The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Honors College is joining forces with the city of Chattanooga to find new and better ways to solve some of the city’s problems.
The UTC Innovations in Honors program and the Chattanooga Department of Innovation Delivery and Performance have agreed to collaborate on developing solutions to citywide challenges involving public housing and health during the 2023-2024 academic year.
UTC Chancellor Steven Angle, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, Dean of the Honors College Linda Frost and a group of students newly enrolled in the honors program were among the attendees at the agreement signing on Saturday, Aug. 19, in the Guerry Center on the University campus.
“From the city’s perspective, we have some really gnarly problems,” Tim Moreland, administrator of the Department of Innovation Delivery and Performance, told the students. “You guys are going to be chewing on some of those problems with us. You guys can help us learn new things about the problems.”
Students will work with the city as part of the UTC Honors College Innovation Labs:
- Dr. Drew Bailey, UC Foundation professor and program coordinator for the Sport, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management program in the Department of Health and Human Performance, will focus on the effort to have Chattanooga recognized as a National Park City.
- Dr. Karissa Peyer, UC Foundation associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, will focus on highlighting the health benefits of physical activity and linking Chattanooga residents to physical activity support in their neighborhoods.
- Dr. Chris Acuff, UC Foundation assistant professor of public administration in the Department of Political Science and Public Service, will focus on developing policy recommendations for affordable housing in Chattanooga.
“One of the roles of the University is to be a talent importer, to bring students in here, connect you to this community, connect you to the issues, problems and opportunities, and to get you to contribute back. Think of Chattanooga as your future,” Angle told the students.
Kelly said the idea some have that government only gets in the way of progress is wrong, but success takes cooperation from people across the city. Yes, Chattanooga has problems, he said, but they aren’t impossible to address.
“It’s not so big that people just sort throw up their hands and think, ‘Oh well, it doesn’t matter. We can’t do anything about it.’ You can. There are a lot of interesting problems that we can solve together,” he said.
For the students, the collaboration between UTC and the city is a chance to work on real-world issues that need “critical thinking, empathetic, research and problem-solving skills,” Frost said.
She said they will learn from their successes and—just as crucial—their failures.
“They will come away from their Innovation Labs with excellent stories to tell, not just about what worked and what they got right but, more importantly, what didn’t work and how they responded to and addressed those failures, turning them into successes,” Frost said.