The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Thursday, Nov. 3, to increase cooperation and promote collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
The signing ceremony featuring UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle and EPA Southeast Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman took place in the University Center UC Foundation Room on the UTC campus.
EPA Region 4, based in Atlanta, serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and six federally funded Native American Tribes.
The five-year commitment between UTC and EPA Region 4 is for both parties to recognize many possible benefits of an enhanced partnership, including:
- UTC faculty and students being invited to participate in EPA public policy forums, presentations, seminars and other public events.
- EPA participation in career fairs and other outreach with UTC students, faculty and alumni regarding employment opportunities.
- In accordance with its mission and purpose, EPA may assist UTC in advancing environmental education through distance learning technology.
- EPA staff may voluntarily participate in UTC lectures, webinars, conferences and other events.
- Collaboration on methods of increasing interest in careers protecting human health and the environment as well as awareness about publicly available recruitment and environmental education opportunities.
“This MOU really is formalizing something that’s been in existence for many years, and we appreciate the opportunity and the commitment to engage students in these activities,” Angle said.
“As a public university, that is part of our mission: to help the quality of life of people of Tennessee. And we appreciate the partnership to be able to do that.”
Blackman echoed those thoughts as he began his remarks. “The best analogy I could use is, when you say we’ve been working together for a while, you date somebody long enough to put a ring on it, right? So this is one of those times when we’re formalizing a relationship.
“This MOU today speaks in support of UTC’s mission and the leadership that is represented here by each and every one of you, including the students.”
Through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the UTC Master of Public Health program is currently testing drinking water for lead in licensed childcare centers in Hamilton, Bradley and Marion counties. The lead testing project, led by Dr. Dawn Ford, is affiliated with the EPA College/Underserved Community Partnership Program.
Ford, who introduced Angle, said UTC has been involved in Chattanooga community environmental issues for many years.
“As you may know, we’ve been transitioning from a polluted industrial city to a flourishing place focused on sustainability and the outdoors. We still have work to do and that’s why we’re here today,” Ford said.
“This MOU will open doors for more UTC students across campus and other departments to be engaged in the community for hands-on experiences to help underserved residents live better lives in Chattanooga.”
In discussing the importance of students’ role in public health and environmental issues, Blackman talked about advancing the EPA’s goal of taking decisive action to promote environmental justice and civil rights.
“This is important to me because my grandfather was a diplomat to the United Nations,” said Blackman, the son of immigrants from Barbados. “For me, there’s a quote from the United Nations that says, ‘We are well able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
“This is a way for us to give the young people—our students—and this community something more than what we inherit. We hope that we do that with this partnership.”
Other members of the EPA team at the signing ceremony included David Champagne, Region 4 administrator assistant; Jeannie Williamson, College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) Coordinator; and Jasmin Jeffries, Superfund-Southside Chattanooga Site.
As part of the event, Blackman and the EPA team stayed for a meet-and-greet with students and faculty from the UTC MPH program and the Biology, Geology and Environmental Science department.