2023 Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Award

The Alumni Association may make up to five awards annually to faculty who have brought honor and recognition to the University through their research or creative activities. Candidates must have been employed full-time by the University of Memphis for at least five academic years prior to the semester of their application or nomination.

Robin Lennon-Dearing, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, College of Arts & Sciences

Congratulations to Robin Lennon-Dearing, PhD, MSW, associate professor at the University of Memphis School of Social Work for receiving the spring 2023 award.Robin Lennon-Dearing

As a community engaged scholar her research agenda seeks to address disparities in all forms ­­ social, economic, racial, gender and health-related -- and mobilize communities to take actions to advocate for social change.

Lennon-Dearing’s long-term university-community partnerships have been with organizations such as Friends for Life, Hope House, Christ Community Health Services, and the Shelby County Ryan White Program. Dr. Lennon-Dearing’s work with the HIV community includes projects of educational and self-care for women living with HIV, women’s empowerment groups, community health workforce training, and policy advocacy for science-based HIV laws.

As a Communities of Research Scholars Convener on HIV Disparities, Dr. Lennon-Dearing’s research on the Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Tennessee and The Experience of Being Arrested for Aggravated Prostitution led to the founding of the Tennessee HIV Modernization Coalition. This grassroots group began as a direct result of Dr. Lennon-Dearing’s engaged scholarship linking forces with the community of people living with HIV and allies seeking to change unjust and discriminatory state laws.

Dr. Lennon-Dearing’s most recent grant-funded projects are providing professional development training and mentoring to community health workers and their supervisors to reduce HIV disparities for people living in Shelby County. Her community engagement involves participating in many community stakeholder groups such as Connect to Protect (C2P), Shelby County’s Ending the HIV Epidemic Policy Sub-Committee and the Tennessee HIV Modernization Coalition.

Dissemination of knowledge from these community partnerships has resulted in peer-reviewed products such as journal publications and juried presentations. Useful products that communities value and that can help improve community health include community health worker training materials and resource guides, a policy brief on HIV criminal laws in Tennessee and a House and Senate bill to modernize HIV criminal laws in Tennessee, as well as, media interviews, town hall meetings, newspaper articles, and community presentations.