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Knoxville Habitat for Humanity has nominated the College of Business Administration for Tennessee’s Best Excellence in Partnership Award.

The college is one of nine Habitat partners in East Tennessee to be nominated for the award and one of sixteen partners to be recognized overall. Award winners will be announced at the Governor’s Housing Summit Oct.7 and 8 in Nashville.

Tennessee’s Best is an annual statewide award program sponsored by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. The Excellence in Partnership Award recognizes the achievement of organizations working together to promote or expand access to affordable housing.

Since 2003, the UT College of Business Administration has partnered with Knoxville Habitat in building eleven affordable homes for families in Knox County.

“In the last twenty-eight years, Habitat has partnered with many individuals, corporations, and faith groups to build affordable homes,” said Kelle Shultz, president/CEO of Knoxville Habitat. “But the partnership with the UT College of Business Administration is special because of its innovative nature and the opportunity to involve so many UT students and faculty in our work.”

The partnership began in 2003 when a UT Master of Business Administration student suggested that the Tennessee Organization of MBAs (TOMBA) sponsor a home as part of its philanthropic mission, said Michael C. Ehrhardt, the Paul and Beverly Castagna Professor of Investments in the UT Department of Finance. Ehrhardt has been involved in builds with students for the past eleven years.

“With enormous dedication and hard work, TOMBA successfully raised all the necessary funding and recruited all the needed volunteers to build all eleven homes,” Ehrhardt said. “Volunteers have included faculty, staff, students, athletic teams, fraternities, sororities, and other student organizations across the Knoxville campus.”

More than 800 individuals have likely volunteered over the last decade, Ehrhardt said.

“A substantial number of volunteers had never seen the realities of the low-income marketplace,” he said. “By the end of the build, I could see the changes in their demeanor, attitude, and perspective. It’s powerful to watch this transformation.”

In addition to eleven builds, Knoxville Habitat developed a second partnership with the UT full-time MBA program and Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Through the MBA program’s Innovation in Practice course, a team of MBA students worked with Habitat to maximize revenues from its retail store.

“The students’ recommendations provided an implementable set of guidelines for the store and will enable us to generate significantly more revenue in the next two years,” Shultz said.

She added that she was grateful for the support UT has given Habitat.

“The relationship with UT is much more than just building homes; it’s about people making a difference in the lives of others,” she said.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Mike Ehrhardt (865-603-3210,

Cindy Raines (865-974-3993,