Finance.

Matt lives in the Karns area with his wife Barbara and their three dogs Harpo, Lilli, and Blanche.

Blake Reagan
Term ends in 2024

Blake is an attorney licensed in Tennessee, and he has 13 years of experience at the University. Blake is from Knoxville, and has lived here most of his life. Blake volunteers regularly for a cat shelter, and he spends most of his free time exercising.

Deanna Flinchum, Research

Lisa Yamagata-Lynch, Office of Ombuds Services

UTK Human Resources Contacts:

For general ESC questions contact: Jessica Cantu


Mary Lucal, Associate Vice Chancellor

Darrell Easley, Director of L&OD & ER

Julie Roe, Senior ER Consultant

Jon Chandler, Senior ER Consultant

Jessica Cantu, ER Specialist

Michelle Whited, Benefits Outreach Coordinator