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March 14, 2019

College of Social Work Named as One of the Best in the Nation - Now Ranked 22nd Among All Public Universities

Image of latest ranking for CollegeThe College of Social Work graduate program has been ranked 22nd nationally among all public universities by U.S. News and World Report for 2020.

Interim Dean David R. Dupper stated, ““Being recognized by U.S. News and World Report shines a spotlight on the excellence of our faculty, staff, and students. All of our academic programs incorporate cutting-edge research, a focus on critical thinking, and real-world applications to provide our students with an excellent educational experience. Our college is grounded in our commitment to social justice, serving diverse and vulnerable populations, building knowledge by conducting groundbreaking research that focuses on solving social problems, and engaging with our communities through meaningful service.”

Read the University's statement about rankings announcement here.

Ashley Howdeshell Participates in "Kicks for Kids" Shoe Project Aiding Children in Need

Photo of volunteers at Kicks for Kids projectAshley Howdeshell, Business Manager at the college, is the co-vice chair for the Junior Service League program, "Kicks for Kids" shoe project to deliver shoes to needy children in Blount County. She said, "What a wonderful night packing shoes for some sweet kiddos in Blount County! I love being a part of such a wonderful group of ladies!"

The project was sponsored by Junior Service League of Maryville, an organization that is committed to supporting the children of Blount County through projects that provide aid to children within the community. They also promote voluntarism and foster interest among members in all areas of community service. Pictured here are Ashley Howdeshell with Charissa Knouff, co-vice chair and Ashley Merrick, chair.

Kicks for Kids partnered with the Hunters Crossing Shoe Carnival to provide children in need of shoes at local schools with a brand-new pair of socks and kicks. This year they were able to service 6 Blount County schools. With the help of Shoe Carnival, they went to each of the schools, measured the children for the right fit and allowed them to choose a pair of 'kicks'.

SWORPS Staff Participate in Inaugural "Knoxville City Hackathon."

Photo of Knoxville City HackathonOn March 2 and 3, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and the City of Knoxville sponsored the inaugural "Knoxville City Hackathon." The event was a "a marathon of innovation" allowing teams to generate, develop, and/or implement a new idea from scratch in order to learn and have fun.

The sponsors encouraged developers to create apps that use data sets available under Knoxville's open data initiative and that address civic challenges. The Challenge categories included homelessnes, waste and resources, incentives for productive building reuse, mobility, and speaker feedback. Lisa Higginbotham, SWORPS Program Manager for KnoxHMIS, was a judge for the homelessness related apps.

Photo of Knoxville City HackathonDuring this 24 hour event, developers formed teams, selected a general topic, developed a concept, and created a prototype. Three groups chose to address the problem of homelessness. The apps of two of those three groups made it the final 7. The "Sponsor My Lyft" app for persons experiencing homelessness won second place overall. That app helps the homeless by matching sponsors with homeless individuals who need rides to job interviews, appointments, or to meet other needs.

Learn a little about these apps:

Lisa and two other SWORPS staff members, Justin Hazelwood and Innocent Rudasingwa (pictured above) attended the event and represented their work with the Knox Homeless Management Information System.

Angela Gilley Joins Center for Behavioral Health Research

Photo of Angela GilleyAngela Gilley has joined the staff at the Center for Behavioral Health Research as a Coordinator for grants and grant budgets. She is working with Dr. Michael Mason and Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason as well as several other center projects.

A University of Tennessee alumna, Angela completed her undergraduate degree in Animal Science and her Master's degree in Education. She has worked for UT for 13 years. When Angela is not working , she enjoys hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. “I love the mountains,” she says. She has done volunteer work for Keep Knoxville Beautiful, both in the area of recycling and planting trees.


February 4, 2019

MSSW Students and Faculty Travel to National Civil Rights Museum

Photo of students at National Civil Rights MuseumThe leaders of MSSWO and Phi Alpha (on the Nashville campus and Online MSSW program), and the Coalition of Black Social Workers led a field trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The trip began at the Nashville Campus and students from both the Nashville and Online MSSW programs, including one Memphis-area alumna of the Online MSSW Program, attended the trip. We even had two students drive in from Chattanooga! Student leaders, Adrianna Carter and Jillian Balser, planned the trip with Faculty Advisors, Carmen Foster and Katie Veit.

It was an amazing time for UTCSW students across the state to connect with one another while learning about social and racial injustice in America. At our debriefing session, we talked about the tangible ways that social workers impact the country and fight for social justice. Kate Chaffin, Director of the Nashville and Online MSSW Programs, stated, "Thanks so much for this trip!!!! It was exactly what I needed to start the semester and remember why I love my job so much!!! One of the best days ever!!!"

Dean’s Student Advisory Council Founded to Represent the Voice of Students

At College of Social Work (CSW), the voice of the student is critical. This past fall, the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) was founded. DSAC is a group of undergraduate and graduate student representatives who serve as an advisory group to the Dean, faculty, and staff of the CSW. DSAC represents and advocates for all CSW students; empowers all students through emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and social and economic justice. DSAC communicates and collaborates with CSW faculty and staff to foster and support the quality and ethical improvement of the CSW. DSAC promotes values of integrity, respect, compassion, excellence, innovation, collaboration, and community engagement in order to foster a strong network of stakeholders within the College and the broader community.

In this first year, DSAC is focused on building a strong organizational foundation by creating by-laws, forming sub-committees, setting up communication mechanisms, and establishing relationships. The Community Building Committee will assist administration in relationship-building activities between and among students, faculty, and staff in the CSW. They are currently working on developing a survey to gather information about student interest in activities, on-ground and online. The Student Feedback committee will assist administration in soliciting feedback from students in all programs about their experiences and concerns as stakeholders of the CSW. Committee members are currently developing feedback mechanisms to collect Photo of students on DSACconcerns on an ongoing basis. They are also working on a short manual for students about where to voice their concerns appropriately. Finally, an ad-hoc committee has recently formed to address social justice issues, particularly pertaining to The Rock, and will be an active group as we move into the spring and next academic year.

DSAC officers are Allie Cohn, President (MSW Knoxville); Amanda Stephens Lewis, Vice President (DSW); and Donna Bailey, Secretary (MSW Online). Members include Autumn Gail Josey (BSW); Chelsea Jewell Stephens (BSW); Shelby Madison DeLille (BSW); Chelsea Leigh Temple (MSW Knoxville); Mary Hansen (MSW Knoxville); Sarita M. Stokes (MSW Knoxville); Kylan Hadley (MSW Nashville); Adrianna Janelle Carter (MSW Nashville); Wesley Tyler Sanders (MSW Online); Kendria Elizabeth Smith (MSW Online); Christina Renee Perkins (DSW); Shannon Patrick Mee Cain (PhD); Aaron R. Brown (PhD); and Jayme Walters (PhD).

More information will be available about DSAC on the CSW website later in the spring semester. If you have any questions or concerns for DSAC, please contact Allie Cohn (

Students in photo are DSAC officers. (Clockwise from top left: Amanda Stephens Lewis, Vice President (DSW); Donna Bailey, Secretary (MSW Online); Allie Cohn, President (MSW Knoxville; Jayme Walters, DSAC Coordinator (PhD).

Interim UT President Boyd meets with SWORPS

The Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) is the public service outreach arm of the College of Social Work. Dr. Shandra Forrest-Bank, Director of SWORPS, recently met with Randy Boyd, Interim President of the University, and Dr. David Dupper, Interim Dean of the College of Social Work to discuss opioid and addiction response as he gathered information about the multi-disciplinary efforts that are taking place across the university to establish objectives for combatting this epidemic.

Photo of SWORPS teamMeetings such as this have informed President Boyd's thinking and he invited Dr. Forrest-Bank and Sissie Hadjiharalambous, Associate Director at SWORPS, to participate in a planning meeting on January 24, to develop actionable strategies and identify partners to help reverse the opioid epidemic in Tennessee. A plan for a regional Summit for Opioid and Addiction Response has risen from that meeting.

Dr. Forrest-Bank was pleased that President Boyd recognized the expertise that SWORPS and the college offer in this area. (SWORPS acts as project evaluators for two Health Resources & Services Administration grants in conjunction with the College of Nursing and Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services.) She looks forward to further exchange of ideas and the multi-disciplinary effort that will take place as the university focuses on solutions that will impact people's lives.

College Welcomes Sybil Schroeder to Faculty

Photo of Sybil SchroederThe College welcomed Sybil Schroeder, MDiv, PhD, LMSW to the faculty in late November, 2018. Dr. Schroeder joins the College as a Field Coordinator in the Online MSSW Program.

Dr. Schroeder has 25 years of experience in HIV/AIDS education and has served several communities in their efforts to address Teen Pregnancy. Over the years, Dr. Schroeder has produced several publications and been a vocal leader on various community health issues. In her various roles at public health and academic institutions across the country, she has consistently organized grass-root and community initiatives to empower and educate underserved communities.


December 27, 2018

Access to Veterinary Care Coalition Report Released

Photo of AlignCare teamThe Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC), a partnership of for-profit and nonprofit veterinary service providers, animal welfare and social service professionals, and educators working in collaboration with the College of Social Work has released the coalition's seminal report. The report "Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices, and Public Policy" identifies the need for better solutions that allow more people to obtain veterinary care.

The study was commissioned through a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund, a national family foundation created by Dave and Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, to better understand the barriers faced by pet owners across the socioeconomic spectrum. The study also sought to understand the knowledge, attitudes, and practices veterinarians have regarding access to care.

Photo of AlignCare teamDr. Michael Blackwell is chairman of AVCC and principal investigator on the Maddie’s Fund grant for the College of Social Work Program for Pet Health Equity to support research and development of AlignCare, a health care system designed to improve access to veterinary care for underserved families. “Lack of access to veterinary care is a complex societal problem with many causes. This report furthers our understanding of these complex and interrelated issues and can guide stakeholders in the development of solutions to reach underserved families with pets. Barriers to veterinary care can be mitigated through determined effort and better alignment of existing resources to achieve this outcome.”

To learn more, see the University's news release.

To read the report go to:

PhD Students Sukyung Yoon and Jayme Walters Celebrate Academic Successes

Photo of Sukyung ToonPhD student Sukyung Yoon is lead author on a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work. The article is titled, "Factors Protecting against Suicidal Ideation in South Korean Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Literature Review." Yoon describes the study, saying, "This systematic literature review investigates protective factors against suicidal ideation among community-dwelling older adults in South Korea. Existing research focuses on risk factors for suicidal thoughts among older adults living in the community, but research on protective factors for this population is rare. This study illuminates interventions among multiple levels of protective factors against suicidal ideation: individual, family, community and macro-level factors."

Sukyung Yoon successfully defended her dissertation research this month. The dissertation is titled, "Protective Factors Against Suicidal Ideation Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults." Dr. Yoon entered the PhD program in 2014.

Photo of Jayme WaltersPhD student Jayme Walters, is lead author on the following paper entitled, "Examining patterns of intended response to tornado warnings among residents of Tennessee, United States, through a latent class analysis approach." The paper will be published in the "International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction." Along with Jayme Walters are authors Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason (College of Social Work), and Dr. Kelsey Ellis (Geography).

The purpose of this paper is to explore discrete types of responders according to their pattern of intended behaviors when presented with a tornado warning scenario in the daytime or nighttime using latent class analysis (LCA). This study is important because the southern region of the United States has had a large number of fatal tornadoes in the past five years, and previous research indicates that residents of this area may not be taking appropriate shelter.

Walters joined the College's PhD program in 2016 and has recently had her dissertation proposal approved. She will research the topic: "Examining organizational capacity of nonprofits in persistently poor, rural counties in the southern region of the US.""

Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason Advocates Interdisciplinary Approach to Climate Change

Photo of Dr. Lisa Reyes MasonSolving climate change requires a new and deeply interdisciplinary approach, says Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason, assistant professor and director of the College of Social Work PhD program, in a recent commentary for Nature Climate Change.

In “Five Dimensions of Climate Science Reductionism,” Mason and co-author Jonathan Rigg, professor of geography at the National University of Singapore and director of the Asia Research Center, argue that complex issues, such as climate change, require collaboration across disciplines in the hard sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

Social work, sociology, anthropology, geography, political science, and allied health fields like nursing and public health all work on climate change issues, Mason explained.

Dr. Mason received the 2017 UT Chancellor's Citation for Success in Multidisciplinary Research along with colleagues Dr. Jon Hathaway (Engineering) and Dr. Kelsey Ellis (Geography).

Read more here.

Interim Dean Dr. David Dupper Explains Cyber-Bullying

Photo of Dr. David DupperDr. David Dupper, Interim Dean at the College, offered comments on bullying in a recent Knoxville News Sentinel article. The article describes the plight of a young high school student being bullied at a local high school.

Dr. Dupper, whose expertise is in the area of school social work, has studied the subject of bullying and cyberbullying. He points out that victims of cyberbullying generally can't find relief from the attacks launched through the internet as it's a 24/7 mode of harassment. Adding to the cruelty, cyberbullies can't physically see those they taunt and the toll their insults take, he said.

"The cruelty can even be greater through cyberbullying because of the fact that the victim is now not even a face anymore," stated Dr. Dupper, noting that this form of bullying often plays out in a group with peers feeding off each other.

Stephanie Harness-Gambill, PhD, is a licensed clinical social worker who facilitates therapy for teenagers and is an adjunct who teaches family therapy in the College. She also commented in a New Sentinel series of articles on bullying and whether the bullying culture is avoidable.

Dr. Andrea Joseph Presents at National Association for Multicultural Education

Photo of Dr. Andrea JosephDr. Andrea Joseph is an Assistant Professor at the Nashville Campus of the College. She recently presented her work at National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME). Dr. Joseph's presentation was entitled "Restorative Practices and Discipline Disparities: How School-level Factors Impede Success" and looked at the growing number of schools using restorative practices as an alternative to immediate school suspension as they are less punitive and have greater potential for long term impact.

This study investigates school-level factors that contribute to discipline disparities in a school implementing restorative practices. Both critical race theory and ecological systems theory are used to frame this work.

Alumna Karen Latus Receives TCSW Award

Photo of Karen Latus receiving awardCollege Alumna (MSSW program) Karen Latus works as an ESL Teacher for the Knox County Schools System. She recently received the Community Impact Award from the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare (TCSW), a statewide agency, with the mission to be the preeminent catalyst for creating and fostering broad-based networks, connecting community stakeholders and policy makers for a better Tennessee. Karen Latus was recognized for her work in support of migrants in and traveling through the East Tennessee area at the TCSW regional conference.

The College was a presenting sponsor of the conference and many faculty, staff, and alumni were involved in the planning and presentations at that event.

November 8, 2018

"Why Do People Migrate?: The Context of Migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States."

Photo of Dr. Mary HeldThe Center on Immigration & Child Welfare is publishing a research brief with its newsletter written by Nashville faculty member Mary Lehman Held in conjunction with four other experts. The information will be circulated to partner organizations around the country. The study is entitled: Why Do People Migrate?: The Context of Migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Dr. Mary Lehman Held received her MSW degree from the University of South Carolina before practicing as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Texas. She completed her PhD at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas. Her research agenda of Latino immigrant health and well-being is driven by her practice experience with youth in Central America and her clinical practice with Latino immigrants in Texas.

Dr. Held is invested in increasing knowledge related to the hardships endured throughout the immigration process (pre-migration, migration journey, and post-migration) and how to better address the impact of these hardships. In addition, she promotes teaching strategies, such as integrated health care, to strengthen health and behavioral health service provision to vulnerable populations. Dr. Held's research is community engaged and multidisciplinary. She routinely engages in community-based presentations to further knowledge related to trauma and Latino immigrant youth in Tennessee.

Higginbotham and Patterson Present on Putting Data to Work

Photo of Lisa Higginbotham and Dr. David PattersonThe 2018 Leadership Conference sponsored by the Alliance for Better Nonprofits took place on October 31, 2018. The conference was designed to equip nonprofit staff, board members, and volunteers with effective practices in leadership, collaboration, and collective impact. Dr. David Patterson and Lisa Higginbotham led one of the breakout session tracks: Putting Data to Work in the Service of Collaboration, Management, & Transformation.

This session highlighted the development and deployment of the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS), a secure, online database of demographic and service delivery information of individuals experiencing homelessness and explored how KnoxHMIS has been used with partner agencies to increase conversations and collaboration towards addressing homelessness, and how utilization of data allows agencies to better manage programs, build partnerships, and promote transformative transparency.

Dr. Patterson (pictured above, right) is the Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor of Mental Health Research & Practice and the Director of the DSW Program at the College and Lisa Higginbotham (pictured above, left) is the System Adminstrator for KnoxHMIS and is an alumna of the College's MSSW Program (Knoxville campus).

Dr. Robert Mindrup and Dr. Ragan Schriver Discuss Medication Adherence Across the Lifespan

Photo of Dr. Robert Mindrup and Dr. Ragan SchriverDr. Robert Mindrup (pictured left) and Dr. Ragan Schriver (pictured right) participated in a panel presentation for elder care professionals from the southeast region on "Addressing Medication Adherence Across the Lifespan: An Interdisciplinary Approach." They presented material on "What Influences Medication Adherence?" The event took place on October 26, 2018.

These professors from the College provided perspective on factors that keep people from adhering to medication, which negatively impact treatment outcomes. Dr. Schriver presented on the role of social determinants of health on medication adherence and the historical impact of disease processes over time. Dr. Mindrup addressed the role biopsychosocial factors in medication adherence with a specific emphasis on navigating challenges associated low health literacy.

Dr. Mindrup is an Clinical Assistant Professor and the Director of the BSSW Program and Dr. Schriver is an Assistant Professor of Practice and the Director of the MSSW Program at the Knoxville Campus.

MSSW Alumnus Herb Piercy named Homecoming Weekend "Volunteer of the Game"

Photo of Lisa Higginbotham and Dr. David PattersonCollege alumnus Herb Piercy was named Volunteer of the Game at Saturday's (November 3, 2018) Homecoming football game. The Volunteer of the Game is a new initiative announced earlier this fall honoring a Tennessee Alumnus. The Volunteer of the Game honors the history of the Tennessee Volunteers nickname and the proud heritage of The Volunteer State. Honorees are recognized in-game from their seat which is located next to the POW/MIA Chair of honor which was also unveiled earlier this season.

Herb Piercy IV served in the Army from 1992 to 1997 in the Military Police Corps. After completing training he was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, and was then deployed to Somalia, Africa, where he was instrumental in maintaining control of supply routes utilized to deliver food and water to starving people in the region. He received an AAM (Army Achievement Medal) for his service there. He was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, where he served as a patrolman, rail guard, and customs officer. He escorted M1 Abrams across Europe, guarded secret documents, and cleared top secret equipment to be shipped back to the United States from Europe. Over the course of his career he received a total of six AAM's for excellence in service. Herb recently graduated from the College with a Master of Science in Social Work (Knoxville campus) and currently works with homeless veterans and veterans struggling with addiction.

October 25, 2018

One Day. Two Million Dollars

Big Orange Give graphicBig Orange Give is the university’s day of giving, a 24-hour online challenge for the Volunteer family to show their support of Rocky Top. This year, if we raise $1.5 million, Charlie and Moll Anderson will give an additional $500,000—bringing our total to $2 million!

  • The University’s goal for Big Orange Give is $2 Million. Set aside November 14 and be ready to make a gift to the UT College of Social Work on that day.
  • Donors can support any area of campus they are passionate about! Consider giving to the College of Social Work funds.
  • 66% of gifts received during Big Orange Give 2017 were $100 or less.
  • We had 4,999 donors to Big Orange Give last year.
  • 1,629 people made their first gift during Big Orange Give 2017.
  • There are a number of special matches and challenges. A complete list will be available at

You can support the College of Social Work through Big Orange Give! Starting November 12th, there will be a link on the Big Orange Give page that will take you to College of Social Work giving options. You can contribute to graduate and undergraduate scholarships, the College Fund, that supports students, faculty, international study and other College initiatives, or to a designated fund of your choice.

Every gift counts! Please help the College of Social Work exceed our goal of $7,500.

Faculty/Student Researchers Present at CSWE Annual Program Meeting

photo of College facultyThe Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE APM) is known as a place where social work education influencers collaborate, learn, teach, and grow. The 64th APM will take place November 8–11, 2018, at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. The 2018 APM theme is "Expanding Interprofessional Education to Achieve Social Justice."/

The College of Social Work will be well-represented at the APM. Click here to see the list of abstracts by College faculty members and students that have been accepted.

Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason Discusses Climate Change

photo of Lisa Reyes MasonDr. Lisa Reyes Mason is Director of the PhD Program at the College. She spoke with WVLT News about the effects of climate change and about the UN report on the impacts of climate change and the urgency of addressing it now.

She explains, "This is an issue for us even here in East Tennessee, and we need action on many levels to both lower greenhouse gas emissions and protect our most vulnerable groups of people in society from the harmful impacts of climate change. I really believe that doing community-engaged research as a College also means making an impact with our public voice."

Dr. Mason is recognized nationally as a co-leader of one of the 12 Grand Challenges of Social Work: 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.

View the WVLT interview.

BSSW Program Director Robert Mindrup to Present at the BPD Annual Conference

photo of Robert Mindrup and Misty McPhentridgeThe Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, Inc. (BPD) is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in Baccalaureate Social Work Education. This year's annual conference is titled, "Embracing the Contemporary Call for Social Justice."

BSSW Program Director, Dr. Robert Mindrup, is proud to announce that he and a faculty member from Indiana University along with one of our own BSSW students, Misty McPhetridge, will be presenting at the BPD March conference. Dr. Mindrup stated, "This is the first time, at least in my tenure, that we have had a BSSW student present at a national conference. The topic relates to the Transfer Peer Mentoring Program."

A new BSSW program is in the works for fall of 2019. The College of Social Work will launch an Online BSSW program for transfer students who have already earned 60 credit hours. "It is the first program of its kind in Tennessee and one of only a handful nationally," said Dr. Mindrup.

October 11, 2018

Speak Out Against Racism Events Draw Students in Nashville and Knoxville

photo of Nashville SOAR eventDiane Smith and Charlotte Matthews headed a team of DSW students in a Social Justice Innovation Initiative project to challenge racism through encouraging bystander intervention. DSW students Rhonda Smith and Julie Franks assisted with the presentations. Their project, with the acronym SOAR, is Speak Out Against Racism using five categories of intervention: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Delay, and Document.

Over 50 students and others gathered in Nashville and over 100 students and others gathered in Knoxville for a very interactive training session that included role playing and much audience participation.

photo of Leaders of SOAR training eventsThe training addressed:

  • Exploring fears about taking action as a bystander
  • Gaining clarity about when to intervene
  • Learning a variety of skills to increase bystander efficacy

Pictured at left are the SOAR trainging leaders: Charlotte Matthews, Julie Franks, Diane Smith, and Rhonda Smith.

SWORPS Teams Receive Grants for Projects

Two teams from SWORPS (the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service) recently received grants.

The Center for Applied Research and Evaluation has been awarded the contract to conduct the Community Health Assessment (CHA) for the Knox County Health Department. CHA is a systematic, collaborative effort undertaken to learn about a community's health challenges. It is undertaken with the active participation of community stakeholders to guide plans for addressing those challenges.

Through collaboration with these community stakeholders at both the organizational and individual level, CHA enables a health department to effectively prioritize its efforts and resources to improve the overall health of the community. CARE will conduct 600 community surveys, 8 focus groups with community members, and 10 key informant interviews. Results of these activities will be synthesized to inform the health department's priorities.

photo of Linda Daugherty and Max TaylorLinda Daugherty is the Associate Director of the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation (CARE). Max Taylor will be spearheading much of the CHA project.

CARE provides practical frontline support for research throughout the university and community, based on broad expertise and experience. It provides strong leadership for developing plans and energy for the painstaking work of data collection. This meticulous approach to research methodology, inquiry design, and data collection is a core characteristic of the work of this Center.

Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services was recently awarded a grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in support of TennSCORE—a newly conceived consortium that brings together healthcare, criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, and other key county stakeholders in Campbell County and Scott County for the purpose of developing a strategic plan that aims to address the complex and multifaceted nature of the region's opioid epidemic.

photo of Sissie Hadjiharalambous and Emily McCutcheonThis one-year planning grant is part of a multi-year initiative being implemented by HRSA to increase access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for opioid use disorder within rural areas. SWORPS will serve as the third party evaluator assisting with data collection, data analysis, performance measurement, and overall evaluation of the consortium's effectiveness in strategic planning and development.

Sissie Hadjiharalambous (pictured left) is the PI on SWORPS' contract for this grant, and Emily McCutcheon (pictured right) will be managing the implementation.

PhD Students Study Social Work Burnout

photo of Linda Daugherty and Max TaylorThe College is always proud of the work of its PhD students. Last week, Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason, director of the program, announced that a paper written by three of our students, Jayme Walters, Aaron Brown, and Aubrey Jones has been accepted for publication by the journal Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance. Walters, J.E., Brown, A.R., & Jones, A.E. Use of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory with social workers: A confirmatory factor analysis. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance.

Jayme Walters explained the work, saying, "Burnout among social workers continues to be a relevant issue as it can lead to major problems: personal health issues; service deterioration; and turnover. Conducting a confirmatory factor analysis, this study examined the use of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) with U.S. social workers (N = 1774) in direct-service and non-direct-service roles. To our knowledge, this is the first study to validate this instrument in a large sample of exclusively social workers serving in direct-service, supervisory, and other positions. The CBI is a no-cost alternative to the commonly employed Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results revealed that the CBI is a suitable tool to measure burnout among social workers regardless of position. Screening, identifying sources, and action planning to reduce burnout are critical steps for organizations to ensure a quality atmosphere for employees and clients."

Dr. David Patterson Dialogues about Mental Health

photo of Dr. David PattersonProfessor David Patterson is the Director, Clinical Doctorate Program and Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor in Mental Health Research & Practice. Dr. Patterson and colleagues study homeless individuals and families and the outcomes of efforts to address homelessness. KnoxHMIS is the empirical window on homelessness for the City of Knoxville and Knox County.

This week Dr. Patterson was interviewed by WUOT's Hannah Martin for the radio program Dialogues. The topic of the show was Mental Health in Tennessee. Dr. Patterson spoke particularly about the homeless population that is particularly vulnerable to many of the issues related to the difficulty of obtaining mental health care. Dr. Patterson points out that, "Individuals experiencing homelessness are very vulnerable. . . and at the same time are willing to share their situation. . . Homelessness is a manifestation of many of the things that aren't working in our society, in terms of poverty, trauma, substance abuse, and affordable housing. Untreated trauma makes it difficult for them to find and sustain housing. In addition these people have poverty of relationships and a big part of mental health is growth in relationships."

Listen to Dialogues at

WUOT's Hannah Martin speaks with Dr. Parinda Khatri and Dr. David Patterson about the prevalence of mental illness in Tennesseans, and what resources exist for support. Dr. Patterson's segment begins at minute 21.

September 27, 2018

Social Work Awards Presented at 2018 Fall Sailgate Event

photo of Volunteer Princess yachtThe College of Social Work introduced a new fall event this year. Sailgate, a two hour cruise on the Volunteer Princess, was an opportunity for the college family to interact, enjoy tailgate food, and promote friendship before one of the important football games of the season. Over 100 individuals cruised the Tennessee River during pre-game hours. This event was a perfect backdrop for the presentation of two social work awards.

Each year, our College presents the Heart of Social Work Award. This award honors an individual—usually not a social worker—for their special dedication and contributions to the field of social work. This year, the college honored Susan Cooper (pictured below receiving her award from Interim Dean Dupper). Susan is a longtime College of Social Work supporter whose recent gift has made possible the "Social Justice Innovation Initiative." This initiative offers a unique framework for understanding many of society's most pressing issues around education, healthcare, and social justice. The focus of the initiative this year is Working to Stop Racismphoto of Susan Cooper and David Dupper.

In addition to this, in 2015 Susan Cooper and Freida Herron provided funding for an endowed professorship in mental health practice and research. Dr. David A. Patterson, Director of the College's DSW program, was chosen as the first recipient of this professorship.

Susan Cooper most definitely can be described as a person who has the heart of a social worker!

Another award presented by David Dupper, Interim Dean of the College of Social Work, is entitled the Light the Way Award and is given to an organization in the community whose efforts light the way for others in social service. This year's award was given to the Knox County Public Defender's Community Law Office (CLO) and received by the Director of Social Services and 2017 PhD alumna, Sarah Buchanan (pictured below receiving the award from Interim Dean Dupper). The award is presented by the College of Social Work to the community agency or organization that best exemplifies the values and advances the mission of social work. The CLO is being recognized for outstanding service to our of Sarah Buchanan and David Dupper

Sarah Buchanan is the "primary architect" of a pilot Forensic Social Work program in three Tennessee Public Defender County Offices. The program is based on one already operating at the Knox County Community Law Office, where full-time social workers are embedded with public defenders and help them devise alternative sentencing plans that are acceptable to courts. Such plans can include recommendations for housing or substance abuse treatment programs. That intersection of social work and criminal justice is called forensic social work.

Social Justice Innovation Initiative Supports Coalition of Black Social Workers

Coalition of Black Social WorkersA grant from the Social Justice Innovation Initiative is allowing students and faculty to challenge racism through the development of a black social workers' alliance. This group is partnering with the Network for Social Work Management promoting the goal of increasing diversity within the college and develop relationships with social workers of color in the Nashville community through a black social workers' alliance. Primary project leaders are College faculty members Carmen Foster (Assistant Professor of Practice), Kate Chaffin (Associate Professor of Practice and the Director of the Online and Nashville MSSW Programs), and Kim Mallory (Assistant Professor of Practice).

Prof. Foster, who is also the Coordinator of Field Education for the Online MSSW Program, stated, "We had our first Coalition of Black Social Workers Student Interest Meeting and it went so well. The students (pictured above) were engaged, had a safe space to share their experiences with one another, and were able to dream for the future."

Social Work Board of Visitors

photo of Board of VisitorsThe Board of Visitors for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Social Work met on Friday, September 21 to discuss plans for the future. Our heartfelt thanks goes to these leaders who help make our college great.

The Board of Visitors serves in a collaborative relationship with the leadership and faculty of the College of College of Social Work to improve the educational opportunities of students and advance the reputation of the college as a whole. Members work as ambassadors to the general community, social work agencies, potential donors, as well as prospective students. Board members contribute their professional expertise and perspective, time and energy, direct and indirect professional support and lend their influence to the success of the college.

Membership on the Board of Visitors is one of the highest honors that the College can bestow upon its supporters. The professional experience and perspectives represented collectively in the members of the Board is of great value to the college in helping it to achieve its mission and guide its future directions.

September 13, 2018

Social Justice Innovation Initiative Welcomes Nikole Hannah-Jones

Susan Cooper and Nikole Hannah-JonesNikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice issues, challenged all of our participants to rethink their understanding of integration and segregation in the modern world at two events on Thursday, September 6, 2018. The College is grateful for the nearly "full house" participation of our community in our Social Justice Innovation Initiative event addressing the problem of racism.

Hannah-Jones was one of 24 people worldwide chosen for the 2017 MacArthur Foundation Genius grant for “chronicling the persistence of racial segregation in American society, particularly in education, and reshaping national conversations around education reform.”

Our events, a question and answer session (moderated by Tearsa Smith of WATE TV 6) and a keynote address entitled “Understanding Modern Day Segregation,” were opportunities made possible by the financial support of the initiative's founder, Susan Cooper (pictured above, left with Nikole Hannah-Jones to the right), who attended and was recognized at the event.

Click here to learn more and view recordings of the webcasts of the two events.

Social Work's Shelby DeLille Featured in UT's Meet the Students

photo of Shelby DelilleShelby DeLille moved to Knoxville from Recife, Brazil, drawn by UT’s College of Social Work. Even though she’s far from her family, she’s found a second home here, thanks in large part to her supportive college and to the organizations she’s joined. Shelby has become a leader of the Bachelor of Social Work organization at the college (BSWO). Learn more about Shelby and her experiences as she has come to think of "Rocky Top" as one of her homes.

Veterinary Social Work Summit

International Veterinary Social Work Summit imageThe Fifth International Veterinary Social Work Summit will take place October 4-6, 2018. This year’s theme is Animals and Poverty, which is inspired by Dr. Michael Blackwell’s work with a focus on how poverty impacts the human-animal relationship.(Dr. Blackwell is the former dean of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and current Director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the College.)

The annual Summit traditionally gathers an interdisciplinary group of animal-related professionals, social workers, and other human health and law professionals who strive to serve both humans and animals in the most effective ways possible. This year's Summit theme touches the hearts and minds of all these professionals who have faced the sadness and challenge of animals and humans in need without the funds to resolve the need. It connects us all with the moral complexity of how to humanely handle this societal problem. This Summit will tackle this problem with innovative presentations and problem solving activities… all while having FUN!

Click here for more details and/or to register for this event.

Homelessness in Knoxville Report

Homelessness in Knoxville Report coverThe Knoxville/Knox County Homeless Coalition (The Coalition) and Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS) released a study on homelessness on September 4. KnoxHMIS started operation in 2004 through the efforts of Dr. David Patterson, Endowed Professor of Mental Health Research and Practice. KnoxHMIS is a collaborative project between the College of Social Work and the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS). The project provides a secured computer data collection system used by social service agencies in the greater Knoxville, TN area who provide housing and related supportive services.

For the past thirty-two years, the Coalition has explored the depth of the experience of homelessness in our communities. Each study has been an empirical attempt to “put a face” to the experience of homelessness in our communities. The KnoxHMIS data have been presented in an annual report for the past ten years and provide information on the overall scope and complexities of homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County. Homelessness remains a persistent social and public policy issue that warrants community dialogue and effective solutions.

photo of Lisa HigginbothamThe Coalition’s study looks at homelessness by interviewing individuals and families experiencing homeless at a specific point in time (January 24-25, 2018); whereas, the KnoxHMIS report will include the whole of the calendar year 2017. Each study offers a unique perspective on the landscape of homelessness while holding in common that homelessness impacts not only single men and women, but families with children as well.

The complete study “2017-18 Homelessness in Knoxville-Knox County Report” can be found on the KnoxHMIS website.

For on-going reporting on homelessness in Knoxville-Knox County, please visit the Knoxville Community Dashboard on Homelessness — an interactive website featuring quarterly facts and outcomes related to homelessness in Knoxville-Knox County, TN.

Special thanks and recognition goes to Lisa Higginbotham, MSSW (pictured at left), Program Manager of KnoxHMIS and alumnus of the College.

August 24, 2018

Faculty and Students Return to Campus for 2018-2019 Academic Year

Knoxville Fall 2018 Picnic photoStudents, faculty, and staff gathered for a fun picnic event at the UT Rose Garden on August 20. Everyone enjoyed getting to catch up after summer and getting to know some new students. Several students are returning after an internship in Ghana. A number of faculty and students brought canine friends to the event, several of which are Habit (Human Animal Bong of Tennessee) dogs.


photo of John Orme and Terri Combs-OrmeDuring the previous week faculty met for a 2-day retreat which included work sessions and other events. Two of our faculty, Dr. John Orme and Dr. Terri Combs-Orme (pictured at left) were honored for celebrating their 25th year of service at the College of Social Work.

College Releases Annual Report

Annual report cover photoThe College of Social Work has released its 2017-2018 annual report. In it we celebrate the accomplishments of the year, including the conclusion of our 75th anniversary year as a school/college of social work and the beginning of the celebration of our 10th anniversary year for the College's Online MSSW Program.

We reported on the initial successes of our Social Justice Innovation Initiative, the activities and accomplishments of our faculty, students, and alums, and the cutting-edge work being done within our academic programs. Read the full report here (PDF format).

Faculty, PhD Students, and Alumni Publish Research

Photo of Dr. William Nugent and Dr. Denise BlackDr. William Nugent (pictured at far left) Director of Research at the College of Social Work, and College alumna Dr. Denise Black (pictured at left) have had an article published in the Journal of the Society for Social Work. The article is entitled Examining the Validity of a Model of Integrated Health Care Knowledge.

The article is available at:


Photo of Sukung Yoon and Jayme WaltersAnother article co-written by Dr. Nugent and two current PhD students, Sukung Yoon (pictured at right) and Jayme Walters (pictured at far right), has just been published in Journal of the Society for Social Work. The article is entitled An Empirical Demonstration of the Existence of Measurement Dependence in the Results of a Meta-Analysis.

The article is available at:


Photo of Dr. Mason, Aaron Brown, and Jennifer ErwinDr. Lisa Reyes Mason (pictured at center left), Director of the PhD program, had a paper accepted with two PhD students, Jennifer Erwin (pictured at left) and Aaron Brown (pictured at far left) as well as with UT colleagues in Geography (Dr. Kelsey Ellis) and Engineering (Dr. Jon Hathaway). The paper is titled, Health impacts of extreme weather events: Exploring protective factors with a capitals framework and will be published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work.

Dr. Mason's work examines social vulnerability and adaptation to problems at the nexus of society and the environment such as climate change, water security, urban pollution, and severe weather. Her research is multidisciplinary and community engaged and she collaborates regularly with colleagues in UT's programs of Engineering and Geography. This particular paper looks at extreme weather events that are increasing with climate change. The physical and mental health of people served by social workers may be especially at risk from these hazards. This exploratory study examines if specific types of human, financial, physical, and social capital are associated with health impacts from excessive summer heat and extreme winter weather.


August 9, 2018

Fall Social Work Sailgate Event

2018 Sailgate event imageThe UT College of Social Work is delighted to announce our new fall event for 2018!

Social Work Sailgate will bring together alumni, community partners, faculty, staff, students, and friends of the College for an exciting game day experience.

Set sail with us on the beautiful yacht Volunteer Princess for a 2 hour pre-game cruise on Saturday, September 22. Sailgate tickets may be purchased for $75 each at beginning July 30.

We will embark from the Volunteer Landing Marina three hours before the UT-Florida game to cruise the Tennessee River. We’ll wave to the Vol Navy, visit with friends, and enjoy refreshments and music. We will dock one hour before kickoff, allowing plenty of time for our guests with football tickets to make their way to the stadium. For more information click here (PDF).

NOTE: Social Work Sailgate does NOT include football tickets.

Pet Health Equity Project Receives Maddie’s Fund Grant

Pet Heatlh Equity teamThe College of Social Work Program for Pet Health Equity has received a $2.8 million grant from Maddie’s Fund to support research and development of AlignCare, a health care system designed to improve access to veterinary care for underserved families. The multidisciplinary leadership group includes representatives from a number of colleges and departments at UT and other institutions across the nation.

“Thanks to Maddie, millions of pets and their people will benefit from the ‘one health’ approach that is AlignCare, by sustainably gaining access to veterinary care,” said Michael Blackwell, lead investigator and former dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Lack of access to veterinary care is the greatest animal welfare crisis affecting owned pets in the United States."


Dr. Stacia West to Study Guaranteed Income

Dr. Stacia WestDr. Stacia West, assistant professor in the College of Social Work, will spend about two years evaluating a guaranteed income project, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). This California city in economic recovery is embarking on a social experiment: it will give a test group of about 100 families $500 a month for 18 months with no strings attached to see if that guaranteed monthly income helps alleviate economic instability and inequity.


New Faculty and New Faculty Roles in Fall 2018

Image of M Ward, S Forrest-Bank, and L MasonOur newest faculty member on the Knoxville campus is Martina Ward (pictured above left). Martina is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Coordinator of MSSW Field Services. She graduated from our MSSW program and has served since 2010 as the Program Development Coordinator for Telamon Corporation. Martina has worked effectively with the college's programs as a field instructor at Telamon with multiple MSSW and BSSW students. In 2016 she was named MSSW Field Instructor of the Year. In addition, she has served on the Knoxville Campus Field Advisory Committee. Welcome to the College, Martina. We are very happy to have you.

Effective August 1, 2018, Dr. Shandra Forrest-Bank is the new Director of the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS). (She is picture above center.) Shandra will also maintain her faculty position in the College of Social Work as a newly tenured associate professor. Shandra brings more than 10 years of administrative/managerial experience working in community-based addiction treatment programs to SWORPS. She is passionate about maintaining and expanding the already extensive contribution that SWORPS makes in our communities while also working to further integrate SWORPS with the research center and CSW.

Beginning in the fall of 2018, the College's PhD program will be directed by Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason (pictured above right). As Dr. Mason looks forward to a new challenge of leading the college's PhD program, she states, “Pursuing a PhD is a unique time in someone’s life and career. I’m excited to work with each of our students as they become the next generation of social work scholars, educators, and leaders. Our program gives students the hands-on, advanced research training that they need to create new knowledge that can change lives, and in a supportive environment with rich mentoring from our faculty. In the coming weeks, we’ll roll out a new statistics ‘boot camp’ for our incoming students to help ease them in, plus new professional development events for all and supports for students heading out on the academic job market. We have a great program, and I couldn’t be more excited to help lead it to even greater heights.” Lisa Reyes Mason received her PhD and MSW from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines social vulnerability and adaptation to problems at the nexus of society and the environment such as climate change, water security, urban pollution, and severe weather. Dr. Mason's research is multidisciplinary and community engaged. She collaborates regularly with colleagues in Engineering and Geography. Dr. Mason was also recently named as the 48th Grand Challenger for her work to address the goals of Challenge #7 of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare's 12 Grand Challenges, "Create social responses to a changing environment". Read more about this.


May 10, 2018

College Team Receives "Resilient Tennessee" Grant

Image of Dr. Choi and studentsIn April, a team led by Assistant Professor of Practice, Sukey Steckel, submitted an application for a Building Strong Brains Programs, Projects, and Activities grant through the Department of Children's Services (DCS). The purpose of the Building Strong Brains Tennessee funding is to prevent, mitigate or help persons recover from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and promote the health and prosperity of Tennessee. Research shows that providing safe, stable and nurturing relationships early in life can buffer the damaging effects of childhood adversity. Building Strong Brains grants are expected to address the unique features of a community and/or demonstrate that widespread adoption of best practices will contribute to the health and well-being of children and families… and contribute to a larger body of knowledge about how to move the state forward through collective ingenuity in addressing ACEs.

Upon submitting the grant, Ms. Steckel said, "I have never seen a grant come together so quickly, which would not have been possible without the dedication of our ACE Nashville partners, the College's Business Manager, Ashley Howdeshell, our two Organizational Leadership students, Adriane Matherne and Shanty Luna, and Dr. Ragan Schriver. I would especially like to thank Dr. David Dupper and Dr. Sherry Cummings for supporting the submission of this proposal and its long term sustainability within the College."

This month Ms. Steckel received the notification that the grant entitled "Resilient Tennessee: Sustaining Resilient Organizations for Success (Resilient Tennessee)" has been funded. Described in the Resilient Tennessee proposal, this project will support the work of the statewide Building Strong Brains (BSB) Initiative.

EURēCA Awards Night Honors Go to Social Work Students and Faculty

Image of Dr. Choi and studentsThe Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURēCA) is an annual event that showcases research by BSSW students. A 2018 gold award went to Sarah Henson from the College of Social Work, for her project "The Population Characteristics of Children Served by a School-Based Interprofessional Clinic." Sarah also received an award from Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines. A 2018 silver award went to Abigail Geater for her work entitled, "Macrolevel Preventive Indicators of Maternal Incarceration Rates in Tennessee." A 2018 bronze award went to Ashlie Seibers for her work entitled, "Child Welfare Professionals' Attitudes and Knowledgeability on serving LGBTQ+ Youth."

In addition to celebrating the work of students, EUReCA provides an opportunity for outstanding mentors of student research, scholarship, and creative activity to be recognized. This year CSW's Sunha Choi, Assistant Professor, was nominated and won the Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year Award for the College of Social Work, which was awarded by the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Field Instructors Receive Excellence Awards

Field Instruct AppreciationOur Knoxville, Nashville, and Online programs are supported by a large number of field liaisons and field instructors who help provide the practice foundation for our students. This year two appreciation breakfasts took place, one in Nashville and one in Knoxville. At these events a number of instructors were recognized for excellence in the work they accomplish for our students and the College of Social Work. In addition to the awards Freida Herron, Assistant Professor of Practice provided a training in Nashville on Passing the Torch - Shaping the Next Generation of Social Workers. Alums Rachel Ross and Corey Snyder presented training in Knoxville on Tennessee ACE Initiative: Interventions and Implications for Social Workers.

Award winners at the Nashville campus are: Jenna Pemberton Smith, at the Clinic at Mercury Courts, Rising Star Award; Rebecca Swift of Siloam Health, Field Instructor of the Year Award; Karen Franklin at the NASW-Tennessee Chapter, Commitment to Service Award. Award winners at the Knoxville campus are: Kristina Boles at Knox County Schools, 2018 BSSW Field Instructor of the Year; Jan Cagle at Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services, 2018 MSSW Field Instructor of the Year; Aaron Davies at Helen Ross McNabb, 2018 Rising Star Award; Kelly Adkins at the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, 2018 Rising Star Award; and Mary Lawrence at Health Connect America, 2018 Rising Star Award.

Click here to see photos of the award recipients.


April 25, 2018

Grants to Faculty and Students Kick-off Five-Year Social Justice Innovation Initiative

Image of Dr. Shandra Forrest-Bank and MSSW student, Daris UptonA fund was established in 2017 by long-time College of Social Work supporter, Susan Cooper. Her vision is stimulating a college-wide conversation surrounding social justice issues through rigorous research, public outreach, and innovative education. The Social Justice Innovation Initiative (SJII) offers a unique framework for understanding many of society's most pressing issues and then developing avenues for addressing these issues. "I'm so grateful that we are able to offer this opportunity to the members of the CSW community. I truly believe that every aspect of the grant process is a learning experience in itself," stated Tony Murchison, special projects manager, who is overseeing the initiative.

Four groups have been awarded grants for the development of these ideas for challenging racism. The topics are:

  • Challenge racism by promoting voting among Knoxville's young adults of color. This faculty/student group will partner with SEEED Knoxville and the League of Women Voters with the goal to understand motivation, overcome barriers, and increase civic engagement among racial and ethnic minority young adults in Knoxville. Primary project leaders are: Shandra Forrest-Bank, faculty and Darris Upton, student. (Pictured above)
  • Challenge racism through the development of a black social workers' alliance. This group will partner with the Network for Social Work Management with the goal to increase diversity within the college and develop much needed relationships with social workers of color in the Nashville community by cultivating and supporting a black social worker's alliance. Primary project leaders are: Carmen Foster, Kate M. Chaffin, and Kim Crane-Mallory, faculty.
  • Challenge racism through a Cumberland Garden Community initiative. Partnering with Cumberland Gardens Neighborhood and the McGruder Family Resource Center, this group will challenge racism by elevating the visibility of African American art and culture in Nashville. Primary project leaders are: Kate Patterson, student, and Stacia West, faculty.
  • Challenge racism through encouraging bystander intervention. This group will partner with the Theatre of the Oppressed, NYC, and NASW with the goal of teaching people how to safely and effectively addressing instances of racism and spreading the message of challenging racism to all the CSW programs. Primary project leaders are: Diane Smith and Charlotte Matthews, students, and Robert Mindrup, faculty.

Each of these projects will begin in 2018 and will be concluded by 2019. Projects will be evaluated at mid-term and conclusion and will be studied for possible replication.

Chancellor's Award Winners from the College of Social Work

Image of Shaun McComas with Chancellor DavenportShaun McComas received a Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service Award at the Chancellor's Honors Banquet recognizing graduating students who are extraordinary campus leaders for their significant service to others. Read more from the Chancellor's site.

Image of Amber Hale with Chancellor DavenportAmber Hale received the Gene Mitchell Gray Pioneer Award recognizes a student or group for promoting cultural diversity and enrichment on campus at the Chancellor's Honors Banquet. Read more from the Chancellor's site.

Assistant Professor Dr. Stacia West Evaluates Success of My People Fund

Image of Dr. Stacia West and some date from her reportThe Dollywood Foundation has released the final report prepared by UT College of Social Work faculty member Stacia West entitled, "My People Fund Evaluation."

In the aftermath of the November 2016 wildfires that destroyed 1,300 homes and left the community of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in emotional and economic crisis, the Dollywood Foundation launched the My People Fund to help. The fund provided families who had lost their homes with $1,000 a month for six months and a final gift of $5,000 in May 2017. Dr. West studied the overall impact of that relief effort and looked at how the population affected by the fires are faring after a year and a half.

Dr. West's research has also inspired a short documentary on universal basic income:

Read more from the University's announcement about this report.


April 12, 2018

Interim CSW Dean David R. Dupper Presents Henry Award to NASW TN Director Karen Franklin; Former College Dean Karen M. Sowers Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from TCSW.

Image of Interim Dean David Dupper, Karen Franklin, and former dean Karen Sowers at TCSWThe Senator Douglas Henry Award for Service to Children and Families at Risk was established by the University of Tennessee College of Social Work in 2008 to honor individuals whose work reflects the values and dedication of the late Senator Henry. Senator Henry was a tireless champion for the children and families of Tennessee. He has been called "the patron saint of social workers" because of his advocacy for the social work profession.

The 2018 Senator Douglas Henry Award was presented to Karen Franklin, Director of the Tennessee Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Throughout her career, Karen Franklin has worked to improve the lives of people at risk. She has served as Volunteer Services Director for the YWCA Shelter and Domestic Violence Program, Director of the Tennessee Nonprofit Association of the Council of Community Services, and Assistant Director of TCSW. She has been with Tennessee NASW since 2002.

Karen M. Sowers, PhD and Dean Emerita of the College, received the Linda Christie and William F. Moynihan Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Conference on Social Welfare. The award honors a social worker whose life and work on behalf of others is exemplary, and contributes significantly to the well-being of Tennesseans.

Sowers was appointed the Beaman Professor and Dean of the College of Social Work in 1997 and retired from that position after twenty years in 2017. She served as Director of the School of Social Work at Florida International University from 1994 to 1997 and as Undergraduate Program Director there from 1986 to 1994. She received her her Baccalaureate degree in sociology from the University of Southern Florida in 1974, the Master's degree in social work from Florida State University in 1977, and the PhD in social work from FSU in 1986.

Dr. Sowers has served on numerous local, national, and international boards. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award from FSU and the Mental Health of America's 2016 George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney Social Work Award.

College Alumna Dr. Sarah Buchanan Leads at Community Law Office

Image of latest ranking for College"We do what we can do to help our clients move forward, get out of the legal system so they don't come back, get back into the community, and change their lives for the better," says Sarah Buchanan ('10, '17), Director of Social Services at the Knox County Public Defender's Community Law Office (CLO).

Many members of the CLO's staff, as well as interns and externs, come from UT. Alumni account for the majority of the office's public defenders, and all the social workers have degrees from UT. More than 50 UT social work students have completed field placements at the CLO since 2005.

See the UT feature story at for more about the work at CLO and our alumni.

BSWO "Glow Up for Mental Health" Event a Success

Sissie Hadjiharalambous Presents ACEs DataThe Bachelor of Social Work Organization (BSWO) sponsored a successful event in support of mental health. The event included representatives from Knoxville mental health agencies, the UTK Counseling Center, HABIT dogs, a mindfulness session, a guest speaker from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (who discussed the importance of suicide prevention and mental health awareness), and an advocacy walk.

View some photos from the event courtesy of Rayna Erasmus and Gina Middleton.

Students Attend Social Work Day at the UN

Image of College of Social Work students at the United NationsTwenty-two undergraduate and masters social work students from the Knoxville campus joined with 700 social workers from around the world and attended the Social Work Day at the United Nations in New York City on March 26, 2018. The group was led by the Knoxville campus' Macro Social Work Student Network executive board members Rosie Cross, Sarah Lepp, Amanda McClellan, and Marc Sloan.

For 35 years students, practitioners, and educators have been convening at the UN to learn more about the UN agenda, innovative projects and issues related to international social work and the critical role social work plays in the international arena. This year speakers highlighted sustainable development goals that may relate to social work practice. The U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) are the driving force behind policies and programs the UN is responsible for negotiating among its member states. Goal 13 is Climate Action, and this year's event focused on climate change, migration, and ways for social work practice at all levels to include a climate change focus.

Students reported that highlights were hearing presentations from: His Excellency Ambassador Teburoro Tito, (Permanent Representative of Kiribati to the United Nations) and Mark Chambers (Director of Mayor Bill de Blasio'sOffice of Sustainability in New York, NY). Additionally, Mariam Traore Chazalnoel, an expert in migration, environment & climate, clarified that the term climate refugee has no official status. But rather, experts are using the term climate migration to describe people who have to move internally or externally because of slow effects of climate change or sudden effects of large climate change events (storms, etc). This clarity of definition provides a base for practitioners at all levels of practice to better understand the populations they are serving.

Notably, the article titled Social Work Research and Global Environmental Change, written by University of Tennessee Knoxville's Lisa Reyes Mason, Mary Katherine Shires, Catherine Arwood, and Abigail Borst was promoted as a resource at the event.

March 28, 2018

College of Social Work Ranked 25th Among All Public Universities

Image of latest ranking for CollegeSeveral colleges and programs of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville earned recognition from U.S. News & World Report in its 2019 graduate school rankings, which were released March 20. Three of UT�s academic colleges are now ranked in the top 30 among public institutions - including the College of Social Work. The College is now ranked 25th among all public universities.

College Interim Dean Dr. Dave Dupper is proud of this achievement, saying, "Our college has recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and will soon celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MSSW online program. Since 1942 we have been providing top notch education for social work leaders in the state of Tennessee. Being recognized by US News and World Report in the graduate school rankings shines a spotlight on the excellence of our faculty and programs in academic achievement, research, and community service."

Of the ranking success of a number of UT's academic colleges, Chancellor Beverly Davenport stated, "Today's news affirms what our students have known for a long time: they are getting a world-class education here in Knoxville. Our strong graduate programs are a cornerstone of our mission here at UT and provide students in all areas of study with opportunities to participate in remarkable research and learn from some of the country's best faculty."

Read more at:

Sissie Hadjiharalambous of SWORPS Presents ACEs

Sissie Hadjiharalambous Presents ACEs DataLinda Daugherty, Sissie Hadjiharalambous, and Emily McCutcheon presented findings from UT SWORPS’ evaluation of Tennessee’s Building Strong Brains Initiative at the 31st Annual Research & Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health (March 5-7, 2018; Tampa, FL).

Building Strong Brains is a statewide public-private partnership that aims to promote cultural change in early childhood based on a philosophy that prevents and mitigates Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The session, entitled “Changing the Culture in Tennessee: Promoting ACEs Philosophy and Transforming Organizations”, highlighted early accomplishments and challenges of this 3-year statewide initiative.

Funding for this project was provided by the ACE Awareness Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee and the UT College of Social Work.

Ashlie Seibers Receives 2018 BSW Student of the Year Award from NASW TN

Ashlie Seibers with Karen FranklinCongratulations to Ashlie Seibers who was selected by the National Association of Social Workers, Tennessee Chapter, to receive their 2018 BSW Student of the Year Award. The award was presented at Social Work Day on the Hill, in Nashville on Wed., March 20, by Karen Franklin, Executive Director of NASW's Tennessee Chapter.

Ms. Seibers is a senior honors student at UT Knoxville. She is an extremely gifted social work student who is very intelligent and highly motivated. Faculty and staff who nominated Ashlie stated, "She is a natural and effective leader... Her motivation and commitment to social work ethics and values are evident in her field practicum and volunteer service work.. She is a very talented student who offers her service to the community and university." Her service to the college includes serving as Advocacy Chair for the Bachelor of Social Work Organization, as a CSW Student Ambassador, and as the CSW Tranfer Mentoring Coordinator.

Ms. Seibers co-founded the UT Advocates for Social Change Organization, a student led advocacy group that fights for oppressed populations, seeking to educate others on political news and ways to become politically engaged.

Upon receiving the award, Seibers stated, "Thank you so much to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Social Work for nominating me for this award, the NASW and Karen Franklin for everything that you do for our profession, and lastly every single leader, champion, and advocate that is sitting in this room. I honestly believe if anyone can change the world, it'll be us, Social Workers."

The College of Social Work is extremely proud of Ashlie for her energy as a student and leader on the Knoxville Campus of UT. As the awards committee stated, we are "impressed by your accomplishments and the positive influence you have on classmates for the profession."

Nashville MSSW Students Policy Poster Competition

2018 Policy Poster Winners Kaylie Passen, Kylan Hadley, Anna Arts, and Jillian BalserThe Nashville MSSW program won the Social Work Day on the Hill Policy Poster competition on March 20. Kaylie Passen, Kylan Hadley, Anna Arts, and Jillian Balser presented "HB1460/SB1626 Recovery High Schools."

Their presentation addresses SB 1626/ HB 1460 and looks at the framework for local education agencies to create recovery high schools across Tennessee where students can seek rehabilitative services while continuing high school.

One of the presenters, Jillian Balser, explained, "As our state continues to battle the opioid crisis, this bill allows for local education agencies to create recovery high schools, a place for adolescents to seek rehabilitative services while continuing their high school education. This policy supports the 2018 NASW-TN Legislative Priorities of Supporting Available and Appropriate Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Services and advances the NASW core values in three ways:

  1. Funds access to treatment through per pupil expenditure funding, thereby increasing the access to services for vulnerable populations
  2. Reduces the stigma of substance use disorders by allowing students to receive a diploma from their zoned high school.
  3. Recognizes the dignity and worth of adolescents by providing a supportive community of peers."

Dr. Stacia West, the Nashville faculty sponsor for this presentation said, "This group of outstanding students demonstrate a steadfast commitment to upholding our ethical responsibility of social and political action. Not only did these students spend countless hours preparing for the policy competition, they also built rapport with legislators, attended committee hearings, and provided information to our TN legislators that ultimately moved the Recovery High School bill from committee to Governor Haslam's desk. With ongoing political and economic attacks against our most vulnerable communities, we look to these students to inspire us and remind us of the power of social work in action."

Congratulations to these students and the faculty at the Nashville campus who teach the policy courses and make this kind of excellence possible!

Dr. Thereasa Abrams Appointed to National Burn Registry Advisory Committee

Photo of Dr. Elizabeth Strand and UT President, Dr. Joe DiPietroDr. Thereasa Abrams, Assistant Professor at the Nashville Campus of the College, has been appointed to the National Burn Registry (NBR) Advisory Committee of the American Burn Association (ABA) for a three year term.

Dr. Steven E. Wolf, the Association president, commented, "I am confident that the ABA and its membership will benefit from your participation and contribution to this important committee."

The NBR is a data bank for demographics reported by burn centers throughout North America. The data bank is available for IRB approved research.

Dr. Abrams will be attending the April national conference where she will have a poster representing a research project conducted by Abrams and Dr. William Nugent. Dr. Abrams stated, "I am so very honored to be able to serve on this committee and look forward to learning from more knowledgeable professionals who's motivation is to learn more about the common threads associated with burn injury."

With more than 2,000 members worldwide, the American Burn Association dedicates its efforts and resources to promoting and supporting burn-related care, prevention, education, and research. The association's multidisciplinary membership enhances its ability to work toward common goals with other organizations and educational programs.

Dr. Michael Mason Reviews for JAMA Pediatrics on Opioid Crisis

Photo of Dr. Michael MasonDr. Michael Mason, Betsey R. Bush Endowed Professor in Children & Families at Risk at the College of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health Research wrote a featured editorial for the current issue of JAMA Pediatrics (March 12, 2018). JAMA Pediatrics � The Science of Child and Adolescent Health is an international journal that is part of the Journal of the American Medical Association Network.

Mason's editorial is entitled "Association of Psychiatric Comorbidity with Opioid Prescriptions and Long-term Opioid Therapy Among US Adolescents." Read the article here.

In his article, Dr. Mason stated, "Opioid use, opioid misuse, and long-term opioid therapy (LTOT) have captured the nation's attention, raising questions regarding pain management and concerns about who is most at risk for the use of nonmedical prescribed opioids." He explains that the importance of studies such as the one he is considering are important because adolescents who are given opiods during sanctioned medical treatment are at risk of transitioning to substance abuse. He explained that, "Preventing this transition is critical because nearly 80% of adolescents who reported using heroin indicated their NMPO use preceded their heroin use."

March 8, 2018

Dr. Elizabeth Strand, Director of Veterinary Social Work, Recognized with President's Connect Award

Photo of Dr. Elizabeth Strand and UT President, Dr. Joe DiPietroDr. Elizabeth Strand and three other UT professionals have been recognized as 2018 President's Award honorees. The President's Awards program recognizes outstanding contributions of staff and faculty in the areas of the University of Tennessee's three-fold mission to provide education, conduct research, and to offer outreach. Simply put, the program is the highest honor a UT employee can receive and is intended to spotlight success and inspire excellence.

Dr. Strand received the "Connect" award that honors outreach, engagement, and service efforts and programs.

Elizabeth Strand, director of veterinary social work and clinical associate professor of biomedical and diagnostic sciences at UT Knoxville, is a pioneer in her field of study and works to educate veterinary professionals nationwide.

Strand developed "veterinary social work" and is the founding director of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine's veterinary social work program, which is the first of its kind in the world. Her initial discipline vision went from the creation of programs focused on client grief and the importance of human-animal bond to include comprehensive veterinary social work services and related education.

Dr. Strand is an Associate Professor with a joint faculty appointment in the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine (CVM, 75%) and Social Work (CSW, 25%). She is licensed for clinical social work with extensive credentials beyond her PhD including certification in grief recovery, critical incident stress management, mindfulness-based stress reduction training, Anicare child and adult training, workplace conflict, suicide prevention, and state Supreme Court mediation. She came to UT with "real-life" clinical experience in family and juvenile social work. In recognition of her professional innovation and accomplishments, Dr. Strand was inducted as a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow in the National Academies of Practice and the Social Work Academy in 2014. Then, in 2015, she was named the inaugural UT "All Creatures Great and Small" endowed Professor of Veterinary Social Work, created by CSW donors who recognized the profound benefits VSW provides in support of animal care providers and owners.

Read More About the President's Awards

College of Social Work Announces Plans for Social Justice Innovation Initiative

Stop Racisim graphicThe UT College of Social Work is pleased to announce plans for year one of the Social Justice Innovation Initiative (SJII). David Dupper, Interim Dean at the College explained, "One of the core values of our profession is a commitment to social justice. I am very excited about this initiative and the opportunities it will provide to our faculty and students to work together in pursuit of our shared vision as social workers—We envision a socially just world that prioritizes the needs of the most vulnerable. This initiative is a funded effort to address various aspects of social justice in our society. The 2018 focus is challenging the problem of racism."

The college has worked diligently to develop an outreach that will positively affect our community in a manner that is in keeping with the mission and principles of the social work profession. The opportunity that has been made available this year is the distribution of grant money to groups of students, faculty, and staff for creative proposed projects designed to address racism in our college (Knoxville and Nashville), on our campuses, and in our broader local communities.

Tony Murchison, Special Projects Manager, who is guiding this initiative stated, "I'm so grateful that we are able to offer this opportunity to the members of the CSW community. I truly believe that every aspect of the grant process is a learning experience in itself. I've had discussions with folks and we've agreed that even if their proposal isn't among those accepted and funded, nothing was lost. Imagining a project, choosing a team, selecting a faculty advisor, networking with community organizations, and ultimately writing a grant proposal � are invaluable experiences for students to have."

The project participants who will be funded through this grant will represent the Knoxville and Nashville campus communities and are from DSW, MSSW, MSSW Online, and BSSW programs.

Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason Participates in National Weather Service Discussions

Photo of Dr. Lisa Reyes MasonIn February, the National Weather Service in Nashville hosted a media workshop, an annual event that provides a forum for discussion about how the Weather Service and the media can work together to communicate with the public. Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason, a social scientist from the College of Social Work and Dr. Kelsey Ellis, a climatologist from the UT Geography Department of the College of Arts & Sciences were invited to participate in this annual meeting.

They are studying how the public receives and responds to severe weather watches and warnings. They had some interesting findings to report. "The media and the weather service," said Dr. Mason, "are interested in our research results and on working with us to find real ways of communicating in order to keep Tennesseans safe during times of severe weather. At the Nashville meeting they were ready to discuss what can be done to effectively protect the public in the event of nighttime tornadoes."

"Research has found that Tennessee has a higher chance of experiencing tornado warnings at night than a lot of parts of the country," explained Dr. Mason. "One of our big takeaways is that people are a lot less likely to receive warnings at night as they are during the day. During our meeting we discussed simple solutions that can be implemented through effective planning and early warnings by the media such as announcing the possibility of extreme weather and encouraging people to charge their cell phones and keep them at their bedsides throughout the night. Our discussion was rich and these kinds of interactions make our research feel even more worthwhile."


Dr. Lisa Reyes Mason received her PhD and MSW from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines social vulnerability and adaptation to problems at the nexus of society and the environment such as climate change, water security, urban pollution, and severe weather.

Dr. Mason and Dr. Ellis have been invited to participate in two additional collaborative meetings that are being hosted by the National Weather Service with media representatives and other partners. The first of these meetings is on March 21 in Memphis, then on April 4 in Knoxville.

Social Work Students on Knoxville Campus Learn about Transitioning to Professional Practice

Photo of Social Work StudentsAt a breakfast event on March 2, honoring BSSW and MSSW students who will graduate this spring, a panel of professionals reviewed some important ideas for transitioning from the student world to the world of professional practice.

The event that took place on the Knoxville Campus in the Panhellenic Building was cosponsored by the College of Social Work, the Knoxville Branch of NASW, and Cornerstone of Recovery. The program featured a panel that discussed job search, licensure, and job opportunities in specific fields of social work practice (veterans, substance abuse, schools, forensic, child welfare, etc.) Presenters included social workers from the community, including many of our own graduates, the NASW Executive Director of the Tennessee Chapter, and UT Office of Career Development.


February 22, 2018

Associate Dean (Research) Nugent and DSW Alumna Milam Honored for Research on Child Abuse

Photo of Dr. William Nugent and Lisa MilamUT College of Social Work's Associate Dean for Research William Nugent and DSW Alumna Lisa Milam had an article published in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. The article entitled Children's Knowledge of Genital Anatomy and Its Relationship with Children's Use of the Word Inside During Questioning about Possible Sexual Abuse is based on the research that was the culmination of her 2014 DSW Capstone research project during her doctoral studies at UT.

The article and research was recognized at The Chadwick Center's 2018 Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment, one of the most important conferences in the field of child abuse.

Bill Nugent, PhD, is Associate Dean for Research, Professor, and Interim Director of the PhD Program at the UT College of Social Work. His research interests include: measurement issues in meta-analysis, meta-analysis measurement, and suicide risk assessment methods. Lisa Milam, MA, DSW, LCSW, has been employed as a social worker at Our Kids Center in Nashville for over 24 years. She earned her Master's degree in counseling from Trevecca, and her Master's and Doctoral degrees in Social Work from the UT College of Social Work.

Interim Dean David Dupper Encourages Parents to Listen to their Children in Light of School Shootings

Photo of Andrea JosephCollege of Social Work Interim Dean David Dupper shared his expertise in school social work with Channel 8 WVLT and the Knox News Sentinel in response to the Parkland, Florida shootings. The key, he states, is listening.

David Dupper answered questions about how to approach interactions with children in the aftermath of traumatic events. "Creating a space for them to talk to a trusted parent or adult who will listen is important," he said. "I think the major issue for me is to try to as a parent go into speaking to your kid and be prepared to hear whatever your child has to say, but sometimes that's difficult because sometimes they say things that are unexpected," he said.

"It (can be) highly emotional, that's one of the big issues, I think," he said. "You just don't know how it can impact children in different ways, especially in middle and high school." Dupper said parents should be sensitive to the environment their kids are growing up in and realize how scary it could be.

Student Ambassadors Welcome Newly Admitted Students

Photo of Student AmbassadorsCollege of Social Work Ambassadors work with Student Recruitment Director, Susan Bryant, writing letters of welcome to newly admitted students (incoming freshman in August) at the College. These social work students are part of the UT student ambassadors program. The ambassadors are the principal student liaisons for prospective students and their parents visiting the UT campus. These students play an integral role by aiding in the recruitment of the best and brightest future Vols. The ambassadors lead daily campus tours for visiting families and provide them with a student's perspective of what it's like to be a "Volunteer" at the University of Tennessee. (Picture above from left to right: Mackenzie Hunter, Susan Bryant, and Shelby DeLille)

The College of Social Work is grateful for all of work of the ambassadors as we try to roll out the orange carpet for our newest potential students.

Photo of Student AmbassadorsPictured: Marquita Dortch, Amber Hale, Ezekiel Harris, and Chelsea Stephens (left to right)


For previous news announcements, see the E-News Archives

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