In nearly 15 years at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Title IX Coordinator Ashley Blamey has shown up to work every day with a sense of purpose, knowing she is a part of something bigger than herself.
Blamey’s commitment to making people’s time and experiences at UT better is being recognized with the highest honor available to a staff member: the Volunteer Spirit Award, given annually to those who have gone above and beyond the expectations of their professional role to act with courage and give of themselves in extraordinary ways.
“It is a privilege,” said Blamey, who was surprised in her office by Chancellor Donde Plowman and some of the 11 members of the campus community who had nominated her for the award. “I have often done the work behind the scenes. I enjoy that, but it’s an incredible feeling to have your work recognized and to know your colleagues took the time to nominate you.”
In the four years since being named coordinator after the Office of Title IX was established in August 2017, Blamey has worked with her team to develop UT’s Title IX work into a comprehensive mission.
“Ashley has worked tirelessly to advance UT as a leader in the prevention, response, and compliance arenas of Title IX,” said Amanda Samsel, director of student conduct and community standards. “She took a program that barely existed and turned it into a robust national model for others to follow. She used her voice to empower those who felt they did not have one. She fought to establish an equitable, thoughtful, and caring process for all students, regardless of the role in an alleged incident.”
Blamey’s time at UT is marked by innovation and firsts. Her first role, in 2008, was as the university’s inaugural case manager. She established the university’s 974-HELP resource, chaired the campus case management and threat assessment teams, and was honored nationally as the first president of the Higher Education Case Management Association, which serves as the leader in campus behavior response teams.
Blamey was later named the first director of the university’s Center for Health Education and Wellness. During her time there, she and her team established the “Vols Help Vols” mission and VOLS 2 VOLS Peer Health Educators program. Under her leadership, UT was awarded a $300,000 grant from the US Department of Justice to develop best practices related to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
In 2014, Blamey became the first graduate of the UT College of Social Work’s doctoral program. She also has a bachelor’s degree in special education from East Tennessee State University and a master’s in social work from UT.
The driving force of everything Blamey and her team in the Office of Title IX do is finding ways to reduce harm. They remind themselves every day that they work for students, the families who sacrifice for access to education, and the opportunity to prepare students for the next stage of their lives.
“To be a Volunteer means working with others towards a greater good,” Blamey said. “It’s putting others before yourself and building a community where you want to learn and work.”
While other universities purchase Title IX training packages for their campuses, Blamey and her team produce their own, which they update every year. In response to the chancellor’s call to expand the culture of “Vols Help Vols,” they developed the homegrown Vols A.C.T. training, encompassing three critical steps for being an active bystander: acknowledging the situation, considering options, and taking action.
Beyond campus, Blamey is involved with the Safe Bar initiative to train local bars and restaurants in bystander intervention to help prevent alcohol-related cases of sexual assault. She is a member of the Knox County sexual assault response and domestic abuse death review teams and the Family Justice Center’s coordinated community response team.
Her background in social work may be what most distinguishes her approach to Title IX work. “I’m looking at every issue from the context of the individual and the community,” she said. “It’s been true to every job I’ve worked at UT.”
Blamey is among those being honored at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet on May 3, the university’s largest recognition event of the year. Visit the Chancellor’s Honors website for more information.
Brian Canever (865-974-0937, firstname.lastname@example.org)