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The University of Tennessee College of Social Work Celebrates 75th Anniversary by Honoring 75 Social Workers Whose Efforts Advance the 12 Challenges for Social Work

The Council on Social Work Education has identified 12 Challenge areas for Social Work that are critical to the advancement of the profession.  Our graduates, faculty and staff have been involved in creating significant and lasting change in these areas since our initial class of 1942.  This year we will be celebrating 75 of them by changing our spotlight every few days to highlight the impact that we have had on the social work profession, its trends and leading-edge education.  Join us in learning more about our college, our alums that are doing amazing work in the field, our faculty, staff and others related to the college who are advancing the ideals and work of the grand challenges. Join us in celebrating these successes!

The Grand Challenges for Social Work represent a dynamic social agenda, focused on improving individual and family well-being, strengthening the social fabric, and helping create a more just society. Explore each of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work below as described by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare:

  1. Ensure healthy development for all youth
  2. Close the health gap
  3. Stop family violence
  4. Advance long and productive lives
  5. Eradicate social isolation
  6. End homelessness
  7. Create social responses to a changing environment
  8. Harness technology for social good
  9. Promote smart decarceration
  10. Reduce extreme economic inequality
  11. Build financial capability for all
  12. Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Dr. Nancy Meyer-Adams, Honoree #24 – Ending Homelessness – Grand Challenge #6

The twenty-fourth grand challenger is Dr. Nancy Meyer-Adams PhD, Director of the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach.  She received her PhD in social work with a specialty in school social work at The University of Tennessee College of Social Work in 2002. The focus of her dissertation research was the effects of school bullying on the culture and climate of middle schools in urban communities. Nancy Meyer-Adams

Dr. Meyer-Adams joined the faculty of California State University, Long Beach School of Social Work in the summer of 2005 where she has been recognized with the Most Valuable Professor award for four years (2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012) and with a College of Health and Human Services Community Service Award in 2010. She began as Director of the School of Social Work in the Fall, 2014.

Dr. Meyer-Adams is working to fulfill the goals of Social Work Challenge #6 - Ending Homelessness. CSULB School of Social Work was chosen as one of 6 Regional Hubs in the country of the National Center of Excellence in Homeless Services. It is recognized for consistently demonstrating a commitment to homelessness services, including providing options for field placements in homeless service agencies and offering a specialized advanced practice elective covering interventions with homeless populations. "Work to end homelessness is particularly important," stated Dr. Meyer-Adams, "because this issue is connected to many of the other social work challenges also."

Meyer-Adams is an active member of the Western Consortium of Grand Challenges in Social Work and presented on homelessness at a recent conference in Portland as well as at the Network for Social Work Management conference in NY in June.

Meyer-Adams is leading the CSULB School of Social Work to focus on building and expanding community partnerships to create more homelessness-related internship opportunities for social work students and to establish a network of social work schools throughout Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Additionally, she supports her colleague, Dr. Rashida Crutchfield, in her work examining best practices for displaced and food insecure college students and disseminating the results of this research.

Dr. Daniel Button, Honoree #23 – Advance Long and Productive Lives – Grand Challenge #4

The twenty-third grand challenger is Dr. Daniel Button. LCSW, ACHP-SW.  He graduated from Kansas State University in 1978 with a BS in Psychology. Dan earned an MS in Experiential Education from Mankato State University in 1981. Daniel Button

 In 2013 Dan resumed his formal education in the DSW program at UTK and earned his doctorate in 2016.  His studies at UTK focused on the service gap for individuals with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses who were transitioning from curative services but not eligible or not accepting of hospice care.  Services for this vulnerable health population are inadequately coordinated at the community level which triggers intensive use of emergency and hospital based services during a health care crisis.  Dr. Button’s research focused on communication and access barriers for this health population to identify potential strategies to develop interdisciplinary community based services.

Dr. Button is working to fulfill the goals of Social Work Challenge #4 - Advance Long and Productive Lives. His work to continually study and develop expertise in the following areas—Hospice & Palliative Care, Medical Social Work with an emphasis on Advanced Care Illness, Child and Family Services, Community Mental Health, Organizational Development, and Clinical Leadership—have prepared him for his current position, serving as the Operations Manager for Community Palliative Services in Jacksonville, Florida. In this role he is managing a pilot project with Community Hospice and Palliative Care to develop community based palliative care services.

 The interdisciplinary program is designed to clinically manage patients with life limiting illnesses (less than a year to live), clarify goals of care, develop Advance Care Plans, reduce futile care and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions/re-admissions.   The research based project is supported by the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), Florida BCBS, and an area agency Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The overarching goal of the project is to demonstrate improved end-of-life outcomes for individuals with life-limiting illnesses as well as transform the health care funding model to value based reimbursement.

Dr. Button, a graduate of the College of Social Work's Doctoral program in Clinical Practice and Leadership, said this of his educational experience. "During my time at UTK I described the DSW program as challenging, humbling and validating. My assessment a year later would be the same with one caveat. I am grateful to all of you for your professional wisdom to design the educational environment that emphasized a process of co-creation and reciprocity between the cohort and the faculty. . . Most of my studies and projects in the DSW program focused on palliative care and end-of-life matters. When this opportunity [working for Community Palliative Services] presented I knew immediately it was a perfect fit and I feel very blessed to have this opportunity. . . thank you all for allowing me to co-create my learning experience in the DSW program.  Lessons learned with you through the research and studies helped prepare me for this moment and opportunity.

To learn more about the UT College of Social Work DSW program go to: http://www.csw.utk.edu/dsw/index.htm

Kristen Godfrey, Honoree #22 – Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice – Grand Challenge #12

The twenty-second grand challenger is Kristen Godfrey, 2016 graduate of the UT College of Social Work MSSW program. graduate of the UT College of Social Work. Ely earned her PhD in social work in 2003 from the University of Tennessee and her MSW in 1998 from Washington University in St. Louis. Her bachelor's degree was also gained at UT. Kristen Godfrey

While attending UTK, Kristen Godfrey was the Safe Zone coordinator, a campus organizer, and the OUTstanding co-director. OUTstanding is A Conference Exploring Gender and Sexual Diversity at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Kristen is particularly passionate about social justice, foster care and the importance of intersectionality and youth-led community organizing. She is currently working for Kaleidoscope as the Center Program Manager and says that she loves working alongside the amazing youth of KYC.

The work of Kaleidoscope is in partnership with young people in Central Ohio to create safe and empowering spaces for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Ally youth through advocacy, education, support, and community engagement. They serve youth across the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity, encouraging them to live healthy, whole lives with acceptance and freedom from oppression.

Originally from Arizona, Kristen completed undergraduate work in history before coming to UT for her Master of Science in Social Work.

In the United States, some groups of people have long been consigned to society’s margins. Historic and current prejudice and injustice bars access to success in education and employment. The twelfth Challenge for Social Work is addressing racial and social injustices, deconstructing stereotypes, dismantling inequality, exposing unfair practices, and accepting the super diversity of the population will advance this challenge. All of this work is critical to fostering a successful society. Kristen is working to fulfill the goals of Social Work Challenge #12 - Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Gretchen Ely, Honoree #21 – Closing the Health Gap – Grand Challenge #2

The twenty-first grand challenger is Gretchen Ely, Gretchengraduate of the UT College of Social Work. Ely earned her PhD in social work in 2003 from the University of Tennessee and her MSW in 1998 from Washington University in St. Louis. Her bachelor's degree was also gained at UT.

Dr. Gretchen Ely is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, where she began working in 2014 after being on faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work for 10 years. She is an affiliated faculty member for the Institute for Trauma and Trauma Informed Care (ITTIC);UB Gender Institute.

Ely primarily conducts research focused on problems with access to health care and the health disparities of vulnerable and marginalized populations. She is working to fulfill the social work Challenge #2, closing the health gap. She seeks to develop innovative and evidence-based social strategies can improve health care and lead to broad gains in the health of our entire society.

Ely's research is focused on problems of populations who need access to health care and the health disparities of vulnerable and marginalized populations. Her most current scholarship is focused on examining aspects of reproductive health access in economically and geographically vulnerable women and pregnant people. Ely’s work is published most recently in the International Journal of Sexual Health and Social Work in Health Care.

Ely is a founding advisory board member for Social Workers for Reproductive Justice (SWRJ), and a full fellow in the Society of Family Planning (SFP). Ely was also recently admitted to the National Academies of Practice, an organization focused on inter-professional health education, where she is currently serving on their executive committee as Vice President for Public Policy. Ely teaches graduate social work courses in the areas of diversity and oppression, grant writing, and community social work. Outside of work, Ely enjoys spending time in nature with her family.

 

Susan Bradford, Honoree #20 – Advance Long and Productive Lives – Grand Challenge #4

The twentieth grand challenger is Susan Bradford, Susan Bradfordgraduate of the UT College of Social Work in 2009 with her BSSW and her MSSW in 2010 in the Advanced-standing program focusing her studies within the gerontology curriculum. She eceived a Certification in Aging from Boston University, Center for Aging and Disability Education in 2013. Her work addresses Social Work Challenge #4, Advancing Long and Productive Lives.

For the past six years, Susan works in Knoxville, for the Knox County CAC/Office on Aging, providing social work services for low-income vulnerable seniors. She has worked as a case manager in Project LIVE, program manager of the Grandparent as Parents program, program coordinator for the Senior SNAP grant, and, currently, as case manager/field instructor in partnership with KCDC at Guy B. Love Towers providing eviction prevention and case management to all 250 residents. Susan Bradford loves her work, saying, "Not only do I have the opportunity to work and develop relationships here at Love Towers, I am considered a member of the community."

Bradford has acted as a field instructor since 2012, working with thirty BSSW and MSSW students to date. Her students nominated her and she became the 2017 recipient of the Excellence in Field Education Award given by the College. Susan Bradford is pictured here with one of her field students, Darris Upton as she received this award. She stated, "I have a passion for education and part of my job with CAC/OOA is Field Education with students, not only from UTCSW but also the UT Sociology department as well as nursing, and psychology."

In addition to this work, Bradford teaches workshops for the Senior Corps programs on a variety of topics such as Self-Care, Setting Healthy Boundaries, and Drug Abuse and Misuse with the Elderly. She has recently had a chapter entitled Social Work and Case Management, Homelessness Prevention, published in the book Social Work Case Management: Case Studies from the Front Lines.

C. Nicole Chandler, Honoree #19 – Build Financial Capability for All – Grand Challenge #11

The nineteenth grand challenger is C. Nicole Chandler, an alum of the MSSW program at the UT College of Social Work who has become a leader of innovative social work programs in the the Knoxville community. Her work addresses Social Work Challenge #11 as she works to build financial capability for all.

C. Nicole Chandler is the Executive Director of the Change Center Knoxville, a collaborative, citywide initiative. The Change Center provides state-of-the-art-facilities, recreation, mentorship, and leadership development to increase opportunities for youth to succeed through workforce development and access to educational opportunities from within the inner city. One offering of the Change Center is the Jobs Initiative that includes job training, direct entry-level jobs for young people within the Change Center, connections to jobs in the greater community, and entrepreneurial job creation. (http://changecenterknoxville.com/)

Chandler recently received the College of Social Work Lucille Nicole ChandlerEvans Dean award. The award was presented during the Nashville Campus commencement exercises on May 21. The Lucille Evans Dean Award is given annually by the UT College of Social Work, Nashville Campus, in recognition of outstanding social work contributions and service to the community by an alum of the college.

Lucille Evans Dean was the first African-American student to graduate from the Nashville School of Social Work, which became the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She entered the school in 1954 and after she graduated said, "We were well prepared to face the world." Lucille Evans Dean was an exemplary social worker who had an illustrious social work career and to made significant contributions at the local, state and national level. She passed away in 1995. It is our desire that through this award her significant contributions and dedication to the profession of social work will be remembered as well as inspires others to pursue the same.

Chandler, an LMSW and Certified Crisis Management Specialist, has a Masters in Social Work from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is also a graduate of the UT Knoxville Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness program (CSEE). A longtime advocate for youth, her professional career includes over 15 years on the staff of other local non-profits: Youth Villages, Wesley House Community Center, and Project GRAD Knoxville.

Sunha Choi, Honoree #18 – Researching Factors Related to Social Isolation in Immigrant Groups of Older Adults – Grand Challenge #5

The eighteenth grand challenger is Dr. Sunha Choi, an Assistant Professor at the UT College of Social Work, whose research is meeting Grand Challenge #5. Dr. Choi received her MSW in 2000 and her PhD in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2009, Dr. Choi was selected as Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholars (Cohort 10). She has devoted her scholarly efforts to enhancing the lives of vulnerable older adult populations and their access to health and mental health services.

Dr. Choi was recently selected by the Office of Undergraduate Research to receive an Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award for the College of Social Work. A student who nominated her for this award stated, "Dr. Choi has taught me everything about research from definitions of terms, to how to form a research question, how to design research and how to calculate and interpret the results. She has taught me the importance of research and the impact that it can have on creating change in social work practice, policies and, on a larger scale, in agencies and in communities."

D. Sunha Choi

Dr. Choi is a visiting scholar at the Atlanta Census Research Data Center and her recent studies focus on examining how individuals’ health service use behaviors are affected by the community’s contextual characteristics. She is actively engaged in studying social isolation of newly arrived older immigrant groups as well as middle-aged immigrant adults as they move into their older adulthood. "Integration of immigrants involves physical, social and psychological dimensions within the broader cultural community. It is not just one of these factors or dimensions that impacts the incidence of isolation within groups. The eradication of isolation needs to be addressed on multiple system levels and through a dynamic bidirectional interaction between the welcoming community and the immigrant groups."

Dr. Choi has found, through her research, that eradicating isolation, especially within immigrant communities, is extremely important b;ut challenging because each individual has diverse pre- and post-immigration experiences. A person's background, age, education, citizenship, language, and a host of other factors establish a complex set of reactions to the particular culture and community in which they live. "For example, a middle-aged immigrant from Korea who owns his own business might hesitate to use the U.S. healthcare systems, which is an important indicator of physical integration, because of his pre-immigration experiences (i.e., cheaper and almost universal health insurance in Korea) and post-immigration barriers (i.e., lack of employment-based insurance), while an immigrant from the Philippines working in a health service industry might readily access community medical resources. Patterns of isolation, such as this, can be addressed effectively only when the local community understands such barriers and seeks to increase community integration within systems."

Kendra Flores-Carter, Honoree #17 – Already Ensuring Healthy Development for Mothers, Babies, and Youth – Grand Challenge #1

The seventeenth grand challenger, Kendra Flores-Carter, is graduating this week from the UT College of Social Work Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program. Her capstone chair is Phyllis Thompson. Kendra Flores-Carter The title of her Capstone paper is "Black Women’s Knowledge of Postpartum Depression and their Attitudes towards Seeking Mental Health Services." The DSW in Clinical Practice and Leadership is an online degree that is an intensive accelerated program geared toward working professionals. So, while she earned her doctorate, Flores-Carter continued to work and excel in her field as a Clinical Social Worker at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC).

Flores-Carter was recently nominated for the 2017 Molina Community Champions Award for her work on Maternal Mental Health within the hospital and the community.

Flores-Carter was presented with the second annual Golden Ida M. Cannon award by the ARMC Clinical Social Work Department for embodying all the core values of the social work profession on a daily basis. This award is particularly notable because recipients are nominated by their co-workers and colleagues.

"An Examination of Black Women's Knowledge of Postpartum Depression and their Attitudes towards Seeking Mental Health Services" was recently accepted as a poster presentation at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center 12th Annual Research Day. She commented, "I think it's important for other students to see that they can make significant differences in their organizations and for their patients. But I am glad that I can now say I'm a proud Alumni of the University of Tennessee College of Social Work."

Kendra Flores-Carter is among our newest alums, but her work is already making a difference in accomplishing the Social Work Grand Challenge #1 - Ensuring healthy development for all youth.

Hilary Hamlin, Honoree #16 – Expertise in Systems Development Has Grown Over 40 Years of Practice – Grand Challenge #8

The sixteenth honoree, Hilary Hamlin, earned her MSSW from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She also has a Master in Public Administration from The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has a strong clinical background and over 40 years of experience working in behavioral health at both the local community and state/national levels. She has experience overseeing all aspects of Information Technology systems' transformation helping organizations to select and implement Electronic Health Records systems in the behavioral health field. Hilary Hamlin

Social Work in today's world needs leaders who understand the need to keep data, using efficient systems that are integrated with service processes. Hamlin fulfills Grand Challenge for Social Work #8 to Harness Technology for Social Good. For example, recently she helped the Alabama Department of Mental Health procure and implement a system that allowed the Substance Abuse and Developmental Disabilities Divisions to manage client data automatically and provide better treatment strategies and enhanced outcomes.

Commenting on her time at the UT School of Social Work, Hamlin stated, "I’ve always valued having the MSSW degree as I’ve worked in mental health/behavioral health for my whole career, and so many people with whom I work are also social workers. As a consultant, I am frequently walking into a agency where I do not know anyone. Having an MSSW gives me an automatic acceptance and common language. I loved being in school at the School of Social Work more than at any other point in my education. College was okay, but everything I did at UT was focused on what I was interested in. I still remember certain classes and use and apply things from my Systems Theory class today. I also found that I could focus on Administration and Planning and that was a great combination for me."

"I think that most significant aspect of the program, however, was the time that you got to spend in field work. I was only 2 years out of college so had not gained a lot of experience yet. I had worked for two summers at a Settlement House in Louisville, KY and had my year as a VISTA volunteer in Johnson City but my two field placements at UT were invaluable. I spent my first year as a case worker at a KCDC public housing project. There are cases there that I will never forget. My second year field placement was at Child and Family Services. One of my projects was to research and find an information system for the agency. This was 1976 so no computers or electronic health records were around! It is fascinating that I started with such a project and that has become the basis for the bulk of my 20 years of consulting. The change and impact of that technology over my career has been stunning."

Hilary Hamlin currently serves on the Board of Visitors for the UT College of Social Work. She gives generously of her time and wisdom to directly meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

T. Alex Washington, PhD, Honoree #15 - Social Work Faculty Member (CSULB) Conducts HIV Prevention Research among Young Minority Males to Close the Health Disparities Gap – Grand Challenge #2

The fifteenth honoree, T. Alex Washington, PhD,earned his MSSW from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work Memphis Campus in 1998, after completing his internship at the Memphis VA Medical Center.  He then went on to receive his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduating in 2002.  T. Alex Washington

Dr. Alex Washington is a tenured professor in the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) School of Social Work.  Dr. Washington is the recent recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award from CSULB.

Dr. Washington’s research interests involve the development and evaluation of HIV prevention interventions, health disparities, and human sexuality.

His research experience and technical expertise involve the development and evaluation of HIV prevention interventions for sexual minority males using social media, health disparities, and human sexuality. He is Co-Investigator for the CSULB Center for Health Equity Research Institute (CHER Institute).  The institute, funded by NIGMS/NIH, provides educational experiences to enhance the readiness of faculty primarily from minority-serving institutions (MSIs). CHER researchers conduct social and behavioral research to eliminate health inequities among racial/ethnic minority populations and increase the number of new investigators from MSIs across the U.S. represented among National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded investigators.  Additionally, he is Co-Director of the PPOWER Project.  PPOWER is a SAMSHA-funded project aiming to increase testing for HIV and Hepatitis C among young minority males as well as reduce substance abuse.  Previously, he served as Principal Investigator of the TIM Project (funded by NIDA/NIH).  TIM Project was a pilot study delivered using social media to motivate HIV testing uptake among young black men who have sex with men aged 18 to 30 years.  

Dr. Washington is also a visiting professor in the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, UCSF Department of Medicine.  He received the Gerald A. Ludd Lifetime Achievement Award from the National African American Leadership Conference (for HIV prevention leadership in the Black community), the 2010 CSULB Early Academic Career Excellence Award.  Alex has presented his research at national and international conferences, including Thailand, Canada, Egypt, Australia, and South Africa. He has published work on HIV prevention/interventions in peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journals, served on editorial and advisory boards, served as a reviewer for NIDA/NIH, and has extensive experience working in minority community settings.  He teaches research methods in the CSULB School of Social Work.

David A Patterson, Honoree #14 - CSW Faculty Member is Honored for Community Service to Homeless Population - Grand Challenge #6

The fourteenth honoree, David A. Patterson, PhD, is the Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor of Mental Health Research and Practice, at the UT College of Social Work, and the Director of the Doctor of Social Work Program. However it is his work with the Homeless Management Information System that is recognized here as the way in which he serves Challenge #6 of the 12 Grand Challenges, Homelessness.

David A. PattersonPatterson is the founding Director and Principal Investigator of the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS). “We’re the empirical window into homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County,” said Patterson. “We focus on outcomes that let us see what’s making a difference and what’s not making a difference.” HMIS is a secure on-line database serving 20 Knoxville community agencies and housing over 45,000 records of persons experiencing homelessness in Knoxville. The system is an integrated network of Knoxville area homeless service providers linking them to a secure, central homeless information database, improving and expediting services for the homeless.

This past week Dr. Patterson, received the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's 2017 Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement Award in recognition of significant public service. This award was granted in recognition, among other things, of Patterson's 13 year contribution to Knoxville efforts to address the problems of the homeless population of Knoxville.

The primary teaching focus of Dr. Patterson's twenty-four year academic career has been on clinical social work practice and research. He has taught clinical social work treatment with groups for 19 years, substance abuse treatment for 23 years, and conducted numerous training seminars on motivational interviewing in substance abuse treatment. He is the author of Personal Computer Applications in the Social Services (Allyn & Bacon, 2000), Data Analysis with Spreadsheets (Allyn & Bacon, 2006), as well as over 40 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He is engaged in ongoing efforts to infuse mindfulness practices into social work clinical education and practice.

Chris Overton, Behavioral Needs of At-Risk Youth - Grand Challenge #1

The thirteenth honoree, Chris Overton, LCSW, is an MSSW grad from the college class of 1992. She is currently a school social worker serving in the Sevier County Schools in Tennessee. Her work, serving the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of at-risk students is an active response to Challenge #1 of the 12 Grand Challenges, Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth.

Chris OvertonWithin the school setting, Overton also serves as a field instructor for the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She states, "I feel that the responsibility for helping bring new social workers into the profession is a great honor."

Chris Overton has many other professional and volunteer interests that fill her days. She works as a volunteer with UT's HABIT program, taking her dog into the schools to offer animal assisted therapy. HABIT stands for Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee and sponsors programs that foster pet visitation to nursing homes, assisted-living residences, retirement centers, mental health centers, residences for children with special needs, rehabilitation facilities, hospital settings, schools, and other facilities. She serves as the mental health consultant for Sevier County's Foster Care Review Board, reviewing the status of all children in foster care to monitor progress, assessing mental health needs and making recommendations to the juvenile court judges.

Chris Overton is also an adjunct professor for the Knoxville Campus of the College of Social Work, bringing her clinical knowledge into the classroom where she teaches principles and practice of school social work to students in the CSW licensure program. On top of all these responsibilities, Overton has a small private practice in Sevierville, where she work primarily with adults dealing with a wide range of mental health challenges. "Throughout my busy days," says Chris Overton, "every so often, I glance at my MSSW diploma and find myself very grateful to the College for the educational experience that allows me to do the work that I find so meaningful and for which I have such a deep passion."

Drema Bowers, Honoree #12 - Alum Counsels Students in Financial Wellness - Grand Challenge #11

The twelvth honoree, Drema Bowers, is an MSSW grad from UT and a generalist social worker with over 20 years of experience in the field who is fulfilling the Social Work Challenge #11. She has spent the past 15 years in education and is excited to be part of the Pellissippi State Counseling team. Her goal is to help students achieve their dreams by reducing barriers to academic success by providing personal, career and academic counseling as well as assisting in identifying resources to aid students on their academic journey.Drema Bowers Many of the students she works with are often drawn to careers in the helping professions. When researching job growth and estimated salaries, students often fear that they cannot make a living on the projected incomes.

At that point, Drema often shares her philosophy that long-term success is a combination of education, financial wellness and practicing a healthy lifestyle. This year, with the support of Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman; she has had the opportunity to supervise Patrick Davis, an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, whose assignment includes financial literacy.

Drema explains, "When creating the responsibilities for our VISTA Member, The Financial Aid Manager, Nadia Keys, asked us to include a component focusing on Financial Literacy with the initial goal of enrolling students into "Transit", a student financial literacy program. Very early into the process, Patrick and I realized that our focus needed to shift from financial literacy only to financial wellness and that we needed to engage additional internal and external partners. Patrick created an internal Shared Work Team designed to help us create and implement programming around financial wellness with an emphasis on capacity building.

"This year, our goal is to create a template that other campuses within Pellissippi can use to increase financial wellness. Our Financial Aid Coordinator at Magnolia, Aneshia Brown, has been key in this process. She has helped create innovative presentations and 'Financial Wellness Fairs' that can be duplicated at each campus. Utilizing some of the information we have learned, several of our Professors have incorporated financial wellness into their classes and/or given students extra credit to attend our events."

One of the external partnerships that she is most proud of is with Operation HOPE, which is “the leading global provider of financial dignity education and economic empowerment programs for low to moderate income youth, individuals and families in underserved communities.” Their Financial Wellbeing Coach just happens to be a fellow CSW alumni, Kristie Blevins. On behalf of Operation HOPE, Kristie has participated in at least three campus wide activities this academic year and is providing individual financial coaching to at least four students. Drema believes, "If students are assisted in graduating with little to no debt, learn how to create a budget, establish their credit score and live within their means; we will have created a generation of students who can truly live their dreams."

Pellissippi State and AmeriCorps VISTA are partners with Project GRAD Knoxville, Operation HOPE, Great Schools Partnership, SunTrust Bank, First Tennessee Bank and First Tennessee Bank in hosting a Financial Wellbeing Festival on April 22nd from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on our Pellissippi State, Magnolia Ave. Campus. We will have programing for all age groups as well as vendors from the community. All are welcome to attend.

Bowers expressed special thanks to Dr. Annie Gray, Service Learning Program Coordinator & AmeriCorps VISTA Director at Pellissippi State Community College for the partnership that has enabled them to pursue this initiative through its focus on poverty alleviation.

Lisa Higginbotham, Honoree #11 - Alum Uses Data to Combat Homelessness- Grand Challenge #6

Lisa HigginbothamLisa Higginbotham, is a 2009 graduate of the College of Social Work MSSW program and has worked with SWORPS since 2012. Ms. Higginbotham advocates to make homeless rare and brief. Lisa is responsible for strategic planning for the Knoxville-Knox County Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS), a secure on-line database serving 20 Knoxville community agencies and housing over 45,000 records of persons experiencing homelessness in Knoxville. Her recent work has been focused on the development of the Knoxville Community Dashboard on Homelessness. This “Dashboard Report” is an at-a-glance informational resource on the issue of homelessness and the performance of homeless service providers in Knoxville, Tennessee. Data represented on the Dashboard are aggregated, de-identified client-level data extrapolated from the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS).

Lisa has spearheaded the KnoxHMIS Dashboard development. She is proud of the community partner involvement that is a distinctive feature of the success of this project. Higginbotham states, “This [project]is only possible because of the conscientious support of our local partners. Most partners are interested in accessing KnoxHMIS to further collaborative initiatives. It’s not just a database. It’s a partnership with the community and without that, you’re not going to get collaborative case management and motivate case managers to input real time information.”

The data entered into the information system are utilized to evaluate how the community is doing in areas like permanent housing placement and employment outcomes.

Visit the dashboard at: http://www.knoxhmis.org/dashboard/

David Patterson, endowed professor of Mental Health Research and Practice in the College of Social Work, helped to conceptualize the Dashboard with Lisa Higginbotham. “We’re the empirical window into homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County,” said Patterson. “We focus on outcomes that let us see what’s making a difference and what’s not making a difference.” The experience of homelessness cannot be reduced to sleeping in a cardboard box.  “We make a lot of assumptions about people who are homeless. They have dignity,”  said Lisa Higginbotham.

Currently, Higginbotham is organizing Knoxville’s first youth-specific point-in-time count, facilitating the Biennial Study on Homelessness, and publication in Families in Society, Journal of Contemporary Social Services. Lisa will co-present on the Dashboard at the National Human Services Data Consortium in April 2017.

Thecle Ebanks, Honoree #10 - Student is Honored for Policy Ideas - Grand Challenge #9

Thecle EbanksThecle Ebanks was recognized last week at the NASW-TN Social Work Day on the Hill for winning the 2017 Policy Poster Competition.

Thecle is currently a full-time student at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. She is enrolled in the online program that is administered through the Nashville Campus. Prior to becoming part of the UT program, Thecle had been working in the social work field for over 10 years. She has worked with families, adolescents, and active duty military. Thecle's husband is serving in the military and they are stationed at Fort Campbell.

Thecle stated, "I love this bill because it embodies the two most important values to me: justice and compassion. I am so glad that more and more states are proposing legislation to address this issue which, as it stands, threatens the dignity and worth of every human being. While I am elated to have won the overall MSSW policy poster, I'm more excited to have given a voice to this topic."

Kate McClernon-Chaffin, Director of the Nashville and Online MSSW Program stated, "We are so proud of Thecle’s phenomenal job at NASW-TN Day on the Hill! This is truly a shining example of the caliber of students in our online MSSW program, as well as an example of the amazing opportunities given to our students and the excellence in teaching that they receive. This was a great win for UTK College of Social Work and a great win for online education!"

When asked about the impact that her education has had, Thecle Ebanks stated, "As someone who already holds a Masters degree, the MSSW Online program is one of the most rigorous, rich, and challenging experiences I have had yet. It truly sets the standard for exellence. The coursework is fast-paced and demanding, but I have experienced substantial academic growth."

"I would really like to highlight Professor Kim Mallory [Policy Faculty] and the ways she helped to stretch me as a student and social worker in this entire process. She truly embodies excellence and dedication. What left the biggest impression on me wasn't her work ethic, which is outstanding by the way, but her compassion and encouragement the whole way through. As an online student, you don't always get the luxury to connect with peers, but the experience you have with faculty leaves a lasting impression. I am honored to have had such positive and life changing experiences through an amazing faculty member."

The policy work that Ebanks has been doing represents the thinking behind Challenge #9. A prolonged era of mass incarceration has resulted in extraordinary rates of imprisonment, making the United States the world leader in incarceration.  The effects of mass incarceration are particularly profound for some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups – people in poverty, racial minorities, and people with behavioral health disorders. There is no more pressing social justice issue in the United States today than effectively undoing mass incarceration and its wide-reaching effects.

Erin Rose, MSSW, Honoree #9 - Works to Create Positive Social Responses to a Changing Environment - Grand Challenge #7

Erin Rose received her Master of Science in Social Work from UT with a concentration in macro-scaled social work in the areas of environmental policy and justice, community organizing, and administration.Erin Rose

In 2010, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory hired Rose to develop a survey to assess health and other non-energy-related benefits they believed families had experienced since receiving energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. "We found overall that the health and household-related benefits are three times the energy cost savings benefits," she said. "I’ve met with hundreds of people across the country doing this work and, after a while, you get used to people saying, ‘It’s changed our lives.’"

ThreeCubed, an organization whose mission is to foster equitable, sustainable futures, grew out of the ORNL research. Erin Rose is Co-Founder and Vice-President of Social Equity for ThreeCubed. Her current work involves the design and implementation of studies targeting energy program impact on households of low-socioeconomic status. Her background provides the skills necessary to study social justice issues related to household level fuel poverty, access to resources, the impact on home energy-efficiency programs on Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and health, climate change and other areas of environmental impacts on persons of vulnerable status.

It is widely accepted that the three components, or pillars of sustainability, are environment, equity, and economics, in combination. ThreeCubed conducts innovative, interdisciplinary research and offers educational programming to promote the integrated achievement of sustainability goals in these areas.

In January of 2017, Erin Rose was named by the Knoxville News Sentinel Business Journal to the 10th class of 40 Under 40, a select group of young local leaders who are leaving their mark on the Greater Knoxville area through their professional and philanthropic efforts.

Erin Rose is a social worker who is fulfilling the Social Work Challenge #7 by creating social responses to a changing environment. The environmental challenges reshaping contemporary societies pose profound risks to human well-being, particularly for marginalized communities. Climate change and urban development threaten health, undermine coping, and deepen existing social and environmental inequities. A changing global environment requires transformative social responses: new partnerships, deep engagement with local communities, and innovations to strengthen individual and collective assets.

Jackie Clay, MSSW, Honoree #8 - Works to Close the Health Care Gap - Grand Challenge #2

Jackie Clay earned her BSSW and MSSW at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. Today she serves in nearby Oak Ridge, TN as the executive director of the Free Medical Clinic. The clinic provides no-charge primary care and wellness services to low-income, uninsured residents of Anderson, Morgan, and Roane counties who otherwise would not have access to the medical care they need.Jackie Clay

Social Work Grand Challenge #2 encourages social workers to Close the Health Gap. More than 60 million Americans experience devastating one-two punches to their health. They have inadequate access to basic health care while also enduring the effects of discrimination, poverty, and dangerous environments that accelerate higher rates of illness. Innovative and evidence-based social strategies can improve health care and lead to broad gains in the health of our entire society.  

Before she joined the FMC, Clay worked for the City of Knoxville as project manager, then as program manager, with a focus on crime reduction programs. She has experience as a community organizer and as a field instructor for the UT College of Social Work.. 

While in the master’s program in social work Clay's concentration was in nonprofit management, leadership, and community practice. She also has a community engagement professional certification from Neighbor Works America Training Institute.

Jackie Clay is a leader in her community as she works to close gaps in the provision of health care. "A lot of people fall into the health care gap," explains Clay. "On a day to day basis I am encouraged to know that I am not in this fight alone. So many individuals across the community volunteer to keep our clinic operating; doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and others are doing this work together so that the people with health needs in our community can obtain services." To learn more about Jackie Clay's work, visit http://www.fmcor.org/

Lakeisha Conway, MSSW, LCSW Honoree #7 - Works to Advance Long and Productive Lives - Grand Challenge #4

Lakeisha Conway currently serves as a Clinical Social Worker for the Contracted Adult Day Health Care Program and Memory Clinic with the Veterans Health Administration in Memphis, TN, and also serves as a Field Liaison for the University of Tennessee College of Social Work Online MSSW Program. 

Lakeisha graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work Memphis Campus in 2007, after completing her internship at the Memphis VA Medical Center as a MSSW student in 2006–2007. Her macro research project “Community needs assessment for Veteran Adult Day Services” was instrumental in building the now Memphis Contracted Adult Day Program.   Lakeisha Conway

The Adult Day program focuses on increasing socialization and physical interaction; helps identify long term care plans, provides a safe, structured environment for those who would be otherwise left home alone with cognitive impairments, promotes good mental health and overall healthy living within the veteran aging population and reducing caregiver stress. 

Lakeisha has fostered long standing partnerships with various agencies in the community and promotes the importance of caregiver self-care. Her expertise in Geriatric Extended Care and Non Institutional Care programs has made her a sought after partner in the community. She’s collaborated with state and local community-based programs including Area Agencies on Aging across the states of TN, MS and AR, and Alzheimer’s Associations, not to mention her long standing partnership with national programs such as REACH VA alongside leading researchers. This work demonstrates her commitment not only to the aging, veteran, and caregiver populations but to outreach and policy as well.

Throughout her 10 year tenure with the Memphis VA Medical Center, Lakeisha has worked within various areas of Geriatric Extended and Non-Institutional Care programs that are committed to providing services to veterans with complex care and support to caregivers while promoting care in the community or in the home setting. She has worked in programs that included Home and Community Based Services, Spinal Cord Injury Home Care, Home Maker/Home Health Aide, In-Home Respite Care and Caregiver Support.

Lakeisha’s commitment to the aging population reaches far outside the walls of the VA. In addition to her role as a Field Liaison for the University of Tennessee College of Social Work MSSW On-Line Program she knew there was much more that she could contribute. Recognizing that there will be a surge in the aging population and insufficient professional social workers to support their social needs, this past year she developed a Pilot Geriatric Learning Curriculum within Social Work Service at the Memphis VA encouraging MSSW level students to seek out Aging as a field of study upon graduation. She hopes to use the module as best practice across the Veterans Health Administration and as a new curriculum for incoming students.

Grand Challenge #4: Lakeisha hopes to inspire new professionals to continue to work to advance the long and productive lives of the aging populations and recognize their impact later in life on this field of practice. She hopes to continue to bring awareness to the surge in the aging population, advocate for funding, and garner support for professionals and additional aging-related community-based programs.

Bethanie Poe, PhD - Honoree #6 - Works to Stop Family Violence - Grand Challenge #3

Bethanie PoeDr. Bethanie A. Poe is a Program Specialist at the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence. It is the Coalition’s goal to end abuse and sexual violence in Tennessee through public policy advocacy, education, and building the capacity of programs and communities to address violence. In her current role, Dr. Poe works with the Tennessee Domestic Violence State Coordinating Council to ensure the proper certification, training, and monitoring of batterers’ intervention programs, as well as providing technical assistance and training to domestic violence advocates and communities across the state.

For more information about the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, please visit: www.tncoalition.org

Dr. Poe began her career in the domestic violence field during her MSSW program at UT where her first internship was in a local domestic violence shelter. She then went on to intern with UT’s Veterinary Social Work program where she focused her study on the Link between human and animal violence, or why those who are violent toward animals are also violent toward people. Dr. Poe was an active advocate for an amendment to Tennessee’s law which would allow domestic violence survivors to put their pets under their Order of Protection, which became law in 2007.

Dr. Poe returned to UT in 2008 to begin her PhD, and continued to be involved with UT’s Veterinary Social Work. The research for her dissertation, entitled “How Do People in Animal Welfare Fields Respond to Family Violence Situations?”, ventured into a new aspect of the Link. While previous studies had explored human welfare professionals’ experience with clients who commit acts of animal abuse, there was nothing in the literature about the types of family violence situations animal welfare professionals, such as animal control officers, encounter while at work. Dr. Poe’s research sought to fill that gap by surveying people in animal related professions about their experiences with child abuse, domestic violence, and elder abuse while at work and their responses to these situations. She is also the instructor for the online portion of the Link module in the Post-Graduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate Program.

Dr. Poe has found that her experiences at UT have been incredibly useful in her work at the Tennessee Coalition. Working with batterers’ intervention programs requires a well-rounded perspective of family violence, and a dedication to Grand Challenge #3: Stop family violence.  As the AASWSW says: “Proven interventions can prevent abuse, identify abuse sooner, and help families survive and thrive by breaking the cycle of violence or finding safe alternatives.”

Ayat Nashwan, PhD - Honoree #5 - Works to Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality - Grand Challenge #10

Ayat NashwanDr. Ayat Jebril Nashwan is an Assistant Professor and Social Work Diploma Coordinator with the Sociology and Social Work Department at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan. Dr. Nashwan is the first Jordanian person to earn a PhD in Social Work from a U.S. institution in the history of Jordan. Dr. Nashwan is proud to have studied at the UT College of Social Work.

Dr. Nashwan came to the United States in 2011 prepared with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Sociology from the University of Jordan. At the College of Social Work in Knoxville she earned her PhD in Social Work where she worked under the mentorship of Dr. Stan Bowie who chaired her dissertation committee. Her dissertation title is: Acculturative Stress and Social Support among Immigrant Arab American Adolescents in East Tennessee. After returning to Jordan, Dr. Nashwan joined the faculty at Yarmouk University where she initiated a professional social work diploma in partnership with Common Bond Institute and Michigan State University.

Her most recent endeavors have included offering training entitled "English for Social Workers." The main goal for this training is to give the Jordanian students who study their program in Arabic some communication skills and terminology for social work in English so they can have better opportunity to work with International organizations that work in Jordan with refugees. In addition, Dr. Nashwan has been translating social work texts from English to Arabic for Jordanian students who cannot access and benefit from important information due to language barriers.

Dr. Nashwan's most recent publication was a book chapter in Immigrant and Refugee Children and Families: Culturally Responsive Practice entitled Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Children and Families. She has continued to collaborate with colleagues from the UT College of Social Work, at times using video-conferencing applications to present at conferences in the United States.

Ayat Nashwan is a founding member of The Jordanian Association of Social Work.

Grand Challenge #10 for Social Work encourages work to reduce extreme economic inequality. One of the aspects to that challenge is the work of providing lifelong access to education in order to provide broader economic opportunities. Ayat Nashwan's work certainly does that on an international scale.

John Wodarski, PhD - Honoree #4 - Works to Harness Technology for Social Good - Grand Challenge #8

John WodarskiDr. John Wodarski is a Professor in the College of Social Work. He has served as a principal investigator on multiple projects funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other foundations. His interests include substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and evidence-based treatments.

Dr. Wodarski's work as a Senior Research Scientist with the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health Research has spanned many years and has developed through various research projects. His interest has always been geared toward making treatment available and effective through the use of technological interventions.

Through the collaborative efforts of the Helen Ross McNabb Regional Medical Health System and John Wodarski, five projects have successfully served over 250,000 clients accessing the website, with 25,000 clients completing web treatment, and 2,500 receiving personal treatment. 

Dr. Wodarski has directed five separate but inter-related and funded projects for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, SAMHSA/CSAT, in which electronically-delivered services were developed and then implemented.  These efforts should facilitate expanding our curriculum with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment Recovery and SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) to reduce the pandemic of substance abuse. SBIRT is an evidence-based approach to identifying patients who use alcohol and other drugs at risky levels with the goal of reducing and preventing related health consequences, disease, accidents and injuries.

Several of the titles of the projects that Dr. Wodarski has developed are Using Computers for Campus Screening and Brief Interventions for Substance Abuse, E-therapy Screening and Interventions for Vulnerable Young Adults with Substance Abuse and Co-morbidity, and Expanded Care Coordination through the Use of Health Information Technology in Rural Tennessee.

Ann M. Callahan, PhD, LCSW - MSSW and PhD Alum Clarifies How Spirituality Informs Hospice and Palliative Social Work - Honoree #3

Ann M. CallahanDr. Ann Callahan is a licensed clinical social worker for MedOptions Behavioral Health Services and lecturer in the UT College of Social Work, Knoxville campus. She has over 20 years of social work related experience that has inspired a passion for social work research, education, and practice.

Dr. Callahan received her MSSW from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work in 1997 with a concentration in Management and Community Practice. She completed her PhD in Social Work from UT in 2004. Her dissertation was titled, “The Role of Demographic Diversity in Predicting Work Psychological Safety.”

Dr. Callahan’s current research focuses on clarifying how spirituality informs hospice and palliative social work. She has delivered over 40 national presentations and 50 professional publications, including her book Spirituality and Hospice Social Work published by Columbia University Press. This work focuses on helping social workers address the spiritual needs of hospice clients. She proposes a relational model for spiritually sensitive hospice social work to support the delivery of quality spiritual care. Her understanding of this topic serves the goal of meeting the Social Work Challenge #5, "Eradication of Social Isolation."

Dr. Callahan’s next book advances the concept of relational spirituality as an essential foundation for spiritually sensitive palliative social work. She believes spiritually sensitive social workers have the capacity to support relationships that enhance life meaning, particularly with residents in long-term care facilities. To learn more about Dr. Callahan’s work visit http://dranncallahan.info/

Jenn Drake-Croft, Director of Early Childhood Well-Being for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and MSSW Alum - Honoree #2

Jenn Drake-CroftJenn Drake-Croft currently serves the State of Tennessee as the Director of Early Childhood Well-Being for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Despite having only recently graduated from UTCSW with her MSSW in 2015, Jenn has leveraged her passion for addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and her experience as Associate Director at The Family Center, a child abuse prevention agency in Middle TN, into a state level role in developing policy to address the grand challenge of ensuring healthy development for all youth.

Under Jenn’s leadership, TCCY has intensified its advocacy of and collaboration for early child well-being and ACEs. This work includes training, collaboration, and advocacy at local, regional, and state levels. Jenn is currently leading a statewide initiative to train over 400 individuals across child serving systems to work to both prevent and mitigate ACEs within their organizations and communities

Learn more about Jenn's work at: https://www.tn.gov/tccy/topic/tccy-ecwb

Jenn Drake-Croft inspires social workers by her commitment to ensure the healthy development of all youth - Grand Challenge #1. Each year, more than six million young people receive treatment for severe mental, emotional, or behavioral problems. Strong evidence shows us how to prevent many behavioral health problems before they emerge. By unleashing the power of prevention through widespread use of proven approaches, we can help all youth grow up to become healthy and productive adults.

Dr. Mary Held, Assistant Professor, Nashville Campus, College of Social Work - Honoree #1

Dr. Mary HeldDr. Mary Held, Assistant Professor in Nashville, is the First of 75 UT College of Social Work Individuals to be honored for representing the ideals of the Grand Challenges.

Dr. Mary Held, along with Nashville campus MSSW student Allison Milam recently presented "Immigration-related Hardships and Treatment Strategies" for the monthly NASW Lunch and Learn meeting for the middle TN region. This presentation looks at the traumatic experiences and hardships faced by Latinos moving to the US. It also suggests treatment strategies for those immigrants struggling to overcome the demands that trauma has brought into their lives.

Dr. Held and her student have received a number of requests to further develop this training to address the needs of professionals across the state who need further training on trauma-informed strategies for working, in particular, with immigrant and refugee youth.

In the past, Dr. Held has spent time working in Honduras at a home for boys and has also practiced social work in San Antonio, Texas. Those practice experiences have given her a unique perspective to see the many facets of the immigrant/refugee experience. This perspective inspires her commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity and justice in our communities.

Grand Challenge #12: Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice. AASWSW defines this: "In the United States, some groups of people have long been consigned to society’s margins. Historic and current prejudice and injustice bars access to success in education and employment. Addressing racial and social injustices, deconstructing stereotypes, dismantling inequality, exposing unfair practices, and accepting the super diversity of the population will advance this challenge. All of this work is critical to fostering a successful society."



 

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