Member Bios

Lee Owens

“Hi all! I’m Lee Owen, and I will be serving as the program coordinator at SEEED this year. I am finishing up at UT Knoxville where I have been studying history and political philosophy. A lot of my involvement of campus has been coordinating informative lectures and public events at UT, so I’m looking forward to applying that experience in a whole new way. I was also on the quidditch team, which isn’t much of a professional qualification, but it was very fun! I’m very involved with my church, Tyson House, where I’m very fortunate to be taking part in an intentional living program for the next year. I was thrilled to be accepted into the C-N Vista program because it seems like a great way to grow professionally while jumping right into serving the Knoxville community. To be honest, I don’t have a set plan laid out for my career, but I know that programs targeted at building and supporting community have helped me so much, and I am thrilled to be part of that process. I’m impressed by the work I’ve seen at SEEED and the other sites, and I am especially looking forward to meeting my cohort and getting down to business!”

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“Hi! My name is Ryan Bowen. I’m coming down to Tennessee from Virginia. It is hard to nail down any one place in Virginia that I am from since I have lived all over the state. I went to school at James Madison University where I studied physics for a couple years and then philosophy and religion for a couple more. In college I was heavily involved with my school’s Alternative Break Program which are service trips meant to catalyze active citizenship. I also worked as a community organizer on environmental issues.

After college I have been doing everything in my power to make sure that I never have two jobs that slightly resemble each other. So I worked at an alternative outdoor nature school with kids from 3 – 8 years old for a year. After that I went down to New Orleans and did an AmeriCorps term with a rebuild organization and built houses. The summer following that I spent in Denali Park, Alaska working as a front desk attendant at a hotel. It was fun to add these to the list, but I think my favorite title so far has been “Assistant Instrument Repairman”.

Life experience often doesn’t translate well on a resume, but what is bringing me down to the Bonner Center is a commitment to inspiring connections and empowering communities. It also aligns with a long term goal of mine to work at a university either as a professor or an administrator. Working with the Bonner Center will give me direct experience with connecting students to the wider community in ways that promote both. And I am also very curious to learn more about the VISTA program as a whole as the AmeriCorps position I had before was not VISTA.”

Jen Patterson

“Hello everyone! My name is Jen Patterson and I am the new AmeriCorps VISTA with Compassion Coalition, serving as the Program & Development Coordinator in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I am originally from the great state of Ohio and am relocating from Columbus, Ohio, to work with the wonderful and diverse community in Knoxville. I am a graduate from the University of Akron and I have my Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Anthropology and a Minor in French. Some of my hobbies include dancing, singing, hanging out with my friends, playing with my adorable cat Bella, attending church, reading up on current events, and making delicious coffee! While I am not running around choreographing or reading at a local coffee shop, I am trying to do my best in being a global citizen. While growing up, I was not the regular kid. While the rest of my classmates in my middle school homeroom were wanting to be doctors and lawyers, I “wanted to live in a hut somewhere in another country and help people.” I’ve always had a passion to make a difference in the world by helping others, and I feel that I’m finally achieving my dreams by working with AmeriCorps.

Compassion Coalition’s main objective is to reduce poverty through educational programming and Christ-like compassion in mission and outreach. I believe that through this organization I will not only achieve my goal and dream of helping others, but also learn from the people that I am serving/working with and gain a lesson I could never learn from text books. I am super-excited, nervous, and anxious to start this amazing journey and truly learn what being an AmeriCorps VISTA is all about!”

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“Hello everyone, my name is John Gough and I’ll be working with SEEED as the social media and events coordinator. Originally, I am from Michigan, but have lived in Knoxville for the past the five years. Prior to pursuing my undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee I served in the United States Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer with the 1431st SAPPER Battalion. With the 1431st I helped provide security for the Mackinac Bridge Walk, assisted in the Upper Peninsula Wildfires, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 to conduct Route Clearance Patrols around the notorious Khost-Gardez pass. Upon returning home I spent some time traveling in Europe, South America, and Central America. During this time my parents had moved to Kingston, Tennessee, to retire. With no immediate family left in Michigan I made the move to Knoxville in order to be closer to “home.” Since my time here I have grown to love and call East Tennessee home, which has sparked my aspiration to serve the community in which I am apart of. I believe Americorps will give me the unique opportunity to make a real difference in our local community and lay the ground work to eventually make a difference in the national and global community. As Martin Luther King once pronounced, “We must not be concerned merely with those who commit violence, but about the system, the way of life, and the philosophy which produced the violent.”

Moreover, I’m looking forward to meeting and working with everyone in the upcoming year. Until then, all the best,


Kristen Pace

“Hi! My name is Kristen Pace, and I am from Hendersonville, North Carolina, where there is a never ending supply of apples and southern hospitality.

Growing up, my parents and grandparents did an amazing job of showing me what it meant to be a good neighbor and citizen by giving to people in need, and they still motivate me to be the best person I can be. I don’t think she knows it, but I actually credit my passion for service to my mom who took me with her to South Africa on a mission trip when I was 15 years old. While I was there, I witnessed a kind of poverty I never knew existed, and my world was turned, well…I would say upside down, but, in all honesty, my world was turned right side up. My life changed for the better after that. (Thanks, Mom, for giving me that opportunity.)

When I returned to America, I dedicated my life to serving others, both nationally and internationally. I began to educate myself about issues going on around the world and became involved in various service organizations. In college at Mars Hill University, I was a Bonner Scholar, which allowed me to volunteer 140 hours per semester with various non-profit organizations including the local homeless shelter for three semesters. I have been lucky enough to participate in service trips to Kenya, Uganda, and Haiti–each of the trips changed my life in a new and better way.

After I graduated from Mars Hill, I decided to spend a year serving through the VISTA program. I am currently serving in that position as the Public Engagement and Volunteer Coordinator of Smart Beginnings of the New River Valley in Virginia. Smart Beginnings is an organization that is devoted to bettering early childhood education so that every child is ready and willing to go to kindergarten. Through my position as a VISTA, I have become more aware of the social and economic issues within the community around me. Being a VISTA member has made me even more passionate about empowering people and addressing the root causes of poverty.

I am SO excited to join the Carson-Newman VISTA Fellows in July. From what I can tell already, I am going to be working with some outstanding, phenomenal, and inspirational people, and I can’t wait to learn from them and their stories!”

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“My name is Rachel Hicks, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee; I am graduating in May from Carson-Newman University with a B.A. in Communication and Religion.

I love the outdoors, hiking, biking, and camping.

Despite being on the Speech and Debate team at my school, I am terrified of public speaking- but now I know I can do it!

A major passion of mine is adoption. I come from an adopted family. My sister is from Korea, I have a brother from the Philippines, another brother from Knoxville, and two cousins from Uganda.

What led me to AmeriCorps was an interest to work in non-profits. I was looking into one and ran into information about the VISTA program. I decided to pursue it and here I am today.”