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The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy is launching its second annual student policy challenge.

Named in honor of the late senator, the Howard Baker Public Policy Challenge is open to UT undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines.

Students are encouraged to sign up to compete on teams that will develop policy recommendations and action plans to combat local and state issues. Students will be placed on teams with a faculty or community professional mentor based on common interests, expertise and complementary skills.

One winning team and two runners-up will be awarded $3,000 and $1,000 cash prizes, respectively, to further their policy initiatives.

The application deadline is Friday, September 12. Interested students can register online.

Nissa Dahlin-Brown, associate director of the Baker Center, said ideas were solicited from the community, but students can suggest their own too.

“For instance, the Metropolitan Drug Commission has asked for help concerning the increasing number of women abusing prescription opioids and the 2014 Tennessee law criminalizing women who have babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome,” she said. “And the Tennessee Department of Transportation has requested help with distracted drivers and with getting trucks off the roads to make roads safer, protect the environment and save money. We also have had requests to look at voting apathy, wage gap issues, failing infrastructure in Tennessee—and we are continuing to accept problems.”

Student teams will develop public policy legislation or initiatives that address the problem they are trying to solve, taking into account stakeholders, community leaders, budget, and jurisdictional restraints. Teams will compete in the semifinals in November by making five-minute presentations and providing two-page executive summaries of their problems and solutions. Judges will select five teams to advance to the finals in February, where they’ll provide 10- to 15-page policy briefs and ten-minute PowerPoint presentations.

If invited, the winning team will compete in the Penn National Challenge in March 2015.

Last year, the Baker Center debuted the policy challenge with “Equip the Strip!” Students researched and developed solutions for parking on the Cumberland Avenue Strip as part of the city of Knoxville’s Cumberland Avenue Corridor project. Students created an online survey that brought in more than 900 responses and hosted a Saturday workshop for sixty students.

The team’s final report can be read on the Baker Center website.

“The Howard Baker Public Policy Challenge is an excellent way to make an impact and help solve problems across the state. It can also be a resume builder and an incredible opportunity to learn real-world skills that will help students in the future,” Dahlin-Brown said.

For more information, e-mail

C O N T A C T :

Nissa Dahlin-Brown (865-974-8681,