This year the University spotlighted one of graduates on the University website. There a so many special grads that we certainly cannot highlight them all, but here are the stories of a few of the extraordinary folks who have completed programs at the University of Tennessee.
The graduate spotlighted by the university was Jazmynn Hardy who completed the Online MSSW program. Jazmynn Hardy was raised in Montgomery, Alabama, by her mother, Chiquita, a police department 911 dispatcher and secretary, and her grandmother Gladys Boswell, who ran a restaurant and pastored a small church where she fed the homeless on weekends.
In time for her grandmother’s 90th birthday in June, Hardy has completed her four-year course of study for her master’s degree in social work through a Nashville-based online program from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She says, “Even though I’m not from TN, I’m supposed to be here. It’s definitely home. I have the Volunteer spirit in me.”
Jessie Eisenmann Klamar is graduating from the MSSW program at the Nashville campus of the UT College of Social Work. Her journey to social work began seven years ago when her older brother Jason, an OIF USMC veteran, died by suicide. After his death, she decided to dedicate her professional life to providing hope and healing for struggling veterans. She studied in Nashville for her first three semesters in the UTK MSSW EBIP program, then switched to the online program for her final semester.
During her time in the program, Jessie has been a stellar student. In the spring of 2019, she won the NASW Social Work Day on the Hill policy analysis competition with a presentation about legislation that would allow nonviolent offenders with children to avoid incarceration. After that, she was awarded the TIPS Scholarship from the Thomas Jefferson Graduate Non-Endowed Fund.
In August 2019, Jessie started a clinical internship at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone in Clarksville, a non-profit community mental health clinic for post 9/11 veterans and their family members. In March of 2019, she was awarded the UTK Chancellor’s Honor for Extraordinary Professional Promise, which acknowledges graduate students with professional promise in teaching or research.
Recently, Jessie applied for and was accepted into the Cohen Fellowship Program, which is a two-year paid position that focuses on providing supervision and training to recent MSW graduates pursuing a career in veteran mental health. The Cohen Veterans Network is advancing the field of veteran’s mental health by cultivating a generation of clinicians across professional disciplines. The CVN Scholars Program provides stipends for graduate students pursuing professional careers in support of veteran’s mental health.
Jessie’s plan is to take the LMSW exam as soon as she can, then begin working on her LCSW at the Cohen Clinic. After that, she would like to pursue a DSW or PhD in social work, focusing her research on some aspect of veteran mental health. Jessie states, “I look forward to giving back to the community of social work education! I’m inspired by all of the excellent professors I had the pleasure of working with these past two years.”
Skylar Stuller completed her BSSW degree at the Knoxville Campus of the University of Tennessee. She was a non-traditional student who began her college experience after raising her family.
Skylar has four adult children and had just celebrated the college graduation of her youngest daughter. However, her life was interrupted by trauma when she faced divorce and found herself homeless and dependent on her children for support. Unsure what she should do, her daughter suggested that perhaps now was a good time for Skylar to finish her own education.
Though she had grown up in San Antonio, Texas, Skylar has lived in the Knoxville area for some time, so the University of Tennessee was her first choice because it was both affordable and had a well-known reputation. Skylar has a helping personality, so initially she considered the UT nursing program, but in the end, she chose the College of Social Work.
The journey through higher education has not been easy for this non-traditional student. She worked full-time while completing her challenging coursework and field placements. She often was called upon to help with childcare for her grandchildren. Still Skylar persisted and excelled. “I became part of a cohort of students that met regularly and supported one another,” explains Skylar. “All of the other students were younger than me, but they never treated me different. Whenever anyone had a need, someone would respond! While at UT, I’ve always felt loved and supported!”
Skylar looks forward to her career in social work and wants to begin in a micro setting, hoping to have direct impact on clients who have needs that are similar to ones that she has experienced. Trauma was a factor that drove Skylar to education. She offers this advice to others in that kind of situation. “One of the most important things to do is to reach out to your support system. Everyone experiences anxiety. The way you cope and move forward defines you as a person.”
The University of Tennessee College of Social Work is proud of Skylar Stuller and wishes her the best as she moves forward into her new career.
Rachel Howard is a student who has earned her doctorate in the College of Social Work DSW program.
Dr. Rachel Howard is a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She currently works for the Cherokee Nation Career Services Department in various capacities. Dr. Howard has been with the tribe for a total of 11 years. She has primarily worked in residential substance abuse treatment programs and outpatient therapy until recently when she transitioned to the career cervices program to create policy and procedures for an opioid oervices grant.
Dr. Howard obtained her BSW at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK., and her MSW from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, and a Masters of Legal Studies with emphasis on Indigenous People’s Law from the University of Oklahoma while completing her DSW at UT.
As part of her DSW program Dr. Howard conducted research that consisted of a secondary analysis of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey that was completed in 2010.
Dr. Howard focused specially on the prevalence of reported Intimate Partner Violence in homogenous American Indian and Alaskan Native Communities. Her findings indicated that there is a higher prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence in communities that are more than 50% American Indian and Alaskan Native. Dr. Howard’s analysis also indicates that diabetes, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, high blood pressure, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome are more prevalent among the American Indian/Alaskan Native respondents. There were also strong relationships found between food and housing insecurity, low socio-economic status, level of education, and inability to afford medical care when needed in these communities. This study serves as a reminder that more research focused on the geographically isolated Native American communities and Native Americans at large are needed to gain a better understanding of what services and educational interventions are most needed in those areas for this population.
Dr. Howard and her husband have a 6 year old daughter, 5 furry companions, a pot belly pig, chickens and ducks. Her interests are creative writing, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.