The Extraordinary Community Service (faculty or staff) award rewards a faculty or staff member who exhibits the Volunteer spirit in the community.
Assistant Professor Laura Wheat coordinates the Grief Outreach Initiative in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. When she was hired, the program was in its infancy. Today it serves hundreds of area children ages four to 18. Wheat created service-learning courses that allow undergraduates and graduate students, under close supervision, to mentor grieving youngsters. She increased public awareness and expanded the program’s concept of loss to include the impact of divorce or the incarceration of a parent. Next she hopes to grow the initiative even more by adding group therapy services and incorporating family members into the services. Wheat oversees the Grief Outreach Initiative on top of her everyday workload as a researcher, avid publisher, and valued classroom teacher. “We are amazed by the growth of the Grief Outreach Initiative and look forward to Dr. Wheat’s future plans for the initiative,” a colleague said. “Her work provides Knoxville children and adolescents with a safe place to discuss loss and to grieve that loss.”