Two students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga won key positions at this year’s Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.
The annual four-day event replicates a session of the Tennessee General Assembly, allowing students to assume roles as state lawmakers, judges, lobbyists and journalists and operate in the actual offices and chambers of their real-world counterparts.
During each mock General Assembly, delegates have the opportunity to run for constitutional office. Officers are elected to serve on the TISL Executive Council that governs the organization for the following year.
UTC criminal justice major Susanne Cooper was elected Speaker Pro Tem of the House, and graduate student Hunter Fowler, pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree, was appointed a Supreme Court justice.
“I’m really satisfied and proud of the work we did this year,” said Cooper, an aspiring attorney who’s led the UTC delegation in Nashville two years in a row.
Other UTC delegates also picked up honors at this year’s forum. Sophomores Carmen Witt and Taylor Nelson, both political science majors, each took home a Carlisle Award, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to 10 outstanding student legislators each session.
Senior Ashley Ogletree, a child and family studies major, and freshman Elias Griffin, a political science major, each received an Outstanding Lobbyist award.
First convened in 1966, the nonpartisan TISL program gives students the chance to experience every aspect of state politics and government.
Participating in TISL has been a transformative experience for Cooper, who joined the UTC TISL delegation during her freshman year. It is one of more than 100 UTC student organizations on campus.
“I wouldn’t speak in front of anyone to save my life. Public speaking was my worst nightmare,” she said.
Cooper knew that finding success as a lawyer would require her to overcome her fear and hone a winning rhetorical style.
“That first day or two can be really intimidating but then you realize that everyone else is doing the same thing and everyone is making mistakes. Then it’s not so bad,” she said. “You’re forced to get over it and then you’re not as afraid to stand up and say the wrong thing.
“It completely changed my whole perspective. It really brought me out of my shell. I wouldn’t say it changed my personality but it changed my ability to go and do things.”