Good afternoon! Welcome to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the 2014 Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit.

We are pleased to be cohosting this event with Congressman Chuck Fleishman.

I want to thank to Darrell Atkins and his staff, the UTC crew, and everyone who has worked so hard to put this event together. I am looking forward to an exciting two days.

This is my first year as a participant and from my quick review of the past 19 years, all of you are to be congratulated for launching, incubating and accelerating the collaboration and cooperation of a diverse group of participants with a common vision – harnessing our collective brain power to find solutions to complex problems and critical issues.

In the 1980s then Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander saw the advantage of a science and technology corridor that linked the Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Today’s five-state region covers 10 congressional districts and the Tennessee Technology Corridor. And leverages the combined resources of business, government, academia and research institutions.

Tennessee Valley Corridor participants look at increasing the size of the technology and research pie, not fighting to carve out their own small piece. Working together TVC participants can take on any region in the world.

The TVC is a national model of cooperation and collaboration, demonstrating that the artificial barriers we create to carve out state and legislative boundaries do not prevent us from coming together, pooling our resources and achieving even more as a team.

Being within weeks of completing my first year as Chancellor at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I have used the past 12 months to do a lot of listening and learning. We have had a clear focus on enhancing student success and building stronger ties between our campus and our community partners.

Our goals at UTC are similar to those embraced by the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

We have common threads that tie us together:

  • the spirit of an entrepreneur – creative and innovative with a drive for excellence.
  • a focus on making the places we live and the lives we touch better tomorrow than they are today.
  • an ability to handle specific projects while maintaining an eye toward the bigger picture.

And these threads come together with the recognition that a problem is nothing more than an opportunity in search of a solution. And what a set of resources that have been assembled over the years in this Corridor to seize the challenges, understand the opportunities, do the research, and craft innovative solutions.

For me, the TVC approach resembles the Chattanooga way of making things happen, and results in positive change.

In the 1980’s Chattanooga faced severe environmental issues, a polluted river and a deteriorating downtown. This community came together and decided to embrace a different future. We have accomplished what some said was impossible – right here in Chattanooga. And at UTC as we plan for the future, we will follow the Chattanooga example and dream big, set our sights high, and move forward with the confidence of achievement.

I want to share with you, our passion at UTC for what we do: we change lives, we transform communities, we strive for excellence.

Student success comes not just from the classroom; it comes from experiences outside the classroom as well: applying knowledge to problems in our community, working as a team on a project, giving back to our region by participating in community service activities.

How do we expand experiential learning opportunities in our community and on our campus? Providing a student with the opportunity to do something no one has done before, turns learning, into a challenge and a fun activity.

Working with a company, a non-profit, a research lab or a local government on a project that relates to what our students are learning in the classroom, opens the minds of our students and gives them practical knowledge about the world they will live and work in. We create a sense of connectivity for them. We enhance their learning experience. We positively impact our community.

Working as partners with UT school of medicine here in Chattanooga, the UT Institute for Agriculture, the faculty that we share with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to our SIM Center, UTC is trying to impact our region by linking our academic programs with the needs and values of our community.

We can do so much more working together as the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

Recognizing that you cannot be everything to everybody, UTC has a number of academic partners – the University of Tennessee system, East Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Middle Tennessee State, the University of Alabama – Huntsville, and the two-year institutions in the TVC – that represent incredible depth and breadth. When you pool our collective resources, we can take on virtually any issue or problem. Together, as partners we can impact students and the communities in the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

Why are these relationships critical to success?

When you look at the magnitude of competitive funding required to impact our region, and realize that the days of government earmarks are over, there is real value in partners working together – as academic institutions, as a Corridor – to compete with the best of the best.

For example, when I was in the University of California system, we used this approach to secure funding to study invasive insect species. Working as a system we obtained Federal program funding to address major problems facing California Agriculture. We ran an internal grant program and the best, most creative research, received the funding. And California won.

Collaboration, pooling resources, and bringing the best and the brightest minds together to focus on important problems, helped advance the frontiers of knowledge and drive the economy of the state.

That is our opportunity at UTC. And that is the opportunity for the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

So what do I see when I look at UTC and our potential partners and partnerships?

I see the Sim Center using computational fluid dynamics to work with NASA and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

I see us looking at the gig network that exists here in Chattanooga and using it to manage the power grid for our local power distributor – EPB – and for the power producer – TVA. Understanding surges, flow and time of day usage at a level unimaginable 10 years ago.

I see us using data analytics connected with the gig to manage traffic flow, mitigate disasters, manage wellness of our communities, or support a sensor in a room to monitor the well being of senior citizens who choose to live at home.

With electricity, we were able to power up our computers. But the power of the computer is in the applications.

With the gig, the opportunity is finding what you plug it into – imaginative solutions that use this incredible resource.

And think about the young people – our students – that are working hand-in-hand with a faculty member, a research partner, an entrepreneur, applying their classroom instruction to a real world solution.

Students working with faculty to develop ideas into products and services that lead to new business ventures – and drive our economy.

That is our mission at UTC. And through our partnership in programs like Pathways to Prosperity we help to provide opportunities for students, and a trained workforce for our businesses. This is the opportunity for all of us in this room that are part of the Tennessee Valley Corridor.

The Corridor’s past is impressive but the future is our focus. We must provide the spark and stimulate the curiosity of that young person to ask and then answer “Why,” or “How can this be done,” – that is what will move us forward.

My hope is that, together, we will:

– kindle the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

– engage students to aspire to excellence.

– focus on making the places we live even better.

– fix the small things while thinking about the bigger opportunities.

– remember every problem is an opportunity for a creative solution.

– realize the sum of the parts brings a greater return than the individual pieces. We have automobile manufacturers from around the world anchored in the Corridor. What an opportunity for partnership.

In the past eleven plus months I have seen that our role as the region’s four-year public university gives us incredible opportunities and also challenges us with a great responsibility. Our focus will be on what we do, and to do it well. We have to stay true to our dual vision of student success and meaningful community connections and partnerships. We have to earn the trust and confidence of those we serve every day and our commitment is that we will make a difference in the life of our community and in the lives in our community.

This is true for UTC. And it seems to fit the Tennessee Valley Corridor as well.

Welcome to UTC and Chattanooga – we are glad you are here.

Thank you.

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