Miles Mosby said he was apprehensive before his recent trip to the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.
Mosby, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga political science major, serves as president of the campus’ chapter of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, better known as TISL. College students from across the state come together for TISL’s annual mock government competition, a forum to learn how government works, exchange ideas and express opinions.
At last year’s event, held in a virtual setting due to COVID-19, the UTC group was selected as the best overall delegation. Mosby received a Carlisle Award, TISL’s oldest and most prestigious honor, which recognizes 10 outstanding student legislators.
But this year’s competition met in person, and Mosby had his doubts.
“Three weeks before we went, I was talking to my mom and told her, ‘I’ll be satisfied with just making sure we get everyone there in one piece,’” he said. “I had these thoughts in the back of my mind like, ‘Did we win simply because everyone else was off their game? Or since it was online, maybe people weren’t paying attention.”
Mosby need not have worried.
UTC once again brought home “Best Overall Delegation” accolades, with 27 colleges and universities from across the state participating at TISL’s 52nd General
Assembly. Mosby and Nicki Messer were Carlisle Award recipients, while other UTC award winners included Evelina Kertay, who won Best Bill and Best Researched Bill honors for the second straight year, Anna Linkous (Best Lobbyist-Overall), Mateo Jose-Jimenez (Best Lobbyist-Individual Firm) and Jessica Pruitt (Best Lobbying Firm).
In addition, Julia Stranahan (lobbying director) and Madison Wallace (attorney general) were elected to statewide TISL executive positions for 2022.
Chris Acuff, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Service, is the group’s faculty advisor.
En route to winning his second Carlisle, Mosby—a native of Henning, Tennessee—wrote a bill that paid homage to Alex Haley, the famed author of “Roots.”
“It was inspired by growing up in Henning, where there’s this big placard out in front of Alex Haley’s boyhood home. Just seeing this placard every time I walk by it gives you that extra level of, ‘This isn’t just some random house,’” said Mosby, a UTC senior participating in his third TISL competition.
“The bill that I wrote was a resolution to add historical context to Confederate monuments and the placards that we have around the state of Tennessee on other historical things. It was about adding placards to those monuments to talk about the roles these individuals played. It’s meant to be a compromise between completely removing the statues or leaving them up and offering no context.”
Messer, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science this week, went to her third TISL competition as a senator and vice president of the UTC delegation. She was responsible for presenting nine bills of varying topics and complexity and passed eight of them, including her bill about automatic voter registration.
“Because everyone writes at least one bill, you get to advocate for what you believe in,” said Messer, who termed it “riveting” in describing getting her own bill passed.
“I was able to come at (automatic voter registration) from an angle that was going to get the liberal crowd excited—but also the conservative crowd, too—because it’s really good long-term for the government. It saves money and it creates cleaner voter rolls.”
Messer also served as vice chair of the TISL LGBT caucus, advocating for equity and inclusion.
“TISL is full of people who plan to run for office in the future, so getting their attention early is extremely important,” Messer said. “A lot of the bills I sponsored were about LGBT-related things, so we were able to apply political techniques in a way that’s not just about procedure.
“People were really open to learning more about our issues. Inclusion and equity became the talk of the conference.”
Messer was a bill clerk for the Tennessee General Assembly from January-July this year, using that internship to her advantage.
“Having been a clerk for the Capitol this past spring and through the summer, I knew it geographically; that made me feel a lot more comfortable, so I had a bit of a confidence edge,” Messer said. “And since I was in the Senate chamber where I had worked, I knew where everything was.”