The UT Government Relations and Advocacy team recently coordinated a meaningful federal relations trip to raise the University of Tennessee System’s visibility in Washington, D.C. Many organizations host D.C. receptions and meet with their Congressional delegations, but this trip was distinguished from typical visibility events due to its parallel focus on Congressional, White House, and Agency relationships. To that end, this trip represented a broader federal government relations strategy wherein all three of these relationships play critical roles. There were numerous opportunities to continue building relationships that will lead to productive partnerships for the University of Tennessee with key departments and offices such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and The White House Rural Council. An equally important objective was the opportunity to engage in high-level conversations regarding national policymaking—providing feedback and input to agencies such as the Department of Education. The day concluded with a reception honoring members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation, which over 135 congressional staff, agency staff, and government relations professionals attended.
MARTIN, Tenn. — The start of fall classes brings college campuses back to life. State Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) and his wife, Mary, experienced the beginning of a new academic year for themselves Monday as they joined thousands of students for the first day of fall semester at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The Brookses weren’t taking classes, but they traveled across the state to see what and how students are learning in today’s college environment.
Brooks, who represents the 19th District, traveled to Martin in his role as chairman of the House Education Committee. Mary, a retired schoolteacher, joined him on the visit as he focused on teacher preparation, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, higher education funding and affordability and other topics. UT Martin students and alumni advocates also met with the lawmaker.
“We’re pleased that Rep. Brooks chose to visit UT Martin for the start of fall classes,” said Dr. Tom Rakes, UT Martin chancellor. “His interest in teacher preparation and STEM education mirrors our own efforts to prepare students for jobs in a changing technological environment.”
Brooks has served 10 years on the House Education Committee, which he first chaired in 2009. Two years later, he was appointed to lead the Children and Family Affairs and the Joint Ad Hoc Education Finance committees. He again chairs the House Education Committee.
Brooks’ campus listening tour began in the College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences. “What can we as a state do to improve and partner with you folks in preparing people to be good teachers?” he asked in a meeting of academic administrators from the college that also included Dr. Jerald Ogg, UT Martin’s chief academic officer. Brooks highlighted the university’s “impact and influence in regard to developing teachers” and heard for the first time about the university’s Teacher Warranty Program that assures the classroom skills of teacher education graduates.
Beyond the Martin campus, Dr. Mark Kelley, college dean, said that the four UT Martin centers in Jackson, Ripley, Parsons and Selmer each offer an education degree. Dr. Betty Cox, interim chair for the Department of Educational Studies, added “the majority of those teacher ed preparation graduates actually stay in those areas,” which has a direct impact on local schools and communities.
Both expressed concern to Brooks in two areas, one being funding cuts to special-education preparation after next summer that could affect the availability of qualified special education teachers. The other is the state’s decision to no longer support pay raises for teachers who earn master’s degrees.
These issues remain topics for discussion among elected officials and education professionals, Brooks said, including the state’s need to send clear messages about the value of education, especially with the emphasis on Gov. Bill Haslam’s “drive to 55 program” for increasing the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree.
Brooks noted the relatively low “cost of delivery of services” for students attending UT Martin. “If you could come out of a Tennessee high school with a Hope Scholarship and any kind of Pell assistance, well you’re in great shape,” he said.
Brooks’ introduction to the university’s STEM education efforts included discussions about engineering, agriculture and the sciences. Dr. Rich Helgeson, engineering and natural sciences dean, said that the engineering program includes approximately 250 students and graduates 30-40 students annually.
“All of the engineering faculty have practiced as engineers,” he said. “That’s pretty unusual when you look at most programs.” He also highlighted the hands-on nature of the program, required student internships and the yearlong capstone project required of all engineering students. He reported that between 80 to 85 percent of engineering graduates now work in West Tennessee.
In the sciences, Helgeson reported that seven of the 10 graduates in either chemistry or biology who applied for medical school were accepted at the UT Health Science Center. Also, two chemistry majors finished in first and second place respectively in an undergraduate research competition at the most recent Southeast Regional Conference for the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Todd Winters, agriculture and applied sciences dean, reported similar success for UT Martin students attending veterinary school, with nine students accepted to vet school this fall. He also highlighted programs in geology, geography and meteorology. Agriculture, a specific interest for Brooks, included activity summaries in agriculture engineering technology, precision agriculture, energy and aquaculture. A compression strength demonstration in an engineering lab concluded the STEM overview.
Among his afternoon stops, Brooks met with UT Martin students in the university’s Paul Meek Library. Each told about individual academic goals, and Brooks recalled his educational and career experiences that led to his current service as an elected official.
“It was really hard in high school trying to figure out what you wanted to do,” said Caleb Watts, a criminal justice student from McKenzie. Responding to the comment, Brooks said, “We are looking at that very issue. … We’re trying to find a way to find college and career counselors.” One idea, he said, is to identify small groups of high schools and assign a person to handle college and career counseling for those schools.
Megan Burcham, an engineering student from Martin, said she knew of students entering UT Martin with up to 30 hours of college credit. She entered the university with only six hours of college credit and said “high schools should be more willing to accept college help to prepare students.” Brooks responded, “I’d like to see … every child to have the opportunity to pick up a minimum of 18 hours (of college credit in high school).”
Brooks wished the students success in their educational endeavors and emphasized the value of their academic pursuits.
“Don’t ever think that it’s going to be easy,” he said. “You’ll have times that are tough ahead of you, but you’ll have a foundation academically that you can always fall back on, and that’s important.”
NASHVILLE—The UT Advocacy Council met for their annual winter meeting this past Saturday, February 2. Despite inclement weather, more than 100 University of Tennessee advocates from across the state met to discuss a number of legislative issues facing the University and how they could help.
Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) delivered the keynote address, where he discussed the necessity of quality higher education for a prosperous Tennessee. Senator Tracy also issued a challenge to each of the meeting participants: Contact and get to know their legislators on a personal level to strengthen the influence that they can have in state government.
Following Senator Tracy’s address, the UT Office of Government Relations and Advocacy staff held a panel discussion on current legislative issues that will impact the University and hosted questions from the Advocacy Council members. The lively discussion revealed strong constituent support for the University and rapidly growing interest in advocacy.
After the meeting’s adjournment, advocates enjoyed a reception at the Governor’s Executive Residence. The reception was held in memory of Mr. Emmett Edwards, the Alumni Legislative Council’s most recent Chairman. Special guests included Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Jim Tracy, and UT President DiPietro.
We would like to thank the Advocacy Council members for their service, support, and commitment to higher education in Tennessee. We would also like to thank Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Jim Tracy for their participation, meaningful support, and service to the State.
Early voting begins on Wednesday, October 17 in Tennessee and will continue until Thursday, November 1. Utilized by many for its convenience, early voting allows voters to select any early voting location operated by their local election commission office (you are not bound to the precinct listed on your voter registration card).
From the Tennessee Department of State:
Any of the following IDs may be used, even if expired:
- Tennessee drivers license with your photo
- United States Passport
- Photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
- Photo ID issued by the federal or any state government
- United States Military photo ID
- State-issued handgun carry permit with your photo
College student IDs and photo IDs not issued by the federal or a state government are NOT acceptable.
- Voters who vote absentee by mail (view requirements here)
- Voters who are residents of a licensed nursing home or assisted living center and who vote at the facility
- Voters who are hospitalized
- Voters with a religious objection to being photographed
- Voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee
Federal law requires first time voters who register by mail to present one of the following:
- A current photo identification with voter’s name and photo OR
- If the photo identification is expired, the voter must also present one of the following: a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the voter’s name and address.
Do you care about higher education issues facing the state? Learn what state legislative candidates had to say about the issues before heading to the polls. Be an informed voter and view our candidate survey before you cast your ballot.
House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) visited the University of Tennessee Health Science Center yesterday to tour the campus, interact with students, and discuss the institution’s mission and multiple impacts on education, research, and outreach. Also highlighted at the meeting was UTHSC’s substantial statewide economic impact.
Some findings from UTHSC’s latest economic impact study follow:
- UTHSC’s total economic contribution to the state amounted to more than $2.3 billion.
- UTHSC received $126.6 million of state appropriated dollars in FY2010. The $2.3 billion total impact exceeds the state appropriation by a factor of more than 18 to 1.
- UTHSC was directly and indirectly responsible for approximately 21,096 jobs across the state. The largest share of these jobs are in the Memphis area.
- The 21,096 jobs created by UTHSC resulted in a total of $792.1 million of earnings, or about $38,140 per worker in FY2010. In comparison, Tennessee per capita personal income in 2010 was just $35,307.
- Memphis, where the main UTHSC campus is located, contributed the most in total economic impact, representing about 73.8 percent of the total $2.3 billion impact. The other two major UTHSC locations, Knoxville and Chattanooga, represent 17.3 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, of the total.
- Of all physicians practicing in Tennessee, 34.3 percent were graduates of one of the four Tennessee colleges of medicine; of these, 66.7 percent were graduates of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. The other three medical schools in Tennessee (Vanderbilt University, Meharry Medical College, and East Tennessee State University) together account for just 11.1 percent.
The University of Tennessee is grateful to Speaker Harwell and Representative White for taking time to learn more about the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and its distinctive contributions to education, research, clinical care, and public service.
To read the full economic impact study, click here.