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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has selected Lori Messinger, professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s School of Social Work, to be the next dean of the College of Social Work. She will start July 1.

Messinger succeeds Interim Dean Dave Dupper, professor of social work, who has served in an interim role since August 2017, when former dean Karen Sowers retired.

“Dr. Messinger is a committed and proven leader and I look forward to working with her as she continues to build on the college’s upward momentum,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid. “I want to thank Dr. Dupper for his commitment and service to the university for the last two years.”

As dean, Messinger will oversee a college whose graduate program was recently ranked 22nd among all public universities and whose online Master of Science in Social Work program was ranked 7th in the nation.

The college’s dynamic academic programs include a Bachelor of Science in Social Work program in Knoxville, MSSW programs in Knoxville and Nashville, an online MSSW, an online Doctor of Social Work in clinical practice and leadership, and a PhD in social work in Knoxville.

“It is my honor and privilege to be selected to lead the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee,” Messinger said. “The college is a nationally recognized leader in social work education and research, and I am excited about becoming a part of that tradition. I look forward to working closely with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners to address the challenges facing our communities in ways that reflect the best of our profession.”

Messinger brings more than 15 years of progressive leadership in both research and public universities to UT. At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, she served as director of the School of Social Work from 2011 to 2015, associate vice chancellor for community engagement from 2015 to 2017, and most recently as senior fellow for diversity initiatives. From 2004 to 2010, she served as Bachelor of Social Work program director at the University of Kansas, and she has also held faculty positions at the University of Alabama and North Carolina State University.

Messinger has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in political science from Rutgers University, and an MSSW and a PhD in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her primary research areas include cultural competence in social work education and practice, comprehensive community planning processes, and organizational change processes, particularly in higher education institutions. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Council for Social Work Education.

UT’s College of Social Work began 75 years ago as the Nashville School of Social Work and is now considered the premier college of social work in Tennessee. In addition to its comprehensive academic programs, the college offers a Department of Children’s Services BSSW tuition assistance program; a BSSW honors program; a five-year BSSW to MSSW program; certificate programs in trauma treatment, gerontology, and veterinary social work; and a Tennessee school social work licensure program.


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