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KNOXVILLE — A new opportunity will bring Tennessee’s best and brightest science and math high school students to Knoxville for a different kind of learning experience.

The Tennessee Governor’s Academy for Mathematics and Science (TGA) will open this fall with its first class of 24 high school juniors, with an eye toward improving science and math education across the state.

TGA students will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a life of science and math, thanks to a specially developed academic program with access to the University of Tennessee’s resources and a unique living and learning community located on the campus of the Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD).

“The opportunities available to these students through the University of Tennessee and partners like Oak Ridge National Laboratory will give them the chance to work with some of the world’s best scientists,” said UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree.

The students’ academic calendar will be based on a concept known as “modules.” These four- to seven-week periods each will focus on an essential question, which could range from fundamental physics to an examination of science in a larger context.

As each module progresses, students will learn the basic science and math required to find the answer, and then apply that learning to scientific work in the field or in the laboratory. They’ll also study relevant literature and history to complement the science and math.

“The academic approach at TGA is what sets it apart from other learning opportunities,” said Vena Long, TGA’s founding executive director. “Our students will have the opportunity to take part in a truly integrated curriculum, learning from top teachers in environments they could simply not find anywhere else.”

Long, the associate dean of research and professional development in UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, will oversee TGA’s operations, including hiring faculty and overseeing the admissions and curriculum processes. A principal will be hired to oversee the academy’s daily operations.

TGA’s opportunities reach beyond the normal school day and into students’ lives. In their residential cottage communities, students will work together to prepare meals and beautify their cottages. They’ll learn Chinese and practice martial arts, activities meant to expose them to different cultures and help them develop a sense of focus.

In addition, TGA students will have full access to UT’s various cultural and athletic events. A full-time residential staff will work closely with TGA faculty to plan events and outings for students, building a lively living and learning experience.

The school will be open to juniors and seniors, though this year’s founding class will consist solely of juniors. Students will travel home for breaks every few weeks, and their calendar will roughly match that of UT students.

During summer breaks, TGA will become a learning lab for science and mathematics teachers across the state. The TGA curriculum will be used to improve math and science instruction schools throughout Tennessee.

A number of partners are involved in TGA, including the State of Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Education, TSD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

The admissions process for TGA is currently under way. Applicants must be rising high school juniors, at least 15 years of age, and be Tennessee residents.

There is no tuition to attend TGA. Students will receive room and board, as well as educational supplies and the use of a laptop computer during their time as a TGA student. Students will be responsible for the cost of recreational activities outside the course of normal TGA programs.

An application, along with more information, is available at the TGA Web site at

Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409,

TGA Executive Director: Vena Long

TGA’s first executive director, Vena Long, brings to bear more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, administrator and scholar. As a fourth-generation teacher — on both sides of her family — Long says, “Teaching is the ultimate calling, and sharing that passion is a genetic predisposition.”

Long came to the University of Tennessee in 1999 after teaching mathematics education at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. This followed a six-year term as the mathematics consultant for the Missouri Department of Education.

While at UT, Long has served as a professor of mathematics education and the associate dean for research and professional development in the university’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. As a researcher, her primary interests are the effective use of technology in the mathematics classroom and mathematics education in rural locations.

Long earned a doctorate in education from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and the master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Northwest Missouri State University. She currently serves on the board of directors of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics.