College of Law

Karla McKanders

Associate Professor of Law

Phone: 865-974-5710

Office: Room 78


Areas of Expertise

Asylum & Refugee Law, Humanitarian Law, Immigration Law
Karla McKanders


BA, 2000, Spelman College

JD, 2003, Duke University School of Law


Professor Karla McKanders joined the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2008.  Prior to coming to UT, she was a clinical teaching fellow at Villanova University School of Law and a law clerk for the Honorable Damon J. Keith with the U.S. Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. She currently directs UT’s Immigration Clinic and teaches refugee law and humanitarian law.

In her scholarly writings, she addresses issues of access to justice, immigration federalism, and has sought new ways of approaching legislative and executive reforms to the immigration system. She has also explored the constitutionality of state and local laws targeting immigrants as well as the legal connections between past discriminatory laws and current anti-immigrant legislation. Her publications are available through the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).

Her work has taken her around the country and abroad to advocate for social justice on behalf of migrants. In 2011 she received a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture in Morocco at the University of Mohammad V.  Since her time in Morocco, she continues to collaborate with law professors and nonprofit organizations in the Middle East and North Africa to address implementing clinical legal education and disparities in access to justice for immigrant and refugee populations.

Professor McKanders has received numerous awards for her work. In 2014 she was the recipient of the Jefferson Prize at the 2014 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet for her significant contributions to UT through her research and creative activities. She also received the Community Shares Gardner of Change Award (Spring 2013) and the Bass, Berry & Sims Award for Outstanding Service to the Bench and Bar (February 2013) for her legal advocacy and work to educate lawyers become social justice advocates.

Professor McKanders also has a passion for diversity issues in higher education and served as the co-chair of the University of Tennessee’s Commission for Blacks from 2013 to 2014.