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Social Justice Innovation Initiative 2021 Grant Winners

The UT College of Social Work launched the Social Justice Innovation Initiative (SJII) four years ago in 2018. For the Academic Year 2021-2022, a fourth funding opportunity became available to students, faculty, and staff.  The topic for the grants was how to address racism or sexism or to highlight intersectionality in the college (Knoxville and Nashville), on the UT campus, and in the broader local communities. The college is proud to announce this year’s SJII grant recipients. Proposals were accepted through the spring semester, with work to begin in August 2021. Five finalists were accepted and had their work funded at a total of $44,590.

Frienemies:  The US Embargo and Cuba ($10,000) – CSW faculty Teri Abrams with CSW students Mary Wessel and Rheame Ali

Thursday, October 7, 2021: Presentation of documentary film Frienemies:  The US Embargo and Cuba by Mirella Martinelli and reception in Nashville with simulcast and reception in Knoxville.  The goal for this event is to educate and inspire social work students and professionals to advocate for the people of Cuba and an end to the U.S embargo.


The Bottom Community Podcast Studio ($10,000) – CSW student Amanda Fackler, CSW faulty Associate Dean Doug Coatsworth, students Je’Juan Henderson and Natalie Ward, and community partners from The Bottom: TY Murray, Director of Community Operations, and Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, UTK faculty.

The team plans to create accessible and affordable entry points for new audio makers by establishing a community recording studio and providing hands-on podcast training to ten (10) local BIPOC audio makers.


Participation and Inclusion of Latinx Families at Dogwood Elementary School ($10,000) – CSW student Jonah Freed, CSW faculty Ragan Schriver and Mary Held, CSW staff Susan / Sean Bryant, Millie Gimmel, Hispanic Studies Program faculty, and Paola Gomez, Hispanic Studies Program student, and Kara Strouse, Dogwood Elementary School / Community Schools staff.

The goal is to pursue equity in access to meaningful participation in the education of children for Latinx families at Dogwood by building their capacity to effectively participate in the school’s activities.


Establishing a Network to Support Immigrants in Immigration Court Hearings ($7,900) – CSW faculty Mary Held and Kate Chaffin, CSW staff Becca Huppi, CSW Spanish-speaking students Jonah Freed and Jessica Stein. Potential community partners include Adelante and Centro Hispano (Knoxville), Conexión and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (Nashville), and Hola Lakeway (Morristown)

The team will build a platform to host a Mental Health Provider Network (Providers Serving Immigrants, PSI) for providers in Tennessee who serve immigrants coping with the effects of structural racism resulting from exclusionary policies by providing a low cost or pro-bono mental health assessment for immigration court.


Utilizing Photovoice to understand the lives of youth impacted by systemic racism in Knoxville ($6,690) – CSW student Emily Norris, CSW faculty Jennifer First

Complete a youth Photovoice project and host exhibition for community members, stakeholders, and UTK community.

Community partners in this initiative will include the City of Knoxville’s Empower Knox Initiative (Mayor’s Youth Council and Mayor’s Community Roundtable), Clarence Brown Theatre, YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center, Centro Hispano, local photographers Saray Taylor-Roman and Elijah Lightfoot, UTK Macro Social Work Students Network, and Knoxville’s Poet Laureate Rhea Sunshine.


The SJII is made possible by a donation from longtime CSW supporter Susan Cooper.