Two University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students won top honors at a recent mock government competition involving delegations from nearly 30 colleges and universities across Tennessee.
The 53rd annual Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, better known as TISL, is a yearly forum for college students from across the state to learn how government works, exchange ideas and express their opinions. Held at the State Capitol in Nashville, the mock government exercise parallels Tennessee’s structure with legislative leaders, constitutional officers and state supreme court.
Lilah Afflerbaugh, president of the UTC delegation, received a Carlisle Award—TISL’s oldest and most prestigious honor—which recognizes 10 outstanding student legislators.
Afflerbaugh, a senior majoring in political science, said winning the Carlisle Award showed that all of her efforts had paid off.
“I have been working toward winning this award for the last three years and it really means the world that my hard work was recognized by the organization,” said Afflerbaugh, who hails from Smyrna, Tennessee. “It is just a reminder that I am good at what I am passionate about—and I think everyone needs to be reminded of that sometimes.”
Sophia Chrisco, a junior majoring in political science and graduate of Ivy Academy in Chattanooga, won a Best Lobbyist-Individual Firm award.
The UTC delegation succeeded in getting several bills passed through the mock house and senate, Afflerbaugh said, including a constitutional amendment to take out disqualifications from office written by Kyle Rains (junior, economics); a bill to ban the gay panic defense in the court systems written by Carmen Witt (freshman, political science); and a bill she wrote requiring comprehensive sex ed be taught in schools and outlining the requirements.
Afflerbaugh characterized her time serving as president of the UTC contingent as “a wonderful opportunity,” noting numerous people she has met and developed connections with on campus.
“I loved being able to help people who have never done TISL make the most of their experiences and help my colleagues get their legislation passed through the mock congress,” she said. “I would not have had the same opportunities at the conference and within the delegation without serving as president. It wasn’t always easy, but I would do it over again in a heartbeat.”
With her TISL time coming to a close, she said her involvement with the organization was “exactly what I should be doing with my life and college career.”
“I did a similar club while I was in high school and loved it,” she said, “and this experience confirmed for me my passion for government. I’ve also been able to meet so many amazing college students across the state and make connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.
“TISL really has been for me where I’ve felt like I am most able to do what I’m passionate about with people that are passionate about the same things.”
Dr. Chris Acuff, assistant professor of public administration in the Department of Political Science and Public Service, is the group’s advisor.
Members of the entire UTC delegation, including position, class rank and major:
- Lilah Afflerbaugh, House, Senior, Political Science
- Jamese Cox, House, Senior, Political Science
- Jannat Saeed, House, Junior, Software Systems/Political Science/International Studies
- Lance Pilanga, House, Sophomore, Political Science
- Kyle Rains, Senate, Junior, Economics
- Carmen Witt, Senate Alternate, Freshman, Political Science
- Mateo Jiminez, Lobby, Senior, Political Science
- Ashley Ogletree, Lobby, Junior, Child and Family Studies
- Mitaire Arhagba, AMC3, Junior, Humanities
- Sophia Chrisco, AMC3, Junior, Political Science
- Hunter Fowler, AMC3, Senior, Criminal Justice
- Hannah Grant, Deputy SOS, Sophomore, Art
- Josh Cleveland, Assistant SOS, Junior, Art/Humanities
- Jenna Butler, Deputy Media Director, Senior, Business
- Madison Wallace, Attorney General, Senior, English
- Susanne Cooper, House Clerk, Sophomore, Criminal Justice
- Faiza Ferej, Associate Justice, Senior, Political Science
- Julia Stranahan, Lobbying Director, Senior, English
- Gelsy Torres, Media, Junior, Marketing
- Reed Brittman, Lobbying, Junior, Psychology
- Ashley Kelly, Media, Freshman, Political Science
- Mychael Fennessee, Lobbying, Freshman, History
- Julia Carroll, Lobbying, Junior, Criminal Justice
- Magdalena Perez, Media, Senior, Communications