Community Connections

Projects and Partnerships

University-School Partnership 

SUAPP is facilitating a partnership between school leaders at Geeter K-8 (Shelby County Schools) and a team of faculty from SUAPP-affiliated departments and other colleges and schools. The partnership formed in the fall of 2019, and its objectives are a) to increase UM student internship placements at the school; and b) to conduct research conduct research on various aspects of the psycho-social and behavioral factors related to adverse childhood responses and school-based trauma informed interventions, as well as assess the effectiveness of the school’s current trauma Informed interventions, on student well-being, academic progress, and teacher effectiveness. Now in its second year, the Geeter-UofM Partnership brings together school leaders at Geeter K-8 and an interdisciplinary network of faculty from across the University to explore the intersections of trauma, schooling and academic performance. The faculty partners include Dr. Todd Zoblotsky and Dr. Carolyn Kaldron (Center for Research in Educational Policy), Dr. Chris Mueller (Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research), Dr. Lilya Jiang (Temple University), Dr. Sohye Lee (Lowenberg College of Nursing), Dr. Minhae Cho (Social Work), Dr. Shameka Plamer, Dr. Michelle Brasfield (Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research), Dr. Susan Elswick (School of Social Work), and Dr. Tim McCuddy (Criminology and Criminal Justice). 

South City Digital Literacy 

Dr. Charlie Santo, associate director of SUAPP and associate professor of City and Regional Planning, is coordinating an effort to bridge the digital divide in Memphis’ most vulnerable neighborhoods. In partnership with the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD), Start Co., Knowledge Quest, Code Crew and Urban Strategies, the project includes provision of broadband internet and “digital literacy” training to selected households and advanced “digital education” training for selected youth participants. Using a social envelop approach that links digital inclusion efforts to existing case management work and employing “Digital Mentors” enables households that receive broadband service to use the technology to its fullest capacity. Dr. Greg Washington (School of Social Work) is leading a team of 12 Social Work student interns who serve as Digital Mentors after receiving training from Everyone On, a national expert in internet expansion efforts. By mid-summer 2021, 75 students had participated in Code Crew’s digital education and 100 households had begun working toward earning their “digital passports.” 

Housing Inequality 

SUAPP and The Hooks Institute for Social Change are partnering to advocate for policies to address housing inequality in Memphis. This effort brings together community development corporations (CDCs) and faculty from the Law School, City and Regional Planning, Anthropology, the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health to better understand the impact of Land Installment Contracts (LICs) and other forms of contract for deed (CFD) in Memphis. In fall 2020, SUAPP and the Hooks Institute collaborated with Neighborhood Preservation, Inc., City of Memphis Public Works Department, Frayser CDC and Apperson and Crump Law Firm to host trainings on CFDs for staff of Code Enforcement and CDCs. Additionally, a team of researchers, including Dr. Andy Guthrie (City and Regional Planning), Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington, (SUAPP/ Anthropology), Dr. Courtnee Melton-Fant (Public Health) and Charia Jackson, deputy director of Frayser CDC, launched a pilot project on the impact of CFDs in Frayser. The goal of this pilot is to assess the prevalence of CFDs using GIS maps drawn from publicly available data and to explore the personal, social and contractual dynamics that contribute to the use and consequences of CDFs for home buyers. With support from the Hooks Institute, this study will serve as a building block for a housing policy advocacy campaign and a city-wide research project on CFDs. 

Wellness and Stress Clinic-Healing Center Church 

Dr. Melissa Hirschi and Cherry Malone (Social Work) provide student supervision at the Wellness and Stress Clinic at the Healing Center Church of Memphis. The Clinic, housed in the Healing Center Baptist Church in the Oakhaven neighborhood, is a community-based integrated healthcare clinic. The clinic was founded by Bishop William Young and Pastor Dianne Young of the Healing Center Church in cooperation with partners like the University of Memphis, UT-Health Science Center, Rhodes College, and Memphis Area Legal Services. Patients can find primary and behavior health care, social services, legal advice, and health education. The Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis provides high-quality, community-centered healthcare to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured families at no cost. The mission of the Wellness and Stress Clinic of Memphis is to serve as a catalyst for building equitable health infrastructure in the Mid-South. As part of the clinic, Bachelor’s and Master’s-level social work students have completed their field placement hours at the clinic. During the pandemic, COVID-19 testing and vaccines have been added to better meet patient needs. The clinic has also found ways to leverage grant funding in order to help patients with utility and rental assistance as well as partnering with the Healing Center Baptist Church to assist families with food.  

Maternal Mental Health with-Apple Seeds Inc 

Dr. Laura Taylor (Social Work) partners with Apple Seeds Inc. in Memphis to help the organization fulfill its mission to provide mental health services to pregnant and postpartum women. Postpartum depression is the most common complication from childbirth, and Apple Seeds provides cognitive-based therapy (CBT), an evidence-based intervention, to its clients. Since most of the clients that Apple Seeds serves identify as a racial or ethnic minority, Dr. Taylor is working with the agency to research what modifications to CBT are needed to improve its effectiveness with women of color. Dr. Taylor received a Faculty Research Grant from the College of Arts and Sciences in Spring 2021 to gather pilot data and prepare a manuscript for publication.

Law Enforcement and Crisis Intervention 

The University of Memphis has played a key role in providing alternative models of crisis intervention for law enforcement agencies locally and across the country.  The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice has led several funded projects related to crisis response by first responders, including the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement agencies and wellness projects for both police and fire departments. The core elements of the nationally recognized “Memphis Model” of training include destigmatizing mental illness, learning from individuals living with mental illness, understanding how homelessness and substance abuse intersect with mental illness, and intense real-world scenarios. Dr. Randolph Dupont has been the principal investigator on a range of funded projects related to crisis response strategies by first responders and has played a key role in the development and expansion of the CIT model.  It is estimated that between 6,000-8,000 jurisdictions have received CIT training over the 30 years the program has been in existence.  Dr. Dupont and his team currently hold six local trainings per year and provide national consultation on program development and train-the-trainer models to support sustainability.  A SUAPP-based research team of Dr. Melissa Hirschi (Social Work) and Dr. Bert Burraston (Criminology and Criminal Justice) and Dr. Dupont are currently collaborating on series of grant-funded research projects designed to examine CIT outcomes and evaluate police and fire wellness programs.