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Lawson Endowed Graduate Fellowship Opens Doors

For KE’Marvin Pitts (MSSW ’20), earning a graduate degree was the next step toward his career goal. As an undergraduate football player at Troy University, Pitts envisioned a career in sports. When an injury benched him, he began to reflect on other challenges he’d faced.

Ke’Marvin Pitts

 “I saw that seeds had been planted even before I got injured,” he said. “Grieving the loss of my father when I was 15, facing the responsibility of getting a scholarship, working hard academically while being an athlete.” He began to explore how he might help athletes facing similar situations develop resilience.

UT was his first choice for a graduate degree in social work. The Phillip and Janet Lawson Endowed Graduate Fellowship made that important next step possible. “The fellowship opened the door in allowing me to learn and develop clinically at a premier level and become the professional I am today, serving student athletes in their mental health,” Pitts said.

Following graduation, Pitts accepted a job at the University of Southern California. He works in USC’s athletics department as a therapist on the sports psychology staff. “I’m part of a team which provides individual therapy, mental health outreach, and supports student athletes in their overall well-being,” he said. Now embarked on the career he dreamed about, Pitts said, “The Lawson Fellowship was and always will be a blessing for me.”

Heather Beverly

After 20 years as a voice teacher and middle school choir director, Heather Beverly (MSSW ’21) found herself at a crossroads. “I had a longtime interest in social work,” she said. “As a teacher, I would often have students who were struggling with family situations and other issues, and I wanted to be able to help them in a meaningful way.”

Beverly enrolled in the MSSW program in 2019, and with the help of the Lawson Graduate Fellowship she received her degree in May. “The fellowship enabled me to continue attending graduate school full time,” Beverly said. “As a wife and mom of two children juggling my studies on top of a busy life, and in the middle of a pandemic, I am truly grateful for this invaluable financial assistance.’’

Her goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, working with children and adults. “This is the beginning of a second career for me, and this scholarship has given me a tremendous boost as I move toward a fulfilling new role in social work.”

Phil Lawson

Phil Lawson, (B.S. Haslam College of Business ’73)chairman of LHP Capital LLC in Knoxville and his wife Janet established the fellowship in 2017. They were interested in increasing the College of Social Work’s ability to attract and retain top students. “Social work is a small college with a big impact,” Lawson said. “Graduates serve communities across Tennessee and beyond, improving the lives of people at risk and helping them overcome challenges. We’re glad to be part of this important work.”