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March 18, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Urban economist describes Maryville College as “brain gain” for region

Tom Bogart is an urban economist who seems to draw regularly on his formal education – an undergraduate degree from Rice University and master’s and doctorate degrees from Princeton – as he leads Maryville College (MC).

The always upbeat and thoughtful Bogart assumed the top position at Maryville College July 1, 2010, arriving in the area from York College of Pennsylvania where he served as Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Economics.

In a recent interview with, the eleventh MC President says unabashedly that “we are a brain gain institution for this region. We attract and prepare excellent people. We partner with businesses to prepare our graduates and retain them here.”

Bogart believes a critically important part of the MC student experience is the internship program that is offered. He cited Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Marriott Business Services, and the Y-12 National Security Complex as businesses where MC students have served as interns.

“A lot of our students stay in the area, sometimes with a company where they interned, with other employers or they go on for a graduate degree to UT,” he said. Some, like Josh Phillips of Pyxl, found companies.

Another important contribution that MC makes to help the region in economic development involves cultural amenities. Bogart cites the Clayton Center for the Arts which he describes as “a wonderful, multi-faceted center of excellence for the region.”

Bogart said that the Clayton Center helps the college, but it also hosts a number of cultural events, and a “substantial portion of attendees come from Knox and Anderson Counties.” He added that two issues of most importance to the Sierra Nevada executives that seriously considered Blount County as a location were a community with high quality educational offerings and an emphasis on fine arts and cultural activities.

Like other higher education leaders, Bogart talks about the level of cooperation and collaboration that exists among the two- and four-year institutions.

“Some of our very best students start at Pellissippi State and come here,” he said, adding that a substantial portion of MC’s graduates go to UT for graduate work immediately after graduation or after spending some time in the workforce.

Bogart cites the college’s mandatory two-semester “Senior Study” as another important way in which MC is preparing students for work immediately after graduation or after completing a graduate degree.

He also notes that the college’s largest academic program is business in spite of MC’s reputation as a liberal arts institution.

Drawing on his academic preparation as an economist, Bogart admits that he “sees the world in metropolitan area terms.” He talks about new models of public-private partnerships, such as the one that financed the Clayton Center and the one that created the multi-jurisdictional Pellissippi Place.

“These are different from any public-private partnerships I have ever seen,” Bogart said, praising those who provided the leadership that made them happen. He also talks about Pellissippi Parkway that is now 20 years old and how important it was in building bridges between Oak Ridge, West Knoxville and the airport.

“Culturally, we’re just now figuring-out how to make the most of these connections and opportunities,” Bogart said.

“We need to keep remembering some of these lines (county and city boundaries) and boxes are artificial,” he said. “Others don’t see them as barriers, just as lines.”

In a recent presentation at a Knoxville Chamber Premier Partners breakfast, Bogart told the attendees that MC is “Knoxville’s liberal arts college.” He clearly is working to ensure that the lines and barriers don’t impede Maryville College’s ability to be a dynamic contributor to the region’s economy.

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