Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jon Shefner

Committee Members

Michelle Brown, Christina Ergas, Lisa East


This capstone is a “theoretically and experientially informed report” of the work I began as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in August 2021 and now do as Program Director for SEEED (Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development), a small Black-led nonprofit working to address racialized generational poverty in the communities of East Knoxville. The report serves as a record and reflection of my experience doing front-line anti-poverty work, primarily directing the flagship Career Readiness Program (CRP). I begin this report with a short recounting of the history of Knoxville’s urban development through a Black geographies lens and continue with a review of the city’s more recent figures on race, poverty, and community violence to give context to the place in which SEEED works and the people it aims to serve.

In Chapter 2 I introduce SEEED and its founding as a response to a very visceral community need, and then dive deeper into how SEEED attempts to operationalize its mission of ‘pathways out of poverty’ for young adults. I describe the Career Readiness Program - an 8-week paid work experience program designed to equip participants (ages 18-24) with the life and job skills that will ensure their success with finding and keeping employment. I go on to explain the organizational logic model SEEED is working to develop through the Community Engagement and Green Construction social enterprises.

Finally, Chapter 3 serves as a space to reflect on the work and the constraints that hinder its progress. In analyzing my experience of “doing” applied sociology, I explore two aspects of my experience working at SEEED and the theoretical frameworks I employed to attempt to understand both. First, I use Friere’s model of revolutionary pedagogy to engage with my work designing the Career Readiness Program as we strive to reach and educate at-risk, disillusioned young adults. Then I reflect on the experience of working as an employee of SEEED. I conclude with commentary on the contradictions I encountered doing anti-oppression work within the corporate non-profit environment, employing Haiven and Khasnabish’s “radical imaginaries'' (2014) as a potential framing for transformational organizational and social change moving forward.

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