Title: Academic Adviser
Company: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Education: MPA, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2020);
MBA, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2018);
BS in Economics, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2016);
BA in History, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2014);
Pursuing PhD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Career History: Academic Adviser, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2019-Present);
Academic Records Specialist, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2017-2019);
Operator, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2013-2017);
Intern, Tennessee Valley Authority (2016-2017);
Cell Technician, Sam’s Club (2013- 2014);
Term Worker, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2011-2013);
Student Worker, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (2010- 2011);
Shift Lead, Blue Coast Burrito, Chattanooga, TN (2006- 2009);
Cashier, Staples (2006- 2007)
Zachary J. Ridder, Academic Adviser at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of education.
For Mr. Ridder, persistence and a strong work ethic have been the driving forces behind his advancement from a cashier at Staples to the academic adviser at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Since 2019, his role in higher education has involved integrating first-year students majoring in computer science, computer engineering, political science, communications, and mathematics into the university and connecting them to the right resources; encouraging their involvement in the school’s variety of programs; teaching them the ropes on a technical level; and, most importantly of all, helping them navigate their new environment and encouraging them to advocate for themselves and stay on track toward success. Motivated by his own experiences as a student at the University of Tennessee, his mission has stemmed from his realization that it’s “a lot harder to fix problems at the end of the road than it is to prevent them in the first place.”
While he grew up in a house of education, Mr. Ridder—as his father was a school teacher-turned-principal who ultimately served as an agent with the FBI—he insists that it wasn’t intelligence that drove him to where he is today but an ability to never give up no matter how difficult things got. While in high school, he worked at Staples from 2006 to 2007 and as a shift lead at Blue Coast Burrito in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before graduating and attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He initially wanted to major in physics, but upon reflection, he realized that he just enjoyed learning and wanted to better understand how everything in the world came to be. Between 2014 and 2020, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history, a Bachelor of Science in economics, a Master of Business Administration, and a Master of Public Administration—he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in learning and leadership. All the while, he served as a student and term worker, a cell technician at Sam’s Club, an intern at Tennessee Valley Authority, and then an operator and an academic records specialist at the university between 2013 and 2019.
A major incentive for his gravitation toward academic advising was feeling as though he was not properly guided as a student; it took him six years to graduate with his first degree, predominantly due to not being aware of certain academic policies. On top of his myriad responsibilities, he has served as the president of Scenic City Clay Arts—a nonprofit that promotes the art form in the city through outreach and educational assistance programs—and a member of both the National Academic Advising Association and Tennessee City Management Association. In five years, he hopes to have obtained his PhD, keep learning, work in education, and pursue a job in the federal government.