University of Memphis receives $9.4 million from HRSA to advance Social Work, Nursing and College of Education

Awards will fund hundreds of scholarship opportunities over the next five years 

June 10, 2020 - The University of Memphis has received a total of $9.4 million in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) geared toward student success. Grants were awarded to the College of Education, School of Social Work and Loewenberg College of Nursing and will serve, support and retain disadvantaged students. 

A $3.18 million, five-year award for The Mid-South Social Work Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (MSW-SDS) program will provide scholarships for up to 25 Master of Social Work (MSW) students per year who meet the HRSA qualification of being disadvantaged. MSW students can qualify as disadvantaged if they are enrolled in the MSW program full-time and meet one of three criteria: have a family income below 200% of the poverty level; are the first person in their family to graduate from college; or graduated from a high school that meets U.S. Department of Education Title 1 criteria. 

According to Dr. Susan Neely-Barnes, professor and chair of the School of Social Work, 73.2% of MSW students at the UofM qualify as disadvantaged. The first scholarships will be awarded in fall 2020. The grant was awarded to Neely-Barnes, along with School of Social Work faculty Dr. Elena Delavega, MSW coordinator and associate professor; Katie Norwood, instructor and MSW admissions coordinator; and Cherry Malone, MSW field director and clinical assistant professor. 

The second, a $3.24 million, five-year grant, was awarded for the project Supporting the Retention of Next Generation Registered Nurses (STRONG-RNs), led by Dr. Eric Bailey, assistant dean in the Loewenberg College of Nursing. Some 61% of nursing students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. This project will enable those LCON students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue nursing and ultimately diversify the nursing workforce.  The purpose of STRONG RNs is to aid the LCON in increasing the retention of full-time students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including students who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups; providing more opportunities for clinical practice in primary care; and enhancing the number of graduates for careers in medically underserved communities. To be eligible, students must be enrolled full-time in LCON’s BSN program, have financial need and come from either an economically or environmentally disadvantaged background. During the five-year grant period, scholarships will be awarded in an amount up to $18,000 for approximately 36 eligible full-time nursing students per year, for a total of 175 scholars to cover tuition, books and a living stipend. 

The third, a $2.98 million, five-year grant, was awarded to The Memphis Disadvantaged Student Scholarship (MDSS), led by Dr. Steven West, professor and chair of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research. MDSS will increase the number of master’s degree-trained Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CMHC) in Memphis and the Mid-South, and will fund students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s program. It will provide tuition, fees and a stipend for up to 250 students from disadvantaged backgrounds over five years. In addition, the project will provide a peer tutoring program and distinct faculty mentoring. The project seeks to increase access to graduate-level training in CMHC for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and underserved minority students, and provide students clinical training placements in primary mental health care agencies in medically underserved communities in Memphis and the Mid-South.

“In the context of COVID-19, nurses, social workers and counsellors are in high demand. These scholarships will help us meet the needs of our workforce,” said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research & Innovation. “These fields also have a big role to play in growing sponsored programs activity across campus as we become a Carnegie R1 institution. These awards showcase how faculty members across campus are coming together to seek out external funding to support their students. It is reflective of an involved institutional culture comprised of faculty who are engaged and proactive about making an impact on our community.”

For more information on these awards, contact Neely-Barnes at snlybrns@memphis.edu, Bailey at eabailey@memphis.edu or West at slwest@memphis.edu