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Shandra Forrest-Bank: Social Advocate, Fitness Enthusiast, Artist

Forrest-Bank hikes in Colorado.

Forrest-Bank hikes in Colorado.

At UT: An assistant professor in the College of Social Work, Shandra Forrest Bank has been at UT since 2012. Her research interests include the transition to adulthood, risk and resilience, positive youth development, prevention of behavioral health problems, and racial microaggression.

Why social work? She grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. “As a high school student, some friends and I started a club to bring food to the homeless. Through that I developed relationships with these people and heard their stories. I quickly became very aware of how lucky I was that all of my needs were met,” she said. “If I’d been born in a different scenario, my story and trajectory would have been very different.”

After she completed her undergraduate studies in sociology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, Forrest-Bank moved to Colorado to pursue her master’s degree and later on her doctorate in social work at the University of Denver. While in Denver, she worked as a counselor and program administrator in adult and adolescent substance abuse treatment programs.

“I asked myself, ‘Are these youth going to develop even worse problems as adults, or get better, and why is there such a disproportionate number of youth from minority racial and ethnic groups represented in these programs?’” These observations, especially the idea of racial discrimination as a risk factor for behavior health problems, helped shape her current research efforts.

One of Forrest-Bank's collages.

One of Forrest-Bank’s collages.

Outside interests: A self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast, Forrest-Bank attends various boot camps around Knoxville and practices Bikram yoga. She and her husband, along with their three children, love outdoor sports, including hiking and skiing. Forrest-Bank also enjoys tending her flower gardens. Indoors, she enjoys making collages mainly from acrylic paint, paper, and liquid polymer, that she describes as “colorful and detail oriented.”

Movies, music, books: Forrest-Bank’s favorite things suit her career since they all have to do with resilience. The Shawshank Redemption is her favorite movie, and her favorite book is Maya Angelou’s novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She loves the song “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys, which promotes female empowerment by being strong and creating change. “I love the message and idea that you can push your limits and persevere.”

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Be a visual artist, working with social justice themes, or work in public health and learn how to prevent addictions.” Or, she said, she might want to be an environmental scientist. “I think I have a capacity for it.”

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