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For 29-year-old Lauren Worley, the past four years have been a balancing act. She’s gotten married, had two babies, and completed her bachelor’s degree.

Worley graduates this week from the College of Social Work.

More than 4,000 students, including 3,038 undergraduates, 805 graduate students, 96 in law, and 82 in veterinary medicine, will participate in UT commencement ceremonies this week. For full details concerning security, parking, ceremonies and speakers, see the Spring Commencement 2017 website.

Worley began her studies one class at a time while working full time as a nanny.

Lauren Worley and her husband, Mike, in a family portrait with their daughter, Austen, and their son, Bridger.

Along the way, she married husband Mike and they welcomed two children—a daughter, Austen, born during spring break 2015, and a son, Bridger, born during spring break 2017.

“I’ve had to balance time for assignments with time for family. I tried to get ahead as much as possible so that when emergencies came up, I was ready,” she said.

Worley took two weeks off for each birth and credits her husband, professors, and internship directors at the Helen Ross McNabb Center for supporting her.

“Everyone was willing to work with me, so it hasn’t been as big of a challenge as it could have been,” she said. “Of course, having a newborn means being exhausted all the time. Plus whenever I tried to study is usually when my baby would start crying.”

A Georgia native, Worley grew up in Atlanta and began her college career at another university studying sociology, but moved to Knoxville in 2010. She took a few years off to travel and enrolled at UT in 2013.

“I became attached to social work after volunteering in South Africa with children who needed adult advocates,” she said.

The Gatlinburg wildfires were also eye opening for Worley. She spent the winter break volunteering with the American Red Cross. She met with victims to determine what they needed, referred them to social services, and helped them secure housing.

“It was emotionally tough, because so many people lost everything,” said Worley. “But this is why I want to be a social worker—to help people get back on their feet.”

Kim Denton, assistant professor of practice in the college, said Worley has been a top-notch student.

“She is goal oriented and has wanted a degree in social work for a long time. Once she began her work, she never skipped a beat. She’s also a member of Phi Alpha Honors Society and will graduate with honors.”

After graduation, Worley will enroll in an advanced online Master of Science in Social Work program. She hopes to earn her licensure as a clinical social worker for practice in crisis care with adults and families. 

“One day I hope to have my own practice,” she said. “I love Knoxville and working with our at-risk populations to help them along their own journeys.”



Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,