Partnerships. Collaboration. Relationships. Cooperation.
Those words came up often during a Community Listening Session held Wednesday afternoon at UTC. People from across the Chattanooga area were invited to attend the session and give their thoughts about UTC and its relationship with the local community and offer suggestions on ways to improve and reach future goals.
Representatives from a diverse group that included EPB, Hamilton County schools, the City of Chattanooga, the Fort Wood neighborhood, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Co.Lab came to the microphone during the session.
UTC often was championed as a major partner and integral piece in the wider Chattanooga community, helping to improve its schools, advance its technology and increase diversity and inclusion. Many speakers noted that their business, organization or government office employed either UTC graduates or interns from the school.
“Our vision as a university is to engage students, inspire change and enrich community,” UTC Chancellor Steven Angle said at the beginning of the session. “We view this very much as a partnership with our community. The educational opportunities that our students have working with our community, working on problems in this community, really define their experience at UTC.
Penny Murray, human resources coordinator for the Hamilton County Department of Education, noted that the school district recently had hired 80 new teachers, all of whom were UTC grads. She also asked that the university considered more programs in library media services, speech language and subjects associated with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“UTC is a prime destination for the majority of our high school graduates,” she said. “Also, we use UTC as our teacher pipeline, and our goal is to have an outstanding teacher in front of our students every single day.”
Warren Logan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, thanked UTC for recognizing local civil rights icon James R. Mapp with the school’s James R. Mapp building and the renaming of University Street into James R. Mapp Street.
Openly discussing challenges and working together to face them can define Chattanooga as “a place where we don’t just talk about it, but we can do something about it,” Logan said.
Charles Wood, vice president of economic development with the Chamber of Commerce, recommended UTC develop new opportunities for collaboration between students in its various colleges. Students from different majors with different ideas can ramp up creativity, he said, and “that is really what’s going to really feed the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
“UTC has always been a great partner with the community,” Wood said, “but I really would encourage you guys to think way outside of the box and much bigger maybe than we have in the past.”