Ed Garnes is a man who knows what it means to make sacrifices for what he believes in. Leaving a life as an award-winning founder of the community-based organization From Afros To Shelltoes, a college professor and a basketball coach in Atlanta to begin a doctoral program at UT was certainly a sacrifice. Add to that the demands of a young family and a permanent disability while pursuing that doctorate, and one has to recognize that Garnes has a goal in mind and the courage to reach for it. And that goal is to serve communities of color, first generation college students, and victims of physical and racialized trauma by creating lasting systemic change. A PhD in counseling psychology is a major step toward that goal.
Since beginning his program in 2015, Garnes’ work both within the Department of Psychology and throughout the UT community has been firmly in keeping with the social justice mission of the counseling psychology program and UT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He has been a Graduate Diversity Enhancement Fellow and he received the Summer Pre College Service Award from the Tickle College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity for his efforts to support, recruit, retain and empower underrepresented students. He served as both a mentor and tutor at UT’s Thornton Athletics Student Life Center and as a student member of the Department of Psychology Diversity Council. While accomplishing all of this, Garnes has maintained a remarkable GPA in his program and served as a graduate teaching assistant. His efforts as a TA earned him a Psychology Graduate Student Association Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award. In the fall of 2019, Garnes defended his master’s thesis research study entitled “Facedown in the Mainstream: Black Men’s Experience of Gendered Racism and Resilience in Relation to Collegiate Sense of Community.”
His experiences of racism as a Black male student, and mentorship from the late Dr. Joe White, known as the Godfather of Black Psychology, led him to complete a Social Justice Practicum, where he developed and implemented programming designed to educate campus communities at Pellissippi State on issues of race, power and privilege. These issues are at the core of his life’s work, being “keenly aware of the impact race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and background have on values, interests and skills that directly impact academic, career and social development.” His passion for these issues is evident in his appearance in six films which bring heightened awareness to mass incarceration, multicultural and African-centered psychology, sexism, gender politics, Black male development, progressive education, and lifelong positive mental health outcomes. Garnes recently served as lead consultant on African-centered interventions which garnered a major grant to support Rising Son Alliance, an Atlanta-based program, founded by his colleague Elliott Reid, which is centered on increasing the rigor, achievement and academic expectations of high school-aged Black men.
Being diagnosed with a permanent disability that brings intense pain and the need for extensive physical therapy did not bring his dreams to a close. He learned to type with one hand and write with his non-dominant hand, and is persevering in order to achieve his goal of one day returning to Atlanta and making meaningful change in his community. That resilience and self-sacrifice exemplifies the Volunteer spirit.