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Stephen McGarity

McGarity and his wife, Porter, in Buen Retiro Palace Gardens in Madrid, Spain

McGarity and his wife, Porter, in Buen Retiro Palace Gardens in Madrid, Spain.

Stephen McGarity is a Nashville-based assistant professor in the College of Social Work. He teaches organizational leadership courses that focus on nonprofits and social policy. His research examines poverty and disability and how to increase financial access and literacy for impoverished people with disabilities.

McGarity said his first semester at UT has been nothing short of wonderful.

“I feel like I hit the lottery getting a job here at UT, because everyone has been so great here. It feels like home and I hope I never leave.”

Why this field?

McGarity earned a bachelor’s degree in history at University of North Carolina Asheville. As he was applying for graduate programs in history, he felt a pull toward social work.

Unsure of what path to take, he sat down with his grandmother over a cup of coffee and listened to her talk about how she had advocated for social justice for women and impoverished families in her youth. Inspired by her passion and example, he decided to pursue social work.

He went on to receive his master’s degree and doctorate in social work from the University of Georgia.

“When I started my master’s program, I didn’t have a clear path in mind,” McGarity said. “I just knew that it was a profession that really helped people and put social justice at the center of its work. That was really appealing to me.”

Outside interests

Woodworking is one of McGarity’s greatest passions. He comes from a family of woodworkers and grew up admiring the work of his grandfather. He’s always been enthralled by the process and the machinery involved.

He became seriously involved with the hobby in his early 20s and quickly developed skills as he made small pieces of furniture. Eventually he discovered the art of bowl carving, and he never turned back.

“Making wooden bowls on the lathe is one of those things in life that I will never get tired of doing. It’s therapeutic, exciting, and productive all at the same time.”

Still on the bucket list

McGarity’s love for travel combined with his passion for woodworking inspires the top item on his bucket list: to take a traditional Japanese woodworking class in Japan.

“Masters of this art build entire houses without the use of nails or glue. Instead, intricate wood joints are carved that provide much more strength and are aesthetically captivating.”

Another goal of McGarity’s is to retrace Ernest Hemingway’s adventures across Africa, Europe, Cuba, and the United States. McGarity grew up in a small Georgia town, and reading Hemingway’s books gave him a broader perspective on the world.

“I would love to be able to go as an adult and experience in person those same adventures that meant so much to me as a young kid who dreamed of traveling.”

If he didn’t do this . . .

He’d run a woodworking business—and shape it into a social justice endeavor. McGarity is involved with an artists’ collective in Nashville that’s developing a program to teach newly released prisoners how to do woodworking as a profession and help them find employment.

Favorite spot on campus

The top of Neyland Stadium, looking out across all of campus.

“There’s this great panoramic view with all of these old historic building set against the Knoxville skyline,” he said. “It really is an impressive and beautiful view.”