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May 13, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

New college at UTK allows students to be the ‘conductors of their degree’

The College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies hosted its second 'Career Catalyst' event on Friday.

“This is one of the most innovative approaches I’ve seen in higher education in more than a decade – and it’s coming right from the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville,” said the UT System President, Randy Boyd at the Career Catalyst event for the new College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies (CECS).

Boyd is right. CECS is a first-of-its-kind, future-driven college where students can customize their education with stackable certificates and interdisciplinary curriculums.

On Friday afternoon, community partners learned how the innovative program would operate on the UT, Knoxville campus. It is intended to serve as a launchpad for students to land competitive careers upon graduation, and fill critical workforce gaps.

“Higher education has not always been as responsive as it should be when it comes to our community partners and their needs,” said the UTK Provost, John Zomchick.

John Zomchick

He cited a shortage of local skilled workers in technology, data science, and engineering as proof of the matter.

While CECS may not directly pump out more artificial intelligence (AI) engineers, it may produce students who possess innovative problem-solving skills, an ability to adapt, and a comprehensive understanding of how to apply AI in the workplace.

The Dean of the college, Ozlem Kilic, shared the exciting news that all three of the CECS degrees will be final this week. Those degrees will be in Applied AI, Data Science, and Innovative Transdisciplinary Studies.

The latter of the three degrees is the CECS signature. “It’s where students become the conductors of their degree,” Killic said.

She shared that, unlike traditional degree paths that would silo students to their specific college, CECS would allow students to take courses across many different colleges. It would provide them with a well-rounded, innovative, interdisciplinary education.

Aside from the three degrees, the college will also offer several certificate opportunities: Applied AI, AI in Medicine, AI with Music, Literacy in Emerging Topics, Game Craft, Data Science, Applied Cybersecurity, and Sustainable Development Goals. There is also the opportunity for students to obtain a minor in Applied Cybersecurity.

In addition to news about the college, the Career Catalyst event also featured a lively panel with Kilic, Boyd, Deborah Crawford, UT’s Vice Chancellor for Research, Stephen Streiffer, Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Chris Waley, President of Roane State Community College.

CECS Panel

They discussed several topics, but most notably they talked about the need for more business leaders to partner with the college.

“In this community, of course, we need capital, we need more business, we need more lab space, but the most important thing we need is you,” Boyd said.

Read more about the college here.

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