Skip to content

Psychology in the News

Keri Fantell and Renee Mikorski receive national awards

Keri Fantell and Renee Mikorski, both students in the Counseling Psychology Program, received 2018 SPSSI Applied Social Issues Internship grants of $2,000 each.

Keri Fantell, who works with Dr. Joe Miles, received the award to fund her project entitled, "Combatting a Fatal Combination: Assessing the Needs Related to Substance Use and Suicide in Rural Appalachia."  This project builds on her Social Justice Practicum project and the relationship she built with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. Keri and TSPN hope to better understand the interactions between substance use, particularly opioid use, and suicide in rural Appalachia, given that each of these phenomena are on the rise in our region.  Through their participatory action research project, they will bring together stakeholders to better understand the needs related to the intersections of substance use and suicide in rural Appalachia, and to use the results of this needs assessment to collaboratively develop interventions aimed at prevention.

Renee Mikorski, who works with Dr. Dawn Szymanski, received the award to fund her project entitled, "Knowledge of and attitudes toward comprehensive sex education in East Tennessee." Renee also started her project in the Social Justice Practicum course.  In the state of Tennessee, our laws require abstinence-only sex education in public schools. Scholars have consistently found that abstinence-only sex education programs are not effective in reducing teen sexual activity, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted illnesses and actually may increase unsafe sexual behaviors and negative feelings about sexuality and sexual behavior in youth. Thus, there is a dire need for accurate information about sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex practices, interpersonal and communication skills, and values exploration. Renee is working with Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee in order to understand community knowledge and attitudes towards comprehensive sex education. This grant funding will be used to increase and broaden her recruitment efforts so that more community voices, particularly those who are marginalized and reside in rural communities, can be heard and represented in the data. The data will be analyzed and used to better meet the needs of our community members and inform state policy regarding sex education.


The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.