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Faculty and Staff from UTCSW Knoxville and Nashville - Fall 2019

November 10, 2019

November 13 is #BigOrangeGive.

One Day. $2.25 million to celebrate the university's 225th anniversary. Help the College of Social Work reach our goal of $20,000 by contributing at Big Orange Give

We hope you will plan to give online next Wednesday, November 13, and be a part of our success! An anonymous donor has pledged a $5,000 match, doubling any gift made to the College of Social Work up to $225 and until $5,000 is matched.

Dean Lori Messinger and her wife, Boo Tyson, challenge College of Social Work alumni and friends to give $2,250 in honor of UT’s 225th birthday and they will make a $2,250 gift to the College of Social Work.

October 21, 2019

Dr. Mary Lehman Held Presents at the Vanderbilt Center for Excellence

Mary Held is the MSSW Program Director at the Nashville Campus of #UTCSW. She presented at a lunch and learn training sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody (COE) that is part of a statewide network funded under an agreement with the State of Tennessee to improve the public health by enhancing the quality of services provided to children in or at-risk of entering the Tennessee child welfare or juvenile justice systems. Her presentation, Latino Immigrant Experiences: Trauma and Resilience, allowed her to reflect on her experiences working with Latino immigrant youth.

October 20, 2019

Dr. Andrea Joseph Receives Global Catalyst Award

Andrea JosephDr. Andrea Joseph, Assistant Professor at the Nashville Campus was awarded a grant from the Global Catalyst Program. Her proposal, “Exploring the local discourse: How Jamaican parents and school-based personnel educate children about sexual abuse and exploitation,” will be funded by the Center for Global Engagement.

The Center for Global Engagement administers the Global Catalyst Program to support international collaborative research, scholarship, and creative activities with the goal of supporting international partnerships that yield defined outcomes. Dr. Joseph will be collaborating with an alum of the UT College of Social Work in this project.

October 5, 2019

Alums and Friends Enjoy Trip on the Tennessee River

Nearly 125 UTCSW students, faculty, alums, board of visitors members, as well as other sponsor groups and friends enjoyed a lovely afternoon on the river. This is the second annual Sailgate event.

October 2, 2019

Anne Conway's Study Identifies Disparities in Kindergarteners' Executive Functions

Anne ConwayA new study led by Anne Conway, the new Urban Child Institute Endowed Professor in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Social Work, shows that large disparities in executive function exist among children even before they begin formal schooling. “Disparities in Kindergarteners’ Executive Functions at Kindergarten Entry: Relations with Parenting and Child Care” was published recently in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The study also showed that parents’ expectations, along with the learning resources and opportunities they’re able to provide—from reading to their children to keeping ample books in the home to arranging private child care—are associated with less disparity in kids’ executive function.

“Disparities in Kindergarteners’ Executive Functions at Kindergarten Entry: Relations with Parenting and Child Care” was published recently in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Dr. Conway joined the faculty at UTCSW Knoxville this fall. Dr. Conway studies the development of neurocognition (i.e., focusing attention and ignoring distractions) and self-regulation (i.e., self-management of emotion, behavior, sleep), and associations with child well-being and mental health. She holds a MSW, MS in Developmental Psychology, and joint PhD in Social Work and Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan. She also holds a MA from Catholic University and a BA from Merrimack College. She was awarded two research fellowships funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to pursue postdoctoral training in childhood and adolescent mental health and developmental neuroscience.

Read more.

September 28, 2019

Student and Community Leaders Meet at Highlander Center

Students and community leaders at Highlander Center.MSSW students Krystal Gourley, Sarah Lewandowski, and Mary Hansen, with Faculty Advisor Christy Hickman worked with the staff at the Highlander Research and Education Center to host the first of a series of weekend training sessions. Students and leaders of local community organizations investigated ways to approach social work from a transformative justice and intersectional perspective and to develop skills for social change.

The Highlander/UTCSW collaboration is funded by the college's Social Justice Innovation Initiative.

September 27, 2019

Danica Roem Speaks about Intersectionality

Students of #UTCSW and other UT colleges enjoyed getting to hear the story and insights of VA State Legislator Danica Roem at the Baker Center on Friday, September 27. Then she participated in an event entitled, "Images of Intersectionality Art Show and Conversation with Danica Roem."

Danica Roem and Misty McPhetridgeDelegate Danica Roem represents the Thirteenth District in the Virginia House of Delegates. Roem won an historic election in 2017 to become the first out-and-seated transgender state legislator in American history. She joined a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers in 2018 to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginians and raise teacher pay throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. She also helped bring the first commuter bus line to the western part of her district and was thrilled when the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) voted in June 2018 to allocate $128 million to improve Route 28.

MSSW students Misty McPhetridge and Makala Johnson with Faculty Advisor Amanda Gandy coordinated the event. McPhetridge, whose photography was featured in the art show, explained, "The main goal of Images of Intersectionality is to educate the community about intersectionality and facilitate engagement, conversation, and self-reflection about this topic. The one-of-a-kind art show consisted of photographs of community members holding handwritten signs that represent different parts of their identities that they wish to share. Through sharing these photos and promoting discussion and self-reflection, we hope to reduce biases, stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and oppression that many members of our community face on a daily basis." Images of Intersectionality was honored to have Delegate Roem speak about issues involving intersectionality and her journey as a transgender woman.

Learn more at Images of Intersectionality.

September 26 and 27, 2019

Campaign School Encourages Engagement

University of Connecticut's Tanya Rhodes-Smith, Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, trained over 50 #UTCSW students, alumni, and faculty to re-examine their attitudes toward politics, their role in empowering their clients and communities to be politically active, and make a personal commitment to integrate political action into their practice. She stressed that social workers should engage their clients and communities to vote by integrating nonpartisan voter engagement into social service delivery and organizational culture.

Humphrey's Campaign School The experience included opportunities to learn from panels of legislators, political social workers, and allies who embody social work values in elected office in Tennessee. A special focus of the discussion was the way being a woman of color in the current political climate impacts campaigning and serving in office. #UTCSW Professor Carmen Reese Foster, one of the founders of the Coalition of Black Social Workers, hosted a discussion with Nashville Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway who shared her experiences as the first black female judge of the juvenile court system in Tennessee.

This two-day training took place on September 26 and 27 at the Nashville Campus and was made possible by the generous funding of Susan Cooper and her Social Justice Innovation Initiative II Grant: Challenging Sexism. Kate M. Chaffin, Associate Professor and Online MSSW Program Director, Julie Franks, lecturer in the Online MSSW Program and recent DSW graduate, and Kim Crane Mallory, Assistant Director of Field Education, organized the 2-day Campaign School training. Dr. Stacia Martin-West will serve as a research consultant on the grant.

September 26, 2019

NCORE PresentersThe Student Action Committee on Racism and Sexism (SACRS) presented Collective Liberation Strategies for Individual and Institutional Settings! The event took place on September 26 and included BSSW and MSSW students in their Field Seminar.

This presentation is based on lessons the student group learned at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) in Portland, Oregon in May 2019. The group is part of the Social Justice Innovation Initiative supported by #UTCSW and a generous grant from college supporter, Susan Cooper. The presentation was also given to Nashville field students on September 10.

Presenters, pictured left to right are Star Starks, Jordan Thomas, Brittany Wilkerson, Greyson Dulaney, Afton Neal, Krystal Gourley, and Abby Cooper. Not pictured: Mary Hansen.

September 19, 2019

SJII Hosts Humphrey's Campaign School for Social Work

Humphrey's Campaign SchoolKate McClernon-Chaffin, Associate Professor and Online MSSW Program Director, and Julie Franks, lecturer in the Online MSSW Program and recent DSW graduate, are anticipating an exciting training opportunity supported by one the grants from the #UTCSW Social Justice Innovation Initiative (SJII). The Nancy A. Humphrey's Institute for Political Social Work's Campaign School for Social Work is coming to the college's Nashville Campus on September 26th and 27th.

This exciting two-day training event will:

  • Train over 50 UTK College of Social Work students and alumni
  • Teach participants to run a winning political campaign
  • Offer exposure to career paths in political settings
  • Build valuable leadership and advocacy skills
  • Stress the importance of social work values in policy work

The Campaign School for Social Workers - now in its 23rd year - has trained more than 1,200 participants who have gone on to run for elected office, work for elected officials, volunteer in campaigns, and serve as advocates for social change.

September 9, 2019

Alum "Sunshine" Parker Receives Alumni Promise Award

Sunshine Parker and Lori MessingerThe Alumni Promise Award recognizes alumni no older than 40 who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in a career, civic involvement, or both. This award is presented to acknowledge alumni who are making a mark early on in their career. This year, Barbara "Sunshine" Parker, a CSW alum was chosen as a 2019 winner of this award. From bachelor’s to doctorate, Sunshine Parker has received her BSSW, MSSW, and JD from UT, focusing on social work among Native Americans. Her work has taken her to the Division of Public Health and Human Services for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), where she drafted the Children’s Code of Ordinance and assisted with its passage into tribal law, ensuring a safer environment for Cherokee children.

Parker is an enrolled member of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was born in the sovereign Cherokee nation within the Qualla Boundary, which is surrounded by the State of North Carolina. At an early age Sunshine knew that she wanted to accomplish two things: earn a college education and use that education to improve the lives of others. After enrolling in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, she sought ways to gain the skills needed to accomplish her personal vision. It became clear that Social Work was the discipline that offered the best professional training to support her goals. During a master’s-level field placement at Legal Aid of East Tennessee, she worked as a community organizer and assisted the Rural Task Force, African American Task Force, and Latino Task Force in applying for grants, developing their organizations and planning events related to their goals. After earning her MSSW degree and becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker, Parker spent five years working at Knoxville Community Connections. In that role, she supervised case managers who worked with families and children, and she frequently advised attorneys who were arguing TennCare appeal cases. Sunshine was inspired to add legal training to her social work skills and earned a Juris Doctor from the UTK College of Law in 2014.

When the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians decided to establish its own Division of Public Health and Human Services. Sunshine Parker was hired to come home and fulfill her vision of improving the lives of others. Ms. Parker’s first role was to use her keen understanding of child safety needs to draft the legal and social service infrastructure of a foster care system. During 2015 and 2016 she was employed by both the new Public Health and Human Services Division and the Attorney General’s Office to develop a Family Safety Program and to serve as a Family Safety Attorney. In 2016 at age 33, Sunshine was appointed as an Associate Attorney General for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

By 2017, the scope of the Family Safety Program had grown to the point that her social work leadership skills were needed, and she was moved into the role of Interim Manager to supervise a staff of 30 social service workers. Ms. Parker has led the creation of a multi-program Human Services Department that is now staffed with 70 social service professionals. Currently, as Director of the Department, she oversees the Family Safety Program, and its growing network of certified foster care homes, a Domestic Violence Shelter Program, a Child Advocacy Center, and a Juvenile Services Program for juvenile offenders. These programs seamlessly integrate behavioral health, legal, medical, and other social services to promote the best possible outcomes for tribal members.

Learn more about Sunshine Parker and her work.

Freida Herron, who is on the faculty of the College of Social Work as well as serving on the Alumni Board of Directors, stated, "The awards ceremony was a beautiful event and Chancellor Donde Plowman was on hand to present the award. It was especially nice that Sunshine was accompanied by her parents. It was a good night for social work!"

Sunshine Parker, CSW alum and winner of the UT Alumni Promise Award is pictured with Dean Lori Messinger at the Awards Gala.

September 8, 2019

MSSW Student and Faculty Member Attend Bill Signing

This month, MSSW student Sheila Lachs and her professor Harold Benus were invited by State Senator Katrina Robinson of Memphis to attend the signing by Tennessee's Governor Bill Lee of the "ACEs Before Discipline" Senate Bill 170.

Harold Benus and Sheila Lachs with State Senator Katrina Robinson, Representative Harold Love and Governor Bill Lee.

Students and faculty members of the UT College of Social Work know about trauma-informed practice. The college offers Trauma Treatment Graduate Certificate program as a curriculum option for master's level students during their year of concentration courses. This program provides students with the knowledge and practical experience needed to provide trauma-specific interventions and trauma-informed programming and policy development.

"For those who don't know," Sen. Robinson explains, "ACEs are adverse childhood experiences--the traumatic experiences children face that shape their lives before they turn 18 (i.e. hunger, unavailable parents, violence in the home, etc.) This bill requires Local public schools and public charter schools to adopt a trauma-informed discipline policy that takes these things into account before progressive discipline -- a major step towards giving our kids the holistic attention they need." Senator Robinson took time to express thanks to the faculty and staff of the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and several others who supported the development of this law.

While in Professor Harold Benus' policy class, Sheila Lachs began her engagement in policy work related to ACEs. Senator Robinson, as a sponsor on the ACES bill, invited our students to meet with her to learn about their interest and the ACES bill and review the brief material that they prepared for class. Students met with her during last Spring's Social Work Day on the Hill. UTCSW faculty member, Sukey Steckel, who is Principal Investigator and Author on "Resilient Tennessee: Sustaining Resilient Organizations for Success.Building Strong Brains: Adverse Childhood Experiences" for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, said of Sheila's work, "Sheila really stepped up and was the main contact with the legislative office. If it were not for Sheila, neither Andrea Josephs [faculty member] nor I would even have met with the Senator, and Sheila brought several of her peers along too both during the semester and for Social Work Day on the Hill."

A number of faculty of our college are actively involved in research and curriculum development that impacts not just our college but our state and nation, while some students take what they are learning and are finding ways to be a part of transforming systems within our state to become more sensitive and proactive to meeting needs related to trauma and childhood trauma in particular. #UTCSW is always proud to see our students and faculty involved in activities such as this.

September 5, 2019

College of Social Work Faculty Promotions

The College of Social Work announced and celebrated promotions for a number of faculty/administrators in the 2019-2020 academic year. Three individuals have been named full professors. They are: Stan Bowie, J. Camille Hall, and Lori Messinger. Four individuals have been named associate professors. They are: Mary Lehman Held, Lisa Reyes Mason, Courtney Cronley, and Anne Conway (not pictured). Five individuals have been named associate professors of practice. They are: Dorothy Ashley Childers, Kimberly Denton, Kim Crane Mallory, Ragan Schriver, and Katie Veit. Also receiving a promotion this year is Stephanie Piper, College of Social Work Senior Director of Advancement.

Stephanie Piper, Katie Veit, Mary Lehman Held, Lisa Reyes Mason, J. Camille Hall, Lori Messinger, Stan Bowie, Kim Denton, Ragan Schriver, Kim Crane Mallory, and Ashley Childers

Stan Bowie, Anne Conway, J. Camille Hall, Lori Messinger, Lisa Reyes Mason, Courtney Cronley, Kimberly Denton, Ragan Schriver, and Stephanie Piper work from the Knoxville Campus of the college. Mary Lehman Held, Dorothy Ashley Childers, Kim Crane Mallory, and Katie Veit work from the Nashville Campus of the college. The college is grateful to have such talented faculty at each of our campuses, serving both our face-to face and online students.

September 3, 2019

New Faculty are Welcomed to the Knoxville and Nashville Campuses

The UT College of Social Work welcomes seven new faculty members to our team. Five individuals have joined the faculty at the Knoxville campus and two joined the faculty at the Nashville campus.


Patricia Bamwine

Patricia Bamwine comes to Knoxville from the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her MSW and PhD and completed Postdoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Anne Conway

Anne Conway joins the faculty in Knoxville as the new Urban Child Institute Endowed Professor. Dr. Conway holds a MSW, MS in Developmental Psychology, and joint PhD in Social Work and Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Courtney Cronley

Courtney Cronley returns to Knoxville where she earned both her MSSW and PhD at the UT College of Social Work. After completing post-doctoral work at Rutgers in New Jersey, she served on the faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Kelly Brooke Martin

Kelly Martin earned her BSW, MSSW, and PhD from the UT College of Social Work and is now joining the Knoxville faculty as an Assistant Professor of Practice. Dr. Martin proudly identifies as a person who is differently-abled and is both professionally and personally dedicated to the advancement of human rights for historically marginalized populations.

Stephanie Weatherstone

Stephanie Weatherstone is an alum of the UT College of Social Work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. She has served as an adjunct instructor at the college and is now joining the Knoxville faculty as an Assistant Professor of Practice.



Sarah Cermak

Sarah Cermak is joining the faculty at the Nashville campus as a Field Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Practice. She earned her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy and Practice. She has served as a field instructor for students from the college and won the 2018-2019 Nashville Field Instructor of the Year award.

Harold Benus

Harold Benus is joining the faculty at the Nashville campus as an Assistant Professor of Practice. As an executive of social service agencies for over forty years, Dr. Benus brings extensive experience in leadership development, fundraising, strategic planning, program innovation and management to the classroom.

August 20, 2019

Michael Mason Receives National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant

Michael MasonMichael Mason, PhD has received a 3.2 million dollar grant award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct a randomized clinical trial to test a text-delivered counseling program for young adults (ages 18 to 25) with cannabis use disorder. Young adults in the U.S. have the highest rate of cannabis use disorder compared to other age groups and are the least likely to seek traditional treatment; in contrast, text-delivered treatments increase access and privacy, which can lessen treatment stigmatization. The grant is titled: Treating young adult cannabis use disorder with text messaged-delivered Peer Network Counseling.

Dr. Mason’s text-delivered intervention, Peer Network Counseling, targets the peer and environmental risk exposure through automated, personalized texts. Participants receive 6 to 8 interactive texts every other day over 4-weeks, as well as booster messages as needed. Key responses from each participant’s baseline and on-going assessments automatically populate the content of the personally tailored intervention. 1,000 young adults (500 from University of Tennessee and 500 from Colorado State University) will be enrolled into the trial and followed for 6 months, providing survey and biological data. Recruitment and enrollment is set to begin in April, 2020.

Learn more.

August 14, 2019

Researchers Win Grant to Study Impact of Guaranteed Income Project

Stacia Martin-WestA duo of faculty researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the University of Pennsylvania have received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action grant of about $680,000 to evaluate an innovative project that could help alleviate poverty and inequality in Stockton, California.

Stacia Martin-West, an assistant professor in UT’s College of Social Work, along with Amy Castro Baker, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, will use the funding to evaluate the impact of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), the country’s first city-led guaranteed income pilot program. SEED is a collaboration of the Stockton mayor’s office, the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition, the Economic Security Project (ESP), and the residents of Stockton.

Through SEED, 125 Stockton families are getting $500 a month with no strings attached to see if guaranteed monthly income helps alleviate economic instability and inequity.

Willing Stockton residents were selected at random to participate; each participant is at least 18 years old and resides in a neighborhood where the median income is $46,033 or less.

The families began receiving the funding in February and will continue to get it through August 2020—a total of 18 months. The money comes largely from private donors.

“SEED is born out of the simple belief that the best investments we can make are in our people,” the project overview states. “A hand up rather than a handout, SEED seeks to empower its recipients financially and to prove to supporters and skeptics alike that poverty results from a lack of cash, not character.”

The RWJF Evidence for Action grant is supporting Martin-West and Baker for 36 months as they evaluate the program during the disbursement period and for about a year after the payments end.

The research with SEED recipients involves surveys, text-based data collection, and in-depth interviews. Researchers will look at the impact the money has on the families’ financial security, civic engagement, and health and wellness. They’ll evaluate participants’ psychological distress, physical functioning, food security, perceived stress and well-being, income volatility, family dynamics and parenting, material hardship, use of public benefits, health care utilization, and interactions with the child welfare system.

Martin-West led a study of the Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund, which provided families who had lost their homes in the Gatlinburg fires with $1,000 a month for six months and a final gift of $5,000. In that case, she found that cash transfers, compared to specific donations, may be an important and underutilized approach to recovery following a natural disaster. Baker has done prior research on foreclosure and income instability looking at the impact of financial policies on racial disparities.

Read More

Stacia Martin-West talks about her work on the Social Works Podcast.

Social.Works Podcast

August 8, 2019

Andrea Joseph Co-Authors Article, "Advancing Equity for Black Girls"

Andrea JosephAndrea Joseph, Assistant Professor at the Nashville campus of #UTCSW, has co-authored an article published in the July/August edition of Social Work Today. The article is entitled "Advancing Equity for Black Girls." This article looks at the disproportionate rates at which black girls are referred to the juvenile justice system and the factors, such as poverty, abuse, and victimization, that put girls at risk for physical and behavioral health problems.

Dr. Joseph's research interest include: Racially disproportional school suspensions, school social work practice, race conscious interventions, school-wide behavior interventions, culturally relevant practices, student racialization, critical race theory, and social constructionism.

August 2, 2019

Homeless Management Information System Releases Annual Report

HMIS Annual ReportThe Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS) has released the 2018 Annual Report on homelessness data, which provides a detailed review of persons who accessed housing and homelessness assistance services in Knoxville-Knox County, TN during this most recent calendar year.

The complete report “2018 KnoxHMIS Annual Report” can be found on the KnoxHMIS website.

UTCSW's David Patterson is Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor in Mental Health Research and Practice at the college as well as DSW Program-Director, Professor, and Director of KnoxHMIS. Dr. Patterson states:

"The KnoxHMIS 2018 Annual Report on Homelessness is the product of the collaborative efforts of the University of Tennessee College of Social Work's Office of Research and Public Service and our community partners. We cooperatively strive to collect information on individuals and families experiencing homeless, the services they receive, and the outcomes achieved in order to coordinate care, conserve resources, and shape public policy. The KnoxHMIS Annual Report reflects the community's ongoing efforts to effectively address this complex social problem."

Lisa Higginbotham, program manager for the project explains, "KnoxHMIS is an integrated network of 20 Knoxville area social service agencies specializing in housing and homelessness assistance. Area service providers input data into KnoxHMIS using encrypted Internet communication to link to a secure, central homeless information database. KnoxHMIS has provided data-base management, technical assistance, and outcomes expertise since 2004."

Homelessness Homelessness

July 18, 2019

David Patterson Speaks About the Relationship between Health and Homelessness

David PattersonDr. David Patterson speaks both nationally and locally on the subject of homelessness. He was recently interviewed on Health Connections: People, Health, and Policy, a program on WUOT 91.9 FM led by Brandon Hollingsworth and Dr. Carole Myers.

Listen to this 12 minute program from HealthConnections entitled Health and Homelessness and learn the good news and the bad news about homelessness in Knoxville.

Health and homelessness are closely related. People with chronic, expensive health issues are more susceptible to becoming homeless. And people who are homeless typically have greater risks to their health and well-being. Patterson is the Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor of Mental Health Research and Practice, the Director of the College's Doctor of Social Work Program, and the founding Director and Principle Investigator of the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System.

Hope Woodard, 2019 Graduate, Joins Peace Corps

July 12, 2019

Hope WoodardK. Hope Woodard is one of the 2019 graduates of the UT BSSW program at the College of Social Work. Hope is joining the Peace Corps this summer with an assignment to Benin, a small country in West Africa between Togo and Nigeria. That is far from Hope's roots in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Hope was an honors student at the College of Social Work and received a citation for Extraordinary Professional Promise at the 2019 Chancellor's Banquet. The UT College of Social Work is proud of the various ways our students give to the university. Hope Woodard served as a Student Alumni Associate while at UT. She spoke at UT’s Big Orange Family Campaign thank you event, greeting the people who had worked on the campaign to set record giving from faculty and staff to UT. In addition, Hope made a presentation in 2018 to the UT Alumni Board of Directors where she spoke about the importance of philanthropy on education.

Now Hope is aiming for a new adventure in service. She will be working with pregnant women assisting with maternal health care in Benin, as well as working on malaria prevention projects. Hope's interest in joining the Peace Corps grew out of a public health project she participated in while doing student research with Dr. Terri Combs-Orme at East TN Children's Hospital.

"There is so much I will be learning in West Africa," stated Hope Woodard when asked what she hoped to learn through this experience. "I haven't ever been to Africa, so I know the culture will expand my worldview. I am excited to integrate into the community and learn from the experts already doing the work there. Benin is a french speaking country, so I will be in a three month intensive French course at the start of my service. Overall, I will be expanding my cultural competence, language skills, and public health knowledge."

The reaction of Hope's family and friends to her plans to enter the Peace Corps have been mixed. "Sometimes people know what the Peace Corps is, while others have never heard of it. My progressive friends with international awareness have been supportive. Also, the people closest to me know that I love women's health, so they can't wait to see me go and do this important work, but, sadly, a lot of people have a single story in their heads about Africa. A lot of people don't quite understand that Africa is more than one country. Moreover, the lack of awareness of African culture creates a lot of fear in some people." Hope points out that for many, a two-year commitment sounds like a long time and though she thinks that some of her friends may be a bit fearful, most reactions are filled with support and encouragement.

Joining the Peace Corps doesn't happen quickly or without planning. The Peace Corps has a three round interview process. Applicants have to submit a detailed resume, as well as provide three letters of recommendation. After all of this, volunteers are extended an invitation. When a volunteer accepts this invitation, a legal and medical clearance process begins. The medical process is pretty lengthy, and volunteers don't always make it through, but, once you are legally and medically cleared, the applicant is officially a Peace Corps volunteer!

Peace Corps service is a life-defining leadership experience. Since 1961, the Peace Corps, an independent US government agency, has shared with the world America’s most precious resource—its people. Volunteers serve in seventy-six countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East. Peace Corps Volunteers live, learn, and work with a community overseas for twenty-seven months, providing technical assistance in six program areas: Education, Community Economic Development, Youth in Development, Health, Agriculture, and Environment. The Peace Corps continues to promote peace and friendship through the work of young professionals like Hope Woodard.

"I know the UT College of Social Work prepared me so well for this journey," says Hope. "Because of UTCSW, I understand that the members of the community are their own experts, and I must create sustainable and empowering change. I have always been skeptical of international aid, because I know the "white savior" complex is so common, but the College of Social Work has taught me how to empower communities and individuals. It has taught me the crucial difference between helping and enabling, which is the most important part of our work." Looking forward to beyond the Peace Corps experience, Hope envisions learning more about public health, and maintaining a social work prospective in this field. She hopes to pursue a masters degree in either public health, social work, or another helping profession. "My career plans are really contingent on the experience I have over these next two years."

For more information about the Peace Corps Office at UT go to:

July 2, 2019

PhD Student and Three Faculty Members Publish Article in "Aging and Mental Health"

Sukyung Yoon Dr. Sukyung Yoon, 2019 PhD graduate of the college has had an article published in "Aging and Mental Health". Dr. Yoon is the first author with other authors from our college, Sherry Cummings, William R. Nugent and Shandra Forrest-Bank.

The study, entitled, Protective factors against suicidal ideation among community-dwelling older adults with experience of spousal physical abuse: focusing on direct and indirect protections, looks at the impact of protective factors – problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, having as a confidant either family or friends, and social support from friends – on suicidal ideation among older adults. A conclusion drawn from the study is that tailored services to boost protective factors and regular screening tests are imperative to reduce depressive symptoms and SI among older adults who have experienced spousal or romantic partner physical abuse.

July 2, 2019

Dr. Lori Messinger Begins Service as Dean of the UT College of Social Work

Lori MessingerWelcome to our new dean, Dr. Lori Messinger, who joined us this week!

As dean, Messinger will oversee a college whose graduate program was recently ranked 22nd among all public universities and whose online Master of Science in Social Work program was ranked 7th in the nation.

“It is my honor and privilege to be selected to lead the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee,” Messinger said. “The college is a nationally recognized leader in social work education and research, and I am excited about becoming a part of that tradition. I look forward to working closely with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners to address the challenges facing our communities in ways that reflect the best of our profession.”

Messinger brings more than 15 years of progressive leadership in both research and public universities to UT.

July 1, 2019

Carmen Foster Presents at Social Emotional Learning Conference

Carmen and Eli Foster Carmen Reese Foster and her husband Eli Foster presented at Nashville's Music City Social Emotional Learning Conference. Their presentation was titled, "Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, ‘Cause SEL is Bad for Your Health." The workshop had two objectives: To present best practices in implementing SEL in the Middle School Classroom while providing academic data that supports the effectiveness of SEL practices on test scores and behavior; and to explain recent research that suggests that teachers who implement SEL are at a higher risk of burnout or experiencing vicarious trauma; therefore, school administrators must implement emotionally healthy practices and support for teachers to ensure that they will thrive and not burn out.

Foster is Assistant Professor of Practice and Online Coordinator of MSSW Field Education at the Nashville campus of The University of Tennessee College of Social Work. Eli works with the Metro Nashville Public Schools.

June 30, 2019

DSW Alum, John Boatner, with Three Faculty Co-authors Published in Southern Medical Journal

John BoatnerWhile a student in the College of Social Work DSW program, John Boatner researched and assessed the availability of treatment options for tobacco-cessation for those with co-occurring substance use disorders. The study, entitled "Assessing the Availability of Pharmacotherapy Options for Tobacco Cessation in Tennessee’s Substance Use Facilities" has now been published in the Southern Medical Journal. Co-authors of the research are: David Patterson, Director of the DSW Program, Freida Herron, Clinical Assistant Professor, and William Nugent, Associate Dean for Research and Professor, along with Timothy Rice.

The conclusions drawn from the study are: Tobacco-cessation options are a preventive intervention that can be easily incorporated into a treatment facility's standard of practice and should be made available within the context of all substance abuse treatment facilities. Failure to provide concurrent tobacco-cessation options during substance abuse treatment contradicts the purpose of medical treatment. Medically oriented substance abuse facilities are exemplary settings for offering pharmacotherapeutic options to concurrently treat tobacco use. It is suggested that interdisciplinary clinicians in the field of substance abuse advocate for the implementation of concurrent tobacco cessation treatment in their organization.

Boatner, John & Patterson, David & Herron, Freida & Nugent, William & Rice, Timothy. (2019). Assessing the Availability of Pharmacotherapy Options for Tobacco Cessation in Tennessee’s Substance Use Facilities. Southern Medical Journal. 112. 406-411. 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000996.

June 28, 2019

Michael Blackwell and the Program for Pet Health Equity of the College's Center for Behavioral Health Research Sponsored Symposium

Michael Blackwell"We are writing the textbook here," said Dr. Michael Blackwell, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, College of Social Work. "We are writing the book on what it means to improve access to veterinary care." That book puts veterinarians, animal welfare advocates, and social workers at the forefront, working together, to find ways to provide veterinary care to underserved families.

Veterinary care access was the central topic during the first Access to Veterinary Care Symposium, hosted by the PPHE, June 28-29 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Over 100 attendees from across the U.S. and Canada came together to discuss and debate how to care for the large number of animals owned by families that cannot afford veterinary care. The event focused on recommendations outlined in "Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices, and Public Policy," a report released by the PPHE in December 2018.

Read more at:

June 24, 2019

Lisa Reyes Mason Researches Severe Weather's Impact on Vulnerable Populations

People and Climate ChangeLisa Reyes Mason, Director, PhD Program and Associate Professor, has been recognized in the University for her multidisciplinary approach to research of difficult issues. This year, she and Jonathan Rigg of the National University of Singapore and director of the Asia Research Center, had an edited book published by The Oxford University Press entitled, "People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Social Justice." The book focuses on the human and social dimensions of climate change. It includes in depth community-based cases that emphasize social justice and inclusion.

Mason, L. R., & Rigg, J. (Eds.) (2019). People and climate change: Vulnerability, adaptation, and social justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

They also had an article featured in the Oxford Press blog entitled, "The Trouble with How We Talk about Climate Change," arguing that complex issues, such as climate change, require collaboration across disciplines in the hard sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. They look at five dimensions of climate science reductionism.

One aspect of the research being done by Dr. Mason relates to severe weather and its impact on the fabric of people's lives. She is particularly focused on the impact felt by vulnerable populations. UT News interviewed her to present a general look at the content of her research.

In addition, Social Work Today has published an article entitled Climate Change Reverberations-Public Health Fallout that quotes extensively from Dr Mason. The article states: "The effects of climate change are not limited to the weather; the physical and mental wellbeing of the planet’s population are also at risk."

June 20, 2019

PhD Student Joe Strong Researches Neurological Syndrome

PhD student Joe Strong has had an article published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work entitled, “Playthings of the Brain: Phantom Visions in Charles Bonnet Syndrome”.

The article is an overview of Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a neurological condition affecting previously-sighted people who’ve lost some (or all) of their vision in which people “see” vivid pictures of people, objects, animals, patterns, and so on. The underlying neurological mechanism that causes it is similar to phantom limb syndrome. The paper provides a history of the condition, diagnostic criteria, an overview of commonly-occurring imagery, and suggestions for social work practitioners working with visually-impaired clients who may be experiencing the condition.

June 9, 2019

Andrea Joseph Presents to Children's Defense Fund

Andrea Joseph, Assistant Professor at the Nashville Campus of UTCSW made a presentation to practitioners who work for the Children’s Defense Fund. The conference took place at Roane State Community College in June, 2019.

Dr. Joseph's presentation was titled School Discipline: Trauma, Race, and Intersectionality.

June 7, 2019

Michael Mason Researches Ways Mobile Technology Can Impact Substance Use Disorders

Michael MasonMichael Mason, Betsey R. Bush Endowed Professor in Children and Families at Risk, and his staff conduct exciting research in adolescent and young adult substance use prevention and treatment, social and environmental risk factors, and using mobile technology to address public health. They study the intersection of peer networks and environmental settings and how these factors contribute to healthy and risky behaviors.

This year Dr. Mason and his staff have conducted multiple studies on preventing and treating substance use disorders using text-delivered counseling programs. Recently they completed a randomized clinical trial on UT’s campus with 100 young adults with cannabis use disorder and found that the texting program was effective in reducing cannabis use and related interpersonal and academic problems. Results from this trial were used for a grant application to the National Institute on Drug Abuse that will test this intervention with 1000 young adults from UT and Colorado State University. Currently the team is completing a study on reducing adolescent risk for opioid misuse targeting adolescents and parents with a text-delivered intervention. Dr. Mason also is a co-investigator on an NIH study called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. This is the largest (11,000 adolescents) study of its kind that seeks to understand to what extent drug use changes the adolescent brain.

In the course of the past year, Dr. Mason published seven papers in conjunction with CSW students and colleagues. Most recently, The Accuracy of Young Adult Cannabis Users’ Perceptions of Friends’ Cannabis and Alcohol Use, was published in Addictive Behaviors. Co-authors were PhD alum Matthew Moore and PhD student Aaron Brown.

Dr. Mason has recently been confirmed by National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins to join an NIH chartered review group of the Center for Scientific Review: Community Influences on Health Behavior. In addition he will be chairing the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research, an interdisciplinary society dedicated to advancing scientific investigation on the etiology and prevention of social, physical and mental health, and academic problems and on the translation of that information to promote health and well being.

June 1, 2019

DSW Alum Karen Cummings-Lily and Shandra Forrest-Bank Study Microagression

Karen Cummings-Lily and Shandra Forrest-BankKaren Cummings-Lily, a graduate of the College of Social Work DSW program has done research on microaggression with Shandra Forrest-Bank, CSW Associate Professor and Director of the College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service. Their work has been published in the June issue of the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.

Cummings-Lilly, Karen T. and Forrest-Bank, Shandra S. (2019) "Understanding Appalachian Microaggression from the Perspective of Community College Students in Southern West Virginia," The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 46 : Iss. 2 , Article 5.

Recent scholarship on discrimination recognizes the importance of microaggression, small insults and slights experienced frequently by people from minority groups (Sue, et. al., 2007). Microaggression may be an especially insidious mechanism in the oppression of Appalachian people, since the derogatory stereotypes are broadly accepted while their oppressed status tends to not be acknowledged. This study applied qualitative focus group methodology to understand perceptions of microaggression and oppression among a sample of college students living in rural Central Appalachia.

May 11, 2019

John Orme and Terri Combs-Orme Named Emeritus Professors

John Orme and Terri Combs-Orme met on the first day of their PhD studies when a professor failed to show up for class. Having a free hour, they agreed to go to a coffee shop and discovered that they shared many of the same values and beliefs. The two established a comfortable relationship that grew from being study team-mates to lifelong partners. Together they completed doctoral work, moved on to a fellowship in Chicago, teaching opportunities in Louisiana, in Maryland, and then, for the last 26 years, in Tennessee at the UT College of Social Work.

Saturday, John and Terri attended what they estimate to be their fortieth commencement as faculty members. This year, they were beckoned to the podium by Interim Dean David Dupper. He said, "I am very pleased to announce that both John and Terri have earned the rank of Professor Emeritus and Professor Emerita upon their retirement. This is a significant achievement, and on behalf of the College and the University, we express our sincere gratitude for your 26 years of service. You will be missed!"

Both of these well-respected professors love teaching and mentoring students and it is the students and their colleagues that they will miss as they move to a new phase of their lives. John stated, “The College of Social Work is full of incredible people. We enjoy meeting people who do good things on a day-to-day basis and we will miss that.”

Across the university Terri and John are known for their skills in mentoring students and young faculty. “We have learned,” agreed Terri and John, “that in order to mentor someone you need to realize that it is not about you, it is about them. Spend time talking about their careers, their research interests, sharing what it is like to enter a new job or a new classroom. Mentoring is helping others do what they want to do. You aren’t building your own reputation; you are helping them build theirs.”

When asked what has given them the most satisfaction throughout their careers, Terri was quick to say, "Every fall when a class gathered to begin the study of neuroscience, students would call me or come to my office expressing fears that they would fail. 'I'm not good at science,' they would say. Then about three weeks into the course I would see these same students write amazing papers and show great success. That is very satisfying."

"I enjoyed the same thing with my statistics course," explains John. "People began with much fear and hesitance, and would end with understanding and confidence. Another thing that has brought me great satisfaction is working on the dissertation committees of my students. During my years on faculty, I have served on 80 different dissertation committees. I enjoy meeting weekly with the students, encouraging them in their lives and as they plan their careers."

Both of these professors have received high academic honors throughout their careers. In October of 2011, The Urban Child Institute made an endowed gift to the College which resulted in the College establishing The Urban Child Institute Endowed Professor in Neuroscience. Dr. Combs-Orme was named the first recipient of this endowed professorship. In 2013, she received the Council of Social Work Education’s “Distinguished Mentor” Award, and in 2014, Dr. Combs-Orme received the “Lifetime Achievement” Award from the National Association of Social Workers, Tennessee Chapter.

Dr. John Orme is a Fellow and Charter Member of the Society of Social Work and Research and a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. His area of expertise includes foster care with an emphasis on foster families, the development and testing of measures for social work practice and research, applied statistics, and outcome-informed evidence-based practice.

In conversation, Terri and John fall into smiling argument. John insists that Terri is smarter. Terri claims that John is the one who takes the honors. Then they both agree that as they move into retirement, their students are the ones who will carry on the important endeavors of social work in the field, in the classroom, and in research.

Reflecting on the future, John looks forward to volunteering for Remote Area Medical and Terri for East Tennessee Children's Hospital where she will cuddle babies who are drug-exposed. They foresee enjoying every day, playing music, and traveling to visit their son in Montreal, Canada. Terri quotes the lyrics of a James Taylor song, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." John simply says, "We are grateful."

May 3, 2019

Lori Messinger Named as Dean of the College

Lori MessingerThe University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has selected Lori Messinger, professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s School of Social Work, to be the next dean of the College of Social Work. She will start July 1. Messinger succeeds Interim Dean Dave Dupper, professor of social work, who has served in an interim role since August 2017.

“Dr. Messinger is a committed and proven leader and I look forward to working with her as she continues to build on the college’s upward momentum,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid. “I want to thank Dr. Dupper for his commitment and service to the university for the last two years.”

As dean, Messinger will oversee a college whose graduate program was recently ranked 22nd among all public universities and whose online Master of Science in Social Work program was ranked 7th in the nation.


April 30, 2019

Dr. Michael Blackwell Inducted into National Academies of Practice

Dr. Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, Director of Program for Pet Health Equity at the College, believes that underserved communities should have access to affordable veterinary care. His innovative, multidisciplinary work in this emerging field, which blends Social Work and Veterinary Medicine, has garnered national attention. Dr. Blackwell was recently inducted into the National Academies of Practice (NAP) as a Practitioner of NAP on March 9, 2019.

Founded in 1981, NAP is an interprofessional, nonprofit organization, with membership representing 14 health care professions willing to serve as distinguished advisors to health care policy makers in Congress and elsewhere. Fellowship in NAP is an honor extended to those who have excelled in their profession and are dedicated to furthering practice, scholarship and policy in support of interprofessional care.

Dr. Michael Blackwell’s life has been defined by public service. Like his father, he earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Tuskegee University. He also earned a Master of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University. His work with the Program for Pet Health Equity is directed at removing barriers to veterinary care, especially for families with limited income.

Dr. Blackwell is also a member of The Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC), which was formed to draw attention to the problem of lack of access to veterinary care and to educate the veterinary profession and communities about it. Thanks to a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund®, the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) commissioned a national population study to better understand the barriers to veterinary care experienced by pet owners across the socioeconomic spectrum. The study also sought to understand the knowledge, attitudes, and practices veterinarians have regarding access to veterinary care.

The inaugural Access to Veterinary Care Symposium, being hosted by The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Social Work and College of Veterinary Medicine, will take place on Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29 at the UT Conference Center and will thoroughly look at the results of this study. You can learn more about the program and the event at:

Sarah Crowley Named Fulbright Scholar for 2019-2020

Sarah Crowley has been named one of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's Fulbright Scholars for the upcoming year. The Fulbright US Student Program is the largest US international exchange program providing opportunities for students to undertake year-long post-graduate advanced research, graduate degrees, arts projects, or teaching in one of more than 140 countries around the world.

Sarah is the first Fulbright Scholar ever to have come from the College of Social Work. She is one of the college's honor students and has been identified as one of the top collegiate scholars for 2019. She received a Chancellor's Citation for Extraordinary Academic Achievement. Dave Dupper, Interim Dean at the college, stated, "We are extremely proud of Sarah and her achievements and look forward to her leadership in the field of Social Work."

As part of a UT family (two of Sarah's sisters are currently at UT), she has taken advantage of many of the opportunities available at our university. She completed a student internship in South Africa, has worked at the Knoxville Boys and Girls Club, and has enjoyed college life with a close-knit group of peers whose common interests have included social work, experiencing cultural diversity, learning about mindfulness, and art.

As a Fulbright Scholar Sarah will be traveling to South Korea where she will begin her year with a 6 week intensive language program with other Fulbright Scholars. Then she will be place in a location where she will live with a local Korean family and teach English and Art. She anticipates a broad cultural exchange with a balance of giving and taking in. She looks forward to using art as a means to connect with students, allowing her to grow in self-awareness while having an impact on others.

Sarah expressed her commitment to the values of social work, saying, "Social Work takes a certain kind of person. Social Work is in you. I am a social worker and I need the education to clarify and implement that personal and professional commitment. My internships have built a proper basis that will help me to have a successful Fulbright year."

Students Honored by College, University, State, and Nation

The College of Social Work is proud of the stellar work that our students have done this year. They have been honored at the course level, the college level, the university level, the state level, and at the national level. During April, a number of awards were presented at the Chancellor's Banquet, the EUReCA Awards Reception and the BSSW Senior Celebration. A full listing of our winners may be accessed here (PDF).

Dr. Teri Abrams Receives Chancellor's Award for Multidisciplinary Research

Dr. Teri Abrams is an assistant professor at the Nashville Campus of the College. Her research focuses on burn trauma patients and their recovery. In April she received the Success in Multidisciplinary Research Award at the Chancellor's Honors Banquet for her work in the development of an app called the Bridge, with the goal of helping burn patients in recovery.

The Success in Multidisciplinary Research Award is given to faculty members working with other academic colleges who have succeeded in gaining major external resources and recognition for multidisciplinary research. Abrams, along with an entire multidisciplinary team, are using innovative applications of new digital technology to develop opportunities for social and human services that bring a wider array of assistance to more individuals and communities.

KnoxHMIS Receives Advocacy Award

Knoxville’s Equality Coalition for Housing Opportunities (ECHO) recently awarded KnoxHMIS their Advocacy Award. Dr. David Patterson is KnoxHMIS’ founding director and principal investigator. Program Manager Lisa Higginbotham, MSSW, accepted the award given to honor an organization that has worked effectively to enhance the welfare of the community through a commitment to promoting educational outreach and civic empowerment. KnoxHMIS is one of the projects supervised through the College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS).

Knoxville Students from the Coalition for Black Social Workers Lead Discussion on Racism

Marquita Dortch and Greyson Dulaney planned the initial Knoxville event sponsored by the Coalition of Black Social Workers. They led a group conversation entitled "Real Talk About Racism." The Coalition was started by Nashville Assistant Professor of Practice Carmen Foster and MSSW students from the Nashville campus and Online MSSW Program.

The Coalition of Black Social Workers exists to engage, connect, and empower Black social work students and professionals in the community, with the goal of increasing awareness about issues specific to the Black community and cultivating a network of support.

College Researchers Find that Online Education is as Effective as Face-to-Face Studies

The College is celebrating its 10th year of the Online Master of Social Work Program. The College developed one of the first accredited Online MSSW programs in the country. While other online programs have developed over the past few years, the UT online graduate social work program is unique in that it is taught by the same faculty who teach in the college’s face-to-face programs, provides high level advising and consultation by UTCSW faculty and staff, and constantly evaluates its program and publishes these results.

Based on internal research, published in peer-reviewed journals, the College has found similar performance in terms of knowledge and skills gains from both its online and traditional programs. Students emerge with the same strong clinical skills regardless of the online or traditional format of their coursework. By having the same faculty and curriculum, the college offers students a similar quality experience.

Sherry M. Cummings, PhD,and the College's Associate Dean for Academics (pictured above left, with co-authors Allison Milam and Associate Professor of Practice Kate Chaffin, Director of the Online and Nashville MSSW Programs) has recently had an article published in the Journal of Social Work Education. The article, "Comparison of an Online and a Traditional MSSW Program: A 5-Year Study" is excited that the lessons learned from a decade of experience will inform the practice of other programs.

The purpose of the current study was to compare 5 years of educational outcome data for online and face-to-face MSSW students (N=883) who graduated from University of Tennessee, Knoxville College of Social Work. Students’ knowledge (comprehensive exam scores, grade point averages), skills (field evaluation scores), and perception of their graduate social work program were examined. Univariate and multivariate analyses revealed significantly higher knowledge scores for face-to-face, and significantly greater skills ratings for online students. Online students possessed significantly more positive perceptions of faculty and their own preparedness for professional practice. Effect sizes for all findings were extremely small, however, and suggest that differences between online and traditional student outcomes have minor practical relevance related to student achievement.

Read the study at:

April 2, 2019

Spotlight on Staff: Tiffany Toney

Tiffany Toney has worked for the UT College of Social Work in Nashville for nine years. She is an Administrative Specialist and is a valued member of the team. When asked about her life and interests, she said, "I love my job and the faculty and staff I work with. I’m a happy wife to the most amazing man that I met when I was 16 and we are still going strong. I am the mom of two amazing daughters and 'Tippy' to the sweetest, handsome, and intelligent grandson named Grayson. I am blessed with an amazing family and some very special friends. I have two rescue dogs that complete my happy home. I love to travel and I’m a sports junkie! Football and baseball are number one in my heart. The Boston Red Sox are my favorite team and we go there often to take in games. If I won the lottery, beside rescuing dogs and supporting animal rescue, I would buy a place in Boston and spend more time there rooting for my favorite team. My bucket list trips are Italy, Ireland, and Greece."

March 27, 2019

Nashville MSSW Student Win Policy Competition

Social Work Day on the Hill gives students the opportunity to compete in policy poster presentations as well as to discuss ideas with other students and lawmakers. The Nashville MSSW team won the policy competition!

Their presentation was titled, "Keep Families Together - Parental Incarceration: A Shared Sentence." The Nashville MSSW team has won this competition every year since 2014. Jessie Eisenmann who helped present the poster: "The deeper I dig into social work and this program, the more I love it. Moments like this keep me fired up for my journey as a student and as a professional."

Left to right in the team photo are Shelby Payne, JanieLynn Lankford, Lauren Willoughby, Jessie Eisenmann and Chloe Woods

March 26, 2019

Commissioner Williams Receives 2019 Senator Douglas Henry Award for Service to Children and Families at Risk

The 2019 Senator Douglas Henry Award was presented to Marie Williams, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, on Tuesday March 26, at the The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Awards Luncheon in Nashville. The award was presented by Interim Dean of the College, Dr. David Dupper.

The Senator Douglas Henry Award for Service to Children and Families at Risk was established by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville 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.

Marie Williams, LCSW, was reappointed Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) by Governor Bill Lee on January 19, 2019. Ms. Williams was initially appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Haslam, effective October 22, 2016. She is a graduate of the College's MSSW program.

In her current role, Ms. Williams oversees and leads the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as the state’s public mental health and substance abuse authority with an annual budget of more than $380 million. She provides leadership and oversight to 1,846 full-time positions that assist individuals to secure treatment and recovery services for serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbances, and substance abuse disorders. Her duties as commissioner also include system planning; monitoring, licensing, evaluating, and setting policy and quality standards; collaborating with other state and community agencies; and working to educate the community about mental health and substance abuse services. Ms. Williams’s oversight responsibilities include community mental health and substance abuse programs and the operation of four regional mental health institutes. Williams has spent nearly two decades helping fight issues like homelessness and mental health problems.

She started as director of the housing and homeless services for Catholic Charities of West Tennessee in Memphis, then became a Community Building Fellow for Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 2011, she was named deputy commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Commissioner Williams is the recipient of numerous professional and community awards from national and state groups including the George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney National Social Work Award from Mental Health America, The Voice of Recovery Award from the Tennessee Association of Alcohol Drug and other Addiction Services, and the Tipper Gore Legacy Award from Tennessee Voices for Children. She also serves on the Board of Visitors for the UT College of Social Work.

March 25, 2019

10th Anniversary of the Online MSSW Program

The College of Social Work is celebrating its 10th year of the Online Master of Social Work Program. The College developed one of the first accredited online MSSW programs in the country. While other online programs have developed over the past few years, the College's Online MSSW Program is unique in that it is taught by the same faculty who teach in the college’s face-to-face programs, provides high level advising and consultation by college faculty and staff, and constantly evaluates its program and publishes these results.

Based on internal research and published in peer-reviewed journals, the college has found similar performance in terms of knowledge and skills gains from both its online and traditional programs. Students emerge with the same strong clinical skills regardless of the online or traditional format of their coursework. By having the same faculty and curriculum, the college offers students a similar quality experience.

In addition, the College will introduce its Online Bachelor of Science in Social Work Program this upcoming fall semester.

College and Coalition of Black Social Workers Sponsor Austin Channing Brown Event

Austin Channing Brown with Carmen FosterOn February 23, the Nashville campus of the College and the Coalition of Black Social Workers sponsored a free lecture by noted author and advocate Austin Channing Brown (pictured at far left with Assistant Professor of Practice and Faculty Advisor for the Coalition of Black Social Workers Student Organization, Carmen Reese Foster). The well attended event, which took place at the Nashville Downtown Public Library, highlights the College's commitment to bring engaging, informative lectures and conversations to the Nashville campus.

Austin Channing Brown's first book I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness released to critical acclaim in 2018. She is a graduate of Marygrove College with a master's degree in Social Justice, and has worked on the west side of Chicago, creating interactive opportunities for youth to engage issues of poverty and injustice.

Stay tuned for more lectures and discussions from the UT College of Social Work Nashville and its community partners.

Faculty and Students Attend Social Work Day on the Hill

On March 27, 2019 The Tennessee Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will put into action its annual Social Work Day on the Hill in Nashville. This year’s theme is Elevate Social Work, which promotes action by encouraging social work professionals and students to talk with legislators about what social workers do and the issues of concern.

The legislative and policy event is being organized by NASW, Tennessee Chapter in coordination with university and college social work programs from across the state, and will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This event is one of the most exciting and empowering programs offered to Tennessee social workers and social work students. Over 500 students and practitioners from across the state annually attend.


March 14, 2019

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

The 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, (at far right in photo) 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.



For previous news announcements, see the E-News Archives

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