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:
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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. Kristen Keely-Dinger is an MSSW graduate of the UT College of Social Work and is the current President and CEO of The Healing Trust, a health legacy foundation committed to fostering access to compassionate health care for vulnerable populations in Middle Tennessee. She joined the Trust in 2003 as the first Program Officer. She has also served The Trust as VP of Programs and Grants and Executive Vice President. Since Kristen joined The Trust in 2003, the Foundation has awarded over $80 million in grants. In that time, the Foundation’s grant making has grown from $350,000 to almost $5 million per year. Her work fulfills the goal of Grand Challenge #2, Closing the Health Gap.
The Trust recently launched an advocacy grant program aimed at preventing adverse childhood experiences and increasing access to care. During her tenure, The Trust also launched a Tennessee-focused, nonpartisan public policy research center, The Sycamore Institute. The Trust operates five grant-making programs as well as leadership development and retreats dedicated to reducing compassion fatigue and burnout among nonprofit staff.
Prior to her time at The Trust, Kristen Keely-Dinger worked in health prevention education, community organization, and volunteer administration. Kristen received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Vanderbilt University, her Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee, and is currently a Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker. She serves as a board member of the Downtown Nashville Rotary and is on the steering committee of the Tennessee Chapter of the Network of Social Work Managers.
Kristen was selected as a 2007 Southeastern Council of Foundations Hull Fellow and is a graduate of the 2011 Nashville Emerging Leaders Class.
Conscious of the need in our state to closing the health gap, under Kristen’s leadership the Healing Trust convened a statewide advisory council for Get Covered Tennessee during the first two years of open enrollment after the launch of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and created a special grant cycle in order to fund over $1 million dollars of funding to support outreach and enrollment. Subsequently, the Trust’s advocacy grant program provides ongoing operating support to many nonprofits working to close the coverage gap.
The Healing Trust knew that, in addition to supporting nonprofits doing important work, they also needed to support strong policy analysis and research for our state related to health and fiscal policy. Through a community design process, and with the assistance of Healing Trust, The Sycamore Institute was born. Learn more about The Sycamore Institute: http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2017/08/18/tennessees-sycamore-institute-fills-health-research-void/566396001/
Christina Risley-Curtiss obtained her MSSW from the Nashville College of Social Work in 1980, with a focus on Administration and Planning. She went on to earn her PhD in Social Work from the University of Maryland. She is being named the thirty-first Grand Challenger for Social Work.Throughout her career, Christina has focused her efforts on child welfare, maternal and child health, and the animal-human bond, studying and teaching about the link between animal cruelty and human violence. Her work fulfills the goal of Grand Challenge #3, Stopping Family Violence.
For many years, Christina Risley-Curtiss served on the faculty of Arizona State University. She has been recognized for her excellence in teaching and research.
Christina’s primary areas of research in recent years have been the animal-human bond and child welfare. Her social work elective course—Other Animal-Human Connections—won the HSUS 2004 Society and Animals New Course Award. She is past chair of The Arizona Humane LINK, a coalition of animal welfare and human service agencies and is a member of the National Humane Link Coalition.
She was Founder and Director of Children and Animals Together Assessment and Diversion Program (CAT). CAT is a funded program that intervenes with children who are abusing animals.
Throughout her research, Dr. Risley-Curtiss made significant contributions to the studies of :
The UT College of Social Work is proud of this alum whose work has informed many of our students who have studied in the UT College of Social Work's Veterinary Social Work program. This Grand Challenger was the co-keynote speaker on the link between animal cruelty and violence at the first UT Veterinary Social work conference and was awarded the UT Veterinary Social Work's first award for research in the area of human-animal interactions. She also was a presenter at the third International Veterinary Social Work Summit, Knoxville, TN.
Her work has also been recognized globally. She presented at Center of Animal Ethics Conference at Oxford University and her work has been used in Australia, and England. The link between animal abuse and other forms of family violence is now being recognized and taught world wide.
She grew up on a farm in Connecticut, where her father and grandfather practiced veterinary medicine. She currently lives in a trans-species cultural home with a number of cats and chickens, a dog and horse. Christina does hands-on rescue work including having volunteered to help animals during the Katrina rescue and she was a founding member of a TNR feral cat program at Arizona State University.
LaTamera Woodley is a Planner for the Tennessee Department of Human Services She is being named the thirtieth Grand Challenger for Social Work. Throughout her career, LaTamera has focused her efforts on using cutting edge technology to impact clients and their needs. This harnessing of technology for the social good fulfills the goal of Grand Challenge #8.
"I have over 11 years of experience working on data management projects with The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS)," states Woodley. "In this position I serve as a liaison between project managers, business analysts, program users, developers, and various levels of management."
As a data analyst and program planner, LaTamera Woodley collects, processes, and performs statistical analysis of data for various programs such as TANF, SNAP, and Vocational Rehabilitation Services. as well as the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Sumer Food Service Program for Children. A research project that Woodley is involved with studies the Community Services Block Grant.
In addition to research and data analysis, she has been active in designing and conducting program evaluations on the implementation of the state’s Diversion program and talent management process. She is responsible for data collection and processing the state’s TANF federal reports. As a liaison between the world of technology and the clients that are served, Woodley has also lead focus groups and evaluations for client notice updates/redesign, the implementation of roving case workers, and Vocational Rehabilitation Services triannual program evaluation.
Beyond her work-related responsibilities, LaTamera serves the community and social work profession through a number of leadership positions. She has worked as Board President for the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare, as the steering committee treasurer for the Network for Social Work Managers, and is on the board of the National Association of Welfare Research and Statistics.
She has served on the Council on Social Work Education’s Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work and she continues work with the National Task force to develop a Specialized Practice Curricular Guide for Macro Social Work Practice. She is currently serving on the Davidson County Foster Care Review Board.
The University of Tennessee College of Social Work honored LaTamera Woodley in 2014, awarding her the Lucille Evans Dean Award for outstanding social work contributions and service to the Community of Nashville.
Karen M. Sowers, PhD, is Dean and Beaman Professor for Outstanding Research and Service at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville College of Social Work. Dr. Sowers has served as Dean of the College for 20 years but is retiring from her position on August 15. She was appointed Professor and Dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in August 1997. She is being named the twenty-ninth Grand Challenger for Social Work. Her work over the years has impacted all of the Grand Challenges, but her focus on Mental Health has Ensured Healthy Development for All - Grand Challenge #1.
Friday, July 28, the UT College of Social Work is further honoring retiring Dean Sowers by naming the Henson Hall Dean's office area as the Dr. Karen M. Sowers Dean's Suite, in recognition of 20 years of distinguished leadership at the college and university.
Dr. Sowers is nationally known for her research and scholarship in the areas of international practice, juvenile justice, child welfare, cultural diversity and culturally effective intervention strategies for social work practice, evidence-based social work practice and social work education. Her current research and community interests include evidence-based practice, mental health practice, international social work practice and juvenile justice practice. She has authored or co-authored numerous books, book chapters and refereed journal articles. She has served as a founding editorial board member of the Journal of Research on Social Work Practice and founding co-editor of Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal. She serves on numerous editorial boards and state and national social service boards.
In 2013 Sowers was elected as a Distinguished Scholar Fellow in the National Academies of Practice. Distinguished practitioners, scholars and policy fellows are elected by their peers from ten different health professions including dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, psychology, social work and veterinary medicine. She was named the 2016 George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney Mental Health America Social Worker of the Year, an award that recognizes an individual, nationwide, who has made significant contributions to the care and treatment of people with mental illnesses.
Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick reiterated her contributions. “Dean Karen Sowers has provided outstanding leadership for two decades,” said Zomchick. “Her dedication to students, her scholarship, and her record of service to national and local organizations have brought national attention to the University of Tennessee and the College of Social Work.”
College of Social Work Dedicates Suite, Honors Karen Sowers
Karen Sowers, dean of the College of Social Work was honored at a dedication ceremony for the new Dr. Karen M. Sowers Dean's Suite. Sowers is UT's longest-serving dean and announced her plans to retire earlier this year. Her last day will be Aug. 15. In recognition of her leadership, Sowers will be named dean emerita and professor emerita.
Board of Visitors member Darrell Akins acted as MC for the event and read a letter of congratulations from Tennessee First Lady Chrissy Haslam, who stated, “Thank you for your service to the University of Tennessee and to the State of Tennessee. The students that you have trained in the art and science of social work will have an enormous impact on our future. Thank you for instilling leadership in your students. We need their voices. Your years of service as Dean have shaped the college, the faculty and staff, the students, the social workers in the field and the families, children and citizens—present, past and future. What a legacy you leave!”
In addition to the dedication of the Dean’s Suite in honor of Karen Sowers, Representative Roger Kane of the State of Tennessee presented a Senate Joint Resolution recognizing and congratulating Dr. Sowers on her retirement.
The College of Social Work faculty member is being named the twenty-eighth Grand Challenger for Social Work. She has been using her skills in research to evaluate the impacts of a program providing financial support to the survivors of the November 2016 wildfires in Gatlinburg. Her work seeks to achieve the goals of 10th Challenge for Social Work—Reducing Extreme Economic Inequality.
Stacia West is an Assistant Professor at the UT College of Social Work. Her research focuses on affordable housing and housing instability, the feminization of poverty, and financial fragility in lower-income households.
Recently, Dr. West partnered with the Dollywood Foundation to evaluate the impacts of the My People Fund—a program providing financial support to the survivors of the November 2016 wildfires in the Gatlinburg, TN area. The longitudinal study is designed to trace the physical, social, emotional, financial and housing trajectories of wildfire survivors. Preliminary findings from the evaluation suggest that financial assistance provided by the My People Fund helped individuals overcome barriers to housing and other basic needs, yet there are lingering social, emotional, and financial obstacles for survivors to overcome. The final findings of the evaluation will be released in February 2018.
Dr. West’s other projects include research investigating the implications of gentrification, displacement, and the affordable housing crisis on lower-income households, the impacts of housing cost burden on maternal and child outcomes, and exploring interventions to reduce economic inequality. Her publications on the subject of reducing financial inequality include "A population on the brink: The financial fragility of American renters," "No easy way out: One community’s efforts to house families experiencing homelessness," and "Asset building among low income adults: An exploratory study of an emergency savings program." See more on this at: http://www.csw.utk.edu/faculty/pages/west/publications.htm
The College of Social Work honors the memory of B. Farrell Cooper naming him the twenty-seventh Grand Challenger for Social Work. Farrell Cooper passed away Monday, July 10, 2017. He was a founding member of the UT College of Social Work Board of Visitors, a group that began in the late 1990's in support of the work of the college.
Farrell Cooper exhibited an unwavering commitment to social justice throughout his career and life. He earned a Master of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1967. He spent his career as a social worker in a variety of community settings. He served as director of Social Services at Erlanger Medical Center for 14 years, leaving to assume a leadership role at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults in 1988.
He retired from the Partnership as executive director in 2006. He served as regional and state president of the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare, President of the National Association of Social Workers, and was awarded Tennessee State Social Worker of the Year in 1983.
Sara Faircloth, who worked with Farrell when he edited the Black Mountain Network News remarked, "He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was one of those people that was warm, and a bit mischievous, and always fun to be around. Farrell was well loved in the Chattanooga community, and a respected colleague in the field of Community Service."
Farrell Cooper's work in the field of social work extended to many of the 12 Challenges for Social Work, but in particular, under his leadership of the Partnership, Family Strenthening Services were provided, building stable lives, providing employee assistance, financial counseling, and other family-focused solutions that lead to the accomplishment of Grand Challenge #11, Building Financial Capability for All.
Karen M. Sowers, Dean of the College of Social Work, remembered this wonderful social work leader. "Farrell was one of the first to reach out to me when I came to UT. He loved his alma mater. A founding member of the College's Board of Visitors, he embraced the board as he did all things in life - with gusto, joy and enthusiasm. We owe Farrell a great debt in his helping to build the college. He was a dear man who was a social work role model in life as well as his career. I will miss his guidance, his laughter and his great ability to see good in all things."
The twenty-sixth grand challenger is a current MSSW student at the Knoxville campus of the College of Social Work. Herb Piercy is working to fulfill the goals of Social Work Challenge #5 — Eradicate Social Isolation, with a particular focus on the population of veterans in our community.
From the time he began his studies at UTK in 2009 until he graduated in Fall 2011 with his BA in Psychology, Herb Piercy felt a need to connect with other veterans. He had a very hard time meeting other veterans because that is a protected status for the sake of confidentiality and is not disclosed by staff at the university. Herb served from 1992 to 1997 in the United States Army in the Military Police Corps. He was stationed at Fort Bliss Texas from 1992 to 1993 and Mannheim Germany 1994 to 1997, and he deployed to Mogadishu Somalia in 1993 under Operation Restore Hope.
When Herb started graduate school in Spring 2011 to earn his MSSW degree at the College of Social Work, he got involved through the Safety, Environment and Education Center at the student health center. He planned classes for veterans but, again, had a hard time notifying them, for the same reasons he couldn't find other veterans to socialize with. "When I joined the Graduate Student Senate," explains Herb Piercy," I met George Shields from the Law school and we drafted a bill recommending the university open a Veterans Resource Center on campus to help veterans find each other and the resources they need to navigate the collegiate environment. From 2015 until it was disbanded, I was the Graduate Student Representative for the Task Force in Support of Veterans Affairs, and after that I have been an advisor on the Veterans Resource Team.
"I have advised the various groups about the research in the area of student veterans needs, and how such a center could be created, managed, and serve the population. There were many people involved all throughout the process, and I am grateful to have been a part of the many groups that have brought this center to the University."
On July 3, it was announced that the campus’s new Veterans Resource Center is open. The Center is located on the ground floor of the Hodges Library across from One Stop. The center features quiet study areas, a common room with microwave and refrigerator access, and a meeting area for veteran organizations. It also provides a venue for student veterans to meet one-on-one with veteran coordinators. “The most important aspect of the center is that it sends a message that we support our student veterans,” said Veteran Student Services Coordinator Jayetta Rogers. “Transition to civilian life can be stressful, but having a ‘home base’ can help ease that transition.”
Last spring, there were 475 veterans enrolled as students at UT, as well as more than 375 military spouses and dependents.
The twenty-fifth grand challenger is Dr. Mary Rogge, Associate Professor at the Knoxville campus of the College of Social Work. Dr Rogge is working to fulfill the goals of Social Work Challenge #7 — Create social responses to a changing environment.
The intersectionality of environmental justice, children and other vulnerable populations, and health has been at the core of Dr. Mary E. Rogge’s (BSW, MSW, PhD) social work practice since the mid-1980s. A former child protective service worker, hospital-based social worker, and program director, the connection between the mission of the social work profession and the importance of our person-in/and natural environment continues to be a guiding pillar in her professional and world view.
Dr. Rogge’s research, publications, and presentations bring a local-to-global perspective to bear about issues of environmental health, environmental justice, sustainable development, and disaster management for children, environmentally displaced persons, and other vulnerable populations.
Her environmental social work has led to non-traditional interdisciplinary collaborations. She was one of the first Sustainable Development Fellows at the UTK Energy, Environment, and Research Center (now the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment). She was the principle investigator of a four-year U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science grant that established the Neighborhood Environmental College (NEC) in the Alton Park/Piney Woods neighborhood of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Using the NEC as a base, neighbors, local organizations, and UTK researchers in microbiology, geology, engineering, veterinary medicine, and other disciplines collaborated in training, outreach, projects, network building, and leadership development to improve environmental wellbeing and to reduce neighborhood and community exposure to environmental contaminants. Along with co-PIs from UT Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences and from Entomology and Plant Pathology, Dr. Rogge promoted healthy housing and protecting children from exposure to pests, pesticides and other chemicals, through research about and training for childcare, school, and extension agents in Tennessee. She is a member of the Tennessee Healthy Homes Partnership, which promotes environmental health and healthy housing for Tennessee citizens.
Over her twenty-two year teaching career at the UT College of Social Work, Dr. Rogge’s teaching focus has been on social work, justice, and participatory democracy in mezzo and macro systems. She has taught in the BSSW, MSSW, and PhD programs. She has taught introductory courses, courses on organizational and community practice, diversity and inclusion, social welfare and policy, financial management, and social and economic development. She initiated the first CSW student trips to the Social Work Day at the United Nations, the theme for which in spring 2017 was Environmental Sustainability.
Dr. Rogge has been recognized national and internationally as among the pioneers of environmental social work. She authored the first NASW Encyclopedia article on environmental justice, and co-authored, with Dr. Nancy Humphreys, the first NASW Environmental Policy Statement. As a board member of the International Consortium for Social Development (ICSD) and as chairperson and treasurer of the managing board of Social Development Issues, for example, she was instrumental in ICSD, in Recife, Brazil in 2005, being one of the first social work professional organizations to organize their primary membership conference around the major theme of environmental sustainability.
In 2016, she completed a second term as a Commissioner on the Global Social Work Education Commission of the U.S. Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) – representing environmental justice and disaster management. As Commissioner, she and Cathryne Schmitz from the CSWE Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice co-chaired the CSWE’s inaugural Committee on Environmental Justice. The Committee produced the first CSWE White Paper on Environmental Justice to recommend ways that social work education should consider integrating issues of environmental justice into curriculum. In 2016–2017, Dr. Rogge served on the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) four-member expert panel reviewing the NASW Environmental Policy Statement.
Dr. Rogge is retiring from the UT College of Social Work this month.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
The twenty-first grand challenger is Gretchen Ely, 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.
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.
The twentieth grand challenger is Susan Bradford, graduate 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.
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 Evans 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.
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."
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."
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Patterson 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.
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.
Within 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."
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. 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, 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).
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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Dr. 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.”
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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 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 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."