Frye-Clark, Smith honored for impact on community

Published 2:13 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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East Tennessee State University’s Opal Frye-Clark and Dr. Natalie Smith are among the recipients of the 2024 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Awards.

The Love Awards, administered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), recognize the community service of students and faculty/staff at Tennessee colleges and universities. The program is named for the late Rep. Harold Love, who was instrumental in passing the legislation which created the awards in 1991.

Frye-Clark, one of five student recipients of the Love Award, is a doctoral student in the ETSU College of Public Health, where she works as a data support specialist for the Center for Rural Health Research. She is a health care professional who has worked as a nurse and patient advocate for Ballad Health.

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Frye-Clark’s research focuses on social determinants and health disparities of the LGBTQ population and individuals experiencing homelessness. In one of the largest studies by a DrPH student, she interviewed 26 stakeholders and individuals experiencing homelessness. She identified common concerns and opportunities for coordination and efficiencies across non-profits, governmental agencies, and health care and charitable faith-based organizations. Her data-informed presentation to Johnson City government advocated for increased city involvement to aid people experiencing homelessness, and her policy suggestions are currently being used with new city policy development.

In addition, Frye-Clark created a non-profit, Unity Housing, to work with the homeless community. Unity Housing recently received a grant to help individuals within that community who are also experiencing chronic diseases.

Smith, an associate professor of sport and recreation management at ETSU, is one of five faculty/staff recipients of the Love Award.

Smith’s community “engagement in promoting sport and recreation in the region is multi-faceted, but it is her most recent work helping lead the 2024 Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department’s Master Plan that exemplifies prioritizing the welfare of the community,” her nomination states.

As part of this two-year commitment, Smith identified areas of improvement in the department’s operations and programming. She provided insight and creative ways to improve the department’s impact on the community. To gain governmental and community support for the 10-year Master Plan, she engaged in discussions with the City Commission and community members. She also led both the data collection process and the creation of the final 206-page planning document.

Smith is the author of a textbook, “Organizational Behavior in Sport Management,” and her class designs and pedagogy in creativity and innovation have influenced the sport management field across the country.

Love Award recipients serve as ambassadors for community service among the diverse higher education communities in Tennessee. Each recipient receives a $1,000 cash prize.

Faculty and staff at ETSU often earn competitive grants and fellowships.