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Spring flowers bloom around the Torchbearer.

Community-University Research Collaboration Initiative

UT aims to make a greater contribution in addressing social problems in the Knoxville area through community-defined collaborative research projects. We seek to do this through more effectively joining community expertise with the research excellence of UT.

This initiative is a conduit for establishing, nurturing, and strengthening research relationships between community organizations and their leaders and UT faculty, staff, and students. The initiative also will work to define and monitor community engagement and collaboration standards for faculty and staff, which encourages a culture of community collaboration that is equitable and just.

The initiative is co-funded and supported by the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach within the Office of Diversity and Engagement.


Get Connected

UT faculty and community organization leaders interested in collaborating should reach out to CURCI Director Jon Shefner to start a conversation.

Jon Shefner.

Jon Shefner

Professor of Sociology, Director of CURCI

Shefner proposed the creation of CURCI after research with Lecturer of Sociology Lisa East revealed two important findings: the Knoxville community is interested in working with UT faculty to resolve a variety of needs, and UT faculty are interested in working in the Knoxville community but need university infrastructure and a few incentives to facilitate that work.

Shefner’s vision is that CURCI will establish meaningful and enduring collaborations between UT and the Knoxville community and help address the needs of community members, especially from disadvantaged communities. Shefner also hopes CURCI will help move the university into new roles in Knoxville, and continue to fulfill the duties of a flagship, land-grant university in an increasingly urban state.

Lisa East.

Lisa East

Lecturer of Sociology, Managing Director of CURCI

East is thrilled to work through CURCI to provide a more formalized and streamlined bridge between the wider community and the university. She sees CURCI as an opportunity to better connect the resources of the university to address community-defined needs and local social problems.

East’s organizing experience began as a student organizer in the environmental and fair trade movements, which inspired her to pursue graduate education. She has continued working with non-profits in Knoxville and the Southeast, and she credits these efforts as an anchor for shaping and sharpening her research, which focuses on organizational development, change, and decline and the internal and external contexts that encourage these processes.



Engagement In Action

UT has several exemplars of collaborative community-university programs that have been actively serving our region for decades to positively impact change.

Advocacy Clinic, College of Law

The Advocacy Clinic is the longest-running legal clinic in the United States and one of the most successful programs of its kind. Students gain experience by representing real clients with legal issues.


Social Work Office of Research and Public Service, College of Social Work

SWORPS specializes in program evaluation, applied research, software development, systems engineering, and staff training and development for human service agencies at the local, state, and national levels.


Vine School Health Center, College of Nursing

The College of Nursing and Knox County Schools jointly operate the Vine Health Center, a full-service pediatric clinic at Vine Magnet School. The clinic serves students with limited access to health care to help improve the overall health and wellness of Knox County children.



Reports and Data