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KNOXVILLE – Starting in the fall of 2009, exemplary undergraduates studying social work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will be invited into a new honors program that will combine community-based volunteer work with classroom lessons.

The College of Social Work honors program is one of UT’s newest specialized honors programs that offers enriched coursework and more opportunities to work closely with faculty in their chosen fields.

“We have an increasing number of outstanding students who are capable of advanced social work coursework,” said Matthew Theriot, assistant professor and director of the college’s undergraduate program. “Developing an honors program was a way to meet the needs of these high-achieving students while also helping us to recruit more top students who are looking for challenging and rewarding honors opportunities.

“Our new honors program also is an excellent opportunity for the undergraduate social work program to become more involved in the exciting and expanding world of university honors programs. This includes meeting honors students from other majors as well as developing relationships with those professors and administrators from across campus who work with and support honors students.”

To take honors classes in social work, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25, although incoming freshmen and transfer students can take the courses with permission. Students who complete the honors program will be recognized at commencement and their diplomas and transcripts will show that they graduated with a “BSSW with honors” degree — something which “undoubtedly will enhance graduate school and job applications,” Theriot said.

Seniors in the honors program will be required to do research and present their findings at the university’s annual Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement.

The social work program will begin with honors “versions” of five existing courses — “Honors Introduction to Social Work,” “Honors Human Behavior in the Social Environment” and “Honors Understanding Diversity in a Global Society,” which are taken in the freshman, sophomore or junior years; and “Honors Social Work Research” and “Honors Integrative Seminar,” which are taken during the senior year.

The courses will combine classroom instruction with community-based learning, international and intercultural activities, and projects to help students develop problem-solving skills.

“Our faculty are determined and committed to design an honors program that does not simply require honors students to do more work than their non-honors classmates,” Theriot said. “Rather, we want our honors students to engage in different, challenging, thoughtful and creative activities that will stimulate their learning and further their professional and personal development.”

Students in one of the classes will undertake a project — designed by Assistant Professor Camille Hall — that requires identifying the needs of a depressed or impoverished community, then thinking creatively and comprehensively about ways to redesign and improve the area.

“We also are exploring ways for honors students to be involved in the university’s Ready for the World initiative and other campus activities,” Theriot said.

Steve Dandaneau, associate provost and director of the university’s honors program, said other specialized honors program at UT include the Haslam Scholars Program, the College of Arts and Sciences’ College Scholars Program, Global Leadership Scholars Program, College of Engineering Honors Program, Math Honors Program and the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources Honors Program.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,