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Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice

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College of Social Work Diversity Statement

The College of Social Work and the University of Tennessee welcome and honor all people. In accordance with the U.S. National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the U.S. Council on Social Work Education (CSWE 2015 Educational Policy Statement), “the dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including” age, class, color, culture, mental or physical disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, gender identity, immigration status, marital status, national origin, political ideology, race, regionality, religion and spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status. The College values intellectual curiosity, pursuit of knowledge, and academic freedom and integrity. “A person’s diverse life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim” (CSWE 2015 Educational Policy Statement). The College of Social Work promotes social justice and social change, and strives to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice.
(Rev. 8-13-15)

Commitment to Cultural Diversity and Social Justice

In accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics and the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) for the BSSW and MSSW degree programs in Social Work Education, The University of Tennessee College of Social Work faculty, staff, and students shall do the following:

  1. “Act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin [or ancestry], color, sex [gender], sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion [creed], or mental or physical disability” [NASW Code of Ethics, 6.04(d)].
  2. Practice within the defining principles “of service, social and economic justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, and integrity and competence” (CSWE, Educational Policy, Purposes, 1.0).
  3. “…Enhance human well-being and alleviate poverty, oppression, and other forms of social injustice” (CSWE, Educational Policy, Purposes, 1.0).
  4. “…Develop and apply practice in the context of diverse cultures” (CSWE, Educational Policy, Purposes, 1.0).

To this end, the MSSW and BSSW curricula shall provide content and learning experiences to prepare social workers “…to practice without discrimination, with respect, and with knowledge and skills related to clients’ age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation (and)…to alleviate poverty, oppression, and other forms of social injustice….” (CSWE, Educational Policy, Purposes, 1.2).

A Diverse Student Body

The College of Social Work and The University of Tennessee actively seek students from different backgrounds and with different needs. The following services and programs are available to help meet the needs of these groups.

International Students. The University provides advanced educational opportunities for qualified students from many countries, as well as an active international organization and support service on the Knoxville campus.

Minority Students. The UT Diversity Affairs Committee is dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment within the University of Tennessee community by educating about diversity in its complexities and exposing students to new experiences. The Diversity Affairs Committee strives to be responsive to the need of civility and cultural awareness on campus by offering various programs that embrace differences, celebrate unity, and commit to social justice.

The College has a Committee on Diversity and Inclusivity, comprised of faculty and students who organize programs and advise on minority issues. Each campus has a support group or mentoring group available to interested minority students.

Students with Disabilities. The University Office of Disability Services organizes and provides essential support services for students, faculty, and staff with temporary or permanent disabilities. The College of Social Work itself has successfully accommodated the needs of students with a wide range of disabilities and is flexible in actively seeking adequate support for these students.

A Vision for Diversity

In striving for excellence our professional values, ethics, history, and future demand that social work educators, researchers, and practitioners are culturally competent and vested in responding to oppressive institutional, societal and political trends. Thus, the College seeks diversity in its faculty, field instructors, students, and staff. Cultural relevance and sensitivity to the personal, social, economic, and political needs of vulnerable, high-risk groups is emphasized throughout the education, research, and service of students and faculty.

Social Justice Innovation Initiative

The Social Justice Innovation Initiative at the College of Social Work was made possible through a gift by longtime College supporter, Susan Cooper. The initiative offers a unique framework for understanding many of society’s most pressing issues around education, healthcare, and social justice. The Initiative provides grants for students and faculty to creatively challenge social injustices in their communities.

Read the announcement of the 2021 award winners .

Student Organizations

Coalition of Black Social Workers

The focus of the Social Justice Innovation Initiative for 2018 was Working to Stop Racism. One of the funded projects for 2018, the Coalition of Black Social Workers was created with the goal of increasing diversity within the College and developing networking and mentoring opportunities for students of color in Middle Tennessee. Read more on the Coalition of Black Social Workers.

The Rainbow Collective

The Rainbow Collective is a student organization open to current students in the College of Social Work from all programs (BSSW, MSSW, DSW, PhD) who are interested in advocating for the rights of people who identify as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, and all populations who are marginalized based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or romantic orientation). The Rainbow Collective works closely with the College of Social Work and the Pride Center to offer social support, educational events, and professional development opportunities for LGBTQ+ identifying students and their allies. The Rainbow Collective is an inclusive organization and welcomes participation by all supporters of its mission. Please note that some of the organization’s activities are intended only for students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, our monthly virtual support group (known as the Rainbow Connection) is exclusive to students who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

If you are a prospective student and have any questions about the Rainbow Collective, please take a moment to complete this short Google form:

If you are a current student in the College and are interested in joining the Rainbow Collective, please take a moment to complete this Google form (must have a UT email address to complete):


Reporting an Incident Related to Bias

The UT Student Government Association Diversity Affairs Committee

University Diversity Information & Links

Southern Poverty Law Center’s Guide to Intervention