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David Dupper takes over as interim dean of UT’s College of Social Work August 16.

In this new role, Dupper will provide strategic leadership for the college’s faculty, staff, and students in the coming months while a national search is conducted to hire the college’s new dean. Below are a few things to help you get to know Dean Dupper.

Q: How long have you been at UT, and what roles have you had?

I came to UT as an associate professor in 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2010. I served as associate dean at the Knoxville campus of the College of Social Work from 2001 to 2004 and served as director of our college’s BSSW program from 2013 to 2016.

Q: What led you to choose a career in social work?

I knew that I wanted to be in a helping profession. I was very attracted to social work for several reasons. It values the uniqueness of each individual and pays equal attention to those environmental factors that greatly impact the day-to-day functioning of individuals. Social work borrows from psychology, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, political science, and other disciplines to offer a very realistic way of understanding the complexity of human behavior. I also had a particular interest in working with adolescents. With its focus on empowerment and advocacy, social work offered me a way of understanding and working effectively with adolescents as well as other powerless and vulnerable populations.

Q: What is your research or interest area and why?

My research interests include relationship-based school discipline and comprehensive approaches to addressing school bullying. My current interest is incorporating mindfulness practices within social work education and practice. For example, I am currently developing an empathy training program for undergraduate social work students that incorporates mindfulness practices.

Q: What do you hope to achieve as interim dean?

I am aware that this is an important year of transition. Together with my administrative leadership team, I want to maintain and strengthen those things that are helping us to achieve our college’s mission as well as identify and address barriers to achieving our mission as a college of social work. I also want to focus on long-term planning for our college.  

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

Before jumping into my work, I meditate each morning. To relax, I enjoy taking and editing photographs, listening to music, reading newspapers, and going for walks with my wife, Ann, and our dog, Sadie.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,