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October 31, 2023 | Tom Ballard

UTK launches “Tennessee Grand Challenges Fellows” program

The inaugural focus is on three areas: advancing K-12 education, strengthening rural communities, and overcoming addiction.

The University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville’s Institute of American Civics, housed within the Howard H. Baker Jr. School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, has partnered with University Honors for a semester-long “Tennessee Grand Challenges Fellows” program.

Participating first-year honors students are addressing three grand challenges: advancing K-12 education, strengthening rural communities, and overcoming addiction. The UT System and its partners determined that these issues were vital for Tennesseans to thrive, and are working to transform them into strengths and move Tennessee into the top 50 percent of U.S. states.

According to this news release, the semester encompasses five sessions, with two required civic learning engagements where students can connect the grand challenges to their own lives and their academic journeys. Options for the civic engagement component include attending a city council or county commission meeting, a school board meeting, or a Baker School event.

Individual course sessions focus on each of the grand challenges, with discussions led by two speakers — an academic professor and someone who works in an associated career field. To close out the semester, students will provide written reflections from their participation during three main panel events. Those reflections will be used to create an overall report generated using artificial intelligence.

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