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OCEO Staff

Javiette Samuel, PhD |

Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of Community Engagement and Outreach

Javiette Samuel is the associate vice chancellor for diversity and engagement, director of community engagement and outreach, and affiliated associate professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies. She is an experienced engaged scholar with a unique combination of educational, interpersonal, and creative skills. She has worked with underrepresented P-20 students, families, faculty, and communities for nearly 25 years. Focusing on engagement, outreach, and evidence-based programs her primary applied research interests have been child development, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), positive youth development, parenting, and family well-being. She is especially passionate about addressing educational disparities, early warning signs of disengagement from school and learning, mentoring, and increasing parental involvement.

Link to full bio

Nicole Bryant, MPPA |


Nicole Bryant manages OCEO’s research and engaged scholarship programs including the Division of Diversity and Engagement grants, Imagine Tennessee, and Community Engagement Academy. She is a UT alum and earned her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from the Baker Center in 2019. She has broad experience working with diverse communities and local governments both in the US and abroad. Prior to joining OCEO, she worked with UT researchers in the Office of Sponsored Programs. Nicole volunteers on environmental stewardship, history, and DEI projects with the East Tennessee Climber’s Coalition and Knoxville’s outdoor community.

Quannah Washington |


Quannah Washington is the coordinator for community outreach and engagement. She is a UT Alumni with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, Master’s in Educational Psychology, and is currently in the Educational Psychology PhD program.  With an extensive background in working with marginalized populations, education, and community engagement, Quannah has consulted on, hosted, participated in, and actively worked on boards, coalitions, programs, and projects around the city and state that focus on improving and making a positive difference in the lives of people. Quannah believes that education can change the plight of people and that access to education must be equitable for everyone.  She is no stranger to UTK, in that she previously worked with the Families First Program that was housed here and the Haslam College of Business.

In her spare time, Quannah is an avid reader, adventurous traveler, busy mom, and likes spending time with her husband.

Keely Algya |

Administrative Specialist

Keely Algya is the Administrative Specialist for OCEO and DDE. She obtained two bachelor’s degrees in Communication Studies and International Studies from The University of Nebraska, Omaha. During her time as a student, Keely was a First-Year Peer Mentor and Signature Events Programmer for the Thompson Scholar Learning

Community.  She also worked as a Campus Global Diplomat, International Student Buddy, Hispanic Center of the Midlands volunteer, and was a member of the Intelligence Community at UNO. Her interests in culture and language learning developed her passion for working with diverse communities and she uses this passion to provide support for programs in DDE.

Sherley Cruz, JD

OCEO Faculty Fellow

Sherley Cruz began working with the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2019 teaching and supervising students in the Advocacy Clinic. Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Cruz was a practitioner in residence with American University’s Washington College of Law’s Civil Advocacy Clinic and supervised law students on economic justice cases such as wage theft, debt claims, and related housing matters.

Link to full bio

Kayla Irwin |

Graduate Research Assistant

Kayla is the graduate research assistant for OCEO and working on her master’s in public health nutrition. This is her third year working for DDE. She graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2015 with her bachelor’s in food science and technology and returned to the university in 2019. She is passionate about providing equitable health and wellness opportunities to her local community. She has always called East Tennessee home and currently resides in Heiskell with her husband, Tyler, and dog, Reecie Marie.