A group of students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga took home top honors in a recent statewide mock government competition.
The Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, better known as TISL, is an annual forum for college students from across the state to learn how government works, exchange ideas and express their opinions. TISL parallels the Tennessee state government’s structure with legislative leaders, constitutional officers and the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court.
During its 51st General Assembly, held this time in a virtual setting due to COVID-19, the UTC delegation was selected as the best overall delegation in recognition of its participation and excellence in all areas of the legislature. More than 20 colleges from across the state participated in this year’s mock congress.
“There are four main components of TISL,” said Dae Alexander, a junior majoring in political science and the UTC organization’s newly elected president. “We have legislative, which is a mock Tennessee state legislature, lobbying, media—who report on everything that’s going across the entire conference—and finally AMC3, the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Competition. AMC3 is a mock court, and our lawyers debate both as the prosecution and as the defense for a given case given to each of the AMC3 teams.
“By having exceptional teams in each of the four categories, you have a shot at winning best delegation—and we won.”
Along with winning the title of best delegation, UTC students received numerous individual accolades. Amanda Forbes, the UTC delegate president to the virtual General Assembly and a communication major, and Miles Mosby (political science) both were recipients of Carlisle Awards—TISL’s oldest and most prestigious award—which recognizes 10 outstanding legislators. Evelina Kertay (political science) was awarded for writing the Best Bill. Kertay and Alexander were honored for Best Researched Bill. Devin Joiner (political science) was named Best Lawyer.
In addition, four UTC students were elected to serve in statewide offices in 2021: Jannat Saeed (computer science) was elected the TISL Executive Council’s Secretary of State; Maya Keith (political science) is now a Supreme Court Justice; Julia Stranahan (English rhetoric and professional writing) is Lobbying Director; and Rohan Thompson (political science) is Attorney General.
Alexander has been a senator all three years at TISL. She planned to major in physics when she came to UTC but changed to political science after becoming involved with the program.
“I love physics. I love astronomy. I love astrophysics. I love quantum mechanics and how it can be applied; it’s utterly fascinating. But before I study all of the things in life that make me very happy to study, I want to first try to contribute as much as I can to my governmental context,” Alexander said. “I want to help people. I want to make the world just a little bit better every day.”
Alexander explained that TISL is an excellent opportunity to obtain valuable experience that can be put on a resume, make valuable connections in state and local government and engage in the political process with the genuine opportunity to make changes in the state.
“TISL is an extremely worthwhile organization to join for a number of reasons, but I would say that primarily among them is that every single person who goes into TISL has a different goal. Every major that I can think of off the top of my head has something to gain from engaging with TISL,” Alexander said. “Spring is our primary recruitment semester, and in particular, we want to get the word out about TISL to freshmen starting their collegiate careers as well as to individuals who are passionate about engaging in mock government.
“Being part of TISL, as well as meeting actual lawmakers, you have the opportunity to see your bills become laws. Approximately the top 10 bills or so go on to be recommended by the TISL administration to the real Tennessee state legislature as bills that should be considered. Some bills from TISL have gone on to become real state law. So there’s a very concrete capacity to see your legislation go into action.”
Chris Acuff, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Service, is the group’s advisor.