Ideathon 2015


Chattanooga’s Innovation District

This week UTC Honors College students are teaming up with students from other area honors and leadership programs as pioneer participants in a new kind of problem-solving activity: the 2015 Ideathon!

This event is being co-sponsored by the UTC Honors College, the Chattanooga Innovation District, and Company Lab; all of which have one big thing in common: we like the idea of bringing college students together to provide new insights into some community challenges. We can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Students will come together at the Edney Building, the first designated building in Chattanooga’s new 140-acre Innovation District, to lend their creativity, energy, and brain power to the question of how we can make the Innovation District a magnet for area college students. Students will work teams with others from our area to answer that question.


The Edney Building

On Thursday, September 10, participants will tour the Innovation District and learn what it is and why it matters to Chattanooga; they’ll also form teams and take on a research question.

On Friday, September 11, teams will meet in the Edney Building for brainstorming sessions with team mentors, and then work through design thinking processes as they spend the night in a creative-thinking “lock in.”

On Saturday, September 12, teams will meet again with their mentors other professionals versed in technology, presentation skills, and more city information. That afternoon, teams will make formal presentations of their ideas. There will be a prize for the Crowd Favorite and a Judges’ Prize as well. Students will leave knowing they’ve offered up their talents to help make Chattanooga the most innovative small city in the nation!


11011470_941478205911234_4726861163896982135_oPark(ing) Day takes place annually in cities around the world, always on the third Friday of September. Honors students have embraced the concept and will be the first representatives of UTC to participate in Chattanooga’s event.

What is Park(ing) Day? The idea originated in 2005 in San Francisco as a way to highlight the need for more urban open spaces and to help people think about how urban space was allocated and used. A single metered parking space was temporarily transformed into an urban park that stood for two hours, the length of time purchased on a parking meter. The idea became a worldwide movement to create inviting spaces, and “parklets” were created for a variety of purposes; they might call attention to a city’s needs, provide a service to the community, entertain, or educate.

Park(ing) Day in Chattanooga is sponsored by the River City Company, a non-profit organization dedicated to the stimulation of economic, cultural, and social growth of the community   Our students will promote the Chautauqua concept, a movement that originated in the late 19th century in Chautauqua, NY. The original Chautauqua Centers brought instruction, culture, entertainment, and intellectual stimulation to smaller communities around the country where such opportunities were not readily available. The notion of sharing knowledge, a skill, or talent with others has become a tradition in the honors community and our parklet on September 18th will serve as a space for visitors to have a variety of experiences. A series of programs will include everything from musical and theatre performances to story-telling, as well as interactive activities like art design, yoga lessons, and face-painting. If you’re in the area, come find us between 10:00-4:00 on Market St. around Miller Plaza, one of many parklets created for the day in the downtown area.

First Annual Honors College Play Day!

FullSizeRenderOn Saturday, August 29, Honors Students in Brock Scholars, Innovations in Honors and the High-Achieving Mocs Living Learning Community gathered for a day of fun and frolic at Camp Vesper Point in Soddy Daisy, TN. To start off the day, students were divided into teams: purple, red, green, pink, and blue. Each team was assigned a station: ultimate Frisbee, soccer, or a puzzle. The teams squared off in fierce competition vying for ultimate bragging rights. After dominating every station the blue team reigned victorious. The most entertaining part of the day was the Chautauqua event, where students shared knowledge, music, poetry, and more. Ukuleles were strummed along to familiar tunes, poetry was read and performed, a story was told by 6 individuals, and interpretive dancing left everyone laughing. After all the bonding activities and lunch, students headed down to the lake to swim, canoe, slide down the water slides, and of course, jump on the blob.

All in all, the day was fun and relaxing, and achieved the ultimate goal of creating camaraderie among students in different honors programs. We’re all looking forward to the next annual Honors College Play Day.


VIDEO0054_0000003603Honors College freshman took to the highways and byways of Chattanooga on Saturday, August 22 to explore their new home. Together with the High-Achieving Mocs freshman, 65 students spent the day participating in the City-as-Text™ program, a national project designed to get students off campus and into the community in a way that allows them to immerse themselves in the city.

IMG_7763 (1)Students began their day with a panoramic introduction to the City’s topography and built environment from the roof of the Electric Power Board parking garage, led by City of Chattanooga Transportation Director Blythe Bailey, before setting off by bus, bike, or foot along designated paths through the city. Their travels took them through many parts of Chattanooga, from Hixson to Highland Park and all points in between. They talked with residents, enjoyed local food, and observed some important virtues and challenges of the City they now call home.

Following their journeys, the students met back at campus and shared their experiences with their peers. City Councilman Moses Freeman and local writer and historian Meghan O’Dea were also in attendance to listen to the group’s reports and share stories and feedback about Chattanooga. Aside from a few mishaps and side adventures, the Freshman left the weekend with a new and better understanding of Chattanooga, many of them full of ideas on how to affect the areas they had visited.


Brock Scholar Wins Gilman Scholarship

Photo of DaiMeshia Seay
Photo of DaiMeshia Seay

DaiMeshia Seay

DaiMeshia Seay has won the nationally competitive Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, completing a very successful freshman year as a Brock Scholar in the Honors College. Meshia is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies, combining her interests in biology, public administration, and business to prepare for a career in health care administration following graduate school.

The Gilman Scholarship program was founded in 2000 in honor of retired New York congressman Benjamin A. Gilman to provide opportunities for undergraduates to live and learn in a different environment, a social and cultural experience to prepare students to live and work in a global society. The principle objective of the Gilman Scholarship is to expand international opportunities for undergraduate students who have financial need and who have traditionally been under-represented in study or internship programs abroad.

Meshia will return in the spring semester to implement the project she developed for her Gilman application, a series of programs to inform others about the Gilman Scholarship and the benefits of studying abroad. “My project was to not only reach out to college students with this information,” says Meshia, “but to parents, high school teachers and high school students.” She plans to host information seminars for various groups to talk about her own experience and the benefits of living and studying abroad, help students explore their options, address financial barriers and solutions, and encourage early planning.

Meshia will spend the fall semester in Australia at the University of Southern Queensland. She hopes that classes she will take, like “Indigenous Perspectives” and “Australian Stories,” as well as the time she will spend with Australian students, will help her gain a better understanding of the development of Australian culture and history.

From the Dean


When I came to Chattanooga in July of 2013, the Brock Scholars Program was thriving, as it has for almost 40 years, and the Honors College was little more than a former provost’s fantasy and a task force report. Once I showed up, we added a new dean to that list. It seemed pretty clear what the College needed to accomplish: the creation of more honors opportunities in order to accommodate the exponential increase in student population at UTC from the time of UHON and before. Pretty clear also was the big problem we would encounter when we tried to do that: extending while preserving all that has characterized honors at UTC—tight community, solid monetary support, devoted faculty, carefully cultivated tradition. How were we going to do all that exactly?

As it turned out, we were going to do it very carefully, and with lots of conversations. Lots and lots and lots of conversations. A few of those happened on Facebook recently and although those were not necessarily the ones I most enjoyed, they were certainly some of the ones I watched most closely. Another memorable one occurred in the Reading Room last fall when close to 100 current Brock Scholars—the program practically in its entirety—met with Greg O’Dea and me to pose questions about enrollments and learn about the limits of endowments. It was a highly energized and engaged group and all I could think as I was standing there, trying to explain to this close-knit, very invested group of change agents why I thought it would be okay to bring in an extra 20 or so Brock Scholars a year, was how lucky I was to be standing there, defending what we’d been thinking about while trying to incorporate their objections into our plans. I do love honors students.

Despite the tremendous difficulty that accompanies any significant change in culture and practice, we are indeed growing into the Honors College of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; we continue to promote and support all the good that has characterized University Honors/UHON/Brock while bringing the imaginative and progressive energy that has come to characterize Chattanooga into our new programs and initiatives. I think that’s finally what we’re doing here: bringing tradition and innovation together and making them play together nicely. I think we can do it because we are doing it and already I can see the benefits for the campus and our students. In another year, we’ll be able to name and number those benefits for Chattanooga, and in the future I hope they’ll go well beyond our own city’s borders. First and foremost, our students will benefit. As was the case when you were here in UHON or Brock, our students are why we do what we do – and they seem to be doing well.

Here’s a list of updates of what the Honors College at UTC will offer and do a little differently next year; there are many rationales for these changes but the most compelling of these is the same one that prompted that provost some years ago to say to a friend when returning from a conference that “UTC needs an honors college.” Namely, an Honors College at UTC will provide more honors opportunities for our campus; those opportunities will first and foremost benefit more students who come to UTC, students who include more great freshmen (the 30 Brock Scholars we have brought in in recent years constitute just a little over 1% of our 2000 freshmen), students who become great once they get here, and students who are great transfers. Moreover, with more classes and students to tend in honors at UTC, we will need more faculty members to interact with them. That’s great for faculty. And knowing that there are more honors experiences here than just 30 spots each year for freshmen will encourage more high caliber students to commit to coming to UTC. And those students are coming because—in case you haven’t been here in a while—Chattanooga rocks these days. So truly, as my mentor and dear friend Ada Long told me wisely almost a decade ago when I got into honors work, honors can please everyone.

Here’s what up with us this fall:

  • 50 new Brock Scholars have joined our merry gang; we do not anticipate growing this number and although we had to reduce our level of 4-year scholarship from $4000 a year to $2000 a year in order to stay within the budget of our Brock Endowment (something we haven’t been able to do for a while) and accommodate 20 more students, we had the same level of acceptances from our offers as we have had in the past. If anything, we have seen a steady increase in recent years in the average test scores and overall academic achievement of our incoming freshmen
  • 53 students this fall have begun our new Innovations in Honors Program (IIH), a program that pairs our Innovation Lab students and faculty with community partners to conduct community-based research and solve real-world problems. Brock Scholars can opt to add Innovations in Honors to their list of honors achievements and they will be joined in this 13-hour program by transfer students (many from other honors programs) and other continuing UTC students who otherwise would never have been able to have an honors experience
  • For the second year now, 34 more freshmen are part of the High Achieving Mocs Living Learning Community or HAM LLC; last year’s “HAMily” will be this year’s peer mentors for our one-year “honorific” experience. Select freshmen take a team-taught 6-credit hour English/history course, a 1-credit-hour “welcome to college” course taught by me, and an optional spring general education course that will take them somewhere amazing to actualize what they’ve learned in the class (think Washington DC or Chicago or Miami or the Bahamas).
  • Brock Scholars and IIH students live in the Honors College residential community in Lockmiller Apartments; HAMmers again live in Stagmaier.
  • More students than ever (at least 70 rather than the 30 we took last year) will travel to various honors and undergraduate research conferences, presenting their work and meeting other students from all over the state, region, and nation who are compelled to work on the same kinds of things they are. They all have a grand time together and with us on these trips while building their professional identity (the Honors College pays for these conferences and they became big bonding experiences for all of us).
  • In addition to yet another fabulous Brock May Travel Seminar (Iceland, Ireland, or just some country that starts with I), we plan to initiate a second international trip, this one with a service learning focus in a part of the world yet untraveled by Brock Scholars. Be on the lookout for more on “How the UTC Honors College Went to Cambodia and Taught English to Buddhist Monks.”
  • Thanks to our new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, we will be spearheading and driving a campus-wide conversation about undergraduate research; already this means that 17 faculty members have agreed to spend the next year exploring how their departments might implement such a scheme in their curricula. A mainstay of honors education, undergraduate research is considered one of the key “high impact practices” that can completely change not only a student’s education, but their career path and life. This is a build-out of the Student Assistantships of which so many of you were able to take advantage.
  • A year of design conversations about the renovation of the Guerry Center into the home of (only!) the UTC Honors College; stay tuned for our drop-dead final drawings!
  • TEDxChattanooga sponsored in part by the Honors College. Google us  to get your ticket or apply to speak. TEDxChattanooga comes to the Hayes Auditorium on campus February 27, 2016; come and hear ideas we think are very worth spreading!
  • The now second annual UTC Honors Homecoming Gala! More on this elsewhere in this newsletter.

We have a lot going on and are busily working to make it all happen as perfectly as possible. As Clif Cleaveland likes to say, the Honors College is like an airplane we’re building after it’s taken off. As you all know, Clif is rarely wrong. We ALWAYS like to see you, though, so if you’re swinging through Chattanooga, please stop by! We’ve shuffled offices for our last year in Guerry before we turn it over to the construction dudes, but you know where we are. Come say hi. And tell us what’s happening with YOU!

– Dr. Linda Frost

Freshman Civic Engagement

1513-CivicEngagementEach year, a new batch of wide-eyed and slightly panicked freshmen descends upon college towns across the nation. In just four short years these newcomers will become the “citizens of tomorrow,” bravely leading us into the future, but when they arrive they are still strangers in a foreign place who often need a gentle nudge to realize their full potential. Courses are taught in the classroom, credits are earned and degrees awarded, but the college experience should be more than that. The college experience should not be lived in a vacuum. Innovation is something that arises from recognition and deconstruction of real, not theoretical problems, and for this to happen students have to get off campus and integrated into the community. The city of Chattanooga offers students the perfect laboratory for turning their knowledge into viable ideas and solutions; the problem is getting them to buy in.

Even with Honors College students, a group selected in part for their commitment and willingness to get involved, relying on student initiative alone isn’t enough to get students out of their bubble and into the city. This is not to say that such a need arises from the assumption that we as students do not want to get involved and must somehow be forced into caring, but instead is driven by the opposite assumption. We are here not only to learn but to become involved, and it is not a lack of willingness, but a lack of connections that is the stumbling block. That is the general guiding principle behind the Brock Scholars Civic Engagement program. Civic Engagement focuses less on drumming up moral outrage over specific issues, and instead tries to create a true foundation for long term engagement with the community.

It all comes back to that idea of buying-in. The course addresses this in three distinct and important ways. The first priority is to change our perspective as students from that of transient visitors, to enfranchised citizens of our new home. For me, this was probably the most important part of the course, if not of my development as a freshman, and involved transforming the city from a complex grid of interlocking bus routes and grocery stores into a place just as diverse, tangible and troubled as my home city of Nashville. In short, a place I could relate to and care about. Once you have established a relationship with Chattanooga, the next logical step is to move from the “civic” to the actual “engagement.” Every few weeks we would be presented with a challenge facing the city, from a growing food desert to the wide disparity in public school performance in Hamilton County. We would then try to deconstruct the issue, taking the information we had been given and bringing together our thirty completely different backgrounds and world views to come up with theoretical solutions. On some level this is the most important part of the course. I think that I leaned more from listening, and often arguing, with my peers than I could have ever gleaned if presented the information on my own. Civic Engagement presented not only a forum, but also a full-blown yoga class in lateral thinking, where no idea was too radical or ridiculous to be dismissed without consideration. However, theoretical musings in a void are meaningless without experimentation and comparison. This is where Civic Engagement exceled at placing us in a position to expand into the community at large. Each challenge we examined was accompanied with guest speakers and organizations from the area who were creating their own solutions and programs to help Chattanooga deal with each issue. Whatever ideas we had concocted in our discussions could be paired with, or connected to active members of society who were eager to reach out and support our plans. For some of us these contacts offered an already established outlet to get involved, while for myself and others they presented the catalyst for growing an idea into something new and altogether our own.

Growing beyond the confines of the course is the ultimate goal of Civic Engagement. The course begins with an introduction to the city, and ends with invitation to go out and find our own challenges. For me, this project has transformed from an interest in food distribution into a plan to help several of my friends create a student operated and managed community garden as well as getting involved with the new Innovations in Honors Project Green initiative. For others Civic Engagement has become a campaign to raise organ donation rates or a mentorship program to help inner-city youth find career training programs. Whatever direction each of us chose, we are no longer the isolated strangers in a new place, but have the support and stability of an established network of contacts and sponsors throughout the community for whatever we think up next.

– Zeke Starr, Sophomore and Student Assistant Director

Brock Scholars Freshman Class Profile

1151058_307842009360071_2101054659_nWe are bringing another stellar group of students into the Fall 2015 Freshman Class of Brock Scholars. The 48 new Brock Scholars include 17 males and 31 females, and represent 38 different high schools in the Southeast. The group also brings some ethnic diversity to the program; almost 19% are non-Caucasian, including five of Asian descent and four African-Americans. The academic credentials continue to be strong; the average ACT Composite is 29.3 and average high school GPA is 3.928. And 80% are bringing in Advanced Placement and/or Dual Enrollment credit, a growing trend among the brightest high school students.



Their proposed majors show wide academic interests among the group:

  • 11 natural and physical sciences
  • 8 social sciences
  • 5 engineering
  • 5 business
  • 7 pre-professional (nursing, education, interior design, pre-PT)
  • 7 humanities
  • 2 fine arts
  • 3 undeclared

These students also have demonstrated strong service, community engagement, and leadership potential, a cornerstone of the Brock Scholars Program. They were class officers, club presidents, athletes, musicians, and founders of organizations. They have served the disadvantaged in their hometowns and abroad, building houses, educating others, and serving as mentors.

A New Brock Scholars Curriculum

bigstockphoto_Books_39303As many of you know, we’ve made some significant changes to the curriculum of the Brock Scholars Program. Here’s the what, the how, and the why.

Last year I chaired an Honors College committee that took a long look at our curriculum, which had been struggling with some serious challenges. The committee, which included long-time honors faculty, other UTC faculty members, and current Brock Scholars, identified several critical limitations to the curriculum and used those findings to imagine a more sustainable, flexible model. We decided to replace our suite of set-content courses with an evolving array of special-topics seminars proposed by the UTC faculty. This revision resolves several acute constraints, creates broader opportunities for UTC faculty to teach in honors, fosters innovative course design and pedagogy, and offers greater flexibility for honors students as they progress through their various degree programs.

NB: We have no plans to change the required 12-hour, year-long freshman course in humanities and writing (UHON 1010/1020).



What we changed.

  • Faculty-proposed special topics seminars rather than set-content courses – to create more honors teaching and learning opportunities, and reduce resource pressure on the same few departments and faculty members. (Faculty members can propose long-standing UHON courses as special topics classes, too.)
  • Addition of honors courses in Mathematics, Statistics, and Lab Science – to offer, finally, a complete range of General Education courses in honors.
  • Apart from the freshman humanities courses (UHON 1010 and 1020), all seminars are offered at the 3000 level – unusual for general education classes, but necessary, we thought, to indicate the richness and rigor expected in reading, writing, and discussion.
  • Reduction of minimum required honors hours from 37 to 31 (including a 4-hour honors thesis) – to better accommodate students in high-hour majors (e.g., Engineering, Music, etc.) and highly structured programs (e.g., Nursing). More than 25% of the 120 hours required to graduate from UTC are still in honors course work – well above the 20% recommended by the National Collegiate Honors Council, our national organization.
  • Flexible course selection for students – students are required to take 15 hours of Brock Scholars seminars beyond the freshman year, in whatever General Education categories they wish (and they can fulfill all of their General Education requirements through Brock seminars, if they want).
  • Reinstitution of Leadership and Service Requirements – all Brock Scholars (indeed, all students in the Honors College) are required to serve in a leadership role on campus at some point in their undergraduate careers, and to participate in meaningful community service activity. Leadership might mean serving on the Student Government Association, as an officer in an honors society, as captain of a club team, etc. Service might mean volunteering at the food bank, helping out at Bridge Refugee Services, working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc.


Benefits of the changes.

  • The greater range of possible courses and broader faculty base create staffing flexibility, relieving pressure on the same few departments and faculty members to support honors.
  • The faculty proposal model fosters innovative course design and fresh pedagogy. Ideally, faculty will design their “dream courses” — content and strategies they’ve always wanted to develop, given the opportunity and the right curricular home.
  • The open topics approach creates opportunities for many more UTC faculty members to participate in honors teaching. Broader faculty participation means more mentoring opportunities for students and a more robust, honors-leaning culture on campus. This raises the level of engagement and ambition for everyone.
  • Because students may earn as many as 14 hours of General Education credit outside of Brock Scholars — and are largely free to choose the categories where those non-honors hours apply — they can customize their Brock Scholars curriculum to fit more efficiently with their major and minor programs. This modular aspect of the curriculum minimizes extra hours sometimes now incurred by Brock Scholars.


How it’s going. So far, so good. While we haven’t yet run any of the new courses (they’ll be offered for the first time in Fall 2015), we’ve had excellent response from faculty and students alike. This past October I asked UTC faculty to propose those dream courses. They responded enthusiastically with 25 proposals (pretty good for the first year). From those proposals the Honors College Advisory Committee selected 14 different post-freshman Brock seminars to offer in 2015-2016 in all general education categories, taught by 15 different faculty members – about half of whom have taught in honors before, and several for a long time, so there’s a nice balance of new ideas and continuity. Students are excited about the new courses, and there’s a lot of good energy around the whole project.

Have a look at the courses we’re offering this Fall – you can find them all from A-Z (really: Authorial Intent to Zombies) on the Brock Scholars Seminar page.

Staff Changes


Melissa Burchfield

Our long-time administrative assistant, Melissa Burchfield, retired on June 30th. Melissa joined the Brock Scholars/UHON staff in 1991. In the intervening years, she earned the Master of Arts degree, taught rhetoric and composition to freshmen at UTC, took art and history classes for her own enjoyment, pursued teacher licensure (in progress), volunteered with a local elementary school and with Bridge Refugee Services, advised and encouraged our honors students, and much more. She did all this while managing multiple responsibilities in her “regular” job and lending her technical expertise and graphic design talent to many projects. Certainly Melissa deserves some leisure time in retirement, but she is nevertheless beginning her next career, following her passion to teach English as a Second Language courses to Chattanooga-area refugees.  She will be greatly missed here in the Guerry Center.


Salvatore Musumeci

We have also added a couple of new staff members. In July 2014, Salvatore Musumeci joined the Honors College as the Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA). Salvatore is a socio-cultural historian with an interest in the material and visual cultures of Europe between 1300-1600. He earned the Ph.D. from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, and joined us from Bryan College where he taught European history and Italian language courses and co-founded and directed the Bryan Center for Undergraduate Research. The URCA Office will serve as a resource for undergraduate research across campus and facilitate opportunities for undergraduate research and creative activity, both on and off campus.


Lindy Harp

Lindy Harp joined the Honors College in August 2014 as Administrative Assistant and Budget Specialist, and was promoted in August 2015 to Coordinator for Programs and Administration. Lindy is a graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. In her new position, Lindy will provide budget oversight and additional programming and advising support for new programs in the Honors College.