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Charles Glisson

UT Chancellor’s Professor Charles Glisson brings passion and science to a critical task: helping at-risk children and young adults.

As a prodigious researcher and the founding director of UT Knoxville’s Children’s Mental Health Services Research Center in the College of Social Work, he has gained national recognition for helping human service organizations deliver effective treatment to this often underserved population.

“People don’t realize the number of kids who are at risk, said Glisson, a Distinguished Professor in the School of Social Work. “It’s a critical problem. Each year in Tennessee alone, more than 60,000 kids are referred to juvenile courts statewide.”

He cares deeply about the well-being of children who face grim options for the future, and he concerns himself with the well-being of the professionals who serve them.

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Glisson’s early work in mental health led him to search for answers to significant questions about how to remove bureaucratic barriers to treating children effectively. As a member of the team that worked to implement the nation’s first federal “right to treatment” guidelines in Alabama’s state mental health system in the early 1970s, he learned firsthand how service organizations created barriers to effective service.

“It was clear to me that the bureaucracy and red tape was debilitating to effective outcomes,” Glisson stated. “I became committed to the idea of learning how to build human service organizations that support rather than hinder the work of their staff.”

The answers to Glisson’s questions are found in the numerous studies he and his colleagues have conducted for more than 20 years at UT. He has worked tirelessly to secure funds for research projects from the National Institutes of Health and private foundations. His work is being used by public and private mental health, child welfare and youth corrections systems nationwide to improve outcomes for at-risk children and reduce the number of children who have to be removed from their homes because of delinquency, abuse, neglect or chronic mental health problems.

Glisson’s enthusiasm for research is infectious.

“I’m especially committed to research that has practical implications for improving systems that serve kids who are really at risk. What’s exciting to me is finding ways that help organizations achieve the best outcomes for the resources they spend.”

He passes his enthusiasm for research on to his students. Students learn about his research in his classes and work on his studies as research assistants.
“Students love having you use your own studies as examples of what you’re trying to teach; they like being able to talk to you about the specifics of the studies and get the inside scoop on how things were done and on what you found.”
Glisson and his colleagues at the center are committed to the education, research and service mission of the university.

“It’s all intertwined very tightly,” he explained. “Everything we do here links service to the community, teaching and research.”

Glisson’s family includes his wife, Joyce L. Feld, a health psychologist, and his two children, Matthew and Erin. Matthew is a junior in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and Erin is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.